“We did not know… that there is an international law”

In March 1991, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, which had just imploded under a coalition led by Washington, began its descent into hell. It would remain for a long time under close surveillance and embargo. Meanwhile, between a mirage of “glasnost” and a wave of “perestroika,” Gorbachev’s USSR, floundering in dreams of the West, was soon to sink and fall apart. America already saw itself as “the most powerful Empire the earth has brought forth” and readied itself to make those who did not understand it pay dearly. After pretending to seek a peaceful outcome that would spare Iraq humiliation, Mitterrand’s France joined the anti-Saddam assault, gradually realizing how narrow its room for maneuver was vis-à-vis Baghdad. After a Gaullist backlash under Chirac, it would fire its last rounds in March 2003 with Villepin’s flamboyant but inconsequential speech to the Security Council, abandoning Iraq and continuing its slide towards Atlanticism.

It took thirty years for the mainstream of the nation of reason and human rights to deign to discover the gigantic lie that had obscured the destruction of Iraq and the excruciating torment inflicted on its people. The teary Colin Powell, famous for having sodomized the Security Council with his sinister vial, would wait long years to apologize vaguely on the pretext that he had been misinformed (sic). Some would emulate him later, many never. Faced with the scandal, many are now brandishing an easy excuse: “We did not know”, they say, thus shirking their responsibility. To admit that they knew would be to admit that they were guilty or accomplices. According to the long documentary devoted to Iraq recently on France 2, Chevènement admitted to knowing since August 4, 1990 France had given its consent to Washington to be at his side against Saddam: the diplomatic saga of which the French were proud was therefore only a decoy.

The overwhelming toll of the Iraqi tragedy has been passed over in silence, despite a number of courageous voices and initiatives that have attempted to unmask the American enterprise inspired by Judeo-Protestant Zionism: a dismantled and destroyed state, its army and its policedissolved, one of the most modern countries in the Arab world sent back fifty years by raids and the use of prohibited weapons, humiliated by an iniquitous “food for oil”. Without counting the pillage and torture, the prisons, the looting of the archaeological heritage. At the very least two million dead including 500,000 children, “the price of democracy” according to elder Albright … And the unspeakable George Dubya Bush asking the historical question: Why do they hate us so much?

The same exact scenario is happening again for Syria, which entered into its eleventh year of war in mid-March 2021. Except that the Syrian state, strong in its resilience and its alliances (Russia and Iran), has not been destroyed, even if the country is ravaged, its economy ruined and its people suffocated and starved by the embargo and the sanctions, with the end of its ordeal not in sight. Refusing to recognize its “unthinkable defeat” and “the unthinkable victory of Bashar al-Assad,” America has preferred, as Obama’s adviser Robert Malley blithely predicted in 2016, to move on to a second stage of aggression, the actual military war well and truly lost, giving way to an endless economic war, a “proxy” war with the support of the flag wavers of the western-oriented “international community.

As foreseen, the tenth mid-March “anniversary” of the start of events in Syria unleashed an unprecedented and at first glance incomprehensible hysteria in the dreary bog of the mainstream press, which puts politicians, the media, and those whose job is to think, in the same bed. The stupidity of this fit of furious madness testifies to the moral degeneration of the country of Descartes and of human rights, a kind of Covid of intelligence. These are simply the neoconservative French-style intellectuals who are mobilizing, chanting their string of pious lies and insanities, where pretty words jostle, like democracy, international law, human rights, justice, pluralism, political solution. Furious at their defeat, and having nothing plausible to claim or propose, like the moderate terrorists and the self-styled revolutionaries, they support, they condemn with an air of outraged virtue “the rogue state” in Syria, the “Bashar regime”, the “genocidal” gang, the “massacring tyrant”, perfectly illustrating this “zero degree of political thought” (and intelligence) that is neoconservatism – this Lady Emptyhead with whom they are infatuated. We even see the idea advanced that, in order to permanently defeat the Islamic State in Syria, it is necessary to “stabilize” the rebels, who have destroyed their country and licked themselves of the martyrdom of their compatriots.

What Iraq has undergone for thirty years, Syria is living for the eleventh consecutive year (more than the two world wars combined), a glittering silence and total denial perfecting the ordeal of a martyred people. If it continues to die slowly, it is not to “pay the price of a necessary democratization”, it is neither a “failed spring” nor a civil war, as one strives to say in the countries of the Axis of Good. Among the “experts” who pontificate, I dare to hope that there are no professors of international law, because they would surely know that, like Iraq in its time, Syria was and is still the victim of international aggression.

During the Nuremberg (and Tokyo) trials of 1946, this crime of aggression, based on the free and conscious will to threaten or break the peace, was classified as a “crime against peace” and qualified as an “international crime par excellence”, one of the major violations of international law alongside genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. It is inscribed by the Nuremberg Tribunal at the top of the list, along with the following formula: “To start a war of aggression is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime,” the only difference from other war crimes being that it contains within itself all the accumulated Evil of all the others. This is “the crime par excellence.”

Codified by the United Nations General Assembly, resolution 95/1946, it belongs to international criminal law and falls under the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice in The Hague (with regard to the responsibility and criminalization of States). Assumed by the Treaty of Rome of July 1998, establishing the ICC, it also comes under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (for the personal responsibility of state officials).

Will we have to meet in thirty years to “discover” the toll of the wars in Syria, whether military and visible or economic and invisible? When the hour arrives to be held accountable and to render justice, it will in any case be necessary to remind with pure honesty the hundred governments that are participating to this day in this naked aggression, of the gravity of their criminal enterprise. And we will first denounce the three Western countries, permanent members of the Security Council, who claim to uphold International Law and to be its guardians, while they are its top violators.

To enhance his peaceful retirement, Dubya Bush chose, it seems, to paint ridiculous little sheep, without ever being touched by the idea that he should have on his conscience millions of dead, wounded, crippled, handicapped children, not to mention the destruction of several countries. Others, like Blair or Obama, even derive an enviable income from the story of their exploits, by giving handsomely paid lectures, where their ravages and crimes are implicitly considered collateral effects of a pious work: no reference to the dead, to the destruction for which they are responsible, to the fate of ruined or dismembered States …

They are well dressed, well groomed, well fed, covered with diplomas, they pose as “masters of the world”: they speak the law, make the law, decide on the war, write the story of their exploits seen through a warped pair of spectacles. In short, Westerners or devotees of the West – “Occidentalists” – are the elites of the “civilized world”, the essence of the only humanity that matters to their unseeing eyes. They believe themselves to be invulnerable and untouchable. They have no remorse or shame. They are even proud of their actions, of their records, of their support for these terrorists, whether recycled or not, who “get the job done.” Their regrettable sin, which they cannot get rid of since they see it as the new version of the detestable and outmoded “white man’s burden”, is the mania for delivering moral lessons and deciding for others what countries “that do not belong to our world” must do, even if no one has asked them. Obviously, if there was still a hint of wisdom in the West, one would wonder how people whose sense of governance and international law is so erratic at home can decide the fate of their more or less distant neighbors.

All the more reason for political or military leaders, intellectuals and the media, who have decided, organized, supported or justified a crime (or many) of international aggression, to know that they are and will remain, whatever they do or do not do, responsible for the crime of international aggression, or for their support or complicity, and that they will be held to account, without statute of limitations . Justice has many flaws, but it is tenacious.

EnglishTranslation: Paul Larudee

Michel Raimbaud is a former diplomat and essayist. He has several published books, notably Tempête sur le Grand Moyen-Orient (2nd edition 2017) and Les guerres de Syrie (2019). Read other articles by Michel.