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My Audacious Hope: President Obama Will Respect the UN Charter

Robert Naiman

Speaking of the audacity of hope, here is my hope for the Obama Administration. I'd like to see if we could get through four years of the Obama Administration without invading, bombing, or threatening to invade or bomb any other countries in violation of the UN Charter. Is that too audacious a hope?

My audacious hope is that during the Obama Administration, we'll never have to chant or sing "No Blood for Oil," as CodePink did Monday in the "protest cage" at the DNC in Denver:

Democrats often fault the Bush Administration for rupturing our relations with allies with its invasion of Iraq. The criticism is correct, but it finesses a key point. Why did the U.S. invasion of Iraq rupture relations with allies? Because the Bush Administration thumbed its nose at international law and the UN Charter.

We need a very vigorous and sustained public education campaign in the United States for the UN Charter, and particularly for its prohibition on the use of military force against other UN member states. The principal justification for the creation of the United Nations at the end of the Second World War was precisely to create such a binding prohibition on the signatory countries.

There are only two exceptions to the prohibition: immediate self-defense against actual armed attack, and military actions authorized by the UN Security Council. Since the US invasion of Iraq was not in immediate self-defense against armed attack, and was not authorized by the UN Security Council, it was illegal, as former UN Secretary General Annan affirmed.

If we had a culture of intolerance in the United States for violations of the UN Charter by our leaders - like the attitude we have towards driving while intoxicated - the US invasion of Iraq could never have taken place, and all those lives would have been spared. The U.S. invasion of Iraq was only possible because we have a cavalier attitude towards international law, at least as it might apply to the United States. That's not for us, that's for the little people.

We need more Members of Congress like Dennis Kucinich, who, in his powerful speech to the DNC, included violations of international law in his litany of charges against the Bush Administration:

My guess is that Dennis' will be the only speech at the DNC that takes note of the fact that international law also applies to the United States. Let's get busy turning that around.


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Robert Naiman is Senior Policy Analyst at Just Foreign Policy.

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