Five years on, the most tangible lesson of Iraq is that our nation ignores international law at its peril.
Ignored was not only the U.N. Charter's collective security regime, which constrains the use of force (about which IntLawGrrls also posted this week). Ignored as well, O'Connell wrote in her Jurist commentary, was the Geneva Conventions regime, which prohibits inhumane conditions of detention and interrogation. And yet, in the mainstream media and in the policymaking corridors of Washington,
The talk on Iraq is all about what went wrong, whether the surge is working, and when we can get out. We hear virtually nothing about international law and look set to repeat our mistakes. Violating the law has cost our nation and Iraq dearly. It has denied us the guidance of rules based on long experience and moral consensus. We have lost standing in the world, a literal fortune, and precious lives. Rather than internalizing the lesson of law violation in Iraq, we continue to defy the law in serious and self-destructive ways.
She concludes by repeating concerns that some seem poised to launch "yet another unlawful war," against Iran. (It's a concern she raised more than a year ago, as we posted.) O'Connell fears that policymakers have not learned from their mistakes:
The lesson of Iraq could not be plainer.