“It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.”
An interesting poll review came out last year in The Washington Post. It will surprise no one, I’m sure, to learn that confidence by the American people in their government is in, as the article puts it, “used-car salesman territory”. I’m sorry I can’t show you the original article, but its link results in a server error – this is a reprint, and you can’t actually see the chart they describe. But the statistics discussed are clear enough, and an impression that people have always sort of thought the government was comprised of liars and cheats would be exactly wrong. Back in the 1960’s, more than 70% of Americans thought the federal government could be trusted to do the right thing “just about always” or “most of the time”.
That social trend collapsed, likely as a result of the Vietnam War and Nixon’s resignation after Watergate, from 53% in 1972 to 36% in 1974. In 2010 that figure was 19%, and I can’t think of a reason it would be higher today. Moreover, trust in government is globally at historic lows – public trust in government has fallen to 14% in Spain, 18% in Italy and 20% in France, and is below 50% in 22 of 27 countries surveyed.
Why is that, do you suppose? It wasn’t always that way, obviously. Once people trusted government, broadly, to do what was right. But people can hardly be bothered to turn out to vote any more. The World Policy Institute has a possible explanation: “Measuring a democracy solely by voter participation can be deceptive and yield false results. Low election turnouts can signal a lack of confidence in the electoral system—but may also signify apathy or satisfaction with the status quo. Meanwhile, strong voter turn out may hint at a vibrant democracy, but it could also indicate intense propaganda, authoritarian rule, and false reports—as seen in Turkmenistan, where voter turnout topped an unbelievable 96 percent for the 2012 presidential election.”
Show of hands, please – how many think low voter turnout in western democracies signals satisfaction with the status quo? Uh huh. That’s what I thought.
I have a counter-proposal. People no longer have any faith – any faith at all – that their government will do what is right because they have seen government, time and time again, act in its own interests or in support of allies who are blatantly engaged in wrongdoing. And because governments casually, on a daily basis, break the laws they themselves make, because they consider regulation to be for Joe Six-Pack, while elites are above the law and are moved by a higher level of play in the cut and thrust of global politics.
The law is the law, ladies and gentlemen. For everyone, exalted and humble, rich and poor, the wise and the blindingly stupid. Alternatively, as Bumble says in Oliver Twist, “The law is an ass – an idiot”. We can’t have it both ways. If the mighty are disposed to ignore or break the law at their pleasure, what compels us to obey it?
Let’s start out in the big leagues – International law. Der Spiegel reported that American former private security company Blackwater – now called Academi – has 400 mercenaries in Ukraine, fighting for Kiev and assisting the new Chocolate King with his “anti terrorist campaign”. Their source is the BND, the German Federal intelligence Service. Is the supplying of private paramilitary forces to foreign governments legal? It sure as hell isn’t. According to the International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries, 4 December 1989;
Article 2: Any person who recruits, uses, finances or trains mercenaries, as defined in Article 1 of the present Convention, commits an offence for the purposes of the Convention.
Article 5:2: State Parties shall not recruit, use, finance or train mercenaries for the purpose of opposing the legitimate exercise of the inalienable right of peoples to self-determination, as recognized by international law, and shall take, in conformity with international law, the appropriate measures to prevent the recruitment, use, financing or training of mercenaries for that purpose.
The USA, loud and proud when it comes to long-winded statements about the value of the rule of law but coy when it comes to agreeing to be bound by laws which might restrict its effectiveness in meddling in coups and government overthrows and hobbies of that nature, is neither a signatory or state party to this protocol. But Ukraine is.
You would think international law was clear and straightforward and not riddled with loopholes, but in fact it contains any number of clauses and exceptions which would likely allow the USA to write off its mercenaries as “technical advisers” or something of that nature. When you write the laws, you customarily include escape clauses for yourself.
The complete and utter contempt of the west, at government level, for international law was on show when U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry – looking increasingly like the vampire undead he actually is – announced during a House hearing in September last year that the Arab nations (Saudi Arabia and Qatar) had offered to pay the entire cost of a U.S. military strike on Syria. And he didn’t mention it in the context that they should be despised for offering to hire the world’s biggest mercenary state to do their dirty work, either: who can forget the embarrassment of his pleading to be allowed by the UN to whack Syria “just a little“? That haggling for an opportunity to open the door to mayhem and bloodlettting which would be subject to the usual mission creep into full-scale war was shared by his fellow war criminal, British Foreign Secretary William Hague.
