Outgoing Bush administration drops any pretense of respect for sovereignty

The day following the U.S. elections, Iran issued a message to the United States warning that any violation of its airspace would be met with force.

Unmanned Predator drone
The U.S. military is increasingly
using unmanned Predator drones
to carry out airstrikes.

“Recently it has been seen that American army helicopters were flying a small distance from Iraq’s border with Iran and, because of the closeness to the border, the danger of them violating Iran’s border is possible,” reported Iranian state radio.

Timed to coincide with the announcement of the new U.S. president-to-be, Iran’s advance warning is hardly unfounded. The Bush administration’s “might-makes-right” military policy has made its prerogative to violate the borders of sovereign states at will.

A flagrant example was the recent violation of Syrian national sovereignty as U.S. military helicopters bombed a Syrian border town near Iraq. The Oct. 26 airstrike, allegedly targeting a member of al-Qaeda, killed eight civilians, including three children.

“We consider this criminal and terrorist aggression. We put the responsibility on the American government,” said Syria’s foreign minister Walid Muallem. “Killing civilians in international law means a terrorist aggression.” (BBC, Oct. 28)

In response to the U.S. attacks, thousands of Syrians joined a militant demonstration in Damascus on Oct. 30. Syria has also called on the U.N. Security Council to take action, but the plea to the U.S.-dominated body is certain to fall on deaf ears. The U.S. holds one of five permanent member seats on the Council, giving it veto power over any resolution brought before it.

Attempting to maintain an increasingly delicate balancing act, the U.S.-installed government in Iraq denounced the U.S. attack on Syria, but only after initially describing it as an action targeting insurgents crossing into Iraq.

U.S. expands use of cross-border strikes

The U.S. strike within Syria’s borders is not an exception to the rule, but rather an example of the disregard for sovereignty that is now a growing staple of U.S. foreign policy.

Of course, the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan alone show that respect for sovereignty never ranked high on the Bush administration’s list of priorities. But the increasing cross-border attacks into countries not engaged in a direct conflict with U.S. forces—some of them with close ties to Washington—bring the policy to a new level.

Similar cross-border actions have taken place increasingly all over the Middle East, South Asia and Africa. Unmanned Predator attack drones have been used in strikes inside Yemen and Somalia, and reports exist of extensive U.S. Special Forces actions in Iran. (Faxts News, Oct. 31)

In 2008 alone, the U.S. has launched 25 cross-border attacks from Afghanistan into Pakistan, compared with 10 in 2006 and 2007 combined. Eighteen such attacks have occurred since Aug. 31 (Asia Times, Oct. 29), and they are now taking place with almost daily frequency.

The Pentagon is increasingly moving toward unmanned combat aerial vehicles, which serve a dual purpose. They are effective instruments to carry out military action, with the added benefit of not involving large numbers of troops. U.S. troop deployments and casualties are kept low, helping minimize the political costs of the war at home.

U.S. contempt for national sovereignty

In a statement delivered two days after the attack on Syria, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates pledged to further expand the Bush Doctrine of unilateral preemption:

“Today we also make clear that the United States will hold any state, terrorist group or other non-state actor or individual fully accountable for supporting or enabling terrorist efforts to obtain or use weapons of mass destruction—whether by facilitating, financing or providing expertise or safe haven for such efforts.” (New York Times, Oct. 28)

Gates justified the attack on Syria and legitimized threats of unilateral U.S. military strikes on states as well as organizations. He also made veiled threats against what he called “rising and resurgent powers” such as Russia and China, and “rogue states” such as Iran and North Korea, while laying out plans to expand the already enormous U.S. arsenal of nuclear weaponry.

Several of President-elect Barack Obama’s advisors have suggested that Gates may stay on as Secretary of Defense under an Obama administration—a strong indication that the candidate of “change” may stay the course after all.

Washington already has over 800 military bases in 130 countries and spends more on its military budget than the rest of the world combined. Both the recent attack on Syria and Secretary Gates’ stated expansion of the Bush Doctrine indicate that the U.S. government only intends to intensify the level of aggression globally.

The outgoing Bush administration leaves behind a legacy of war and occupation, human rights violations and outright contempt for the right of self-determination of nations throughout the world. Progressives and revolutionaries must let the incoming Democratic administration know that we stand with the oppressed peoples of the world and will not tolerate a continuation of these policies.

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