Marjorie Cohn, professor emerita at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law and the former president of the National Lawyers Guild, now a political analyst and social critic, has shared her stance on the western missile strike on Syria and what should be done to ease the tensions.
Sputnik: From your point of view and from the point of view of international law, were the coalition strikes against Syria legal?
Marjorie Cohn: The US-UK-France airstrikes against Syria were illegal under international law. They violated the United Nations Charter, which requires that disputes between states be settled peacefully, and prohibits the use of military force except in self-defense after an armed attack by another state, or when the Security Council has approved the use of military force. Neither of those two requirements was present before the April 13 strikes on Syria.
The airstrikes constituted a crime of aggression, which is punishable in the International Criminal Court.
A crime of aggression is the supreme international crime which carries with it the evil of every other international crime, as noted by the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg in 1946.”
Sputnik: What person or entity is responsible for the strikes? Is it the US government, the Pentagon, or the US President himself?
Marjorie Cohn: Under the US Constitution, Congress has the power to declare war or approve military action. The President, as Commander-in-Chief, then has the authority to conduct the action Congress has approved. The Pentagon (Defense Department) is part of the executive branch, so when the President gives the order, the Pentagon executes it.
Sputnik: If unilateral strikes continue, do you think there’s a danger that this could lead to a bigger war and what could be done to avoid it?
Marjorie Cohn: There is a danger that the United States and Russia could engage in military clashes, which could lead to a dangerous escalation, including nuclear war.
The US, Syria and Russia should fully support the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) investigation; the US Congress should vote against any further US military action in Syria; there should be a meeting between the US, Russia, Iran, Turkey and the Gulf States to revive international negotiations toward a diplomatic solution; and the US should promptly increase its settlement of Syrian refugees.
Sputnik: Defense Secretary James Mattis has said that the strikes were in US’ national interests. How so?
Marjorie Cohn: The airstrikes were not in the US national interest. They increased the likelihood of a major military clash between the US and Russia, and China might also support Russia. They were also extremely expensive, which enriches the defense contractors, but harms the American people.
The views of the speaker do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.