New UN Report Highlights How US Drone Policy Violates International Law

The United Nations General Assembly just released the latest Report of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. The report is necessary, in part, because “There is… a notable lack of consensus on how to apply the rules of international law that regulate the use of force to drones.”

The report provides a framework to help states ensure their fatal drone strikes are conducted in line with existing international law. Evaluating US drone strike policy in light of these recommendations, it is clear that the United States is not currently in line with international law concerning targeted killings, first and foremost regarding transparency.
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The Obviously False Objections to Palestinian Statehood at U.N.

Harry Siegman has a brilliant takedown at the National Interest of U.S.-Israeli objections to a September bid for Palestinian statehood at the U.N. I wrote a bit about the false arguments against Palestinian statehood last month. As I did, Siegman explodes the rationale that the U.N. is not the right venue for unilateral bids for state recognition. Not only is that, in part, explicitly the purpose of the U.N. – to help end colonialism and give rise to independence for indigenous nationalist movements – but it is also precisely the route taken to secure Israeli statehood. So either the U.S. and Israel admit that different rules apply to them than apply to the rest of the world, or they drop this phony argument.

But Siegman astutely goes much further. First, there is the falsehood that a unilateral attempt to get U.N. recognition represents a stubborn abandonment of the so-called “peace process.” This falls flat on its face. As I’ve highlighted before, the peace process is futile and the deck is inherently stacked against Palestinians. As Siegman writes, “So far, this ‘peace process’ has enabled the transfer of over half a million Jews from Israel into Palestinian territory and East Jerusalem, but not one square inch of Palestinian sovereignty.”

And then, more fundamentally:

The United States and Israel have warned Palestinians to abandon their UN initiative on prudential grounds as well, for even if they were to succeed in obtaining UN recognition of their right to statehood in the Occupied Territories, nothing would change on the ground, for Israel’s government would be as indifferent to such a UN declaration as it has been to countless other UN directives. Indeed, Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, has threatened that in those circumstances Israel would feel free to annex far more West Bank territory than it already has.

But if were true that UN action would have no effect whatever in advancing the Palestinian cause, except perhaps to spur an even greater Israeli land grab, why is Israel engaged in such frantic efforts to prevent a UN showdown? Indeed, why does it not welcome the Palestinian initiative?

The answer is that what the Netanyahu/Lieberman government fears most is an international confirmation that the 1967 border is the point of reference for Israeli Palestinian territorial negotiations, for despite Prime Minister Netanyahu’s alleged acceptance of a two-state solution, he remains as committed to the retention of most if not all of the West Bank as are most other members of his government, most of whom belong to the “Whole Land of Israel Caucus” in Israel’s Knesset. (Imagine what would have been the U.S. reaction to a Palestinian parliamentary caucus for the retention of the “Whole Land of Palestine.”)

And there we have it. The fundamental objection to Palestine seeking statehood at the U.N. is that it is actually constructive for Palestinians to do so. Israel has had virtually full reign to gradually encroach upon Palestinian sovereignty for decades, but a U.N. recognition of the 1967 borders seriously limits Israel’s ability to ignore that basic assumption of this conflict. Hopefully, they’ll only be able to keep it up for another month or so.

UN: US Is ‘Rights Violator’ — but Not How You Think

This is a confusing article on Guantánamo,” a friend of mine pointed out when I sent him the link. It’s a piece about the Obama Administration allegedly “admitting” its “human rights shortcomings,” as reported by the United Nations. As I scanned the article for any mention of the violation of any actual rights, I noticed my head involuntarily shaking back and forth in disbelief.

“The report noted that although the U.S. now has an African-American president and that women and Hispanics have won greater social and economic success, large segments of American society suffer from unfair policies and practices.

“High unemployment rates, hate crime, poverty, poor housing, lack of access to health care and discriminatory hiring practices are among the challenges the report identified as affecting blacks, Latinos, Muslims, South Asians, Native Americans and gays and lesbians in the United States.”

The horror of comparatively high unemployment! But seriously, for two reasons, this is an offensive article. The first and lesser is that while there are certainly some crappy apartments (I have lived in some), discrimination in hiring, and other “challenges” faced by non-white non-males in this country, I can’t imagine to what countries this is being compared in a serious manner. Is the United States government a rights violator because we don’t all have unlimited and free and excellent health care at a finger snap? Or because some Americans beat others up for dumber reasons than normal? No.

The second and far more shocking is that the United States is indeed an extreme rights violator in its various wars on things on which one cannot really make war. The War on Drugs is an ongoing hideous failure which, together with the War on Poverty, has gutted America’s inner cities — if we’re being honest these two are more responsible for crappy apartments than the fact that we all don’t have government-subsidized palaces and penthouses. It has also made a nightmare of several Latin American countries and plays no small part in the suffering of Afghanistan.

But the War on Terror is truly where Washington earns the most rights scorn. Prison camps, rendition, torture, assassinations, domestic spying, environmental destruction, and the foreign wars which necessitate all of it are America’s shame. We cover it so often in these pages I don’t need to detail it all — just look at the top of the page any random day.

I assume the UN has nothing to say on these issues due to its at least passive involvement in these international criminal debacles. Much easier to point the finger about alleged pay disparities between the genders than call its largest donor and host nation a regime full of torturers and death profiteers.