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The Missile Attack Ordered by Trump is a Serious Crime
Assad's regime defends itself against an international alliance that seeks his overthrow in violation of international law. Whoever wants to see Assad overthrown should answer the question whether we would rather see the Nusra Front in power. Moral indignation is not enough to bring about democratic conditions. Overcoming thinking in tribal structures needs much time. Such a mental awakening cannot be forced by a third party (Michael Lueders).
"THE MISSILE ATTACK ORDERED BY TRUMP IS A SERIOUS CRIME"
An Interview with Dieter Deiseroth
[This interview published on April 10, 2017, is translated abridged from the German on the Internet, http://www.nachdenkseiten.de. Trump's act of military aggression is a serious crime and violates international law. Dieter Deiseroth, a former judge in the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig, decries the US action in Syria on April 7, 2017.]
For the member of the Advisory Council of International Jurists (IALANA), the military strike in which 59 Tomahawks (cruise missiles) were fired gravely violates "the territorial integrity of the UN member state Syria."
Deiseroth explains that Assad actually using poison gas is an allegation. Even if the allegation is true, such a crime does not justify any "jungle law." Deiseroth has often spoken on the themes whistle blowing and the international law of war. "No one has the right to exercise arbitrary law (Selbstjustiz) or `retaliation' without anyone's permission."
Mr. Deiseroth, how do you judge the US attack on the military base in Syria?
The missile attack on Syria ordered by US president Trump on April 7, 2017, was an act of military aggression and a serious criminal offense against international law.
Why was it a crime?
This military strike was and is against international law because it grievously violates the territorial integrity of the UN member state Syria by using military force and violated the prohibition of violence in international law according to Art. 2 par. 4 of the UN Charter. This act of military violence can not rely on any grounds of justification in international law.
When could an act like the one we now witnessed in Syria be justified?
The US military strike would have been justified and allowed if the UN Security Council previously and formally identified a disturbance of the peace or an aggression by Syria and therefore authorized the US to a military action according to Art. 39 and Art. 42. There was no such resolution of the UN Security Council.
That is unequivocal.
Yes. The exception or special case is a self-defense measure of the US according to Art. 57 of the UN Charter. The right to individual and collective self-defense according to Art. 57 UN Charter is only valid "in the case of an armed attack" against a member of the United Nations. But the US was not previously attacked by Syria. No state that could have been the victim of Syria's military aggression asked the US for this kind of emergency military assistance. The US government claimed it only wanted to carry out a "retaliatory strike" after a terrible poison gas attack on the Syrian population. But international law does not allow any retaliatory actions without anyone's permission of an individual state or its allies.
Why was the US military strike on April 7, 2017, a serious criminal offense against international law?
This was a criminal offense, an act of military aggression according to customary international law. This was part of a deliberate offensive war against the territory of a sovereign state for which there are no grounds of justification in international law. That was the legal foundation for the 1945/46 Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal that was strongly influenced by the US…
If the poison gas in Syria was used by rebel groups and not by the Assad regime, why should Assad be politically responsible for this crime?
Neither the US government, Ms. Merkel nor Nr. Hollande has presented understandable evidence that the poison gas was used by the Assad regime. Serious doubts are appropriate.
As everybody knows, the supplies of Syrian poison gas were removed a few years ago under international supervision and the participation of NATO states. No one has presented evidence that the Assad regime held back and now used the poison gas stock…
I agree with the demand of Amnesty International among others. The Security Council must immediately investigate the poison gas attack in Syria and prosecute those responsible. To fail to do this would be a catastrophe and could encourage governments and armed groups in Syria to commit war crimes against civilians with conventional and prohibited weapons.
We cannot clarify who was responsible for the use of poison gas. Would the intervention be justified if we assume Assad actually did this?
Even if the Assad regime were responsible for using poison gas, that would not give the US government any right or excuse to an unauthorized use of military force without anyone's permission according to the UN Charter and international law. There are only two exceptions to the prohibition of force in international law: that the UN Security Council formally authorizes individual states to use military means or that the prerequisites of the right of self-defense according to Art. 51 UN Charter are fulfilled. Crimes like the use of poison gas must be prosecuted as crimes or criminal offenses. No "jungle law" exists of self-named executors bypassing the procedures and rules stipulated for criminal prosecution. No one has the right to exercise arbitrary justice (Selbstjustiz) in such cases or unauthorized "retaliation."
