Afghanistan: The Other Illegal War
By Marjorie Cohn, AlterNet. Posted August 1, 2008
The U.S. invasion of Afghanistan was every bit as illegal as the invasion of Iraq. Why, then, do so many Americans see it as justifiable?
By leave it alone, I mean that I'll simply present a few paragraphs, and keep comment to a minimum.
In light of stepped-up violence in Afghanistan, and for political reasons -- following Obama's lead -- Bush will be moving troops from Iraq to Afghanistan. Although the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan was as illegal as the invasion of Iraq, many Americans see it as a justifiable response to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the casualties in that war have been lower than those in Iraq -- so far. Practically no one in the United States is currently questioning the legality or propriety of U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan. The cover of Time magazine calls it "The Right War."
The U.N. Charter provides that all member states must settle their international disputes by peaceful means, and no nation can use military force except in self-defense or when authorized by the Security Council. After the 9/11 attacks, the council passed two resolutions, neither of which authorized the use of military force in Afghanistan. Resolutions 1368 and 1373 condemned the Sept. 11 attacks and ordered the freezing of assets; the criminalizing of terrorist activity; the prevention of the commission of and support for terrorist attacks; and the taking of necessary steps to prevent the commission of terrorist activity, including the sharing of information. In addition, it urged ratification and enforcement of the international conventions against terrorism.
The invasion of Afghanistan was not legitimate self-defense under article 51 of the charter because the attacks on Sept. 11 were criminal attacks, not "armed attacks" by another country. Afghanistan did not attack the United States. In fact, 15 of the 19 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, there was not an imminent threat of an armed attack on the United States after Sept. 11, or Bush would not have waited three weeks before initiating his October 2001 bombing campaign. The necessity for self-defense must be "instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation." This classic principle of self-defense in international law has been affirmed by the Nuremberg Tribunal and the U.N. General Assembly.
Bush's justification for attacking Afghanistan was that it was harboring Osama bin Laden and training terrorists. Iranians could have made the same argument to attack the United States after they overthrew the vicious Shah Reza Pahlavi in 1979 and he was given safe haven in the United States. The people in Latin American countries whose dictators were trained in torture techniques at the School of the Americas could likewise have attacked the torture training facility in Fort Benning, Ga., under that specious rationale. Those who conspired to hijack airplanes and kill thousands of people on 9/11 are guilty of crimes against humanity. They must be identified and brought to justice in accordance with the law. But retaliation by invading Afghanistan is not the answer and will only lead to the deaths of more of our troops and Afghans.
The hatred that fueled 19 people to blow themselves up and take 3,000 innocents with them has its genesis in a history of the U.S. government's exploitation of people in oil-rich nations around the world. Bush accused the terrorists of targeting our freedom and democracy. But it was not the Statue of Liberty that was attacked. It was the World Trade Center, the symbol of the U.S.-led global economic system; and the Pentagon, the heart of the U.S. military, that took the hits. Those who committed these heinous crimes were attacking American foreign policy. That policy has resulted in the deaths of 2 million Iraqis -- from both Bill Clinton's punishing sanctions and George W. Bush's war. It has led to uncritical support of Israel's brutal occupation of Palestinian lands, and it has stationed more than 700 U.S. military bases in foreign countries.
This is what I was getting at earlier, in the comments on my post on Khadr, sparked by a discussion with a reader (American Muslim, not Muslim-American) in which I failed to make my point clear, and actually fucked up on a couple of historical points, which I am still embarrassed about. There was some acrimony generated, and I didn't see any progress, so I simply let the discassion falter.
But having read this, I feel I need to go once more into the breech, as the saying goes, and broach the subject again.
The war in Afghanistan is unjustified, illegal, pointless and stupid, and it's making things worse, not better. Invading a country and killing nearly a million civilians is a good way to generate terrorism, not eradicate it. I'm astonished that this is an unconventional opinion.
Please, read the rest of the article, and keep in mind that no war is the "right war".