Monday, July 28, 2008

End the Occupation of Iraq - and Afghanistan

here are 179 days until Jan. 20, 2009.

End the Occupation of Iraq - and Afghanistan

By Marjorie Cohn

Submitted to portside

So far, Bush's plan to maintain a permanent U.S.

military presence in Iraq has been stymied by

resistance from the Iraqi government. Barack Obama's

timetable for withdrawal of American troops has

evidently been joined by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri

al-Maliki, Bush has mentioned a "time horizon," and

John McCain has waffled. Yet Obama favors leaving

between 35,000 and 80,000 U.S. occupation troops there

indefinitely to train Iraqi security forces and carry

out "counter-insurgency operations." That would not end

the occupation. We must call for bringing home - not

redeploying - all U.S. troops and mercenaries, closing

all U.S. military bases, and relinquishing all efforts to control Iraqi oil.

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 September 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 September 11 attacks, and ordered

the freezing of assets; the criminalizing of terrorist

activity; the prevention of the commission of and

support for terrorist attacks; the taking of necessary

steps to prevent the commission of terrorist activity,

including the sharing of information; and 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 September 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 September 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

Ft. Benning, Georgia 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 Afghanis.

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 destroyed. It

was the World Trade Center - symbol of the U.S.-led

global economic system, and the Pentagon - 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 two

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.

Conspicuously absent from the national discourse is a

political analysis of why the tragedy of 9/11 occurred

and a comprehensive strategy to overhaul U.S. foreign

policy to inoculate us from the wrath of those who

despise American imperialism. The "Global War on

Terror" has been uncritically accepted by most in this

country. But terrorism is a tactic, not an enemy. You

cannot declare war on a tactic. The way to combat

terrorism is by identifying and targeting its root

causes, including poverty, lack of education, and foreign occupation.

There are already 60,000 foreign troops, including

36,000 Americans, in Afghanistan . Large increases in

U.S. troops during the past year have failed to

stabilize the situation there. Most American forces

operate in the eastern part of the country; yet by July

2008, attacks there were up by 40 percent. Zbigniew

Brzezinski, national security advisor for Jimmy Carter,

is skeptical that the answer for Afghanistan is more

troops. He warns that the United States will, like the

Soviet Union, be seen as the invader, especially as we

conduct military operations "with little regard for

civilian casualties." Brzezinski advocates Europeans

bribing Afghan farmers not to cultivate poppies for

heroin, as well as the bribery of tribal warlords to

isolate al-Qaeda from a Taliban that is "not a united

force, not a world-oriented terrorist movement, but a

real Afghan phenomenon."

We might heed Canada 's warning that a broader mission,

under the auspices of the United Nations instead of

NATO, would be more effective. Our policy in

Afghanistan and Pakistan should emphasize economic

assistance for reconstruction, development and

education, not for more weapons. The United States must

refrain from further Predator missile strikes in

Pakistan, and pursue diplomacy, not occupation.

Nor should we be threatening war against Iran , which

would also be illegal and result in an unmitigated

disaster. The U.N. Charter forbids any country to use,

or threaten to use, military force against another

country except in self-defense or when the Security

Council has given its blessing. In spite of the U.N.

International Atomic Energy Agency's conclusion that

there is no evidence Iran is developing nuclear

weapons, the White House, Congress, and Israel have

continued to rattle the sabers in Iran 's direction.

Nevertheless, the antiwar movement has so far fended

off passage of HR 362 in the House of Representatives,

a bill which is tantamount to a call for a naval

blockade against Iran - considered an act of war under

international law. Credit goes to United for Peace and

Justice, Code Pink, Peace Action, and dozens of other

organizations that pressured Congress to think twice

before taking that dangerous step.

We should pursue diplomacy, not war, with Iran ; end the

U.S. occupation of Iraq ; and withdraw our troops from Afghanistan .

Marjorie Cohn is president of the National Lawyers

Guild and a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of

Law. She is the author of Cowboy Republic : Six Ways the

Bush Gang Has Defied the Law and her new book, Rules of

Disengagement: The Politics and Honor of Military

Dissent (co-authored with Kathleen Gilberd), will be

published this winter. Her articles are archived at

Portside aims to provide material of interest to people on the left that will help them to interpret the world and to change it.


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