Lies, the Bethlehem Doctrine, and the Illegal Murder of Soleimani 1155

In one of the series of blatant lies the USA has told to justify the assassination of Soleimani, Mike Pompeo said that Soleimani was killed because he was planning “Imminent attacks” on US citizens. It is a careful choice of word. Pompeo is specifically referring to the Bethlehem Doctrine of Pre-Emptive Self Defence.

Developed by Daniel Bethlehem when Legal Adviser to first Netanyahu’s government and then Blair’s, the Bethlehem Doctrine is that states have a right of “pre-emptive self-defence” against “imminent” attack. That is something most people, and most international law experts and judges, would accept. Including me.

What very few people, and almost no international lawyers, accept is the key to the Bethlehem Doctrine – that here “Imminent” – the word used so carefully by Pompeo – does not need to have its normal meanings of either “soon” or “about to happen”. An attack may be deemed “imminent”, according to the Bethlehem Doctrine, even if you know no details of it or when it might occur. So you may be assassinated by a drone or bomb strike – and the doctrine was specifically developed to justify such strikes – because of “intelligence” you are engaged in a plot, when that intelligence neither says what the plot is nor when it might occur. Or even more tenuous, because there is intelligence you have engaged in a plot before, so it is reasonable to kill you in case you do so again.

I am not inventing the Bethlehem Doctrine. It has been the formal legal justification for drone strikes and targeted assassinations by the Israeli, US and UK governments for a decade. Here it is in academic paper form, published by Bethlehem after he left government service (the form in which it is adopted by the US, UK and Israeli Governments is classified information).

So when Pompeo says attacks by Soleimani were “imminent” he is not using the word in the normal sense in the English language. It is no use asking him what, where or when these “imminent” attacks were planned to be. He is referencing the Bethlehem Doctrine under which you can kill people on the basis of a feeling that they may have been about to do something.

The idea that killing an individual who you have received information is going to attack you, but you do not know when, where or how, can be justified as self-defence, has not gained widespread acceptance – or indeed virtually any acceptance – in legal circles outside the ranks of the most extreme devoted neo-conservatives and zionists. Daniel Bethlehem became the FCO’s Chief Legal Adviser, brought in by Jack Straw, precisely because every single one of the FCO’s existing Legal Advisers believed the Iraq War to be illegal. In 2004, when the House of Commons was considering the legality of the war on Iraq, Bethlehem produced a remarkable paper for consideration which said that it was legal because the courts and existing law were wrong, a defence which has seldom succeeded in court.

following this line, I am also of the view that the wider principles of the law on self-defence also require closer scrutiny. I am not persuaded that the approach of doctrinal purity reflected in the Judgments of the International Court of Justice in this area provide a helpful edifice on which a coherent legal regime, able to address the exigencies of contemporary international life and discourage resort to unilateral action, is easily crafted;

The key was that the concept of “imminent” was to change:

The concept of what constitutes an “imminent” armed attack will develop to meet new circumstances and new threats

In the absence of a respectable international lawyer willing to argue this kind of tosh, Blair brought in Bethlehem as Chief Legal Adviser, the man who advised Netanyahu on Israel’s security wall and who was willing to say that attacking Iraq was legal on the basis of Saddam’s “imminent threat” to the UK, which proved to be non-existent. It says everything about Bethlehem’s eagerness for killing that the formulation of the Bethlehem Doctrine on extrajudicial execution by drone came after the Iraq War, and he still gave not one second’s thought to the fact that the intelligence on the “imminent threat” can be wrong. Assassinating people on the basis of faulty intelligence is not addressed by Bethlehem in setting out his doctrine. The bloodlust is strong in this one.

There are literally scores of academic articles, in every respected journal of international law, taking down the Bethlehem Doctrine for its obvious absurdities and revolting special pleading. My favourite is this one by Bethlehem’s predecessor as the FCO Chief Legal Adviser, Sir Michael Wood and his ex-Deputy Elizabeth Wilmshurst.

I addressed the Bethlehem Doctrine as part of my contribution to a book reflecting on Chomsky‘s essay “On the Responsibility of Intellectuals”

