It is wierd to hear members of the Socialist Workers Party banging on about how this is an “illegal war”, which breaks international law etc. After all these people claim to be revolutionaries committed to overthrowing parliamentry democracy, by violent means if necessary.
I’m not sure if there is a specific law about violent revolution in Britain, but I suspect the High Court might rule that is not strictly speaking legal to storm Westminster with machine guns.
What a strange world we now live in where Trotskyites, Anarchists and Stalinists insist on abiding by the letter of laws created by the combined efforts of the ruling classes of the world. Even liberals have argued for decades that it can be morally acceptable to break an unjust law. And the core element of progressive politics is the notion that if it don’t work – fix it.
But when it comes to the already ill-defined notion of ‘international law’ then the ‘revolutionaries’ stand firmly on the side of a status quo that was created during the cold war.
It is nothing but opportunism of course, but there is a serious point here. The whole basis of international law protects states not peoples.
Johann Hari takes a timely look at this in the Indie today and says it is time for change.
Confronted with the evidence of Iraqis’ feelings, many of the anti-war critics will, I fear, change the subject. They will say that, whatever the Iraqi people desired, the damage to international law was too great. In offering this argument, they fail to acknowledge a key flaw with international law as it now stands. The foundations for the present system were built in 1945, when the greatest threat to human life and dignity was war between nations. Its structures are designed solely to prevent conflict between states and to secure peace in the international arena – and in this respect, they have been phenomenally successful.
What international law cannot do, however, is secure peace within nations. The governments of, say, Burma, Saudi Arabia and Zimbabwe may be judged “peaceful”under international law, while they are butchering and terrorising their populations. There is no peace for people living under tyranny. International law must be changed to allow democracies to act where there are reasonable grounds (as in Iraq) for believing that the people of a country wish it, and where the regime is systematically breaching human rights on a massive scale.
In other words a system of international law that is based on the protection of human rights and not on the protection of tyranny.