International Law

December 17, 2004 • Volume 14, Issue 44
Should U.S. policy give it more weight?
By Kenneth Jost

Introduction

U.S. Marines patrol the battered Iraqi city of Fallujah in November 2004 after a week of combat between U.S. forces and rebels.  (AFP/Getty Images/Patrick Baz)
U.S. Marines patrol the battered Iraqi city of Fallujah in November 2004 after a week of combat between U.S. forces and rebels. (AFP/Getty Images/Patrick Baz)

The Bush administration has been widely condemned for skirting international law in its harsh handling of enemy combatants after the war in Afghanistan and bypassing the United Nations in the invasion of Iraq. Critics at home and abroad say the policies weakened international support for U.S. actions and could endanger any U.S. service members captured in future conflicts. Liberal advocacy groups are also urging the U.S. Supreme Court to consider foreign and international law in making decisions and lower courts to be open to suits against foreign officials or multinational corporations for human rights violations abroad. Conservatives counter that foreign law has no role in U.S. constitutional issues and join with business groups in urging U.S. courts to restrict litigation for overseas offenses. Meanwhile, there is growing concern that international trade laws grant dispute-settlement tribunals powers so broad they can challenge U.S. court decisions and domestic laws that protect health, safety, the environment and workers' rights.

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