Accuracy in Media

Jeff Tuomala, a former Regent University law professor, isn?t the only expert who says that President Clinton?s war in Yugoslavia lacks a clear legal basis. Jim Hirsen, a law professor at Trinity Law College in California, says bluntly that “it is clearly in violation of international law.” He explains, “There is nothing in writing in any diplomatic charter, any international treaty that would authorize this kind of military intervention.”

The administration has claimed that various U.N. Security Council Resolutions authorize this war. But Hirsen points out, “In each and every one of those resolutions, there is a provision affirming the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Yugoslavia.” Those resolutions also require a peaceful resolution of the crisis. Hirsen adds that Article 2 of the U.N. Charter prohibits the use of force against a sovereign state unless it has committed aggression on another state. Yugoslavia, he points out, did not commit such aggression. When force is used, he adds, the Charter requires that the Security Council be consulted in advance. That was not done in this case.

For Jim Hirsen, this should not be that surprising. He says, “It?s quite interesting that this administration, which at the international level always brings up the rule of law, has now had the same approach to the rule of law at the international level as they?ve had at the domestic level. That is, it?s de facto law. It?s not real law.” In other words, a president who can?t be trusted to obey our domestic laws cannot be expected to comply with international laws and treaties. The difference is that Clinton has been a big booster of the U.N. and its charter in the past.

Regarding the use of NATO to lead the intervention, Hirsen also finds the administration?s legal case to be seriously deficient. On its face, he points out, the NATO Charter sets up a defensive organization. In the preamble to the treaty, the members are “resolved to unite their efforts for collective self-defense.” The use of force is authorized only when a member of NATO is attacked. “So, being a self-defense charter,” Hirsen says, “the NATO treaty is violated” in the Yugoslavia case.

To make matters worse, Hirsen says “there are treaties that specifically prohibit this kind of action.” He says that the 1980 Vienna convention on the law of treaties prohibits any kind of coercion to compel a nation to sign a treaty. Yet the United States exerted that kind of pressure on Yugoslavia to sign the so-called Ramboulliet agreement on Kosovo, which could have led to independence for that province of the country. When Yugoslavia refused to sign it, the U.S. and NATO went to war.

So why did the Administration go to war? Hirsen believes it was politics, noting that many of the administration?s recent military actions have corresponded with a significant news story that embarrasses President Clinton. In this case, the Juanita Broaddrick rape story was still causing problems for the president and the Chinese espionage scandal was gathering momentum. “In each case,” he says, “[military decisions are] made with haste and not the proper planning.” That has certainly been proven in this case.

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