You addressed the legal dimension several times. If the law was broken here, what must happen?
Injustice may not be requited with injustice by avoiding and disregarding the valid international law. Whoever commits criminal acts or crimes must be called to account for that even if this is hard and takes time. Violations of international law may not be trivialized or politically justified. Otherwise, international law would be undermined. These are not mere formalities or trifles. A thriving cooperative life of the nations and states is impossible in the long run without rules of international law and their observance. Compliance with international law cannot only be practiced when this seems useful. By the way, the recent US missile attack on Syria against international law can bring on extremely delicate situations.
What do you mean? What scenarios are conceivable? How can we go on?
Since the US missile attack in Syria was against international law, this establishes a case of the right of self-defense for the attacked state according to Art 51 UN Charter. In other words, Syria had and has a right to individual and collective self-defense with additional US military actions of this kind and can ask its allies, for example Russia and Iran, for military support in a completely legal way. Collective self-defense of these states against the US would be legal.
Is the situation a fire risk?
This is a very explosive situation. If a military confrontation of this kind occurs, its effects would go far beyond this region. We could then face a third world war with the involvement of the US and Russia. For NATO, the question would then be raised whether the other NATO states would have to give military assistance to the US against Syria and its allies.
Could this trigger a NATO alliance case according to Art. 5 of the NATO treaty?
Such a debate would be highly explosive, even if a military act of aggression by a NATO state with subsequent counterblows of the attacked state and its allies could not justify any NATO alliance case.
THE WAR IN SYRIA AND THE BLIND SPOTS OF THE WEST
By Michael Lueders
[These excerpts published in the March 2017 issue of Blaetter are translated from the German on the Internet. Michael Lueders' latest book is "The Harvesters of the Storm. How the West Plunged Syria into Chaos," C.H. Beck.]
The subdivision of actors in "good" and "evil" continues… The war goes far beyond Assad.
In Syria, interests are central, not "values." Geopolitics is the keyword. It explains why a proxy war could develop in the shortest time out of the rebellion of a part of the Syrian population against the Assad regime. The US and Russia are fighting for power and influence on Syrian soil as well as Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. Since 2012, Washington and Moscow have been the main actors. This war would never have triggered the greatest tide of refugees since the Second World War and the partition of the Indian subcontinent without the massive intervention from the outside. At least ten million Syrians are trying to escape; around one million have been admitted in Europe, most of them in Germany. Although the refugee numbers are higher in Turkey and Syria's neighbors, the local right-wing populism is strengthened and speeds up the social polarization.
Europeans, Germans above all, find themselves again in the middle of a storm for which they are jointly responsible – because their politicians adopt Washington's view. Assad must go. No one thinks consistently about the consequences of this opportunism. In Syria, the US continues its policy of regime change that was and is also pursued in the last years in Iraq, Libya and hiddenly in Yemen. The "starting shot" was fired in Afghanistan after the assassinations of September 11, 2001. The subsequent chaos was largely confined to this region. This has changed irrevocably with Syria.
Criticism in Brussels or Berlin was kept within narrow limits even though Washington's policy provokes one catastrophe after another, namely state disintegration, strengthening Dschihadist militias like the "Islamic State" and the odyssey of millions of Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans. Speaking in an exaggerated way, Europeans with the refugee crisis sweep up the fragments of a misguided US intervention policy and willingly pay the price for the claims to power of another. Instead of self-confidently defending their own positions, they preferred much too often to follow American ideas. That was shown in the battle of Aleppo at the end of 2016… The battle for Aleppo, Syria's second-largest city and an economic metropolis, markets a culmination point… The reporting occurred in only one direction: Apocalypse Now undergirded by shocking pictures including one of an apathetic little youngster Umran, sitting on a chair with a blood-smeared and dusty face, an icon.
COMMON CAUSE WITH AL QAIDA?
