News Release

“The Threat to Attack Syria Is STILL Illegal”


HOWARD FRIEL, howardfriel at
Friel just wrote the piece “The Threat to Attack Syria Is STILL Illegal,” which states: “Unless President Obama would like to risk seeing Syria, at some point in the future, renounce its signature on the chemical weapons convention, which it has recently pledged to sign under the threat of attack by the United States, he should rescind the threat of force. This is because Article 52 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, ‘Coercion of a State by Threat or Use of Force,’ stipulates: ‘A treaty is void if its conclusion has been procured by the threat or use of force in violation of the principles of international law embodied in the Charter of the United Nations.’

“Whether or not this means that Syria’s signing and ratifying the chemical weapons ban under an illegal threat of force would be invalid, it is clearly the case that the president’s threat of force is illegal under international law.

“Article 2(4) of the UN Charter prohibits ‘the threat or use of force’ by states. Thus, both ‘threat’ and ‘use’ are prohibited. The only exceptions are the resort to force as national ‘self-defense’ in response to an ‘armed attack,’ or a threat or use of force pursuant to an authorizing resolution from the UN Security Council. …

“Furthermore, the Nuremberg Principles stipulate that ‘Crimes against Peace’ include the ‘planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances.’ In his speech from the White House on Tuesday night (Sept. 10), Obama repeated an administration talking point that his threatened attacks on Syria involve plans and preparations to go beyond a ‘pinprick’ attack. Thus, the president’s apparent ‘planning’ and ‘preparation’ — incorporated as they are into the illegal threats — may be ‘a crime against peace’ under the Nuremberg Prnciples. …

“These are not legal abstractions, and shouldn’t be treated as such. While in the past few decades we have witnessed the still ongoing massive transfer of public funds to the war-making machine and away from public infrastructure, public transportation, public education, and universal healthcare, there exists the parallel phenomenon of the transfer of law and legal interpetation almost exclusively to the executive branch to coverup and perpetuate ongoing lawless policies, at home and abroad.”

Friel is author of several books including the forthcoming Chomsky and Dershowitz: On Endless War and the End of Civil Liberties. His past books include, with Richard Falk: Israel-Palestine on Record: How the New York Times Misreports Conflict in the Middle East and The Record of the Paper: How the New York Times Misreports U.S. Foreign Policy.