Nor should the UN be regarded as an observer of international law – my, no. Anyone who thought it would be a gentler and kinder world if run by Venus rather than Mars should inform themselves by some practical examples, such as that of the UN Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, who said in a recent report that “armed groups in the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk should stop taking themselves, and the people living in their regions, down this dead end, which is leading simply to misery, destruction, displacement and economic deprivation”, and “The time has come to put down the guns and talk. Peace and reconciliation, and long-term solutions are certainly attainable.” When Yanukovch was still in power, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Policy and Security, Baroness Ashton of Upholland, squealed angrily at Kiev to “show utmost restraint” when police raided opposition offices looking for evidence to support a criminal investigation. “These latest events seriously risk to derail the process. I call on the Ukrainian authorities to exercise utmost restraint and refrain from any further use of force, in order to give space for a negotiated solution out of the current political stalemate” , she cried. “Restraint” and “use of force”, however, meant quite a different thing and it was fuck the negotiated solution, as they say in the EU, when Lady Ashton praised the new Kiev coup government for its “remarkable restraint” and “right to defend its territorial integrity” – as the Grads and BTR’s rolled eastward on a punishment mission against Ukrainian citizens who were labeled “terrorists” despite having not threatened Kiev or any other regions at all, only refused to obey. When a Sukhoi SU-25 ground-attack fighter of the Ukrainian Air Force shot up downtown Luhansk with rockets and 30mm cannon, both weapons which are forbidden by international law in attacks where civilians are present because they are unguided and indiscriminate, Kiev denied any part in the attack and the west let it. Despite both CNN and the OSCE agreeing the attack was carried out by a military aircraft, and only one side has military aircraft conducting operations in Ukraine.
But here’s what Lady Ashton said about the actions of the Syrian government, which evidently has no right at all to defend its territorial integrity; no, “Assad must step down, it’s time for him to go” said Ashton. Pillay was no more circumspect, reporting that an inquiry had produced “massive evidence” that “war crimes in Syria were authorized in Syria at the highest level“. None of this evidence ever got a public airing. Both these unlikely Valkyries for Justice rely for their casualty figures in Syria upon the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which – as I have pointed out so many times I am tired of pointing it out – is one anti-Assad partisan shopkeeper in England who operates out of his house while running a clothing business and who gets all his numbers over the telephone from activists in Syria; the one or two attempts to verify these numbers ended in complete failure. In Ukraine, nobody seems to be keeping a count of the casualties at all, and neither Washington nor Brussels has yet issued any sort of condemnation of civilian deaths. Nor has a UN condemnation of the Odessa massacre, in which somewhere between 50 and more than 100 unarmed pro-Russia demonstrators were lured and driven into the Trade Unions Building in Odessa and brutally murdered, after which the building was set on fire in hope the evidence would be destroyed, been forthcoming.
Western governments lean hard on international law when it suits their purposes, and ignore it when it does not. Since the nature of law compels that all who signify their willingness to be bound by it must obey it, there is apparently no reason for anyone to pay attention to international law, while the only law that applies on an international scale is the law of the jungle.
This was exemplified in the refusal of the western democracies to support a UN resolution condemning the attack in Ukraine on the Russian Embassy in Kiev, just as the west has swatted aside Russian proposals for a resolution to stop the violence against civilians in eastern Ukraine by suggesting Moscow can stop it anytime it likes, since it is Moscow who is causing it. As usual, there are claims of abundant evidence, but the little bits which have leaked agonizingly out have been swiftly exposed as poor fabrications, while U.S. Secretary of State Kerry begged incoming Ukrainian Chocolate Buddha Poroshenko for something, anything he could use to confront Russia. It is plain the west has nothing.
