Are a nations embassies sovereign soil?

posted in: Life, Rants & Raves | 9

Burning EmbassyAre American (or any other nation’s) embassies sovereign soil?  The short answer, is no.  An embassy is not sovereign soil of the represented country, the property belongs to the host country (I did not know this until writing this article).  With the latest attacks upon our embassies in Egypt and Libya; there have been outcries that “America has been attacked!”  All I can say is; cool your jets there easy rider, cool your jets.  There has been a lot of saber rattling, but America has NOT been attacked.  Is it deplorable – yes.  The attack on our embassies is a violation of of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. As such; the host nation should be held liable.  The host nation is responsible for the safety of the represented nations diplomats.

Article 22 states that the premises of a diplomatic mission, such as an embassy, are inviolate and must not be entered by the host country except by permission of the head of the mission. Furthermore, the host country must protect the mission from intrusion or damage. The host country must never search the premises, nor seize its documents or property.  Article 30 extends this provision to the private residence of the diplomats.

Diplomatic missions are special, and they hold a special status; both in the represented country and in the host country.  There have been arguments that Ms. Clinton “apologized” for our country.  I’ve read what she said, and I don’t feel it was an apology; she simply stated that the government didn’t endorse the movie; and that America is the home of many religions, including Muslims.  She is a diplomat, and the whole function of a diplomat is to keep a cool head, and get along with everyone.  She did not apologize for the movie; she stated she didn’t like it personally and that our country has a long tradition of (and the Bill of Rights guaranties) free speech.  Violence to that free speech is unacceptable.

I know, I know….if the embassies are not sovereign soil; why are there US Marines stationed at embassies?  As I stated earlier, this has been a learning environment for me also, the Marines are there to…

The primary mission of the Marine Security Guard (MSG) is to provide internal security at designated US diplomatic and consular facilities in order to prevent the compromise of classified material vital to the national security of the United States. The secondary mission of the MSG is to provide protection for US citizens and US government property located within designated US diplomatic and consular premises during exigent circumstances

During World War II, the Nazis, yes, even the Nazis respect(ed) the diplomatic corps. It appears to me, that only in one part of the world are diplomats under threat; and these are from governments of “Theocracies” where there is state sponsored religion.  Once again proving the wisdom of our founders to separate functions of government from practices of religion. There is a good article in Al Arabiya (English version of Saudi paper) that reviews the history of storming embassies.  Since 1829, there have been 28 attacks on US embassies; more than twice that of the next highest country (France-10).

Our country prides itself on free speech, it is one of our founding liberties.  Did movie maker have a “right” to produce that movie, you bet.  In this country; everything gets ridiculed, my religion included; but that doesn’t give anyone the right to destroy property or murder someone just because they represent the offender’s (the person that is offended) country.  That is murder, no matter what religion (or not) you subscribe too – Islam included.  It appears to me, that the people of Islam are a hyper-sensitive bunch, and are (contrary to their stated positions) not a tolerant bunch.  To me, they have more in common with my daughter when she was 5 – she threw a temper tantrum whenever something happened that displeased her.  She grew out of it – when will Islam?

I’m of the opinion that anyone has the “right” to say whatever they want; as long as it doesn’t harm another human being.  What harm did the movie do?  So it made an Islamist angry; put on your big boy pants and get over it. Just because “you” get riled up doesn’t give you cart blanch to violate others’ rights (life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness).  And as far as the host country goes, get your people under control.

A listing of attacks upon US Embassies:
1964- Libreville, Gabon
1968- Saigon, South Vietnam
1979- Tehran, Iran – Iran hostage crisis
1979- Islamabad, Pakistan
1979- Tripoli, Libya
1983- Beirut, Lebanon
1983- Kuwait City, Kuwait
1986- Jakarta, Indonesia
1987- Italy Rome, Italy
1990- Tel Aviv, Israel
1998- Nairobi, Kenya
1998-Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
1999- China Beijing, People’s Republic of China
2002- Karachi, Pakistan
2004- Tashkent, Uzbekistan
2004- Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
2006- Syria Damascus, Syria
2007- Greece Athens, Greece
2007- Austria Vienna, Austria
2008- Turkey Istanbul, Turkey
2008- Yemen San‘a’, Yemen
2008- Serbia Belgrade, Serbia
2011- Syria Damascus, Syria
2011- Afghanistan Kabul, Afghanistan
2011- Bosnia and Herzegovina Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
2012- Attack on the American Embassy in Cairo, Egypt
2012- Attack on the American Consulate in Benghazi, Libya
2012- Yemen Sanaa, Yemen

Just some food for thought…most of the attacks have been in the middle east. What say you?  Have issues with what I say; beat me up with facts.