Aleppo was divided in two since 2012. The western part has remained under the control of the Assad regime while the eastern part was captured by the Dschihadist militias. In the course of the battle, large parts of the city were destroyed including the old city with the world cultural inheritance of UNESCO. Nevertheless, life in the western part with its 800,000 inhabitants continued more or less "normally" under aggravated conditions like water- or electricity blackouts…
The data on the number of inhabitants in Aleppo's eastern part fluctuates considerably from 20,000 to 300,000. In any case, the inhabitants of East Aleppo lived under the rule of the Dschihadists whose groups had phantasy-names like "Aleppo conquest" or "army of conquerors." From time to time, they reconstituted themselves under other names, partly for reasons of camouflage and partly on account of rivalries. The Nusra front, the Syrian shoot of Al Qaida, set the tone militarily and politically. In its core, the battle for Aleppo involved the recapture of the eastern part from the hands of the Dschihadists. That was the declared goal of the Russian and Syrian attacks. This context is important because the impression arose that the whole city experienced its destruction like Dresden
In the West's media depiction. The "human tragedy" focus replaced the political analysis since the reporting saw the whole Aleppo city sink into an inferno although there was hardly fighting for weeks in the western part. The question for every thinking person was: How can the US make common cause with Al Qaida? No editorial or minister said: Not with us or we are not friends. The Apocalypse Now scenario helped avoid critical questions and maintain the official narrative, here the "good" and there the "evil."
The situation was dramatic for inhabitants in the eastern part. Russian and Syrian aircraft bombed positions of the Dschihadists for weeks, destroyed hospitals and schools and buried thousands of civilians in rubble. The inhabitants could hardly flee because they served as human shields for the Dschihadists. Whoever tried to flee risked being shot. At the same time, regime troops surrounded the eastern part to prevent any weapon reinforcements. Hardly any food reached the people…
The further course of events shows how much wars are staged for the media. In October, reporting shifted from Aleppo to Mosul in North Iraq. The timing was not an accident but was owed to the US presidential election. A success story in Aleppo for the US was not possible any more. It was only a question of time before the Syrian army would recapture the east of the city. The Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan allegedly reached an agreement with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to reduce the military supplies for the Nusra front in Aleppo. In a countermove, he was given a free hand from Russia to act against the Kurds allied with Washington in North Syria. The complexity and short-lived fast-moving times of political and military alliances explain why there cannot be a speedy end to the Syrian war. Too many interests of too many actors are at stake.
In December 2006, the Syrian army and its allies completely recaptured East Aleppo…
The media discourse showed its first tears. The "rebels" also occupied and attempted to starve villages, not only the regime. This was new to many people. The pictures of burning busses had their effect. Even the Berlin "Tagesspiegel," usually a firm stronghold of transatlantic value orientations, titled its January 8, 2017, edition "Aleppo's conquest is also liberation." The commentator explained: "Neatly separating good from evil in the Syrian civil war is hard." These were wise words even if the war in Syria is not at all a civil war.
The media almost entirely lost its interest in Aleppo immediately after the recapture. The "Aleppo Media Center" in the eastern part of the city, financed and praised by the West as a forum of "independent citizen journalists" also disappeared from the scene.
IS ALEPPO THE INFERNO AND MOSUL THE STRUGGLE FOR FREEDOM?
Back to Mosul, the new focus of Middle East reporting since October 2016 as Aleppo's successor. Why Mosul? Iraq's second largest city has been ruled by the "Islamic State" since the summer of 2014. In the long run, IS cannot control the metropolis of millions because it has lost large parts of the "Kalifat" that it proclaimed in Iraq to an international military coalition under US leadership. If liberating Mosul from IS succeeds, that will have a positive effect on the image of the West, unlike the Aleppo episode.
However, a serious problem remains. The battle for Mosul may take months. The city must be conquered street by street and district by district. In other words, there will be many dead and at the end, large parts of Mosul could be destroyed. The different intonation of the reporting can hardly be ignored. Aleppo is the inferno and Mosul is the struggle for freedom. Dschihadists are involved here and there but some cooperate with the US, at least indirectly, and not others. Civilians die in both cities… We see jubilant people from the villages around Mosul liberated from IS, victoriously advancing Iraqi soldiers and dancing Christians returning to their homes.
In the first two to three weeks of the offensive, the "coalition" fired almost 2500 bombs, missiles, grenades and remote-controlled drones toward Mosul… The western division of the war parties in "good" and "evil" says little. All the actors have blood on their hands; hardly anyone considers civilian victims. Arab societies, strongly marked by clan- and tribal structures, often follow a clear friend/enemy pattern. One is either a blood brother – or a deadly enemy. The classification can change abruptly at any time. Correspondingly there is only victory or defeat for the respective militias. Compromises and humanity toward the other side are only regarded as signs of weakness. From the view of the Assad regime, areas controlled by rebels or insurgents are enemy land. Fighters and inhabitants are hardly distinguished. Every dead person is one less potential adversary. All other war parties also follow the same logic so that massacres are underlain by vindictive desires flowing into warfare. This is most noticeable with the Dschihadists. Merely killing their victims is not enough. They attack importance to staging. Therefore they behead persons before running cameras and put the pictures on the Internet. The cruel act should demonstrate their power and mock the "family" of the killed: the involved religious or ethnic group or foreigners and their governments.
