Robert P. Abele
July 29, 2013
There are numerous legal and ethical arguments that can and have been made in opposition to U.S. foreign policy of raw aggression. For an example of the illegalities of U.S. Empire, examine the Geneva Conventions, all four of which directly proscribe what they each call “outrages” to human dignity, “in particular humiliating and degrading treatment” (I, 1, 3). The “outrages” are named specifically as torture, mutilation, cruel treatment, taking hostages, murder, biological experimentation, and passing sentences on prisoners without benefit of “a regularly constituted court.”
Additionally, the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 both underscore the Geneva Conventions and expand the traditional ethical concerns to rights and duties of neutral states by banning the use of poison gases or arms, destroying or seizing enemy private property, attacking towns and cities that are undefended, pillaging, collective punishment, servility of enemy citizens, and bullets made to wreak havoc once inside the human body. Prescriptions to limit the conduct of war include the requirements to warn towns of impending attacks, to protect cultural, religious, and health institutions, and to insure public order and safety.
For an example of the ethical problems of empire, think about the completely unjustifiable attacks on civilians done by the U.S. in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and most prominently in Pakistan and Yemen, especially done by drones. Or consider U.S. use of torture, from Abu Ghraib to Guantanamo Bay. As everyone knows by now, ethical and humanitarian appeals have been completely and categorically rejected by U.S. leaders, not beginning with 9-11, certainly rejected with greater vigor since then.