Renowned economist and MSNBC contributor Jeffrey Sachs saw hypocrisy in President Barack Obama’s invocation of the Iraq War during a speech criticizing Russia’s annexation of Crimea, claiming that the Iraq War was “a much more serious violation of international law” than Vladimir Putin’s land grab.
Sachs spoke with MSNBC’s Ronan Farrow about Obama’s Wednesday speech in Belgium, where he excoriated the Russian invasion and urged America’s European allies to take a firm stance against Putin’s aggression.
“The message wasn’t all that sharp and all that clear, it was a rather verbose speech,” he began. “There was a focus on international law, and it was interesting that the president said that both parties in this current dispute have violated international law.”
“Russia has pointed to America’s decision to go into Iraq,” Obama said, “as an example of Western hypocrisy. … “But even in Iraq, America sought to work within the international system. We did not claim or annex Iraq’s territory. We did not grab its resources for our own gain. Instead, we ended our war and left Iraq to its people in a fully sovereign Iraqi state that can make decisions about its own future.”
“He did point to the Iraq War,” Sachs continued. “After all, that was an unprovoked war by the United States, completely opposed inside the United Nations, without U.N. sanction. Ended up with at least 100,000 Iraqis dead. I would say a much more serious violation of international law than this.”
“I hope what comes out of this is a greater appreciation for international law,” the economist noted. “The United States has a lot of problems in that score. We have a lot of exceptionalists in the U.S. — ‘international law, forget it!’ — but then they want Putin to obey international law.”
“And it doesn’t work that way, that you get to choose and you get to dictate to the other side,” he concluded. “So either we have it or we don’t.”
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