In the UK recently, the Attorney
General gave a speech in defence of the UK’s drone policy, the assassination
of people – including British nationals – abroad. This execution
without a hearing is based on several criteria, he reassured us. His
speech was repeated slavishly in the British media. In fact, the Guardian
newspaper simply republished the government press release absolutely
verbatim, and stuck a reporter’s byline at the top.
The media have no interest in a critical appraisal of the process
by which the British government regularly executes without trial. Yet
in fact it is extremely interesting. The genesis of the policy lay in the
appointment of Daniel Bethlehem as the Foreign and Commonwealth
Office’s Chief Legal Adviser. Jack Straw made the appointment, and for
the first time ever it was external, and not from the Foreign Office’s own
large team of world-renowned international lawyers. The reason for that
is not in dispute. Every single one of the FCO’s legal advisers had advised
that the invasion of Iraq was illegal, and Straw wished to find a new head
of the department more in tune with the neo-conservative world view.
Straw went to extremes. He appointed Daniel Bethlehem, the legal
‘expert’ who provided the legal advice to Benjamin Netanyahu on the
‘legality’ of building the great wall hemming in the Palestinians away
from their land and water resources. Bethlehem was an enthusiastic
proponent of the invasion of Iraq. He was also the most enthusiastic
proponent in the world of drone strikes.
Bethlehem provided an opinion on the legality of drone strikes
which is, to say the least, controversial. To give one example, Bethlehem
accepts that established principles of international law dictate that
lethal force may be used only to prevent an attack which is ‘imminent’.
Bethlehem argues that for an attack to be ‘imminent’ does not require it
to be ‘soon’. Indeed you can kill to avert an ‘imminent attack’ even if you
have no information on when and where it will be. You can instead rely
on your target’s ‘pattern of behaviour’; that is, if he has attacked before,
it is reasonable to assume he will attack again and that such an attack is
There is a much deeper problem: that the evidence against the
target is often extremely dubious. Yet even allowing the evidence to
be perfect, it is beyond me that the state can kill in such circumstances
without it being considered a death penalty imposed without trial for
past crimes, rather than to frustrate another ‘imminent’ one.
You would think that background would make an interesting
story. Yet the entire ‘serious’ British media published the government
line, without a single journalist, not one, writing about the fact that
Bethlehem’s proposed definition of ‘imminent’ has been widely rejected
by the international law community. The public knows none of this. They
just ‘know’ that drone strikes are keeping us safe from deadly attack by
terrorists, because the government says so, and nobody has attempted to
give them other information

Remember, this is not just academic argument, the Bethlehem Doctrine is the formal policy position on assassination of Israel, the US and UK governments. So that is lie one. When Pompeo says Soleimani was planning “imminent” attacks, he is using the Bethlehem definition under which “imminent” is a “concept” which means neither “soon” nor “definitely going to happen”. To twist a word that far from its normal English usage is to lie. To do so to justify killing people is obscene. That is why, if I finish up in the bottom-most pit of hell, the worst thing about the experience will be the company of Daniel Bethlehem.

Let us now move on to the next lie, which is being widely repeated, this time originated by Donald Trump, that Soleimani was responsible for the “deaths of hundreds, if not thousands, of Americans”. This lie has been parroted by everybody, Republicans and Democrats alike.

Really? Who were they? When and where? While the Bethlehem Doctrine allows you to kill somebody because they might be going to attack someone, sometime, but you don’t know who or when, there is a reasonable expectation that if you are claiming people have already been killed you should be able to say who and when.

The truth of the matter is that if you take every American killed including and since 9/11, in the resultant Middle East related wars, conflicts and terrorist acts, well over 90% of them have been killed by Sunni Muslims financed and supported out of Saudi Arabia and its gulf satellites, and less than 10% of those Americans have been killed by Shia Muslims tied to Iran.

This is a horribly inconvenient fact for US administrations which, regardless of party, are beholden to Saudi Arabia and its money. It is, the USA affirms, the Sunnis who are the allies and the Shias who are the enemy. Yet every journalist or aid worker hostage who has been horribly beheaded or otherwise executed has been murdered by a Sunni, every jihadist terrorist attack in the USA itself, including 9/11, has been exclusively Sunni, the Benghazi attack was by Sunnis, Isil are Sunni, Al Nusra are Sunni, the Taliban are Sunni and the vast majority of US troops killed in the region are killed by Sunnis.

Precisely which are these hundreds of deaths for which the Shia forces of Soleimani were responsible? Is there a list? It is of course a simple lie. Its tenuous connection with truth relates to the Pentagon’s estimate – suspiciously upped repeatedly since Iran became the designated enemy – that back during the invasion of Iraq itself, 83% of US troop deaths were at the hands of Sunni resistance and 17% of of US troop deaths were at the hands of Shia resistance, that is 603 troops. All the latter are now lain at the door of Soleimani, remarkably.

Those were US troops killed in combat during an invasion. The Iraqi Shia militias – whether Iran backed or not – had every legal right to fight the US invasion. The idea that the killing of invading American troops was somehow illegal or illegitimate is risible. Plainly the US propaganda that Soleimani was “responsible for hundreds of American deaths” is intended, as part of the justification for his murder, to give the impression he was involved in terrorism, not legitimate combat against invading forces. The idea that the US has the right to execute those who fight it when it invades is an absolutely stinking abnegation of the laws of war.

As I understand it, there is very little evidence that Soleimani had active operational command of Shia militias during the invasion, and in any case to credit him personally with every American soldier killed is plainly a nonsense. But even if Soleimani had personally supervised every combat success, these were legitimate acts of war. You cannot simply assassinate opposing generals who fought you, years after you invade.

The final, and perhaps silliest lie, is Vice President Mike Pence’s attempt to link Soleimani to 9/11. There is absolutely no link between Soleimani and 9/11, and the most strenuous efforts by the Bush regime to find evidence that would link either Iran or Iraq to 9/11 (and thus take the heat off their pals the al-Saud who were actually responsible) failed. Yes, it is true that some of the hijackers at one point transited Iran to Afghanistan. But there is zero evidence, as the 9/11 report specifically stated, that the Iranians knew what they were planning, or that Soleimani personally was involved. This is total bullshit. 9/11 was Sunni and Saudi led, nothing to do with Iran.

