Questions For Obama & Cameron Before They Attack

by Andrew Bacevich

Let us posit that the Syrian government did, in fact, order last week’s chemical attack that killed hundreds of Syrian citizens, including women, children and others who had not taken up arms against the Assad regime.

In Washington, the eagerness to initiate military action in order to punish Assad is now palpable. Before ordering any such action, President Obama should answer several questions. He should share those answers with the American people, before not after pulling the trigger.

First, why does this particular heinous act rise to the level of justifying a military response? More specifically, why did a similarly heinous act by the Egyptian army elicit from Washington only the mildest response? Just weeks ago, Egyptian security forces slaughtered hundreds of Egyptians whose “crime” was to protest a military coup that overthrew a legitimately elected president. Why the double standard?

Second, once U.S. military action against Syria begins, when will it end? What is the political objective? Wrapping the Assad regime on the knuckles is unlikely to persuade it to change its ways. That regime is engaged in a fight for survival. So what exactly does the United States intend to achieve and how much is President Obama willing to spend in lives and treasure to get there? War is a risky business. Is the president willing to commit U.S. forces to what could well become another protracted and costly struggle?

Third, what is the legal basis for military action? Neither Russia nor China is likely to agree to an attack on Syria, so authorization by the U.N. Security Council won’t be forthcoming. Will Obama ask Congress for the authority to act? Or will he, as so many of his recent predecessors have done, employ some dodge to circumvent the Constitution? With what justification?

Andrew Bacevich is a professor of history and international relations at Boston University.

This article first appeared on Moyers and Company


  1. PEACEfestUK says:

    This has happened before

    Published on May 6, 2013
    May 06, 2013 BBC News


  2. PEACEfestUK says:

    STOP the murder & killing of any and all children, women and men.

  3. Radfax says:

    The lies that lead to war
    How the Government deceived Parliament, HM forces, the media and
    the public into waging illegal wars with Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

    “War is essentially an evil thing. Its consequences are not confined to the belligerent states alone, but affect the whole world. To initiate a war of aggression therefore, is not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”
    Nuremburg War Crimes Tribunal 1946

    The method used by British Governments to persuade the nation to wage war is as old as the hills – lie repeatedly about the illegality of war. The British Government used the same lie to promote the war with Libya as it had done for the wars with Afghanistan and Iraq – that military action by HM forces is lawful and authorised by the UN Security Council operating under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.

    On March 21st 2011, shortly before 559 MPs voted in favour of illegal military action against Libya, the UK Government issued a statement making the false claim that the deployment of British forces against Libya was lawful and authorised by UN Security Council Resolution 1973; their note declared:
    “The Attorney General has been consulted and Her Majesty’s Government is satisfied that this Chapter VII authorisation to use all necessary measures provides a clear and unequivocal legal basis for deployment of UK forces and military assets to achieve the resolution’s objectives”.
    This Government statement, claiming that the armed attack on Libya would be legal, exemplifies the way in which British politicians, lawyers and civil servants pervert and break the law. By cross-checking Government statements against the laws governing the use of force, it can quickly be established that the wars with Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya are all illegal.

    The law of war

    The two main legal documents which govern the use of armed force in international affairs are the UN Charter and UN General Assembly Resolution 2625. The first lays down the law and the second explains how to interpret it.

    The UN Charter

    The UN Charter is the Statute which lays down the legally binding terms of this agreement in 111 Articles. Article 2 states the purposes of the United Nations and includes these rules:

    2.3 All members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace, security and justice are not endangered.

    2.4 All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.

    Chapter VII of the UN Charter (Articles 39 – 51) contains the rules governing the measures that the UN Security Council may take to bring about peace and security. Article 41 states:

    The Security Council may decide what measures not involving the use of armed force are to be employed to give effect to its decisions, and it may call upon members of the United Nations to apply such measures…

    To a person with common sense the phrase not involving the use of armed force means not involving the use of armed force; so why do British Government lawyers repeatedly claim that the UN Security Council has authorised the use of armed force when it is clearly forbidden?

