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The Latest And Most Reckless US Imperial Act

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From Consortium News

Anti-U.S. protests in Iraq, January 2020.
Anti-U.S. protests in Iraq, January 2020.
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Of all the preposterous assertions made since the drone assassination of Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad on Jan. 3, the prize for bottomless ignorance must go to the bottomless ignorant Mike Pompeo.

Speaking after the influential Iranian general's death, our frightening secretary of state declaimed on CBS's Face the Nation, "There was sound and just and legal reason for the actions the President took, and the world is safer as a result." In appearances on five news programs on the same Sunday morning, the evangelical paranoid who now runs American foreign policy was a singer with a one-note tune. "It's very clear the world's a safer place today," Pompeo said on ABC's Jan. 5 edition of T his Week.

In our late-imperial phase, we seem to have reached that moment when, whatever high officials say in matters of the empire's foreign policy, we must consider whether the opposite is in fact the case. So we have it now.

We are not safer now that Soleimani, a revered figure across much of the Middle East, has been murdered. The planet has just become significantly more dangerous, especially but not only for Americans, and this is so for one simple reason: The Trump administration, Pompeo bearing the standard, has just tipped American conduct abroad into a zone of probably unprecedented lawlessness, Pompeo's nonsensical claim to legality notwithstanding.

This is a very consequential line to cross.

Hardly does it hold that Washington's foreign policy cliques customarily keep international law uppermost in their minds and that recent events are aberrations. Nothing suggests policy planners even consider legalities except when it makes useful propaganda to charge others with violating international statutes and conventions.

Neither can the Soleimani assassination be understood in isolation: This was only the most reckless of numerous policy decisions recently taken in the Middle East. Since late last year, to consider merely the immediate past, the Trump administration has acted ever more flagrantly in violation of all international legal authorities and documents the UN Charter, the International Criminal Court, and the International Court of Justice in the Hague chief among them.

Washington is into full-frontal lawlessness now.

"Keeping the Oil"

Shortly after Trump announced the withdrawal of U.S. forces from northern Syria last October, the president reversed course probably under Pentagon and State Department pressure and said some troops would remain to protect Syria's oilfields. "We want to keep the oil," Trump declared in the course of a Twitter storm. It soon emerged that the administration's true intent was to prevent the Assad government in Damascus from reasserting sovereign control over Syrian oilfields.

The Russians had the honesty to call this for what it was. "Washington's attempt to put oilfields there under [its] control is illegal," Sergei Lavrov said at the time. "In fact, it's tantamount to robbery," the Russian foreign minister added. (John Kiriakou, writing for Consortium News, pointed out that it is a violation of the 1907 Hague Convention. It is call pillage.)

Few outside the Trump administration, and possibly no one, has argued that Soleimani's murder was legitimate under international law. Not only was the Iranian general from a country with which the U.S. is not at war, which means the crime is murder; the drone attack was also a clear violation of Iraqi sovereignty, as has been widely reported.

In response to Baghdad's subsequent demand that all foreign troops withdraw from Iraqi soil, Pompeo flatly refused even to discuss the matter with Iraqi officials -- yet another openly contemptuous violation of Iraqi sovereignty.

It gets worse. In his own response to Baghdad's decision to evict foreign troops, Trump threatened sanctions "sanctions like they've never seen before," and said Iraq would have to pay the U.S. the cost of the bases the Pentagon has built there despite binding agreements that all fixed installations the U.S. has built in Iraq are Iraqi government-owned.

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Patrick Lawrence is a columnist, author, editor, and educator. He has published five books and currently writes foreign affairs commentary for Consortium News and other publications. He served as a correspondent abroad for many years and is (more...)

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