Harkening back to the tribunal on Vietnam once convened by Bertrand Russell and Jean-Paul Sartre, the World Tribunal on Iraq (WTI) emerged in 2003 from the global antiwar movement that had mobilized against the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq by a US-led coalition. This decentralized, transnational network of antiwar activists attempted to document and give grounds for the prosecution of war crimes committed by the allied forces. Ayça Çubukçu
's For the Love of Humanity: The World Tribunal on Iraq
(University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018) is a remarkable investigation of the WTI, combining extensive ethnographic fieldwork with close readings of political and legal theory. Çubukçu provides on the ground accounts of the debates and discussions within the WTI, reading them with and as examples of political philosophy in action. The book engages with urgent questions about the challenges and potentials of horizontal, network forms of political action, transnational politics across differences, and perhaps most fundamentally, with the challenges any anti-imperialist politics faces today. Through her careful, incisive analysis, Çubukçu convincingly shows that the language of law and global human rights was not merely cynically appropriated by those who pushed for the war on Iraq. Instead, in complex ways, the ideals of international law and human rights underwrote both the arguments for the war in Iraq and the anti-war praxis of the WTI. The book thus complicates any attempt to, as the author puts it, simply counterpose “law’s empire” with “empire’s law”, raising critical questions about the relationship between law, human rights, imperialism, and cosmopolitanism. Required reading for those interested in the contradictions of imperialism and anti-imperialism today, Çubukçu's study attests to the promise and peril captured in the phrase “the love of humanity”.
Kamran Moshref is a PhD candidate in Political Science at The Graduate Center, CUNY. He is a Graduate Fellow at the Center for Global Ethics and Politics at the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies at the Graduate Center, which co-sponsors the podcast.