7. Treaty Busting By the United States

by Project Censored
Published: Last Updated on

The United States is a signatory to nine multilateral treaties that it has either blatantly violated or gradually subverted. The Bush Administration is now outright rejecting a number of those treaties, and in doing so places global security in jeopardy as other nations feel entitled to do the same. The rejected treaties include: The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), the Treaty Banning Antipersonnel Mines, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), a protocol to create a compliance regime for the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM). The U.S. is also not complying with the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the Chemical Weapons Commission (CWC), the BWC, and the UN framework Convention on Climate Change.

The ABM Treaty alone is a crucial factor in national security; letting Bush get away with facilitating its demise will destroy the balance of powers carefully crafted in our Constitution. The Bush Administration has no legitimate excuse for nullifying the ABM Treaty since the events that have threatened the security of the United States have not involved ballistic missiles, and none of them are in any way related to the subject matter of the ABM Treaty. Bush’s withdrawal violates the U.S. Constitution, international law, and Article XV of the ABM Treaty itself. The Bush Administration says it needs to get rid of the ABM Treaty so it can test the SPY radar on the Aegis cruisers against Inter Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM) and so that it can build a new test facility at Fort Greely, Alaska. In addition, some conservatives have willingly dismissed the ABM Treaty because it stands as the major obstacle towards development of a “Star Wars” missile defense system. Discarding treaty constraints and putting weapons in space is nothing short of pursuing absolute military superiority.

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is crucial to global security because it bars the spread of nuclear weapons. The U.S. is currently in noncompliance with the NPT requirements, as demonstrated in the January 2002 U.S. Nuclear Posture Review. Moreover, critics charge that the National Ignition Facility (NIF) under construction at Livermore lab violates the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which the U.S. signed in 1996 but has not ratified. The CTBT bans nuclear explosions, and its language does not contain any “exceptions allowing laboratory thermonuclear explosions.”

The twentieth century was the bloodiest in human history, with a total of 174 million people killed in genocide and war. The world increasingly needs an international legal framework from which the people of the world can be protected from heinous criminal acts, such as genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. This reasoning explains the votes of the 139 countries that signed the Rome Treaty, and the 67 ratifications that have resulted in the establishment of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Former U.S. president, Bill Clinton, signed the Rome Treaty supporting the ICC when he held office. However, in an unprecedented action, George W. Bush actually erased Clinton’s signature (a United States president has never before ‘unsigned’ a treaty). Moreover, his Administration has declared it has no intention whatsoever of cooperating with the ICC.

Furthermore, in what is being called The Hague Invasion Act, or the Services Members’ Protection Act, the G.O.P.-controlled House Appropriations Committee voted to authorize the use of military force to “rescue” any American brought before the ICC. Erica Terpstra, a parliamentary representative in the Netherlands where The Hague and ICC is located, states that this “is not only a gesture against the Netherlands…but against the entire international community.”

While proponents of ICC consider it the most important development in international law since the Nazi war crimes Nuremberg Tribunal after World War II, the Bush Administration insists it would limit U.S. sovereignty and interfere with actions of the U.S. military.

This unprecedented rejection of and rapid retreat from global treaties that have in effect kept the peace through the decades will not only continue to isolate U.S. policy, but will also render these treaties and conventions invalid without the support and participation of the world’s foremost superpower.
Additional Information from:
Space and Security News, February 2002, “The ABM Treaty: Dead or Alive?”
By Dr. Robert Bowman, Lt. Col., USAF (ret)

UPDATE BY MARYLIA KELLY: The United States, a progenitor of the concept that national and international affairs should be subject to “rule of law,” is now actively undermining that rule. By so doing, the United States is simultaneously decreasing the security of its own and all the world’s people. The story chosen by Project Censored “Rule of Power or Rule of Law?,” and the longer report on which it is based, documents how the U.S flaunts its treaty obligations and international law. Moreover, the article and report create a needed foundation for public debate on the long-term consequences of the Bush administration’s increasing penchant for using the U.S. military, new weapons and a unilaterally-powerful “Fortress America” as its foreign policy basis.

Since the article was published in May 2002, the U.S. has undertaken a series of actions to further weaken international law as a framework for achieving just resolution of conflict. The action that first comes to many minds is the recent war on Iraq. However, a number of lesser-known U.S. actions to undermine international treaties may also have serious, deleterious impacts on domestic and global security. Two key examples can be found in U.S. disregard for the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC).

The Bush administration actively negated its central disarmament obligation under the NPT by adding billion of dollars to the budget for nuclear weapons activities, including its 2004 budget request to speed the weapons labs’ development of a “Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator” bomb, conduct research on a variety of new mini-nuke concepts, enhance U.S. readiness to conduct a full-scale underground nuclear test and design and build a new plutonium pit factory capable of producing Cold War production levels of more than 500 new bomb cores per year. The administration’s Nuclear Posture Review and the subsequent National Security Strategy of the United States promulgate a policy of “preemptive” or “preventive” first use of nuclear weapons. It is no coincidence that North Korea and Iran, targeted by new U.S. nuclear policy initiatives, have apparently stepped up their nuclear programs. North Korea has announced its withdrawal from the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Iran has embarked on a more aggressive nuclear power program, albeit in current compliance with the International Atomic Energy Agency requirements. The U.S. demands, “do as we say, not as we do.”

