Lawless World: America and the Making and Breaking of Global Rules Paperback – Mar 8 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
Sands, a British international lawyer and law professor, delivers a cool, reasoned lashing to the Bush administration for leading—and to Tony Blair for colluding with—a "full-scale assault" on the international rule of law, in this richly detailed survey of modern international legal disputes. Since FDR and Churchill signed the Atlantic Charter after WWII, putting in place a rules-based system limiting the use of force, protecting human rights and promoting fair economic liberalization, the world has seen a transformation of international relations, Sands explains, most dramatically marked by Bush's decision to "go it alone." Tracking the current administration's "efforts to rewrite international law into irrelevance," Sands covers the Pinochet case, the creation of the International Criminal Court, U.S. abandonment of the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, the U.S.'s selectively multilateralist policy vis-à-vis global free trade, and the "disgraces" of Guantánamo, Iraq and Abu Ghraib. The author also presents a series of dense but lucidly written legal stories to illustrate how the Bush administration's unilateralism has had egregious consequences for 21st-century efforts to make the world safer, cleaner and more just. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Phillipe Sands, QC is a practising barrister in the Matrix Chambers and a professor of international law at University College, London. He appears regularly on news and current affairs programmes in the UK and abroad, reviews and writes for the British broadsheets and has been involved in many of the recent high profile cases at the World Court.
Top Customer Reviews
In making the case that the US has moved away from the liberal internationalist principles of the Atlantic Charter, Sands moves through a number of high profile international law issues ranging from Pinochet to the ‘war on terror’.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The next few chapters mostly deal with America's modern stance on international law. First off, the author demonstrates that America has no problem with non-Americans being held accountable to international law, including international tribunals over war crimes. He then demonstrates that America also has no problems obeying international economic law. His theory is that this is because economic laws help the US, so it sees no need to ignore and denigrate them - yet. Then comes America's stance on international law. He provides general evidence and specific examples, such as the Kyoto Agreement and the International Criminal Court, of international laws and areas that America has withdrawn itself from.
The last chapters deal mainly with what America has chosen to do with its self-declared freedom from international law and accountability: torture. Specifically, Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib. He lays out the legal arguments that the people confined there are outside international law, and that this reasoning is based on both misunderstanding of those laws and a simple refusal to accept them. He demonstrates the extent to which torture is a violation of international law. Specifically, it is a crime against humanity for anyone to commit, under any circumstances. During this, he also quotes from the US Army Field Manual, according to which torture is illegal ... and ineffective.
The book ends with a summary of all the preceding sections, and then an explanation of the American justifications for ignoring international law and the legal and other flaws behind their reasoning,. He ends by pointing out that, at the end of the day, America has to operate within the world community, and no amount of power, force and arrogance will allow America simply to give orders and be obeyed. I found this book to be quite well written, easy to read, and with the legal arguments clearly laid out and easy to follow. I would recommend it as an introduction to international law, and for its non-American-centric perspective.
This important and penetrating study, authored by a man involved in international law at many levels, outlines the path taken in building cooperation among nations. He demonstrates how the often halting and innovative steps have produced results. The Pinochet case, involving Britain, Spain and Chile, show how effective and precedent-setting some of these actions have been. Although there are pre-WWII occurrences of international cooperation resolving individual issues, the grander themes of human rights, environmental concerns and economic liberalisation have come about in the years after the Atlantic Charter. Advances such as the Law of the Sea, the Convention Against Torture, the International Criminal Court and the Kyoto Protocol demonstrate the possibilities for extending justice and protecting the environment. One nation, the United States, has either avoided commitment to these instruments, or shelved their provisions when it deemed its own interests were paramount. To Sands, this is a disturbing and dangerous new form of isolationism. Sands sees American "exceptionalism" as leading to global instability. As he points out clearly, its devious methods and clumsy application have proven ineffective wherever it's been applied. Global resentment is clearly manifest today.
