Magazine Feature

Iraq war critic speaks at Sturm College of Law

Examine the United States’ foreign policy since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, as a lawyer, and the fissures between action and the standards of international law are apparent, according to an expert in global and international studies.

Richard Falk, Princeton University professor emeritus of international law, currently visiting at the University of California, Santa Barbara, addressed lawyers, law students, professors and friends of DU’s Sturm College of Law on April 24 to share his views in a lecture titled “Lawyers v. Law After 9/11.”

Falk, author of The Great Terror War (Olive Branch Press, 2003), spoke at the 2008 International Law Banquet hosted by Sturm’s Ved Nanda Center for International and Comparative Law.

As he dissected U.S. actions, the international response and the context of the war on terror, Falk said some justification can be made in the court of international opinion for the invasion of Afghanistan, but difficulties arise in defending the invasion of Iraq, which took place without United Nations approval.

The Bush Administration’s decision to argue that the Sept. 11 attacks were so outside the norm that they allowed the U.S. to overstep standards of international law damaged U.S. credibility, Falk said.

“Adherence to the rule of law leads to basically successful foreign policy, and the abandonment of the rule of law leads to the failure of foreign policy,” Falk argued.

Citing examples of wars where countries skirted international consensus, such as the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan or the U.S. conflicts in Vietnam and Iraq (twice), Falk said unilateral military action leads to bad outcomes.

“The results are very bad,” he said. “Aggression doesn’t work well in the world as it’s now structured.”

Falk credited DU for establishing the Nanda Center.

“I’m so impressed at the way in which this international law program has developed at this university,” he said. “We need a citizenry that is sensitive to the importance of accepting the restraints of law.”

Also at the banquet, DU’s Denver Journal of International Law and Policy recognized attorney Gilbert Porter (JD ’77) with the Alumni Excellence Award, citing his continuing commitment to the development of international law.

And Nanda and friends paid special tribute to longtime Denver attorney Earl Hauck (JD ’67), a supporter of DU’s International Legal Studies Program and the Nanda Center. Hauck died March 29 after decades of service to the community.

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