Yes, the Assad regime is criminal. But the notion that philanthropists are at work who only defend themselves against the regime has nothing to do with reality. Every Syria report by Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch punishes such convictions as lies. That the regime is responsible for more dead than the "rebels" does not contradict that. A group that perhaps only kills 1000 and not 10,000 is not "more humane." What would Assad's "legitimate" warfare look like from the view of the West?
Assad's regime defends itself against an international alliance that seeks his overthrow in violation of international law… Whoever wants to see Assad overthrown should answer the question whether we would rather see the Nusra Front in power. Moral indignation is not enough to bring about democratic conditions. Overcoming thinking in tribal structures needs much time. Such a mental awakening cannot be forced by a third party.
As soon as the final phase of fighting around Mosul occurs, Shiite and Kurdish militias will advance to the Sunnite city and the Turkish army will be on standby. The victory over IS could also prove to be a Pyrrhic victory since the different ethnic and religious groups do their utmost for the sake of the future political order and the allocation of the oil revenues in Northern Iraq. In November 2016, Human Rights Watch reported that the Peshmerga, the Northern Iraq Kurdish militia, systematically drove out Arabs in mixed settlement areas of Kurds and Arabs in the Kirkuk and Nineveh districts and destroyed their houses. Thus an end to violence is not in sight here. Both theaters of war, Syria and Iraq, are closely connected. The "Islamic State" has its roots in Iraq and used the state disintegration in Syria to gain a foothold there. Anarchy rules on both sides of the border. Militias have taken control in extensive parts of the country. This complicates the pacification of the region. Wars like those in Syria or Iraq do not end or die away. They do not know a happy end. They transform themselves, go through metamorphoses and assume new forms again and again. No one has a real interest in defeating the "Islamic State" once and for all. It provides the smallest common denominator for all intervention forces and yet is the main external enemy and with that the welcome occasion for all powers to show their presence and represent their interests.
[This article is based on "The Harvesters of the Storm. How the West plunged Syria into Chaos," the latest work of Michael Lueders published by C.H. Beck.]
"CATCH THE THIEF" AS THE MOST IMPORTANT METHOD OF MANIPULATION
by Albrecht Mueller
[This article published on April 9, 2017, is translated abridged from the German on the Internet, http://www.nachdenkseiten.de.]
The past week was again a horror week filled with dreadful news that the US attacked Syria with missiles. All these events were accompanied by propaganda. Knowing the methods of manipulation is vital for understanding events. Therefore we point again and again to the applied methods and the frequently distorted facts. The method "Catch the thief" was often applied last week…
Ruler Assad used poison gas against his own people again. The West immediately sent this message into the world. Many people presumably had the impression that the responsibility for this poison attack was explained. Whoever shouts "Catch the thief" whitewashes and discredits the others. In the concrete case, this had the dreadful side-effect of covering-up the US' open entry into the war against Syria and making it understandable. Presumably many people in the West nodded in agreement.
The application of other methods of manipulation can also be seen and verified in this event. The assignment of responsibility to Syria and the subliminal assignment of culpability to Russia came from different corners and were constantly repeated. This was visualized and emotionalized, particularly with the appearance of the UN ambassador of the US…
In 1973, the US helped remove an unacceptable government in Chile. The West, concretely the European Union with NATO in the background, helped intensely so the left in Greece had no firm ground to stand on.
When it is now assumed that Putin and Russia wanted to meddle in the West, that is a real joke given the constant and powerful meddling of western leaders in the innards of so-called western democracies. Catch the thief works…
WHAT CAN BE DONE?
