Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

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The collapsing US military & economic empire is making Washington & NATO even more dangerous. US could not beat the Taliban but thinks it can take on China-Russia-Iran...a sign of psychopathology for sure.

Friday, January 14, 2022

The U.S. Makes a Mockery of Treaties & International Law



By K.J. Noh

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and other members of the Biden Cabinet are fond of proclaiming the “rules-based international order” (RBIO) or “rules-based order” every chance they get: in press conferences, on interviews, in articles, at international fora, for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and cocktails. Along with the terms “human rights” and “democracy,” the RBIO is routinely used to claim a moral high ground against countries that they accuse of not following this RBIO, and wielded as a cudgel to attack, criticize, accuse, and delegitimate countries in their crosshairs as rogue outliers to an international order.

This cudgel is now used most commonly against China and Russia. Oddly enough, whenever the United States asserts this “rules-based order” that China (and other “revisionist powers”/enemy states) are violating, the United States never seems to clarify which “rules” are being violated, but simply releases a miasma of generic accusation, leaving the stench of racism and xenophobia to do the rest.

This is because there is a fundamental contradiction at the heart of the RBIO.

The RBIO isn’t “rules-based,” it isn’t “international,” and it confounds any sense of “order,” let alone justice. It is, at bottom, the naked exercise of U.S. imperial power and supremacy, dressed up in the invisible finery of an embroidered fiction. The RBIO is a fraudulent impersonation of international law and justice.

There are many layers to this misnomer, to be deconstructed piece by piece.

‘RBIO’ in Contrast With ‘International Law’

First, the RBIO is not “international” in any sense of the word.

There actually is a consensual rules-based international order, a compendium of agreed-upon rules and treaties that the international community has negotiated, agreed to, and signed up for. It’s called simply “international law.” This refers to the body of decisions, precedents, agreements, and multilateral treaties held together under the umbrella of the Charter of the United Nations and the multiple institutions, policies, and protocols attached to it. Although imperfect, incomplete, evolving, it still constitutes the legal foundation of the body of international order and the orderly laws that underpin it: this is what constitutes international law. The basic foundation of the UN Charter is national sovereignty—that states have a right to exist, and are equal in relations. This is not what the United States is referring to.

When the United States uses the term RBIO, rather than the existing term “international law,” it does so because it wants to impersonate international law while diverting to a unilateral, invented, fictitious order that it alone creates and decides—often with the complicity of other imperial, Western, and transatlantic states. It also does this because, quite simply, the United States does not want to be constrained by international law and actually is an international scofflaw in many cases.

 

 

The United States as International Outlaw

For example, the United States refuses to sign or to ratify foundational international laws and treaties that the vast majority of countries in the world have signed, such as the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), CEDAW (the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women), ICESCR (the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights), CRC (the Convention on the Rights of the Child), ICRMW (the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families), UNCLOS (the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea), PAROS (the Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space), the Ottawa Treaty (the Anti-Personnel Landmines Convention), and the majority of labor conventions of the ILO (International Labor Organization). In fact, the United States harbors sweatshops, legalizes child labor (for example, in migrant farm labor), and engages in slave labor (in prisons and immigration detention centers). Even the U.S. State Department’s own 2021 Trafficking in Persons Report acknowledges severe problems in the U.S. of trafficking and forced labor in agriculture, food service, manufacture, domestic service, sex work, and hospitality, with U.S. government officials and military involved in the trafficking of persons domestically and abroad. Ironically, the United States tries to hold other countries accountable to laws that it itself refuses to ratify. For example, the United States tries to assert UNCLOS in the South China Sea while refusing—for decades—to ratify it and ignoring its rules, precedents, and conclusions in its own territorial waters.

There are also a slew of international treaties the United States has signed, but simply violates anyway: examples include the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Biological Weapons Convention, UN treaties prohibiting torture, rendition, and kidnapping, and of course, war of aggression, considered “the supreme international crime”—a crime that the United States engages in routinely at least once a decade, not to mention routine drone attacks, which are in violation of international law. Most recently, the AUKUS agreement signed between the United States and Australia violates the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) by exploiting a blind spot of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

There are also a multitude of treaties that the United States has signed but then arbitrarily withdrawn from anyway. These include the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran, the Agreed Framework and the Six-Party Talks with North Korea, the Geneva Conventions, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, and many others.

There are also approximately 368 treaties signed between the Indigenous nations and the U.S. government; every single one of them has been violated or ignored.

~ K.J. Noh is a journalist, political analyst, writer and teacher specializing in the geopolitics of the Asia-Pacific region.

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