UN Security Council must apply international law equally
Bradley Blankenship
The UN headquarters in New York, U.S. /CFP

The UN headquarters in New York, U.S. /CFP

Editor's note: Bradley Blankenship is a Prague-based American journalist, political analyst and freelance reporter. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

According to the United Nations Compensation Commission on February 9, Iraq finally completed its payment of $52.4 billion to compensate individuals, companies and governments who proved damages after the 1990 invasion and occupation of Kuwait. The Commission, set up by the UN Security Council after the war, had previously received a varied percentage of Iraqi oil sales – most recently 3 percent – over the past 30 years to pay this debt.

Aside from the fact that the most responsible party, former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, had already been killed in a highly flawed trial sanctioned by the United States and his government overthrown, it's striking that Iraq of all countries had to pay reparations for a war. It shows how unfairly international law is applied and how much power politics influence the sanctity of international law, which is supposed to act as a shield against injustice, not as a shield for injustice. 

Of course, U.S. Ambassador to the UN in Geneva Bathsheba Crocker was delighted by this news, saying on February 8 that her country commends "Iraq for completing payments for all UNCC claims, a historic achievement." But why hasn't the United States paid any reparations for the countless wars it has started or the millions of people it has killed and displaced because of those wars? 

Just look at what's going on in Iraq right now. In 2003, the United States under former President George W. Bush launched an invasion of Iraq under false pretenses, saying that Saddam Hussein's government possessed "weapons of mass destruction" which led to a nearly nine-year-long conflict that killed, as some estimates suggest, upwards of one million Iraqis in just the first several years. 

Since then, we have seen numerous reports of alleged U.S. war crimes in the country, often against women and children, which has led Washington to breach international law further by imprisoning and torturing those who exposed those crimes, such as Julian Assange. 

Iraqi protesters take part in a demonstration against the presence of U.S. troops, in Baghdad, Iraq, January 24, 2020. /Xinhua

Iraqi protesters take part in a demonstration against the presence of U.S. troops, in Baghdad, Iraq, January 24, 2020. /Xinhua

After a brief pullout from Iraq, U.S. forces re-entered to push back against the Islamic State group (IS) that, to add another layer of irony, its own foreign policy decisions in the region helped create. This spawned even more accusations of human rights abuses by U.S. forces. To this day, the U.S. is still violating international law by occupying Iraq without permission. 

Washington, for its part, recently announced the end of its "combat mission" in Iraq – but will stay maintain an "advisory role," e.g., the U.S. military withdrew without actually leaving. The unseriousness behind this policy is self-evident and it remains a flagrant violation of international law that must be corrected immediately. Not least because the U.S. has hinted at the fact that it will continue to use Iraqi airspace as a theater for its global drone assassination program. With all of this having been and continuing to be done, it is a marvel that Iraq of all countries could be paying reparations and not be the recipient of reparations to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars – at least. Of course, it is fair that a country should pay reparations for the damage it causes while violating international law, but when the largest criminals go unpunished, it makes a mockery of the entire concept. 

Such double standards are the norm, however. This week, the UN Security Council held a rare general debate on general issues related to sanctions. That debate yielded harsh but very warranted criticism against the United States for the fact that it misuses council sanctions, which are meant for a specific targeted purpose, for its own political purposes. It also overuses unilateral sanctions as a substitute for multilateral ones, which undermines the council and causes humanitarian crises. 

Not even to discuss the illegality of these unilateral sanctions, the most egregious part of the overextension that Washington and its junior partners apply with council sanctions is that it uses international law as a smokescreen. By its very assertion, this position goes against international law and mechanisms employed by the UN. 

It is not hard to see how this application of power politics – where international law applies to thee but not me – only deepens historical inequalities and threatens global security. From its creation and implementation, international law rooted in the UN Charter is supposed to create a more just social order. It is not supposed to be used by one powerful country, or a group of countries, to implement their political agenda. But unfortunately, that is exactly how it works in practice, as particularly showcased in the Iraqi war compensation case.

(If you want to contribute and have specific expertise, please contact us at

Search Trends