("Quid coniuratio est?")
TIME TO WATCH THE WATCHERS
by C. Douglas Lummis
From The Nation, 9/26/94
One of the most succinct and persuasive renderings of the argument for defeating political chaos by establishing "a supreme power which may govern us by wise laws, protect us and defend all members of the association... and maintain eternal harmony among us" is followed by the bitter conclusion, "All ran headlong into their chains." This was Rousseau in his "Discourse on the Origin of Inequality"; in his telling, what had been presented as a neutral umpire was in fact a conspiracy of the powerful, "which bound new fetters on the poor, and gave new powers to the rich."
It is appropriate to cite Rousseau here, considering the scale of [proposed changes to the United Nations]. If the U.N. takes on the powers to arrest, prosecute, sentence and imprison individuals, it is taking on sovereign powers hitherto reserved to the states. Add to this Secretary General Boutros Boutros- Ghali's proposal that the U.N. have its own permanent military arm, and you have the conditions for a full-fledged world state. What we are seeing, in short, is the founding, albeit gradual and half-hidden, of a political entity unprecedented in history.
Where does the U.N. get the power to prosecute individuals? The legal fiction is that the power comes from Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter. Chapter VII authorizes the U.N. to deploy the armed forces of member states in peacekeeping operations. Stretch the words as you will, you cannot make them say that the U.N. has the power to put people in jail under criminal charges. On the contrary, the Charter, written by representatives of states jealous of their power, falls all over itself to insist that the U.N. may never usurp the sovereign rights of states.
[Yet the United Nations has begun] "giving itself" these powers... In its issue of January 21, 1993, the Far Eastern Economic Review reported that the U.N. Transitional Authority in Cambodia had begun "to arm itself with new powers," announcing that it "would form a special prosecutor's office and court system designed to indict, prosecute, sentence and imprison those deemed responsible for political crimes."
All this took place in the absence of any international criminal law authorizing such arrests. But that primitive stage is in the past: Now such criminal law is being written. By what legislative assembly, you ask? No, not by the General Assembly, or even by the Security Council. The tribunal itself is making the law and -- my informant in Geneva assures me -- the document will not have to be submitted to any other U.N. organ for approval. They write it, and it's law. Just like that. So much for "consent of the governed."
[A recent speech by Boutros-Ghali] sketches a theory of power that has no need of consent, a theory that is, to my knowledge, new. It is grounded in "human rights."
"Human rights," he says, are "absolute timeless injunctions" and are "truly universal." At the same time, "human rights... reflect a power relationship."
Boutros-Ghali makes quite clear what conclusion he is driving at:
I am tempted to say that human rights, by their very nature, do away with the distinction traditionally drawn between the internal order and the international order. Human rights give rise to a new legal permeability. They should thus not be considered either from the viewpoint of absolute sovereignty or from the viewpoint of political intervention.
This last vagary does not mean that there should be no interventions into sovereign states; on the contrary, it means that we should rid ourselves of the taboo against intervention: "The international community must take over from the States that fail to fulfill their obligations."
There is nothing in this that should denigrate the value of human rights watching per se. As inspiration for a grass-roots movement, human rights is a vital and precious weapon against the state, the corporation and other organized power. When it raises armies and jailers, however, the time has come to start watching the watchers.
I encourage distribution of "Conspiracy Nation."
"Justice" = "Just us" = "History is written by the assassins."