Soleimani actually was involved in intelligence and logistical cooperation with the United States in Afghanistan post 9/11 (the Taliban were his enemies too, the shia Tajiks being a key part of the US aligned Northern Alliance). He was in Iraq to fight ISIL.

The final aggravating factor in the Soleimani murder is that he was an accredited combatant general of a foreign state which the world – including the USA – recognises. The Bethlehem Doctrine specifically applies to “non-state actors”. Unlike all of the foregoing, this next is speculation, but I suspect that the legal argument in the Pentagon ran that Soleimani is a non-state actor when in Iraq, where the Shia militias have a semi-official status.

But that does not wash. Soleimani is a high official in Iran who was present in Iraq as a guest of the Iraqi government, to which the US government is allied. This greatly exacerbates the illegality of his assassination still further.

The political world in the UK is so cowed by the power of the neo-conservative Establishment and media, that the assassination of Soleimani is not being called out for the act of blatant illegality that it is. It was an act of state terrorism by the USA, pure and simple.


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1,155 thoughts on “Lies, the Bethlehem Doctrine, and the Illegal Murder of Soleimani

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  • Jack

    I am amazed that despite the wars past decades and the exposed propaganda, media in the west push the lies by Trump now.
    Suddenly Trump is the good guy according to the media!
    No one is even asking…Why US are in Iraq, its like they believe Iraq belongs to the US or something. Its so bizarre.
    Imagine if Iran had troops in Mexico and waged a war against the US right there.

    Democrats posture is even more ridiculous, one day they talk about impeachment and how much they hate him, next day they cheer him for this Act of war!

    US, Israel, ISIS have been attacking shia muslims and Iran, Syria, Iraq for decades.
    Iran has every legal right to defend itself and push the occupying US forces in Iraq out!

    This summer, Israel murdered atleast 47 iranians, iraqis in drone attacks, but no according to the media it is Iran that is the threat.

    • Tom Welsh

      “No one is even asking…Why US are in Iraq, its like they believe Iraq belongs to the US or something”.

      Not to mention Syria, where Trump quite recently admitted frankly that US troops would remain to protect the oil, because he wants it. And Afghanistan. It should be perfectly clear to everyone in the world by now that the US government has a world view very similar to that of the Nazis. “We own everything, we are the Uebermenschen, and everyone else is an Untermensch”. (Identical, by the way, to the Israeli view).

      What puzzles me is on what basis Americans believe they are so superior to everyone else, and that the entire world belongs to them. The Nazi theory of Aryan racial superiority was at least logical, if you granted its (completely groundless) premises. But what exactly makes an ignorant, uneducated, fat, unfit, useless American better than a clever, educated, fit, useful Iranian or Chinese or Venezuelan?

      Apparently it has something to do with their constitution – odd, since that document is honoured only in the breach and one whole branch of the US government is dedicated to subverting it.

      “Its so bizarre. Imagine if Iran had troops in Mexico and waged a war against the US right there”.

      Of course that is unimaginable because… er… can we talk about something else, please?

      • Tom Welsh

        “Apparently it has something to do with their constitution – odd, since that document is honoured only in the breach and one whole branch of the US government is dedicated to subverting it”.

        Apologies. A minute’s thought reminded me that all three branches do their bit in that useful and satisfying endeavour.

        • Tatyana

          Tom Welsh, speaking of their constitution you’ve got the point. No later than yesterday I re-read again about anti-semitism and Holocaust denial. Russian Wikipedia mentions that the US citizens are allowed to deny the Holocaust, as well as speak out positively about Nazism, because freedom of speech is protected by the first amendment to their constitution.
          I know for sure that it is true, because the USA vetoed UN resolutions prohibiting glorification of Nazism, specifically referring to the amendment.
          So you’re right, they do not lie when tell you they have right to do this or that, legally.

      • Will Tribe

        “Not to mention Syria, where Trump quite recently admitted frankly that US troops would remain to protect the oil, because he wants it.”

        I don’t think the US ‘wants’ the oil in Syria, they have plenty of oil; what they want is to prevent Syria accessing their own oil.

    • J

      No one?

      No one in MSM sure, but then they’re owned by the same industries which make a tidy profit from every messy war.

  • Frank

    Could not Soleimani have invoked The Bethlehem Doctrine? Had he murdered Trump then I’m pretty sure that we would have to look in to it.

  • zoot

    trump himself reportedly said mike pence was the dumbest guy in the senate (when asked why pence always gazed adoringly at him.)

  • Tony_0pmoc

    I normally love reading Craig Murray’s articles, as he exhibits numerous skills, but here I stopped reading, when I read this.

    ” every jihadist terrorist attack in the USA itself, including 9/11, has been exclusively Sunni.”


    • Ronnie

      it is depressing is it not, Tony

      to give in to this ridiculous lie undermines everything, as the saying goes it is THE litmus test


    • John Pretty

      Tony, I don’t understand your objection. Is it due to Craig’s citing Sunni Moslems as the culprits, or his inclusion of 9/11 here?