Protest, enlighten, point out the methods of manipulation, speak with politicians and write letters to the editor… Here is an example, a paragraph from a letter to the Stuttgarter Zeitung newspaper:
"…What are the reasons for your reporting that clearly assigns the role of evil (Assad/ Putin) although, strictly speaking, all the war parties (including Turkey, Saudi Arabia etc) are playing a dirty game here? Why isn't the Syrian tragedy reported in a more differentiated way? In times of Fake-News, a quality newspaper like the Stuttgart Zeitung should not come under attack by one-sided reporting. Yours sincerely."
WHO BENEFITS? CUI BONO
By Ralph Hartman
[This article published in Ossietzky 8/2017 is translated from the German on the Internet, http://sopos.org.]
The television reports about the victims of poison gas in Syria in the city of Chan Scheichun in the northwest province Idlib and about the US missile strike against the Al Sha’irat airforce base are hard to bear… The words of the poet Peter Hille from more than a hundred years ago come to mind: “The tyranny of the moaners or noisy troublemakers (Schreier) is unbearable!” They mostly don’t cry but tyrannize common sense with their venting.
This time the German chancellor praised for her level-headedness led the way. In Saxon Bad Muskau, she said the poison gas attack was committed by the regime of the ruler Baschar al-Assad who also bombed the hospital where the victims were treated. For her, this was unequivocally a “chemical weapon massacre” and a war crime.
After the air attack against the Syrian air base ordered by President Trump, she declared with France’s president Francois Hollande: “President Assad bears the sole responsibility for this development.” His repeated use of chemical weapons and his crimes against his own people demanded a sanction.
The German chancellor urged Syria’s ally Russia “to come to their senses” and support a ceasefire. “We cannot look on and watch when children are murdered in a cruel and bestial way.” Without even naming one fact, she claimed there was “some evidence” that the poison gas attacks were carried out by the aircraft of the Syrian ruler Assad. Syria’s future with Assad at the top was excluded by the chancellery minister Peter Altmaier. “Syria needs a fresh start” so democracy can have a new chance in the land. Whether he meant according to the model of Iraq or Libya was unclear.
Defense minister Ursula von der Leyan (CDU) was told about the imminent US attack in the middle of the night. While the decision violated international law on paper, it was nevertheless justified because “Assad murdered the population in 2013. He encircled them with bombs, starved and trapped them. He has never accepted any limits.” The goal of the US military strike was to make clear to Assad and his allies Russia and Iran that the international community of states would not sit back and watch when Syria violates the red line with poison gas attacks.
The voices of the top SPD officials were not missing in this choir of accusers and appalled. The party leader and chancellor candidate Martin Schulz understood the military intervention of the US against Syria. With the American air strikes, the capacity of the Assad-regime to commit further war crimes will be curbed (http://www.tagesschau.de). His predecessor and new foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel described the aggressive air attack of the US against the military structures of the Assad-regime “that committed this terrible war crime” as “understandable.” “The UN Security Council did not react clearly and unequivocally to the barbaric use of chemical weapons against innocent people in Syria” (http://www.auswertiges-amt.de).
Without the slightest evidence, the whole political leadership of our democratic country agrees Assad and his military alone are responsible for the poison gas crime in Chan Scheichun. None of them raises the most obvious question: Cui bono (who benefits)? Why should the Syrian president have ordered the use of sarin when with Russian support he liberated considerable areas from the IS- and Al-Nusra criminals, when the US administration under Donald Trump announced it would no longer persist on his overthrow and a donor conference for Syria’s refugees took place in Brussels? Assad may be a dictator but he is not stupid and suicidal.
Who could have had an interest in harming Damascus and Moscow with a wicked provocation, in turning back the developments in the last months and in escalating the situation again? There are many possible perpetrators in the dreadful war events that could have successfully poisoned the situation – including the Islamic State, the so-called rebels and their supporters in Saudi Arabia and in the Gulf states, Americans like Senator McCain lusting after war and the secret services of all shadings. For all these possible actors, sarin could easily have been brought to Chan Scheichun and used with a calculated but criminal intention. Why didn’t a single German bearer of responsibility ask the obvious question “cui bono”? The phrase “lying press” is decried for good reasons. But aren’t there “lying politicians” who do great harm and endanger international peace?
All this is not new. In the past decades, lies of politicians served as pretexts of aggressive wars and war crimes. Who does not remember the Tonkin incident off the coast of North Vietnam, the incubator lie before the start of the second Gulf War and the alleged weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?
If one sees and hears via television the lies of German politicians, one can be seized with anger and smash the television set. But what can a television viewer accomplish with that destruction?