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The American opinion on international law is that if the US isn't a party to a treaty or an international convention, then it doesn't have to follow it.

I noticed the old bugaboo about the international criminal court. We never signed on to that one, so if any US government official is sent to the Hague, then that's an act of war.

The US has never been in favor of symbolic treaties, or at least hasn't been since the Coolidge administration.

There are all sorts of so-called "human rights" conventions which are subscribed to by most countries in the world and then plainly ignored.

The US is attacked for not subscribing to many of these things, and is thus assumed to be breaking "international law."

If the US isn't a party to a treaty, then it's not bound by it. Simple, no?

by messy on Tue May 30th, 2006 at 12:17:12 PM EST
This continues to baffle me.  I've never signed on to any agreement with my government, but I'm beholden to the law nevertheless.  If anyone can just choose to be beholden to the law or not, the law isn't really law at all, but some kind of gentleman's agreement.  Which is hardly any way to go about ensuring the rights of the citiens of the world.  And then how is the ICC legitimate if there are no legitimate international laws?  

Drives me crazy.  

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire

by p------- on Tue May 30th, 2006 at 12:25:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I've never signed on to any agreement with my government, but I'm beholden to the law nevertheless.

I partly agree but largely disagree.  Unless we agree to hand over our right to make our own laws to another body is certain cases, then we should be under no obligation to follow laws we have not signed on to.  I've never read the laws, but I'm assuming that there is no law allowing an international organization to force us to accept an institution like the ICC.  The correct analogy is not "My Government and I" but "My Neighbor and I".  Imagine your neighbor suddenly saying to you, out of the blue, "Hey, pal, your lawn is 3/4s of an inch too long.  Fix it."  You wouldn't take him seriously and would probably tell him, "It's my lawn, jackass.  Piss off."  And you would be right to do so.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Tue May 30th, 2006 at 01:11:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Imagine your neighbor suddenly saying to you, out of the blue, "Hey, pal, your lawn is 3/4s of an inch too long.  Fix it."  You wouldn't take him seriously and would probably tell him, "It's my lawn, jackass.  Piss off."  And you would be right to do so.
You have obviously never had to deal with city planners.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 30th, 2006 at 01:15:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As someone who lives in a second-floor apartment, I don't have a lawn, so it's a non-issue.  But, yes, there are plenty of other issues we could dive into wth my analogy.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Tue May 30th, 2006 at 01:19:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
but VERY messy...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue May 30th, 2006 at 12:44:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The American opinion on international law is that if the US isn't a party to a treaty or an international convention, then it doesn't have to follow it.

Sort of. In the case of the ICC which you cite below American opinion is that America should be party to the treaty.  In any case America is a party to many international treaties that it is currently violating - the Geneva Conventions and the Convention on Torture. These are incorporated into the US civil and military criminal codes.

We never signed on to that one, so if any US government official is sent to the Hague, then that's an act of war.

That is a deeply ironic statement for an American to make.

There are all sorts of so-called "human rights" conventions which are subscribed to by most countries in the world and then plainly ignored.

Absolutely true. And if you're fine with a situation where American statements about the importance of human rights are treated the same as those coming from, say, China or Russia  - i.e. as a bad joke, then good for you.    But if that is to be the permanent US attitude, I really hope that the Europeans dissolve NATO, kick out our bases, and bar overflights by our aircraft. Because that sort of attitude in a superpower with an aggressive policy translates into rogue state status. Fortunately, however, the poll makes it clear that Americans do believe that their country should adhere to, and be held to higher standards.   The Lieberman response to Abu Ghraib 'al Qaeda didn't apologize for 9/11, why should we' or the right wing talking point  'but Saddam was worse' is not one that most Americans share.  

by MarekNYC on Tue May 30th, 2006 at 12:53:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The American opinion on international law is that if the US isn't a party to a treaty or an international convention, then it doesn't have to follow it.

Right.  Legally the US would be under no obligation to follow it.

The US has never really been in favor of treaties unless it is allowed to exercise a large amount of control over them.  The poll suggests that Americans see a role for institutions like the UN, but the UN (to continue with the example) is too easy a target for the right wing.  Fox News commentators can point out that China is a member of this or that council on human rights at the UN, and immediately the UN will look ridiculous.

We need international laws governing human rights, but, if there is no way to enforce those laws, they're useless.  The current international legal system is a joke, in my opinion.  (And, yes, that is thanks, in large part, to the actions of my country's government, but George W. Bush is not the only problem here.)

Even if the US had signed on to the ICC, there would never come a day when a high-level US official would be arrested.  Let's not pretend that the ICC would ever prosecute (say) Bush.  As gutless as the Democrats have been in the face of the GOP, the international community has been equally gutless, and elections have done little to reverse the trend.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Tue May 30th, 2006 at 01:00:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The ICC treaty says the ICC can only try people that cannot or will not be tried in their own countries. That is to say, accusations of war crimes would have to go before US courts first. The US opposes the ICC treaty because it has no intention of prosecuting war crimes at home. If it did, there would be no reason to worry about "politically motivated prosecutions" or anything like that, which are just propaganda talking points by opponents of international law.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 30th, 2006 at 01:12:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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