    • Monteverdi

      I agree Tony. It’s depressing to read this from Craig. The evidence is overwhelming against the official narrative. I can’t understand why Craig shuts his eyes to it ?

    • Laguerre

      I can’t understand what Tony’s objection is. Craig refers to jihadist terrorist attacks, i.e. by Muslims. Yes 100% of those are by Sunnis.

    • Jim

      Totally agree Tony, I feel the same.
      Craig making that statement undermines the work that he has been doing for years.
      The statement that Muslims of any kind were responsible for 9/11 is wrong on so many levels. 🙁

      • Rob Royston

        You have to remember that Craig was a Senior Diplomat at the time of 9/11. He was re-awakened by events a few years later but it may be that he can’t let go of what he was given to believe in previously.
        We, mostly all, believed the official narrative at first and only when presented with overwhelming evidence have many people changed their view.
        The official narrative is still followed by Governments and the MSM, and Sunni Muslims are part of that narrative. So Craig is right in what he says in his text as it applies to that belief by the United States government.

        • Tom Welsh

          As I often think, you can take the diplomat out of the Foreign Service but you can’t (wholly) take the Foreign Service out of the diplomat.

          • Tom Welsh

            I dodged a bullet a while back – although it missed me by several miles.

            In 1971 I applied to join the Diplomatic Service. Got to the final interview, after which I was awarded a grade of “E”. Meaning, roughly, “we wouldn’t hire you if you were the last person left alive in the Solar System”.

            Since about 1974 I have taken that as one of the nicest compliments I have ever received.

    • Dungroanin

      Bethlehem Doctrine – THAT is the main takeaway for me from this excellent piece.

      Tony et al – nice try but Blair & Straw inventing LAW?
      Nothing to say??

      Tch tch

  • pasha

    There are some small signs that the world is waking up to the reality of the American Death Machine. Even the normally craven, sycophantic Guardian is expressing contrary views.
    Silver linings and all that.

  • Tom Welsh

    “Those were US troops killed in combat during an invasion”.

    Those were US troops killed in combat during an illegal invasion which launched an unprovoked war of aggression (the supreme international crime).


    As far as I know, as the invasion of Iraq was an illegal unprovoked war of aggression, everyone who played any part in its is (or was) a criminal. American soldiers and their commanders who attacked Iraq and killed its people are guilty of war crimes including mass murder.

    Thus any Iraqi (or other friend of Iraq) who fights against American occupiers – even if he kills them – is in the right, morally and I hope legally.

    • craig Post author

      Very true Tom, but not actually relevant. Even if it had been a legal war, Iraqis would still have the right to fight the invaders.

      • Tom Welsh

        True during the initial invasion, Craig. I am sorry that, not wanting to make my already ponderous comments even longer, I do not always spell out all the implications of what I write.

        Since the Iraqi surrender, the USA has become the occupying power with all the responsibilities attaching thereto under international law. If the war had been a normal legal war, the Iraqis would have no legal excuse for attacking and killing the American occupiers. (Although the famed French Resistance ignored the legal technicality that their country had started the war, lost it, and formally surrendered, and just went on killing Germans as if they were still at war).

        But since the whole war was utterly illegal, everything stemming from it was and is a war crime. The continuing occupation is thus just as illegal as the invasion, and the Iraqi surrender changes nothing.

        The Americans, from the humblest contractor to the CINC, are fair game.

        • Paul Barbara

          @ Tom Welsh January 4, 2020 at 17:33
          The US ignored the Geneva Convention when it was the Occupying Power in Germany, and simply did what it later did with Gitmo – just changed the terminology from ‘POW’s to ‘DEF’ (‘Disarmed Enemy Forces’). They dismantled all German government institutions, stopped allowing the International Red Cross access to the POW (later DEF) camps, and refused mail, including vital food parcels, whilst placing the prisoners on starvation rations, and leaving them in the open, actually forbidding building shelters (though a very small proportion were housed in tents, these were normally in so-called ‘hospitals’ for the near-dead).
          See ‘Other Losses’ by James Bacque.
          A number of witnesses compared the US DEF camps to German death camps.
          French camps were nearly as bad, though British and Canadian camps were generally praised by ex-inmates.

          • Tom Welsh

            Thanks, Paul. I have recently acquired “Other Losses”, and mean to read it when I feel strong enough. But I am aware of its general thrust.

            It is astonishing how great the gulf is between the truth and what my parents and I were given to understand.

        • sky

          Tom, the USA has a strange habit of starting wars in reality but not legally. Has it ever declared war in decades?

          • Tom Welsh

            You are quite right, sky. Without spending a day on totting up, from memory I believe the ast time the USA declared war formally was in 1941 – against Italy and maybe Romania.

            The Congress declared war on Germany, but only after Hitler had personally declared war on the USA soon after Pearl Harbor. It’s meaningless to declare war on a country that has already declared war on you, so they obviously did it only so that they could tell future generations that “the USA declared war on Nazi Germany”.

            Since 1945 I don’t think the US government has declared war once, while it has attacked and/or invaded scores of countries. Probably 40-50, at a guess.

            It seem to me, with my naive logical way of thinking, that the USA is still at war with all of those nations. To start a war, it is not necessary to declare war – although that is “the done thing”. Certain acts are obviously acts of war – such as attacking a nation’s armed forces, invading its territory, murdering its leaders, etc.

