LAWLESS WORLD by Philippe Sands


America and the Making and Breaking of Global Rules from FDR’s Atlantic Charter to George W. Bush’s Illegal War
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Where were you when Pinochet was arrested and charged with genocide?

If you are a part of the “select world of international law,” writes London-based attorney Sands, then “October 16, 1998, is the closest you will get to a JFK or a John Lennon moment.” The ailing Chilean dictator had traveled to London in the belief that he enjoyed diplomatic immunity, but the Spanish judge who ordered his arrest--thereby involving three sovereign nations--begged to differ. To trust Sands’s account, Pinochet’s arrest made dictators around the world sweat, to say nothing of enablers such as Henry Kissinger, who protested the British government’s action. “What Kissinger really objects to--although he cannot bring himself to say it in so many words—is the loss of sovereign and executive power, and its subjection to the limits of law by an independent judiciary,” Sands writes. So it is with the Bush administration, staffed by people such as John Bolton, who has declared that international treaties “are not legally binding,” and Richard Haass, who advocated an “à la carte multilateralism” by which the U.S. could pick and choose which laws to obey. Ironically, Sands shows, much international law is fully within the spirit of the United Nations as envisioned by Roosevelt and Churchill, who seemed unworried about yielding power to international bodies; but Kissinger’s fear has become an article of American faith, a blanket refusal to allow international courts to have jurisdiction over American citizens. Congress even passed a law allowing the president “to use all means necessary and appropriate” to free any American detained or imprisoned by the International Criminal Court, which presumably includes invading the Hague. Such lawlessness as the invasion of Iraq, the Abu Ghraib affair and the authorization of torture by subcontractors, Sands suggests, is therefore likely to go unpunished.

Solid work. Those worried that the U.S. has become a rogue nation won’t sleep any easier after reading this book.

Pub Date: Oct. 24th, 2005
ISBN: 0-670-03452-5
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 2005


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