Heard the One About Obama Denouncing a Breach of International Law?

International law is suddenly very popular in Washington. President Obama responded to Russian military intervention in the Crimea by accusing Russia of a "breach of international law." Secretary of State John Kerry followed up by declaring that Russia is "in direct, overt violation of international law."

Unfortunately, during the last five years, no world leader has done more to undermine international law than Barack Obama. He treats it with rhetorical adulation and behavioral contempt, helping to further normalize a might-makes-right approach to global affairs that is the antithesis of international law.

Fifty years ago, another former law professor, Senator Wayne Morse, condemned such arrogance of power. "I don’t know why we think, just because we’re mighty, that we have the right to try to substitute might for right," Morse said on national TV in 1964. "And that’s the American policy in Southeast Asia – just as unsound when we do it as when Russia does it."

Today, Uncle Sam continues to preen as the globe’s big sheriff on the side of international law even while functioning as the world’s biggest outlaw.

Rather than striving for an evenhanded assessment of how "international law" has become so much coin of the hypocrisy realm, mainline U.S. media are now transfixed with Kremlin villainy.

On Sunday night, the top of the New York Times home page reported: "Russian President Vladimir V. Putin has pursued his strategy with subterfuge, propaganda and brazen military threat, taking aim as much at the United States and Europe as Ukraine itself." That was news coverage.

Following close behind, a Times editorial appeared in print Monday morning, headlined "Russia’s Aggression," condemning "Putin’s cynical and outrageous exploitation of the Ukrainian crisis to seize control of Crimea." The liberal newspaper’s editorial board said that the United States and the European Union "must make clear to him that he has stepped far outside the bounds of civilized behavior."

Such demands are righteous – but lack integrity and credibility when the same standards are not applied to President Obama, whose continuation of the Bush "war on terror" under revamped rhetoric has bypassed international law as well as "civilized behavior."

In these circumstances, major U.S. media coverage rarely extends to delving into deviational irony or spotlighting White House hypocrisy. Yet it’s not as if large media outlets have entirely excluded key information and tough criticism.

For instance, last October the McClatchy news service reported that "the Obama administration violated international law with top-secret targeted-killing operations that claimed dozens of civilian lives in Yemen and Pakistan," according to reports released by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Last week, just before Obama leapt to high dudgeon with condemnation of Putin for his "breach of international law," the Los Angeles Times published an op-ed piece that provided illuminating context for such presidential righteousness.

"Despite the president’s insistence on placing limits on war, and on the defense budget, his brand of warfare has helped lay the basis for a permanent state of global warfare via ‘low footprint’ drone campaigns and special forces operations aimed at an ever-morphing enemy usually identified as some form of Al Qaeda," wrote Karen J. Greenberg, director of the Center on National Security at Fordham University’s law school.

Greenberg went on to indicate the scope of the U.S. government’s ongoing contempt for international law: "According to Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), the Obama administration has killed 4,700 individuals in numerous countries, including Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Obama has successfully embedded the process of drone killings into the executive branch in such a way that any future president will inherit it, along with the White House ‘kill list’ and its ‘terror Tuesday’ meetings. Unbounded global war is now part of what it means to be president."

But especially in times of crisis, as with the current Ukraine situation, such inconvenient contradictions go out the mass-media window. What remains is an Orwellian baseline, melding conformist ideology and nationalism into red-white-and-blue doublethink.

Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books includeWar Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. Information on the documentary based on the book is at www.WarMadeEasyTheMovie.org.

18 thoughts on “Heard the One About Obama Denouncing a Breach of International Law?”

  1. Well, at least the UN is suddenly "in" again, back from "outdated and tired" I imagine.

  2. THANK YOU for writing this. I have been wondering when someone would call out the US foreign policy on this. The US treats international law like a list of suggestions… and now we have no credibility when we cry foul – even if right.

  3. I don't think that they even know what international law is or which law they are talking about until they have meet their attorneys. Even though, they are educated from hey-ward, or Harvard, I don't know.

  4. Shut up Obama and go to your room. Nobody take you seriously- you are the worst of war criminals!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. "He treats it with rhetorical adulation and behavioral contempt."

    What an eloquent and pithy quotation! The same could be said about O's treatment of the US Constitution.

  6. Although Obama have said that "he is not a war president" but his comment only applies to the fact that he is not using the us military as Bush regime and AIPAC warmongers wants him to. By sending the military in Iraq the Bush regime-USG broke the international laws, disrespected the integrity and sovereignty of Iraq on a pretext and manufactured lies. Therefore, Obama is careful not getting cut brooking the international law. But that doesn't mean that his administration have one or two back door to imply the sane politics as Bush with a different approach, they can use the Saudis mercenaries, the jihadist and other form of terrorism and call the Syrian war a civil war. Here, the international laws are in place and Obama can say that he is not a "war president". In reality, however the concept in USG idealogical matter, being against a people's functioning democracy, socialism, the unity of nations, in Syrian case, Iran, Iraq and Syria unity has been damaged and at this moment in time is beyond reaper, people of Syria are divided and to some point even ethnic cleansing by Saudis barbarians is taking place, hence, both EU and US governments are silence regarding what they created to begin with.

    The USA democracy is not a people democracy, never has been, the USG not considers its constitution as its guidelines, on the contrary, they use it as their legal tools where they can give more profit to corporations, in economical terms which makes USG a corporation democracy, from war machinery to banking system, to prison system and etc. where corporations social mechanism is about profit, they don't care nor give a darn where or how they get their profit as long as they get it, the same is for EU governing body and EU governments in general, I give you an example, according to RT news the Swedish and Danish right wing foreign minsters are on their way to Ukraine to see if they can make any business deal with that country self proclaimed, Neo, old an ok'd fascist. Having said that, what is called "western democracy" is about to collapse, as matter of fact is collapsing as we speak, which is the reason for Obama to be elected on the pretext of his manipulative social political doctrine, where the right wings liberals as David Cameron saving money for the rich by the way in austerity and German chancellor Angela Markell sucking out the last breath of Greece and Spanish people, where the French social democrats squeezing the last tax penny out of working man and women, in such politics where even the Saudis barbarians can be used where a "democratic" system created by Obama's idea in democracy. Don't get me wrong, McCain and others would have done the same with a different twist.

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