            Isn’t it ironic that Americans got into such a lather of righteous indignation that Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor without first declaring war – yet ever since that is exactly what they have always done? (Of course the Japanese intended to declare war immediately before the attack went in, but the declaration was delayed by technical difficulties).

  • Republicofscotland

    Sounds like the Bethlehem Doctrine, gives the USA and possibly other nations carte blanche to kill at will whomever they like under the guise of self-defence.

    I wonder if the Bethlehem Doctrine is based on the Caroline Affair/Caroline Test.

  • BillyB

    Craig, I don’t agree with everything you write but in this case you have absolutely nailed it. I was waiting to see if you would post on this topic and when you did, I was not disappointed. Respect, Sir.

  • Republicofscotland

    I wonder if the coalition that invaded Iraq and Syria, to “remove ISIL employed the Bethlehem Doctrine using Article 51 of the UN Charter to give it legitimacy.

    If so its ironic that ISIL or IS in Syria and Mosul in Iraq, were said to be Western proxy fighters.

    • Tom Welsh

      That’s why they created, funded, supplied, armed, advised, gave intelligence to and commanded ISIS. To give them an excuse to invade an otherwise independent sovereign nation. Just another false flag, on a rather larger scale. It’s perfect. If the USA wipes out the terrorists, they get credit for that. If they don’t, the terrorists give them an excuse to invade and do whatever they like. Even if someone else wipes out the terrorists, the USA has lost nothing but money – and they can always print a few more tons of that.

      It’s like the old gag about a man who claims to have seen a dangerous insect on someone else’s head to give him a tremendous slap.

    • Republicofscotland

      Re my above comment.

      “In their letters to the UN Security Council notifying the exercise of self‑defence in relation to the use of force in Syria (as required by Article 51 of the Charter), Australia, the United States, Canada, Turkey, and the United Kingdom all cited the individual or collective right of self‑defence to respond to imminent armed attacks, or threats of armed attacks, from ISIL.”

      The UN Security Council passed Resolution 1368, which implicitly affirmed the right of self‑defence against non‑State actors for the first time.

  • Tom Welsh

    “The idea that the US has the right to execute those who fight it when it invades is an absolutely stinking abnegation of the laws of war”.

    And yet that is exactly what they assert, every day. “We don’t need no steenkin’ law”.

    • Tom Welsh

      Now of course those who ordered and commanded the US unprovoked war of aggression are legally responsible for not hundreds, not thousands, but literally millions of Iraqi deaths.

      Not to mention the million or more Iranians who died in the unprovoked war of aggression launched against them by Saddam Hussein, with encouragement, funding, intelligence and poison gas from the US government.

      As Noam Chomsky has remarked (and documented in his usual scholarly way), if the Nuremberg Principles were taken seriously, every single US president since (and including) FDR would have been hanged. Together with thousands of their subordinates who willingly carried out their savagely inhuman orders.

  • Jeremy Smith

    just googled ‘Bethlehem Doctrine’ in the news vertical and even with a 1 week filter there are zero results for this term relating to the Suleimani attack. That in itself says an awful lot about where we are.

  • fedup

    “The final, and perhaps silliest lie, is Vice President Mike Pence’s attempt”

    “Of 10 of the 12 …..”
    This idiot does not know how to count either, the number of terrorists were 19 and not 12! For a man who does his thinking with his elbow and wades in to support the moronic acts of madmen silly is far too weak.

    • N_

      Mike Pence is a born-again evangelical Christian and the idea of 12 operatives with 1 further person behind the scenes hooks with ideas that are in many heads.

      Donald Trump too is playing a numbers game, saying that the US is ready to strike 52 targets in Iran, a number he says was chosen because that’s the number of US prisoners (“hostages”) who were held in Iran in 1979-80.

      • Jo Dominich

        Therefore, ,I assume, Iraq can bomb x number of sites in the USA for all the people that were tortured in AbuGraid camp and who died, for the people held and tortured and died in Quantanamo and so on and so forth. The list on the USA side far outnumbers 52 hostages taken by Iran.

  • Clark

    Thank you Craig. It is striking that neoconservatives ally with the worst enemies of the West, namely Saudi Arabia, the jihadists they inspire, and Israel. It is even more striking that due to corporate media coverage, most of the western population never notice.

    • Tom Welsh

      I call it the Axis of Fundamentalism.

      Wahhabi fundamentalism, Jewish fundamentalism, and financial fundamentalism – the most amoral of all.

      • Robyn

        You can’t exclude the Christian fundamentalists. Chris Hedges, in an article entitled, ‘Onward, Christian Fascists’ (30/12/19), examines the rise of the Christian right in the US and its departure from what Hedges sees as the core Gospel message. He states that, ‘Trump has filled his own ideological void with Christian fascism. He has elevated members of the Christian right to prominent positions …’ and goes on to list the positions, their encumbents and their ‘achievements’. Well worth a read.

        • Tom Welsh

          Of course the Christian fundamentalists overlap substantially with the worshippers of Mammon. Their systematic violation of all the principles of Christianity would not be complete if they did not reverse Christ’s warnings about the impossibility of the wealthy entering Heaven.

