As an American citizen, it is fascinating and harrowing to watch my country under President George W Bush stumble from one horrific mistake to another, but at the same time it is even more worrying to watch the cowardly response of other world leaders.
When the US attacked Afghanistan in 2001, the world's leaders shrugged this off as a necessary and unpreventable response to a horrific act against the US. Almost no world leader questioned the use of aggression against another state in violation of what is perhaps the most sacred provision of the charter of the United Nations -- the prohibition of the use of force. Almost no world leader seemed to care whether the US had admitted that Afghanistan posed no threat to the US and could not attack the US then, or in the foreseeable future. And almost no world leader pleaded for the lives of 26 million Afghanis who were subjected to an aerial bombardment that threatened the life of every single Afghani in the country.
Most world leaders stayed silent.
Eventually, the UN even took over responsibility for the humanitarian administration of Afghanistan, making them, and not the US, the prime targets of indigenous Afghanis fighting to recover their country and drive out the foreign occupiers.
Before the US attacked Iraq in March 2003, several governments said that they would challenge such an attack as illegal. Some even agreed to submit UN resolutions challenging the legality of the planned attack. When the US government got wind of this, it sent around letters threatening to view any such act -- including the submission of a General Assembly resolution -- as an "unfriendly act" to which it would react accordingly.
How did our brave new world leaders stand up to this threat? They didn't.
Instead, the American aggression was met with silence. The world's leaders cowered under and let the US go about killing almost a million Iraqis without voicing a peep of public dissent. Once again, eventually, the UN took over responsibility for humanitarian administration making them a prime target of indigenous Iraqis who are fighting to recover their country and drive out the foreign occupiers.
Even the leader of the world body, UN Secretary- General Kofi Annan, said nothing until two years later, when more than half a million Iraqis and 2000 American soldiers had lost their lives.
Around the same time, world leaders started to mumble under their diplomatic masks that maybe the Iraq war was a bad idea. Indeed, in most cases, their advisors had told them so beforehand. Why did it take so long to trickle out in such a weak form? Perhaps, as my European friends told me, "this is just how international diplomacy works; it is slow and deliberate, but history does indicate we learn from our mistakes."
So when Kofi Annan's term as secretary-general expired at the end of last year, wouldn't learning from one's mistakes logically dictate that the leaders of the world might chose a wiser, quicker acting leader of the world body?
Instead of learning from their mistakes, world leaders repeated them by choosing a new secretary- general who compares himself to 007, but can't even state the world body's policies correctly. On his first day on the job, Mr Ban Ki-moon reshaped the UN's policy on the death penalty, stating that neither he nor the organisation was against it. The US immediately praised this erroneous statement. Only after a few world leaders and most of international civil society reacted in disgust, did Mr Ki-moon revert back to the UN's long-stated policy of opposing the death penalty.
A few days later, however, apparently forgetting that only states are really part of the UN's top decision-making process, Mr Ki-moon claimed that big business (a for-profit non-state actor) needed to play a bigger role in UN decision-making. Ominously he has mentioned almost nothing about non- governmental organisations, which don't make a profit for a few rich elites.
How did we get such a clumsy new UN secretary general? Who had supported him? The US, of course; he was in Bush's terms "his man". And once again, the rest of the leaders of the international community did very little to oppose the US's choice.
Then came the UN's first real challenges of the New Year.
First, the US executed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein after an unfair trial. Although the international press reported that the Iraqis had executed President Hussein, every conscious American knows it was the US who ordered it. The Iraqi government put in place by the American aggression against the Iraqi people can't provide for security in its capital city. Can anyone really imagine they could take their enemy out of the hands of American soldiers? And after all, it was American President George W Bush who had said with such certainty that the Iraqi president would be executed way back in 2003. Just as the US supported the murder of Zairian Patrick Lumumba, the first democratically elected president of an African country emerging from colonialism, the US turned the Iraqi president over to his US-financed enemies to be killed.
Did the world stand up to America in this case? Of course not.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour merely said she needed more time to read the Appeals Tribunal's short decision and apparently didn't get to it until after her New Year's Eve party when the Iraqi president had been executed.