The "exceptionalist" theme was forcefully brought into view by the younger Bush's administration. Coming to office with ambitions to control governments in the oil-rich Middle East, the second Bush had targetted the Iraq regime of Saddam Hussein from the outset. A nation crippled by UN sanctions after the first "Gulf War", Iraq was vulnerable to outside pressures, Hussein's blustering notwithstanding. Sands outlines the steps taken by George Walker Bush to bring Iraq under US domination. Along the way, he recruited British Prime Minister Tony Blair to his cause. Sands is unable to define why Blair found the new arrangement desirable, but once the Labour Party leader had taken it up, he was "in for a penny, in for a pound". Wherever Bush led, Blair would follow - even using the same deceptive methods employed by the US administration. This included arranging for "intelligence" to be moulded to the committed path. "Legal" justification for the Iraq invasion was ignored in the US and ineptly contrived in Britain.
Sands notes a different application of "exceptionalism" of the United States in one area - its role in international trade. After examples set by the formation of the European Union, from small beginnings in cooperation to a fully-fledged economic bloc, the US engaged in its own form of "cooperation" with the establishment of NAFTA - the North American Free Trade Association. This was recently expanded to cover the Western Hemisphere. Based on a string of secretly formulated arrangements launched after WWII, these structures led to the US-dominated World Trade Organisation and International Monetary Fund. These organisations, reflecting the aim of Western domination of the developing world's economies, have guided aims in many nations with an eye to controlling resources and labour while increasing markets and eschewing environmental issues.
The author concludes with the most glaring and unacceptable aspect of the "exceptionalist" policy - torture of prisoners. Although a party to the Convention Against Torture, the US record in Afghanistan, Guantanamo and Iraq shows that the Earth's most powerful nation has not only flagrantly violated its provisions, but has sought justification for its acts among its resident legal advisors. Having declared a "war on terror", the Bush administration promptly exempted people captured from the Geneva Convention. Guantanamo thus became a "legal black hole" in Sands' terms. Unable to determine to what lengths the CIA has engaged in while dealing with prisoners, the author excerpts the opinions tendered by senior officials of the Pentagon and the Attorney General's office. The use of torture was not only acceptable but the memos lined out what levels of pain might be inflicted! Note that none of these prisoners have been charged. Their only "crime" was to have been captured in a nation invaded by the United States. It is worth noting that some "prisoners" were in advanced age - hardly combatants and unlikely threats.
Sands' book is a well-written and impeccably researched charge list against the proponents of "exceptionalism" and military adventurism. As an advocate of the rule of law and with experience in international litigation, he supports cooperative effort using instruments agreed upon by many nations. International law, he argues, is the sole foundation for addressing global issues. The UN need not be the sole authority in determining which issues are addressed and how dealt with. That body, however, provides the best administrative methods and the broadest venue for dealing with them. This is a "must-read" book that provides a single, comprehensive overview of how the Bush administration has overturned a half-century of effort to improve multilateral cooperation. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
This book was both informative, disturbing and remarkably well written. Sands begins with the Atlantic Charter - the original initiative of Roosevelt and Churchill that set down the foundation for present international standards. He then traces the pioneering work of both the USA and Britain in helping to establish the institutions that monitor and protect such standards.
It is against this background that we then see the apparent disdain with which the administrations of both countires now view international law in the context of the war on terror. What is particularly disturbing is the double standard as as laws are used to enforce international laws against countries that we don't like but which do not apply to us.
In a careful, forensic analysis he completely dismantles any possible arguments that the war on Iraq was lawful or that inmates at Guatantamo are outside the basic protection of the Geneva Conventions. Of particular interest to UK readers is the alarming change of legal advice provided by the Attorney General over a period of mere weeks in 2003 in the build up to war.
He emphasises the important point that if the UK and USA ignore international standards then how much more difficult will it be to complain if other nations fail to apply such rules in their dealings with us.
Whatever one thinks of the rights and wrongs of the events of the last few years Sands leaves us in no doubt that whatever we do has to be kept within the legal framework which we ourselves established.
Why should George Bush be impeached? Read this book. If President Bush or Vice President Cheney are complicit or participate in torture, which they are, they could be tried as a criminal under a plethora of international and domestic laws. Why is international law important? Read the global warming chapter.
This is a great book for anyone regardless of ones familiarity or professional interest in law. It would be a great addition to a university's introductory international law course.