PETITION: New York Times, Tell Obama that War on Syria Crosses ‘Red Line’ Set by U.S. Constitution

More than a dozen experts in International Law, Media & U.S. Foreign Policy petition the New York Times. Join the campaign, sign your name below.

U.S. President Obama has sought to justify military attacks on Syria by stating that its use of chemical weapons has crossed a “red line” as recognized by the 1925 Geneva Protocol and the 1992 Chemical Weapons Convention. But neither treaty stipulates that military force may be used to enforce the ban on chemical weapons. Therefore, we categorically reject Obama’s threat to take military action against Syria.

Whether chemical weapons were used by Government and/or anti-Government forces, their use certainly undermines international treaties and is deplorable for the human carnage and suffering they inflict. But a military attack by the United States would risk wider war and be a violation of the UN Charter.

The UN Charter is a treaty signed and ratified by the United States. Article 2(4) of the Charter requires all UN-member states, including the U.S., to refrain from the threat or use of force against any state. The U.S. Constitution (Article VI[2]) stipulates that treaties ratified by the United States are “the supreme law of the land.” A U.S. violation of the UN Charter would also violate the U.S. Constitution.

Syria has not engaged in an “armed attack” against the United States; it has not threatened to engage in such an attack, and it has no ability to do so. And the UN Security Council has not authorized the United States to resort to the threat or use of force against Syria.

The United Nations estimates that over 100,000 people have died in the Syrian conflict, including more than 500 children. Humanitarian-aid workers worry that a U.S. attack will exacerbate Syria’s humanitarian crisis. They also worry that U.S. bombs on Syria may lead Assad to attack villages. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has also expressed concern that U.S. military action would deepen the violence.

The New York Times’ coverage of the U.S. threats to bomb Syria has failed to adequately address constitutional and international law that would require the U.S to refrain from the threat or use of force against Syria. The coverage has also failed to adequately address alternatives to military intervention, including seriously looking for a political solution at the upcoming peace conference proposed to take place in Geneva and seeking an accelerated implementation of a permanent cessation of hostilities in accordance with the steps outlined in the Geneva Communiqué of June 2012. Thus far, U.S. preference for military intervention has starved attempts of peaceful, political settlements.

The New York Times should consistently address international and constitutional law aspects in its reporting of the conflict. The New York Times should also consider reporting more fully on alternatives to military intervention. Political solutions are preferred by the UN Secretary General as well as many others.

The undersigned:

Noam Chomsky, Institute Professor Emeritus, MIT
Richard Falk, Professor of International Law Emeritus, Princeton University.
Phyllis Bennis, Director of the New Internationalism Project at The Institute for Policy Studies
Norman Solomon, Founding Director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and Co-Founder of
Michael Ratner, President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights
Edward Herman, Professor Emeritus of Finance, Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania
Marjorie Cohn, Professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and former president of the National Lawyers Guild
Paul Findley, Former member of the US House of Representatives for 22 years, key author of the War Powers Act of 1973
Gareth Porter, Investigative journalist and historian specializing in U.S. national security policy
John Pilger, Award winning journalist and film maker
Jacqueline Cabasso, Executive Director of the Western States Legal Foundation, which focuses on weapons of mass destruction
James Paul, Independent writer and consultant, author of Syria Unmasked
Howard Friel, Writer
Elaine Hagopian, Professor Emeritus of sociology at Simmons College in Boston
Stephen Zunes, Professor of politics and chair of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco
Remi Brulin, Visiting Scholar at New York University, Shapiro Fellow at George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs, teaches on the American discourse on terrorism and the media.
Richard Jackson, Editor-in-chief of the journal Critical Studies on Terrorism, Deputy Director of the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies in New Zealand
Dr. Burns H. Weston, Bessie Dutton Murray Distinguished Professor of Law Emeritus and Senior Scholar, The University of Iowa Center for Human Rights
Fred Branfman, Anti-war activist, author and former policy advisor for former California governor Jerry Brown, Gary Hart and Tom Hayden
Lydia Sargent, ZMagazine
Michael Albert, ZNet
Mel Duncan, Advocacy and outreach director for Nonviolent Peaceforce
Dave Lindorff, Investigative journalist and author, Founder of
Chris Spannos, Founder and Editor of

Institutional affiliations for the signatories listed above are for identification purposes only and do not imply endorsement by the institution.

Join the campaign, add your name to the petition on NYT eXaminer.

Resources referenced to prepare this petition:

(a) “Lawless President + Lawless Congress ≠ Legal Use of Force in Syria,” Howard Friel, Common Dreams, September 5, 2013.

(b) Howard Friel and Richard Falk, The Record of the Paper: How The New York Times Misreports U.S. Foreign Policy (Verso, 2004).

(c) The Lawyers Committee on American Policy Toward Vietnam, Richard Falk, Chair, Vietnam and International Law: An Analysis of International Law and the Use of Force (O’Hare, 1967). 

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