However, the UNSC was quick to condemn “in the strongest terms” the attack in 2011 on the U.S. Embassy in Damascus, although nobody was hurt. And the attack on the American consulate in Herat, Afghanistan, in which the UN announced angrily, “Council members also condemned acts of violence against diplomatic and consular representatives, which endanger or take innocent lives and seriously impede the normal work of such representatives and officials.” Unless those representatives and officials are Russians, apparently. The UNSC likewise had no problem condemning the attack against the British Embassy in Tehran, which “resulted in intrusions into the diplomatic and consular premises and caused serious damage.” Ambassador José Filipe Moraes Cabral of Portugal, who held the presidency at the time, read out an emotional statement which “recalled the fundamental principle of the inviolability of diplomatic and consular premises, and the obligations on host governments to take all appropriate steps to protect diplomatic and consular premises against any intrusion or damage, and to prevent any disturbance of the peace of these missions or impairment of their dignity.” Unless, of course….but why bother?
Nor is Ukraine any better on a national level. Use of the military against civilians is strictly forbidden in the Ukrainian Constitution of 2004, which was quickly re-adopted in 2014 to erase amendments Yanukovych had made to it in 2010. According to article 17, which says, in part;
The Armed Forces of Ukraine and other military formations shall not be used by anyone to restrict the rights and freedoms of citizens or with the intent to overthrow the constitutional order, subvert the bodies of power, or obstruct their activity.
It also specifically forbids the formation or use of privately-funded mercenary armies such as that raised and directed by Ukrainian oligarch Igor “Benny” Kilomoisky, to wit;
The creation and operation of any armed formations not envisaged by law are prohibited on the territory of Ukraine.
Meanwhile, the state has no higher responsibility than to the lives, well-being and dignity of its citizens, as detailed in Article 3;
The human being, his or her life and health, honor and dignity, inviolability and security are recognized in Ukraine as the highest social value.
Human rights and freedoms and their guarantees determine the essence and orientation of the activity of the State. The State is answerable to the individual for its activity. To affirm and ensure human rights and freedoms is the main duty of the State.
Is it permissible to legally exercise self-determination in Ukraine? Sure is: Article 5;
The people are the bearers of sovereignty and the only source of power in Ukraine. The people exercise power directly and through bodies of state power and bodies of local self-government.
The right to determine and change the constitutional order in Ukraine belongs exclusively to the people and shall not be usurped by the State, its bodies or officials.
All just high-minded horseshit, apparently, because all of it went straight out the window as soon as Turchynov got a big lip on because the easterners did not cheer his “victory”, and turned over to his fascist underlings the responsibility to bring them to heel. But what articles in the Ukrainian Constitution are the only ones the coup government’s western backers know? Article 2:
The sovereignty of Ukraine extends throughout its entire territory.
Ukraine is a unitary state.
The territory of Ukraine within its present border is indivisible and inviolable.
Meanwhile, here are some juicy soundbites from the west on the rule of law in Russia:
“But there is not enough law with a capital L in Russia. There is not, for the most part, a legal culture.” The Wilson Center, Professor Jeffrey D. Kahn. No “legal culture” like the culture that exists in the west, where international law is revered, he means. “One need only to look at the trials of dissidents, from Oligarchs and investors to punk rockers, political opponents and business challengers, to see the arbitrary and capricious use of the legal system in Russia by the political elite.” Andrew Bowen, InterpreterMag. Arbitrary and capricious use of the legal system: that’s ringing a bell in my brain, but I can’t think what it means – oh, yes; let us whack Syria, a sovereign nation, and the Arabs will pay for it. “Whereas several trials and judicial proceedings over the last few years, such as the Magnitsky, Khodorkovsky and Politkovskaya cases, have cast doubt on the independence and impartiality of the judicial institutions of the Russian Federation; whereas the high profile cases cited above are merely just the most well-known cases outside Russia of what amounts to a systematic failure of the Russian state to uphold the rule of law and to deliver justice to its citizens“; The European Parliament. The same legal body which prohibited the use on restaurant tables of olive-oil jugs and dipping bowls, which – with the addition of balsamic vinegar, is the traditional way to enjoy bread Italian-style – despite not a single person in the EU dying from olive-oil-based disease while an average 1000 die annually in the UK alone from falling down the stairs. Stand by for an upcoming EU Parliamentary ruling which will state all housing in the EU shall consist of single-level ranchers.
“Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation: they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour … If at my convenience I might break them, what would be their worth?” So said Charlotte