    UN General Assembly Resolution 2625

    In 1970 the United Nations agreed 51 new definitions of the law governing in UNGA Resolution 2625:


    This Declaration is one of the most important legal documents the world has ever produced; yet few if any public office holders in Britain or America have seen it or read it. It includes these rules:

    Every State has the duty to refrain in its international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations. Such a threat or use of force constitutes a violation of international law and the Charter of the United Nations and shall never be employed as a means of settling international issues.

    No State or group of States has the right to intervene, directly or indirectly, for any reason whatever, in the internal or external affairs of any other State. Consequently, armed intervention and all other forms of interference or attempted threats against the personality of the State or against its political, economic and cultural elements are in violation of international law.

    The principles of the Charter which are embodied in this Declaration constitute basic principles of international law, and consequently [the UN General Assembly] appeals to all States to be guided by these principles in their international conduct and to develop their mutual relations on the basis of the strict observance of these principles.

    These laws are crystal clear. The use of force is prohibited. The use of armed force to attack other nations is a crime. No state or group of States such as NATO, ISAF or the EU, may intervene in another State’s affairs and every State must obey, uphold and enforce these rules.

    The crimes associated with waging aggressive war, laid down in the Nuremburg Principles and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, are also clear. If any person, in furtherance of a state policy, orders the use of force to attack members of a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, that person and everyone who takes part in the attack is responsible for the consequences, breaks international law and, if it results in the deaths of innocent people, commits the universal crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, aggression or conduct ancillary to such crimes.

    So why do British and NATO politicians, lawyers and civil servants interpret phrases such as all necessary measures, humanitarian intervention, and not involving the use of armed force to mean using weapons of mass destruction such as cruise missiles, rockets, drones, bombs and radioactive munitions to invade and occupy Afghanistan and Iraq or to attack Libya? Could the real reason for these heinous decisions to kill innocent civilians and destroy weaker nations be a psychopathic lack of conscience and moral values, or is it perhaps because they know that they control the law enforcement processes and can ensure that they will never be arrested, prosecuted or convicted for their war crimes, for the suffering inflicted on their victims or the horrific consequences of their decisions.

    For more than sixty years UK Government Ministers, officers and lawyers have deceived everyone over the illegality of war and armed conflict and have got away with it. These massacres of Afghan, Iraqi and Libyan civilians in which at least 450,000 children have died and more than 1m have been injured and maimed since 2001 are the worst atrocities in British history. Why is it then that not one member of the UK establishment is willing to call a halt to the killing or speak out against it? Why is it that those with the power to stop the wars and enforce the laws repeatedly refuse to do so?

    It is time for law abiding citizens everywhere to take a stand against Britain’s political, civil, judicial and military leaders and institutions to ensure that the killing is stopped, the resort to war is ended and those responsible for the deaths of 1.5m civilians are arrested and prosecuted for their crimes.

    Chris Coverdale

  4. Firstly, where do Obama and Cameron get their intelligence from?
    One would assume that it is mostly from Israel and the Syrian exiles and the “rebels.” What would you expect these 3 groups to say? Remember what Machiavelli said: “Of all intelligence, the most unreliable is that supplied by exiles!”
    Remember the WMD (weapons of mass deception) argument to justify invading Iraq – No body is apologising about the fact that we went to war and sacrificed very many lives of our young men and women, and ofcourse unknown numbers of Iraqis, all based on falsehood and sexed up dossiers! Should we once more fall for that?
    Secondly, the argument that Assad is killing his own people as a justification to intervene and kill more people does not really hold water. What does it matter whether those killed are killed by their own regime or by Americans? Killing of people is wrong, whoever it is done by.
    Thirdly – the hypocracy of it all. There is a coup in Egypt – hundreds of unarmed nonvilent protesters seeking the restoration of a legitimately and democratically elected leader are killed by the army, and what does the Western powers do – absolutely nothing!
    Fourthly, where is the UN in all this? Ofcourse Russia and China will oppose any UN resolution to attack Syria, after they were betrayed over Libya, in that they supported a “no fly zone” which was then used by the UK and France to mean “regime change!!!”
    God help us all!
    Millius is the Director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, England

  5. peoplesunitedassembly says:

    The UK government have no rights to engage in an armed force response. The fact of the matter is that the UK government, both past and present must be brought to justice for murder, war crimes, genocide, crimes against humanity and crimes against peace.