  • Tom Welsh

    “You cannot simply assassinate opposing generals who fought you, years after you invade”.

    As a normative moral statement, very true and we would all concur.

    As a statement of fact, quite wrong. They can and they do assassinate not only people who fought them but even journalists who were thinking about writing about some of their minor misdeeds – such as heroin smuggling or attempts to murder foreign leaders.

    Luckily they are hilariously incompetent. It’s like the Gestapo meeting the Keystone Cops. A nice trivia question: how many times did the US government try to kill Fidel Castro alone? And yet he lived to 90!

  • N_

    David Bethlehem’s doctrine would permit the obliteration of the US drone bases in Kuwait, Qatar, and the UAE, then, even if no drones involved in the assassination of Qassem Soleimani flew from any of those bases.

    • Tom Welsh

      All of which would be easily within the power of the Iranians should they so wish. Those bases are not centres of power, but hostages.

  • Goose

    The US post-strike justification is aimed at purely a domestic audience. The level of ignorance in the US, even among top politicians is truly astounding. Soleimani was no saint, but there are far worse players in the region, many of whom the US are cuddling up to. And who are the US to talk about ‘bloody hands’in the ME?

    It’s also true, as you point out that Sunni terrorism has in recent times, been far more prevalent, brutal, and more of a threat to the west, than anything emerging from (Shia Islam) Iran. Silly US TV shows like NCIS have increasingly featured Shia and Palestinian terror cell plotlines, as if the writers of these shows are trying to make up for this inconvenient discrepancy. Hezbollah were only classified as they were, because of Israeli lobbying in the US and then UK, for them to be put on the banned list. In Lebanon they’re seen as a respected defence force who pose a threat only to Israeli incursions and not much else.

  • Jack

    Another Israel connection, or jewish if you want.
    Its like pre- the Iraq-war with israeli lobby pushing for war..

    “Richard Goldberg, an extreme Iran hawk, has remained on the payroll of the Foundation for Defense of Democracy (FDD) while serving on the National Security Counsel
    FDD, if you aren’t familiar, is the most prominent organization promoting war with Iran”

  • Pb

    “This is total bullshit. 9/11 was Sunni and Saudi led, nothing to do with Iran.”

    Some of us believe, because of evidence, that 911 was US / Israeli led.

    • Jeremy Smith

      There have regularly been attempts to link the Lockerbie bombing to Iran. I’m not sure there has been a single terrorist attack on western oil coming from Iran or one of it’s sponsors in the last 20+ years yet Iran still gets roped in to the usual Axis of Evil of headlines.

    • Andyoldlabour


      What is this evidence you speak about. Put up or shut up.
      Craig is right, 100% of terrorist attacks against the West and in Russia have been carried out by Sunni Muslims.

  • Phil Espin

    Great post Craig. Has anyone subject to criminal prosecution had any success in invoking the Bethlehem doctrine in a court of law, anywhere? It will be interesting to see if anyone involved in assassinating US generals/politicians puts forward this defence. Or is it only applicable to “exceptionals”?

    • Paul Barbara

      @ Phil Espin January 4, 2020 at 18:26
      Also, they almost never provide evidence, like in Sadam’s alleged WMD and Assad’s alleged CW attacks, blaming Iran for the Saudi oil terminal attack (though the Houthis took the credit), Skripals etc.
      So all they need to do is pretend they thought they were going to be attacked. Carte blanche to murder at will; the U.S. = Murder Incorporated.

  • Tom Welsh

    “I suspect that the legal argument in the Pentagon ran that Soleimani is a non-state actor when in Iraq, where the Shia militias have a semi-official status”.

    That would imply that all US government officials become non-state actors as soon as they leave US territory, and thus fall under the Bethlehem Doctrine.

    A highly satisfactory conclusion.

  • Republicofscotland

    Of course, international law is capable of, and must be permitted to, evolve in light of the development of State practice and changing circumstances. International legal principles need to be interpreted in light of contemporary
    challenges. And customary international law is sufficiently flexible to allow this to occur.

    The above is probably the way that was used to to get around to justifying pre-emptive strikes on individuals.

    • Tom Welsh

      I think of it more as the latest manifestation of the perennial Melian Dialogue doctrine, first enunciated (according to Thucydides) about 2,500 years ago, which has always been and still remains the only law of international relations.

      Athenians: “For ourselves, we shall not trouble you with specious pretences – either of how we have a right to our empire because we overthrew the Mede, or are now attacking you because of wrong that you have done us – and make a long speech which would not be believed; and in return we hope that you, instead of thinking to influence us by saying that you did not join the Lacedaemonians, although their colonists, or that you have done us no wrong, will aim at what is feasible, holding in view the real sentiments of us both; since you know as well as we do that right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must”…

    • John Pretty

      I’m not sure I’m following your line of argument here. Are you saying there is a difference between “international law” and what you refer to as “customary” international law?

      The problem as I see it with “international law” is that is is very difficult (if not impossible) to enforce. It relies upon advanced and powerful countries leading by example and adhering to it. Something which the United States refuses to do.