Mrs Arbour apparently had not read the 1 September 2006 legal opinion of the UN's own Working Group on Arbitrary Detention that had unequivocally declared the trial unfair. Thus the Appeals Tribunal's decision didn't even matter because the whole process had been unfair, as Mrs Arbour, a former international criminal law prosecutor and Canadian Supreme Court justice, must have known. Maybe it was America's feelings toward her aspirations to be a future UN secretary-general that mattered.
Another opportunity for the UN and the international community to show that they meant business came when Ethiopia invaded Somalia. It was a lucky draw for any state having the will to criticise the US, but lacking the courage to do it to its face. Everyone knew the US was behind the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia -- the US even contributed with a few deadly air strikes that killed about 100 civilians for every one of the three alleged terrorists it was targeting.
The African Union quickly condemned the aggression against the Somali people and called for all foreign troops to immediately withdraw from Somalia. The US reacted indigently, and immediately appealed to the UN Security Council to take over responsibility for the US aggression. This would have been a perfect time for our world leaders to speak up and join the African Union's call for an immediate withdrawal of all foreign troops from Somalia. This would have at least sent the message that such wanton and illegal aggression would not be tolerated without censure.
What happened? World leaders fell silent.
Russia's UN Ambassador Mr Vitaly Churkin, the current UN Security Council president, even told the Associated Press that nobody else spoke but the US Deputy Ambassador Jackie Sanders, when the question of Ethiopia's invasion of Somalia was discussed in the council. Instead of denying the aggression, the US representative proudly confirmed it. Still, after this confirmation, not one of the other 14 governments represented in the Security Council said a word in condemnation of this wanton aggression against the Somali people.
It's no wonder then, that when US President George W Bush sat down to consider what to do about the tragedy he had made of Iraq, he decided to do nothing. Instead, he merely admitted it was a mess and that, even, he was responsible. He then boldly stated that he would keep doing the same thing, only adjusting the meter of violence upwards by adding more American troops.
Again, world leaders responded with silence.
The deadly silence with which America's violent policies have been met is as harrowing as the policies themselves. Many Americans only see that violence keeps their economy going by fuelling their arms industry. A few European countries benefit from this war economy as well, but most of the rest of the world only suffers from it.
Perhaps world leaders are just plain scared that they will be next to feel the wrath of the world's most expensive and most deadly military machine, if they criticize the US. Consequently they keep silent.
Or perhaps the Washington ambassadors of other countries are worried they will be left off the guest list of upcoming Rose Garden parties at the White House, or won't get comfortable teaching positions at American universities when they retire from diplomatic service.
Whatever the reason, one thing seems clear: the elites who cower under to US decision-making and don't criticize US aggression against the weakest and most vulnerable people in the world don't seem to have much to lose by keeping silent, or so they think. This may, however, be too simplistic an assessment on their part.
When our leaders do not stand up for truth, justice and the rule of law it is the most vulnerable who suffer by the dozen, by the thousand, by the tens of thousands, by the hundreds of thousands, and by the millions. These victims -- who might be more resilient than the rest of us because they have already suffered so much -- will not tolerate this injustice forever.
We should not forget that half the people in the world live on less than two Euros a day in abject poverty. It is these people who have borne the brunt of US aggression. In Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia, people are bravely fighting back as best as they can, but at the same time they are losing faith in world leaders who pledge to ensure their basic rights and the rule of law, but then lack the courage to do so.
As an American, I cannot understand why if my country illegally invaded Afghanistan, the international community could not stand up and say this was illegal and at least stop the action or refuse to take over responsibility for it.
Nor can I understand why, when every credible and independent expert who has considered the question has found both the invasion of Iraq and the trial of its president to be unfair and illegal, the international community is not trying to punish the international criminals who carried out these acts.
Why would world leaders hose an US-backed secretary-general, when the last one didn't work out very well, or why an US-backed Ethiopian invasion of Somalia is, according to China's Ambassador to the UN Liu Zhenmin, "a historic opportunity for the Somalis to achieve national reconciliation."
But at least one can understand, as an American, why President Bush would admit he has created a disaster for the people of Iraq and decide to nevertheless continue doing the same thing.
