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International Law and the Right to Self-Offense
September 24, 2002
By Jeremiah Bourque

In martial arts, there is a particular slur that is called "self-offense." This slur is intended to disparage a martial artist (or wannabe) by presenting him as someone who is learning what is supposed to be an art for self-defense, but who actually intends to use it not to defend himself, but to assault others with a greater degree of technical skill and know-how.

"Self-offense" could also be applied to Hitler's approach to "defending" the Third Reich. Poland was invaded because it had "attacked" Germany. France was invaded because it had then declared war on Germany. Russia was attacked because it posed an imminent threat to Germany. In all cases, Germany was simply acting in its own "best interests," working to preserve the German state, to protect the German people from attack, and to ensure peace and prosperity for all Germans for years to come.

President Bush is now asking Congress to legitimize self-offense by the United States to bring peace and security to the world, no matter what that entails, no matter where battles must be fought. He is asking for a license not to kill, but to conquer. For how can there be peace without conquest? "Terrorist states" such as Iraq can only be subdued or destroyed; they cannot be simply defeated and allowed to continue to exist. Such is the message from the all-knowing, all-seeing hawks who guide the American nation towards its manifest destiny: To place its foot upon the neck of all nations that pose a threat to it, present or future.

Currently, the "moderate" option in dealing with Iraq is to send in 50,000 troops with weapon inspectors, with free access to all areas of the country, a blank cheque to search any location, and a doctrine that states that even the slightest interference (harming a single hair on the head of a weapon inspector, or perhaps a car bomb, or a shooting, or perhaps a rock falling from a building and killing a soldier) would result in an instant "invasion," as if an invasion had not already taken place. This doctrine of "coercive inspections" has a single, powerful, driving assumption at its core:

There are no nations save the United States. Everything else is just territory.

This doctrine holds that only the United States has the right to consider itself a sovereign power. The United Nations, a self-help club for sovereign nations, would be useless, primarily because there are none except America. Everyone else is to be judged by the threat they pose to America. If there is a threat, the President is to have unlimited authority to take whatever action he deems necessary (or profitable) for the defense (or offense) of the United States of America.

With the United States able and willing to declare states to be illegitimate entities at its pleasure, there is no legal, moral, or philosophical barrier to violating borders, treaties, or pledges, since these entities do not, in the strict view of Americans, exist anymore. It is not a matter of unilateralism; it is a matter of navel-gazing, believing that there is only one nation that matters, and in that nation, there is only one man who matters, the President. The power of life or death, freedom or slavery, is to be vested in him, for he is the only one who is wise enough and powerful enough to make the nation whole.

In this system, the President is a substitute for God. Acting in God's name, for God's purposes, he takes in his hands the destiny of the world, shaping it according to his just beliefs and standing in judgement over all nations, deciding if they are to be allowed the fiction that they exist, or if their existence will be wiped away in a flash of blinding light. This man, in his wisdom, judges daily matters of global importance, deciding not only the fate of nations, but of individuals, judging whether they are friend or foe, ally or enemy.

I choose not to name this system, for no name will suffice; we will call this system by what it chooses to be called, for there will soon be no power to call it by any other. Thus, I will call this system of government by the name it chooses for itself: Democracy. On this day, in the 21st century, this is what Democracy now is, and has become.

The right to self-defense, and the right to self-offense, now rests in the hands of the single nation, in the hands of the single leader of the nation.

May he show some shred of prudence.

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