  • Goose

    Today’s tabloid hyping of the supposed Iranian terror threats to UK cities, is another depressing sign we’re being conditioned for an upcoming war of choice. In the build up to the Iraq war, the Mail and Sun ran similar lurid headlines; most famously, the now palpably ludicrous claim Saddam Hussein could deploy weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes of an order to use them. The Mail featured graphic arist presentations showing Iraqi drones flying over British cities unleashing deadly, noxious payloads.

    The war profiteering elites don’t care a jot about the sanctity of human life, do they?

    • Tom Welsh

      The Iranians are a lot more subtle than that. I imagine their idea of revenge against the UK might be to help Boris Johnson remain in power for as long as possible.

      That would be both gratifying and funny.

      • John Pretty

        “That would be both gratifying and funny.”

        Not for those of us that live in the UK Tom.

        You do know that Johnson has plans to tighten secrecy laws and revamp the ancient law on treason? if Johnson gets his way I fear there may be many more journalists imprisoned here in addition to Julian Assange, especially ones failing to toe the mainstream media lines. And not only journalists – anyone they can argue is threatening the security state.

        • Tom Welsh

          I live in the UK. But I don’t really think who is PM makes a lot of difference. Same as in the US.

      • Goose


        The point I was making though, is more one of how those that pose no threat (Iran)can be presented as a deadly threat. Iran is already being presented as likely to carry out terror attacks in the west against innocent civilians as acts of reprisal – that would out of character, therefore highly unlikely. But that doesn’t matter to those pushing the scare stories, their aim is to make people fear Iran.

        Look how Corbyn was turned into this great threat to the UK’s Jewish communities, this despite him being one of the most peace-loving, mild-mannered individuals in parliament.

      • Brianfujisan


        Priceless Tom.. But with Tears for Fears…

        Scotland needs rid of War mongering Westminster… Indy NOW.

        • Jack

          Read that UK spy plane was flying in the region some hours ago. Boris is part of the escalation?

        • John Pretty

          Care to explain Brain? I seem to misread Mr Welsh’s humour. Thank you 🙂

          BTW, what was your reference about with regard to Native American’s the other day?

          “I have Native American Friends From the Nez Percé, Nation”

          I was given a book to read on the genocide of the Native Americans (is saying “American Indians” wrong?) a few years ago by a friend. I don’t remember the title of it (I must ask her) but it was a real eye opener for me as one of many brought up on American “Cowboys and Indians” propaganda. 🙂

  • SA

    The Bethlehem doctrine appears to be an example of sophistry practiced by states that have the power to get away with murder because they can face no challenge. I guess in old times it used to be called the rule of the jungle.

    • Tom Welsh

      Exactly. As enunciated in my previous comment about the Melian Dialogue.

      “…[Y]ou know as well as we do that right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must…”

      When the Melians refused to surrender, the Athenians (after a brief siege) killed all the men of military age (15-16 and over) and sold all the women and children into slavery.

      The world’s first major democracy behaved in a remarkably similar way to today’s major “democracy”.

      • Jen

        Here is an opportunity for known classics enthusiast Boris Johnson to re-read Thucydides’ history of the Peloponnesian War and actually learn something from it if he thinks that Britain and the US are the modern Athens and the Delian empire.

        • Tom Welsh

          I would say that the USA (today) and Britain (in the 19th century) are very analogous to classical Athens. Whereas Sparta – in its external relations only – is rather like Russia.

          At the risk of being tedious, here are some highly relevant extracts. Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.


          The Athenians are addicted to innovation, and their designs are characterized by swiftness alike in conception and execution; you [the Spartans] have a genius for keeping what you have got, accompanied by a total want of invention, and when forced to act you never go far enough. Again, they are adventurous beyond their power, and daring beyond their judgment, and in danger they are sanguine; your wont is to attempt less than is justified by your power, to mistrust even what is sanctioned by your judgment, and to fancy that from danger there is no release. Further, there is promptitude on their side against procrastination on yours; they are never at home, you are never from it: for they hope by their absence to extend their acquisitions, you fear by your advance to endanger what you have left behind. They are swift to follow up a success, and slow to recoil from a reverse. Their bodies they spend ungrudgingly in their country’s cause; their intellect they jealously husband to be employed in her service. A scheme unexecuted is with them a positive loss, a successful enterprise a comparative failure. The deficiency created by the miscarriage of an undertaking is soon filled up by fresh hopes; for they alone are enabled to call a thing hoped for a thing got, by the speed with which they act upon their resolutions. Thus they toil on in trouble and danger all the days of their life, with little opportunity for enjoying, being ever engaged in getting: their only idea of a holiday is to do what the occasion demands, and to them laborious occupation is less of a misfortune than the peace of a quiet life. To describe their character in a word, one might truly say that they were born into the world to take no rest themselves and to give none to others.
          – Speech of the Corinthian spokesman, Thucydides “Peloponnesian War”, Book III