9 Responses

  1. It would be illustrative to provide a comparable list of Western meddling in the Middle East, from the Treaty of Sevres to the Palestinian Mandate to the CIA/MI6 coup that installed the Shah by ousting Mossadeq, to the creation of artificial countries like Iraq at the expense of ethnicities such as the Kurds.

    I know the media and our one party (i.e. war party) system have ingrained in us the caricature of the “crazy Arab”, but a thoughtful consideration of the history of the region will provide an understanding of the context of these retributive attacks on US/Western interests. Understanding, not justification.

  2. Jimbo Slice

    So how much do we spend in foreign aid? Less than 1/2 of 1 percent of our budget. It’s a drop in the bucket so to speak. Knowledge is power including at the diplomatic level. If this was an attack it tells me we need to power up our intel. Take five billion from defense and put 1/2 into intellegence and 1/2 in foreign farm programs, education and humanairatarian projects.

    • Jimbo; very valid point about how much of our budget is foreign aid. I do not know the numbers off-hand. Bet we definitely need to bulk up our intel. Regarding the foreign farm programs; ever heard of Kiva? It is a pretty cool place to make “micro” loans.

  3. Dan (aka “Garbage Writer”),

    Good for you for doing some research and challenging a media assumption, and for trying to get others to think. I found this to be very interesting. You raise some very good points, although I’d like to see some more sources for your conclusion (which seems to be correct, but just not thoroughly credited) that an embassy is not that country’s “sovereign soil”. I think you’re on to something.

    It seems to me, though, that it’s more a matter of semantics and playing loose with language (again, typical of media today). The reason I say that is, in your link to the State Department’s “Discover Diplomacy” site, they specifically state, “Because an embassy represents a sovereign state, any attack on an embassy is considered an attack on the country it represents. ” So no, it does not appear to be “sovereign soil”, but an attack is certainly considered an attack on the embassy’s country.

    Having said all that, I do believe that if we were not the self-appointed police of the world, we would not have so many attacks on our embassies. Which leads me to Dad’s question, “Why do we insist upon sending Billions to the mid-east countries?”

    Why not? How else are we to control the world? That IS our job, isn’t it? We must buy favors from our pet dictators in order to have access to all that oil that we won’t allow ourselves to get right here. We must have all that power and show the world who’s REALLY in charge! (All said tongue-in-cheek.)

    And incidentally, there are very, VERY few countries to whom we do not provide foreign aid. You’re right about Japan; they are one of them, although we may be helping them now after the earthquake & nuclear disaster. But according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Statistical Abstract, we do send your and my money to Korea, Vietnam and of course Israel. I’m with you – we should cut off all foreign aid to everyone, and here’s an idea… just let us keep it!

    (What am I, hallucinating?)

    Cheers!

    • @ Sweendog: Great feedback. Thought provoking and and well thought out. I appreciate all the feedback that I have received.

  4. This is an excellent opportunity for our government to stop all foreign aid to those countries that really do not like us. Why do we insist upon sending Billions to the mid-east countries? Other countries such as Japan, Korea and Viet Nam, are doing okay without our aid. Even Israel . We need those funds to build up our own country. Highways, airports, trains, as well as development of oil and gas exploration and storage.

  5. Zach, I write to generate discussion; so I’m pleased to have one. Just for the record, I wrote this “garbage”.

    I stand by my point of view– US embassies are not sovereign soil. The embassy REPRESENTS a sovereign nation; but are not themselves US soil. As stated by the US State Department.
    Zach, I will give you this however; since the embassy represents a sovereign nation; an attack on an embassy could be considered an attack on the represented nation. And as such; the case could be made that America has been attacked. I think the bigger question is: should we go to (another) war over… a movie? We have bigger things to worry about. Another question, where were the host nation’s security forces that are obliged to protect our diplomatic establishments; and why didn’t they stop the attacks?

    @ Zack and Evart–Thanks for the discussion! I enjoy it and look forward to continued sharing of ideas and points of view.

  6. Who in the hell wrote this garbage? Of course embassies are sovereign soil. A formber Amb. to Canada says so. I’ll take his word over yours.

    http://www.abccolumbia.com/news/local/Ambassador-Wilkins–Its-a-pretty-graphic-reminder-the-war-on-terror-isnt-over–169534866.html

  7. Found you on a Google search. Excellent article Dan. I have seen this “attack on U.S. soil” meme all over the news and it was really bothering me. Thanks for clearing things up. May cooler heads always prevail.

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