The US and regime change
Britain’s assertion of the legitimacy of the Iraq intervention rested almost entirely on the alleged need to enforce UN demands that Iraq account for, and if necessary get rid of, its WMD. The Americans paid lip service to this objective as long as they were still trying for a “second resolution” of the Security Council authorising the war, but once that hope began to fade they reverted to their original objective of bringing about “régime change” in Iraq, as for example admitted on the record by the President’s press spokesman, Ari Fleischer, on 28 February**. The full implications of Washington’s claim to have the right, simply because it has the power, to use military force against an independent sovereign state in order to remove its government, however repressive and unsavoury, and install a new one, have still not been fully hoisted in. This spectacularly revolutionary new doctrine, if it becomes accepted internationally (even with reluctance) as forming part of customary international law, effectively repeals the central provisions of the UN Charter which set out the once internationally agreed rules governing the use of force in international affairs—rules in whose drafting the US played a leading part at the end of the second world war, and which the US formally accepted as binding when it signed the Charter and ratified its UN membership. Being part of a formal treaty obligation, these rules automatically form part of United States law, as binding on all US governments and courts as any domestic law, as Article VI of the Constitution itself makes clear – “This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.” [My emphasis.] It seems curious that no-one in such a litigious population as that of the US has sought to persuade the courts to enforce the provisions of the Charter against President Bush’s administration and to restrain it from acting in plain breach of “the supreme law of the land”. But perhaps the experience of trying to persuade the Supreme Court to impose fairness and legality in the 2000 presidential election has discouraged any fresh effort to get it to restrain George W. Bush now.