          Words had to change their ordinary meaning and to take that which was now given them. Reckless audacity came to be considered the courage of a loyal ally; prudent hesitation, specious cowardice; moderation was held to be a cloak for unmanliness; ability to see all sides of a question, inaptness to act on any. Frantic violence became the attribute of manliness; cautious plotting, a justifiable means of self-defence. The advocate of extreme measures was always trustworthy; his opponent a man to be suspected. To succeed in a plot was to have a shrewd head, to divine a plot a still shrewder; but to try to provide against having to do either was to break up your party and to be afraid of your adversaries.
          – Thucydides “Peloponnesian War”, Book III, 3.82-[4]

          Oaths of reconciliation, being only proffered on either side to meet an immediate difficulty, only held good so long as no other weapon was at hand; but when opportunity offered, he who first ventured to seize it and to take his enemy off his guard, thought this perfidious vengeance sweeter than an open one, since, considerations of safety apart, success by treachery won him the palm of superior intelligence. Indeed it is generally the case that men are readier to call rogues clever than simpletons honest, and are as ashamed of being the second as they are proud of being the first.
          – Thucydides “Peloponnesian War”, Book III, 3.82-[4]

  • Vivian O'Blivion

    An excellent and informative article. It would form a good basis for the SNP’s Westminster contingent to “make a nuisance of themselves” when Parliament resumes (particularly with Stephen Gethins out of the picture). Will the fatuous 44 seek to make a nuisance of themselves or will they toe the Neocon line as per Salisbury?

  • Goose

    I don’t think Boris Johnson is so stupid as to recklessly drift the UK into a war with Iran alongside the US. Beyond the obvious logistical difficulties and likely huge costs, in both blood and treasure; factor in Trump’s unpredictability as commander in chief. The fact Tony Blair’s name will forever be linked with the death and carnage in Iraq must weigh heavy on British PMs too. Blair got away with it because a complicit political establishment closed ranks. It’s not certain such leniency would be forthcoming for another debacle.

    Johnson’s silence is deafening. There have been complaints from the US already about the lack of vocal support from France, Germany and UK after this assassination.

    • Brianfujisan


      If he is Stupid Enough to Lie re the Eu Ref, ( and much Else ) He is Stupid enough to Obey his U.S Masters ..Who Ever they are…Dark State.. Deep State.

      It’s Suddenly A very Bad Time to Have Nukes on My River.

    • Giyane

      Johnson has to please his zionist masters. Israel will have to settle for taking out Iranian generals because an attack on Iran would lead to nuclear war between the superpowers. The Oaf has not been placed fraudulently in power except as a means of extending Israeli domination of the Middle East, exactly like Trump.

      Frankly the BBC have wrecked his image by imitating his bumbling voice . Their job was to put him in power and then to weaken him completely. Mrs May had authority Johnson is a fake.

      Imho there is a financial catastrophe looming because the West’ s strategy of burning oil and slashing the countries that have oil is the stupidest plan on earth. This government cannot imagine a world economy different from colonial theft.

      The very cheek of Iran fighting back against western folly and tyranny has given USUkIS the jitters. It wasn’t morally right to attack Iraq. Now it has proved to be ecologically stupid as well.

      This is what happens when the interests of zionism is served exclusively at the expense of all other problems.
      Foaming right wing madness.

    • John Pretty

      “I don’t think Boris Johnson is so stupid as to recklessly drift the UK into a war with Iran alongside the US.”

      – Oh, I do.

      • Brianfujisan

        John..I Seen your Comment @
        January 4, 2020 at 19:43

        Yes I have Native American Friends..- or First Nation.

        I had a recent communication –

        ” The medallion I made you represents your passion in the flame feathers. Red for your love, passion, strength & heart. Orange and yellow the sunrise & sunsets that you have experienced every day of your life. Blue for the compassion in your soul, Spiritual guidance and wisdom. ”

        Kind Regards Brian

      • Tom Welsh

        Luckily the UK entirely lacks the means to fight a war against Iran. Its navy is far superior to the UK one, and it can destroy any UK aircraft or missiles. As for the British army, the less said the better.

    • Jo Dominich

      Goose, Johnson has no interest whatsoever in the UK, in what it needs domestically to become a functioning economy again he is only interested in power, power, power and as a tool to showcase what he considers to be his ‘wit’ (as evidence by his recent statements in the Commons such as “lets turn the oven to dial 4” as regards the EU Withdrawal negotiations. This shows an utter lack of interest in democracy, parliament and justice. He will drag us into this you can bet. And yes, he is totally stupid, utterly bereft of any capability of rational thought about this Country, War and the USA. He is a pathological coward, a narcissist and morally and intellectually unfit for Office. This is his dream opportunity to firstly, demonstrate his unquestioning support for Trump and the USA and he won’t even blink. Note, the news states UK has sent British Warships to the region to ‘protect its ships’. Doublespeak for “we have sent Warships to the region to help the USA invade Iran or carry out more strikes on Iran. Remember the UK seizure of the Iranian Oil Tanker at the request of the USA. Raab as Foreign Secretary hasn’t got an ounce of intelligence. He’ll just follow the USA blindly and without question.

      Johnson, Cummings and Raab are stupid, really stupid. They are incapable of proper rational thought or dialogue.

  • Giyane

    For every actual death committed by Sunnis doing the Genghis Khan strategy of terror, thousands of others are cowed into submission. The only people Iran terrorises is terrorists.

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