Four score and seven years ago many nations brought forth on many continents a pact that made war illegal.
The Kellogg-Briand Pact was signed on Aug. 27, 1928, by 15 Nations, ratified by the U.S. Senate the following year with a single dissenting vote, signed by President Calvin Coolidge in January of 1929, and on July 24, 1929, President Hoover “caused the said Treaty to be made public, to the end that the same and every article and clause thereof may be observed and fulfilled with good faith by the United States and the citizens thereof.”
Thus, the pact became a treaty and therefore the law of the land.
The treaty established the important point that only wars of aggression – not military acts of self-defense – would be covered.
In the final version of the pact, the participating nations agreed upon two clauses: the first outlawed war as an instrument of national policy and the second called upon signatories to settle their disputes by peaceful means.
Ultimately 67 nations signed on. Among the countries were: Italy, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, France, Russia and China.
Clearly, since the mid-1930s a number of nations have managed to overlook this section of their law.
As of this writing, the negotiations between the 5 plus 1 (Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States plus Germany) and Iran to ensure a peaceful nuclear program represents a significant departure from the practice of exercising military might as the means for resolving difficult differences. It is noteworthy that all the nations comprising the 5 plus 1 were signatories to the Kellogg-Briand Pact.
The rule of law is often cited as an indicator of American “exceptionalism.” Have we so forgotten that the Kellogg-Briand treaty calls for the “renunciation of war as an instrument of foreign policy?”
In the past few years the United States has violated this treaty with impunity – Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, Syria, Libya, et. al.
It is in this context that the Albuquerque Chapter of Veterans for Peace is hosting a press conference and reception to highlight this breech of law, to bring this matter to the attention of the residents of Albuquerque, and to request a rededication to the principles of non-violence and diplomacy as paths to the resolution of international conflict.
The conduct of war has direct consequences for the citizens of Albuquerque, as it does for peoples around the world. It drains and squanders precious resources which otherwise would be available for education, health care, housing, infrastructure – all of which would enhance the quality of life and economic standing of New Mexicans. War also is a drain on our manpower and creates lifetime disabilities for our veterans.
As a nation we must speak out in opposition to aggression as the means for settling differences. The United States has a long history of being aggressive and in many ways this defines our national culture, not only on an international scale, but also on the domestic front, e.g., criminal and gang violence, school bullying, domestic violence, police violence.
Learn more about the Kellogg-Briand treaty and a non-violent approach to international differences at the Albuquerque Mennonite Church, 1300 Girard Blvd. at 1 p.m. today.
Now is the time to rededicate and reconsecrate our commitment to peace.