Silence is perhaps sometimes the strongest form of action.
The writer is a visiting professor of law at An-Najah National University, Nablus, Palestine, and an international human rights lawyer.
There is an Arabic proverb that says: "Assaakitu a'ni lhaqui shaytanun akhras" meaning "That who sees injustice and remains silent is a mute satan"
The truth. It tells exactly the states of situation in the world now. Good article.
Regarding the comments made by Charles, It's obvious you know nothing about the prophet Mohammad otherwise you would not have made such a silly comment. Mohammad (PBUH) was sent as a mercy to Mankind. If read carefully about his actions and his character you will know how kind, peaceful and gentle he was, even with his worst enemies.
As for 'Poor' Bush, it's you who is nieve not him. The Guy knows exactly what's going on and I feel really sad for individuals in this world who still have no idea whats going on and wish to remain blind!
The only body of people that are stopping and challenging US tyrany are the brave Mujahhids of the Muslims. Looking at the US crimes against the world, we must all support the mujahhids wherever they are. The rest of the world leaders are bribed and corrupt. They fear the tyrant! They chose fear over principle. They are not only silent, they don't even care.
It was USA who attacked on Iraq and Iraq never attacked, neither tried to attack US or UK.
Before USA, Iraq was much stable and there were no such bloodshed like now is happening. Saying this that Iraqis are doing this... My question is, who made the lawlessness in Iraq like this? Saddam Or Bush?
Americans, should investigate about Bush that who is getting more contracts related to Oil fields in Iraq? Iraqis or Companies working for Bush?
Major question is, Where are the weapons of Mass destruction in Iraq? If they were really existed, US will never dare to attack on Iraq. Coward Americans and Britians can only attack on Powerless..
Who helped the creation of Israel on Arabs lands? Was that legal?
Who has closed its eyes in case of Israel's neuclear exceptions and giving an open hand to Israel to attack on its neighbors?
You have to accept that Bush is keeping the Lawlessness in Iraq in order to get more and more oil and openning the ways for Israel and Jews.
And world should accept this fact that these are Jews who are the cause of World War and now cause of disturbance in Middle East, as well as in US. Because Jews are using US to achieve their evil goals in Middle East.
A leader protects the interests of his own country and NOT that of another one or the world, no matter how interdependent the world may be. Why do you think, China worry about Afghanistan or even Iraq or Darfur or Somailia unless it threatens China's own interests. The basic rule of Geopolitics is very simple -- SELFISHNESS, and that means 'forget about justice'. This is the Real World, not make-believe of "Christ's Kingdom". The world sacrificed Czekoslovakia in WW2; nobody cared for poor Czeks and Slovaks. UK helped Poland not to help Poland but to stop Hitler from threatening its empire. UK did not defend India or Burma or Singapore or Thailand in WW2; it only defended its own imperial interests.
UN has no leadership, Secretary General is merely a 'HIRED MANAGER', and that is all. To be an independent leader, you should be able to raise your 'own' taxes and be able to raise your own army. Well, UN has no tax powers and cannot raise any armies; it simply depends on the dues (or should I say, the generosity) of its membership.
As usual, the author worries about unimportant things. Sadam was a 'dead man walking' the day he was captured; the stupidity of US was that it did not kill him the day he was captured; after all, US killed his 2 sons. Sadam got Middle Eastern style justice; so why cry. At least, he was given a burial; his body was not left to rot on lamposts of Sadr City for the buzzards to 'munch' on. How many calipsh in Islam have been assasinated in Islamic history and were treated worse than Sadam? Has Islam forgotten its own history. Remember, 3 of the 4 early caliphs were assasinated and the 4th one was poisoned.
So, stop crying. Just refresh your own memory of Islamic history.
The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said, 'The Hour will come when leaders are oppressors, when people believe in the stars and reject al-Qadar (the Divine Decree of destiny) when a trust becomes a way of making a profit, when people give to charity (Sadaqah) reluctantly, when adultery becomes widespread - when this happens, then your people will perish. (Ibn Majah.)
1. Judgement by the people
2. Judgement by posterity, and
3. Judgement by God.
And u know what, u can escape one may be two but certainly not all three.