The Right to Engage in Civil Resistance to Prevent State Crimes

This article is a detailed review of Francis A. Boyle's new book, Protesting Power: War, Resistance, and Law. It's by Stephen Lendman. I originally found it on the, but I will link to the version posted on Lendman's own blog here:
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Francis A. Boyle's "Protesting Power - War, Resistance and Law"
Reviewed by Stephen Lendman

Francis A. Boyle is a distinguished University of Illinois law professor, activist, and internationally recognized expert on international law and human rights. From 1988 to 1992, he was a board member of Amnesty International USA. He was a consultant to the American Friends Service Committee. From 1991 to 1993, he was legal advisor to the Palestinian Liberation Organization, and currently he's a leading proponent of an effort to impeach George Bush, Dick Cheney and other key administration figures for their crimes of war against humanity and other grievous violations of domestic and international law. Boyle also lectures widely, writes extensively and authored many books, including his latest one and subject of this review: "Protesting Power - War, Resistance and Law."

Boyle's book is powerful, noble and compelling, and he states its purpose upfront: Today, a "monumental struggle (is being waged) for the heart and soul of (America) and the future of the world...." It matches peacemakers on one side, war makers on the other, and all humanity hanging in the balance. The book provides hope and ammunition. It's an urgent call to action and demonstrates that "civil resistance (is) solidly grounded in international law, human rights (efforts), and the US Constitution." It "can be used to fight back and defeat the legal, constitutional, and humanitarian nihilism of the Bush administration" neocons and their chilling Hobbesian vision - imperial dominance, homeland police state, and permanent "war that won't end in our lifetimes," according to Dick Cheney.

Boyle has the antidote: "civil resistance, international law, human rights, and the US Constitution - four quintessential principles to counter....militarism run amuk." Our choice is "stark and compelling." We must act in our own self-defense "immediately, before humankind exterminates itself in an act of nuclear omnicide." The threat today is dire and real, it demands action, and civil resistance no longer is an option. With survival at stake, it's an obligation.
The Right to Engage in Civil Resistance to Prevent State Crimes

Post-WW II, US foreign policy adopted the political "realism" and "power politics" principles that Hans Morganthau explained in his seminal work on the subject - "Politics among Nations: the Struggle for Power and Peace (1948)." For decades, it was the leading international politics text from a man eminently qualified to produce it and whose experiences under Nazism influenced him.

His cardinal tenet was darkly Hobbesian - that international law and world organizations are "irrelevant" when it comes to conflicts between nations on matters of national interest. Ignore "reality" and perish, but consider the consequences. They've has been disastrous for America, at home and abroad, in a world of our making where life is "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." No law or justice exists, no sense of right or wrong, no morality, just illusions of what might be, and a "struggle for survival in a state of war" by every nation against all others for one unattainable aim - absolute power and national security at the expense of other states and most people everywhere.

Political "realists" believe that when nations respect international laws and norms and ignore the "iron law" of "power politics," they invite disaster at the hands of aggressors. Boyle believes otherwise and eloquently states it: "Throughout the twentieth century, the promotion of international law, organizations, human rights, and the US Constitution has consistently provided the United States with the best means for reconciling the idealism (and aspirations) of American values....with the realism of world politics and historical conditions."

It can work the way Boyle documented it in his 1999 book, Foundations of World Order: The Legalist Approach to International Relations, 1898 - 1922. In it, he offers a comprehensive analysis of US foreign policy achievements through international law and organizations to settle disputes, prevent wars and preserve peace. It included:

* an obligatory arbitration system for settling disputes between states - the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in 1899 that's still operating at The Hague as the oldest international dispute resolution institution;
* the Permanent Court of International Justice (World Court) in 1922 that was replaced by the International Court of Justice in 1946 after the UN was established in 1945;
* the codification of important areas of international law in treaty form;
* promoting arms reduction after relaxing international tensions by legal techniques and institutions; and
* convoking periodic peace conferences for all internationally recognized states; the League of Nations was established for this purpose and later the United Nations with its functional agencies like the International Labour Organization, WHO, UNESCO, and IAEA. Other affiliated institutions included the IMF, World Bank, GATT, WTO and regional organizations like the OAS, Arab League, African Union, ASEAN, OSCE and EU. To these add NATO, the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (the Rio Pact), SEATO, ANZUS and various bilateral self-defense treaties under Article 51 of the UN Charter.

These organizations should have worked. In practice they don't, and Boyle explains why: compared to America's early "legalist, humanitarian, and constitutionalist approach to international relations, geopolitical (realpolitik) practioners of the Hobbesian" school prevailed - men like Johnson, Kissinger, McNamara, Nixon, Byzezinski, Carter, Reagan, GHW Bush, GW Bush, his neocon ideologues and countless others. They disdain democracy, constitutional government and their essential principles: commitment to the rule of domestic and international law, human rights, equal justice and peace.

Consider the cost. It's beyond measure and even worse looking back, in spite of all efforts toward conflict resolution. Since the nation's founding, America has been at war with one or more adversaries every year in our history (without exception), and note the consequences:

* we glorify wars and violence in the name of peace;
* have the highest domestic homicide rate in the western world by far;
* our society is called a "rape culture" and three-fourths of all women are victims of some form of violence in their lifetimes, many repeatedly;
* millions of children are violence or abuse victims and get no help from the state;
* in a nominal democracy under constitutional law, aggressive wars and domestic violence are normal and commonplace; peace, tranquility and public safety are illusions and so are human rights, civil liberties, the rule of law, and common dignity, and the reason it's so is simple - it benefits the privileged few at the expense of the greater good.

What can be done? Plenty, according to Boyle. "Concerned citizens" and people of conscience are obligated to use our available tools - domestic and international law and human rights as "checks and balances against" government abuses of power in the conduct of domestic and foreign policies. Otherwise, administrations can run amuck and literally get away with murder and other major crimes of war, against humanity, peace and the general welfare.


...Civil resistance is our only hope "to prevent WW III and an (inevitable) nuclear holocaust....Toward that end this book has been written." Read it and act. Apathy isn't an option.
Steve LendmanStephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at Also visit his blog site at, and listen to The Global Research News Hour on Mondays from 11AM - 1PM US Central time.

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This long article by Stephen Lendman gives a good idea of the topics covered in Boyle's new book.

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