    We must all demand their arrest, immediately for until that happens the World will be a less safer place.

    Calling on all who are of conscience to enforce the law.

    Murder is always a crime, and the murder of children is the most heinous of crimes. There comes a time when women and men must align themselves to correct action and moral fortitude and persistence for truth & justice.

    The message is to stop violence not to promote it.

    There has been much deliberation with UK police regarding the law and UK war criminals. International laws and treaties have been quoted, but to date have failed to be recognised by the UK police.

    Here is the law as set down in the UK

    The offences against Person Act 1861

    (4) “Whosoever shall solicit, encourage, persuade or endeavor to persuade, or shall propose to any person, to murder any other person, whether he( or she) be a subject of Her Majesty or not, and whether he (she) be within the Queens dominions or not, shall be guilty of an offence, and being convicted thereof shall be liable to imprisonment for life”.

    The guilty; Vote count by MP’s of the UK government participation in the air strikes on Libya; 557 MPs rallied behind David Cameron’s new military adventure, while only 15 MPs opposed it (13 votes against, plus 2 ‘tellers’).

    These MP’s who voted in favor of air strikes in Libya, knew full well that they would result in the deaths of children, women and men. This was and still is murder. A list of MP’s who voted in favour of air strikes on Libya is available to police on request.

    Murder or manslaughter abroad.

    (9) Where any murder or manslaughter shall be committed on land out of the United Kingdom, whether within the Queen’s dominions or without, and whether the person killed were a subject of Her Majesty or not, every offence committed by any subject of Her Majesty in respect of any such case, whether the same shall amount to the offence of murder or of manslaughter, may be dealt with, inquired of, tried, determined, and punished in England or Ireland. Provided, that nothing herein contained shall prevent any person from being tried in any place out of England or Ireland for any murder or manslaughter committed out of England or Ireland, in the same manner as such person might have been tried before the passing of this Act.

    Elements of Arrest under section 24 PACE

    A lawful arrest requires two elements:

    A person’s involvement or suspected involvement or attempted involvement in the commission of a criminal offence;


    Reasonable grounds for believing that the person’s arrest is necessary.

    Under International Law

    The Rome statute of the International criminal court 1998;

    Article 27, (1) This statute shall apply equally to all persons without any distinction based on official capacity. In particular, official capacity as head of state or government, a member of a government or parliament, an elected representative or a government official shall in no case exempt a person from criminal responsibility under this statute, nor shall it, in and of itself, constitute a ground for reduction of sentence. (2) Immunities or special procedural rules which may attach to the official capacity of a person, whether under national or international law, shall not bar the court from exercising its jurisdiction over such a person.

    By Oath in the office of constable, with fairness, integrity, diligence and impartiality, upholding fundamental human rights and according equal respect to all people; and that I will, to the best of my power, cause the peace to be kept and preserved and prevent all offences against people and property; and that while I continue to hold the said office I will to the best of my skill and knowledge discharge all the duties thereof faithfully according to law. Please take note that this is not a political issue but one of law.

    If you are a Policeman, judge or any other law enforcement officer or official you are advised to take action, you are also advised to pay particular notice and attention to the following;

    Nuremberg Principle IV states, “The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him.”

    Also take note of the Rome statute of the International criminal court 1998; Article 27, (1)




  6. Terence Alexander Griffin says:

    For weeks now we have been fed the ‘atrocities’ being perpetrated in Syria…and the mass migrations to various countries. In the meantime go back just over a 100 hundred years and how the people were fed the German atrocities in poor liitle Belgium…the rapes of the Nuns being the most emotive. It is so sad that the only argument being put forward is that something must be done and that we should not stand back and let these ‘criminals’ get away with it. These ‘armchair generals’ always use the ‘we’ when they actually mean ‘you’…the we people never actually do anything…so when they speak and say ‘we’ just remember that is you. Ask yourself which country is benefiting most from all this chaos and death?

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