U.S. actions have similarly led to a dangerous weakening of the Biological Weapons Convention. As recently as November 2002, Bush administration continued to quash negotiations on verification and enforcement measures needed to detect and prevent violations to the BWC. Then, the U.S. announced its intention to build and operate bio-warfare agent facilities at its two premier classified nuclear weapons laboratories, Lawrence Livermore in California and Los Alamos in New Mexico. The co-location of bio-warfare agent and nuclear weapons design capabilities is proceeding without Environmental Impact Statements, public hearings or proliferation reviews.

Many good resources for further study are available from non-governmental organizations and on the web. Tri-Valley CAREs’ site is http://www.trivalleycares.org. The “Rule of Power or Rule of Law?” report was written by the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (http://www.ieer.org) and the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy (http://www.lcnp.org). In 2003, Apex Press released an expanded book-length version under the same title, with Nicole Deller, Arjun Makhijani and John Burroughs.

UPDATE BY JOHN VALLEAU: The mass media continued to ignore the implications of the U.S. Missile Defense (MD) plans. Some activist organizing continued among ‘peace groups’. The Canadian government was forcefully urged, by delegations and letters and briefs, to oppose publicly the MD plans, the consequences were pointed out: both for nuclear proliferation and the introduction of U.S. space weaponry. In view of the longstanding Canadian opposition to space weapons (in the UN Conference on Disarmament and elsewhere) we were disillusioned by our government’s unwillingness to speak out; we hoped that if Canada spoke out, as a friendly nation that indeed belongs to NATO and NORAD, it might well have some inhibiting effect on the U.S. plans.

In the last few weeks (I write in early June, 2003) the issue has suddenly become prominent in the mainstream media – but for the most disappointing of reasons: the Canadian government is moving to “negotiate” with the U.S. about cooperation in MD – the direct opposite of our hopes – and using evasive arguments, which suggest they never, read the briefs. (The context of this shift in policy involves signals of U.S. displeasure over Canada’s refusal to take (direct) part in the illegal aggression on Iraq: the embarrassing response in Ottawa has been to seek to curry renewed U.S. favor, at whatever cost of principle. This is life on the periphery of power. On the positive side, a vigorous public debate has been provoked and it has focussed substantially on the key MD issues of nuclear proliferation and the path to space weapons; one can hope that articles like mine and others have contributed somewhat at least to this ready public awareness of the issues at stake.

Websites for information and involvement:

*Union of Concerned Scientists (detailed studies and commentary) http://www.ucsusa.org
*Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space (up-to-date news and commentary; newslist; activism) http://www.space4peace.org
*Project Ploughshares, Canada (detailed information, policy) http://www.ploughshares.ca

UPDATE BY EAMON MARTIN: At the time this story broke, AGR editors noticed that with the exception of one, modest article released on the Reuters newswire, coverage was limited to a few articles published outside of the United States. Here, the U.S. administration of George W. Bush was already asserting a controversially unilateralist foreign policy, going so far as to threaten an invasion of a sovereign nation, all for the sake of shielding it’s personnel from the scrutiny of human rights observers and thus, world opinion. In light of the extremely provocative and hostile nature of this diplomatic posture, one might wonder whether the mainstream news media themselves were protecting the U.S. from accountability by not finding this story to be newsworthy.

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has recently extend its exemption from the jurisdiction of the ICC for a second straight year. “The (UN) resolution is an attempt to satisfy domestic political ideology and legislation, and … subordinate a multilateral institution to U.S. power,” said William Pace, convenor of the Coalition for the ICC in a report by Jim Lobe for Inter Press Service, published on June 9, 2003.

Lobe writes that rights groups and government backers of the ICC are demanding an open debate on the issue. They argue that the Security Council lacks the legal authority to grant exemptions because the UN Charter does not grant it power to amend an international treaty. Pace’s group, which represents dozens of human rights groups around the world, strongly lobbied member nations of the UNSC to reject Washington’s request.

Of the 15 members of the Council, only the United States, China and Pakistan have not signed the Rome Statute. The other 12 have either signed or ratified it. As of May, 2003, all NATO members, except the United States and Turkey, have ratified the ICC treaty, as have all members of the European Union and all candidate EU members, except the Czech Republic.

That the Bush administration would demonstrate such resistance to the ICC at a time of unprecedented U.S. military expansionism, while trumpeting a National Security Strategy of “preemptive” defense, has invited suspicion about the White House’s quest for absolute impunity.

As top US officials such as Vice President Dick Cheney continue to portray their global campaign against “terror” as potentially being a “war without end”, and as the deployment of US forces abroad escalates from Colombia to the Horn of Africa to the Philippines, and beyond, the U.S. refusal of a world criminal court may have alarming geopolitical implications.

For more information, see: “US Looks to Renew Exemption from World Criminal Court”, by Jim Lobe, published 6/9/03, Inter Press Service; “Bush Declaration: Global Military Domination” compiled by Eamon Martin, published 9/25/02, Asheville Global Report No. 193 (http://www.agrnews.org/issues/193/worldnews.html)


Connections, June 2002
Title: “Rule of power or rule of law?”
Authors: Marylia Kelly and Nicole Deller

The Nation, April 2002
Title: “Unsigning the ICC”
Author: John B. Anderson

Ashville Global Report, June 20-26, 2002
Title: “U.S. Invasion Proposal Shocks the Netherlands”
Compiled by: Eamon Martin

Global Outlook, Summer 2002
Title: “Nuclear Nightmare”
Author: John Valleau

Faculty Evaluators: Lynn Cominsky Ph.D., Rick Luttmann Ph.D., Mary Gomes Ph.D.
Robert MacNamara Ph.D., Diana Grant Ph.D.
Student Researcher: Pat Spiva, Tara Spreng