avatar
Dear Amnesty, when would foreign attacks on US soil be legal?


Amnesty says in a very recent report

“Because the US government refuses to provide even basic information on particular strikes, including the reasons for carrying them out, Amnesty International is unable to reach firm conclusions about the context in which the US drone attacks on Mamana Bibi and on the 18 laborers took place, and therefore their status under international law”

 
Imagine strikes made by the Cuban government on US soil, strikes that the Cuban government claimed were intended to disrupt terrorist operations against Cuba that have been masterminded in Miami for decades. Would Amnesty write something like this?

“Because the Cuban government refuses to provide even basic information on particular strikes, including the reasons for carrying them out, Amnesty International is unable to reach firm conclusions about the context in which the Cuban drone attacks on Miami residents took place, and therefore their status under international law”

 
Put aside that such attacks by Cuba, or any other state in the world, would be suicidal and that the US government, in the event of such attacks, would not give a damn what Amnesty had to say. The point is that Amnesty would never dare suggest that the criminality of such attacks on US soil was debatable.
 
If only Amy Goodman had asked the Amnesty official she had on Democracy Now! yesterday to say which states may possibly be legally permitted to carry out “targeted killings” on US soil.
 
Unfortunately we can only guess how the Amnesty official might have replied to the challenge.  My guess, judging by the report, is that Amnesty would say that possible cooperation of foreign governments with the US drone program complicates the legality.
 
So again, let’s imagine the US government helping a foreign government bomb US cities and inflict “collateral damage” on its own citizens. Is international law really so vague that such barbarism perpetrated on US soil might be actually legal, or do the legal complications Amnesty sees only arise when powerful states attack people living in weak states?

Additionally, as the excellent “interventionswatch” blog pointed out, violence by armed groups opposed by the USA is unreservedly denounced as illegal by Amnesty:

 

Notice the complete lack of qualifiers [by Amnesty] here, the complete lack of 'concern' about access to the affected areas, and 'secrecy' on the part of the perpetrators – even though they surely apply just as much as they do to U.S. drone strikes, given that the alleged attacks took place in the same areas, and that the groups responsible likely aren't having an open and honest dialogue with Amnesty.

But unlike the Obama administration, these 'armed groups' have 'been responsible for unlawful killings and other abuses constituting war crimes and other crimes under international law', period. No ifs, buts or maybes. They are guilty, and that's that.

 
Bear in mind that Amnesty has called for an arms embargo on the Syrian government at the same time that it has conspicuously refused to call for an arms embargo on the Syrian rebels, so the problem is not that Amnesty sees non-state violence in general as easier to declare illegal  than state violence. Amnesty’s problem is that its standards for evidence become far more demanding when powerful western states or their clients perpetrate atrocities.  
 

Leave a comment