The guest writer is Kim Swift who has worked with the post 2012 Justice Party and cooperated with the New Progressive Alliance.
A legal framework for just military action defines human rights and the means to protect those rights.
The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides "the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world." Eleanor Roosevelt served as the first chairwoman of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) that drafted the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. She stated that it "may well become the international Magna Carta of all men everywhere."
The United Nations provides a framework for world peace and security and the means to protect human rights through its Security Council. The United Nations Security Council makes decisions that are legally binding in international law. Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations is “Actions with Respect to Threats to the Peace, Breaches of the Peace, and Acts of Aggression”. Article 39 of Chapter VII states, “The Security Council shall determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression and shall make recommendations, or decide what measures shall be taken… to maintain or restore international peace and security.” When humankind faces a malignant and wanton threat to life, dignity and human rights, the United Nations Security Council should gather the facts and meet to decide whether to take action including military action.
Given a United Nations Security Council resolution to take military action to stop an atrocity such as a genocide or wanton persecution, the United States Congress can decide under the Constitution whether to declare war and participate in the United Nations action. The framers of the Constitution wisely placed in Congress the power to declare war i.e. they placed this power in the legislative branch of our government.
We have not had a declared war since World War II. It is time to end the death and injuries and destruction of illegal wars. A declaration of war from Congress is no guarantee that we are on the right path. World War I is an example. World War I was a hideous insanity of going over the top of trenches into machine gun fire, a senseless conflict between empires and alliances of nations that cast millions to their deaths. Each citizen has the right to be a conscientious objector, to elect on matters of conscience not to serve in a war. Some Americans like Randolph Bourne bravely opposed U. S. intervention in World War I. It is possible that united citizens acting on their own free will and conscience could stop an illegal, ill-considered or unjust war in its tracks by electing on matters of conscience not to participate in the war. The right of the people to exercise their conscience is paramount over the power of the state to enforce a draft. This right is part of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that states, “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”
Meeting these requirements, the requirement under international law that the United Nations Security Council authorizes military action, the requirement under our Constitution that Congress declares war, and the requirement that military action passes muster of the conscience of individual citizens, then military action is legal and just and can be swift and sure to stop an atrocity such as a genocide or defend our nation from attack. Those brave soldiers who serve in such an effort are honorable and just and we would support them with great pride and hope fervently for their success and for their safe return. Note that these requirements set a very high bar for military action.
This is not a purely pacifist position which would abhor violence of any kind. This position is akin to a police officer having to use deadly force to stop someone from killing another person.
A just military action must follow strictly the rules of the Geneva Conventions. The Geneva Conventions establish international law for the conduct of war. They prohibit attacking civilians in war, prohibit torture and have rules regarding the treatment of prisoners of war.
Establishing the correct legal framework for just military action serves to end the illegal overreach of our current military profile and actions and restores us to a peaceful path. It requires us to end our overseas commitments and bring our troops home since Congress has not declared war. It requires us to withdraw from military alliances including NATO since those alliances separately require military action outside of the correct legal framework. Thomas Jefferson said, "Peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none" and we need to return to that principle.
This legal framework affirms that it is self-enforcing through international law. This framework affirms the right and duty of the United Nations Security Council to hold accountable nations that violate international law by taking military action without a United Nations Security Council resolution authorizing military action. This includes the power to override the veto of a permanent member when the Security Council must take action to enforce this law.
This legal framework affirms that it is self-enforcing through the Constitution of the United States of America. This framework affirms the right and duty of citizens to require that Congress declare war for any military action. Granting "war powers" to the President that extend indefinitely is an abdication of the responsibility of Congress to declare war and puts us in a state of perpetual war.
Establishing the correct legal framework for just military action bolsters the United Nations framework for world peace and security and restores our heritage as a beacon of human rights and dignity and our heritage as a peaceful nation.
Kim Maurice Swift
April 4, 2015
2-Martin Luther King Jr. and Peace by Kim Maurice Swift