Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Monday, October 24, 2005
The New York Times reports in tomorrow's edition that Vice President Dick Cheney and CIA Director Porter Goss met with Senator John McCain last Thursday in an effort to get McCain to support language in the defense appropriations bill that would let the CIA do it. What, you ask, is it? Torture detainees, of course.
After the Senate passed the McCain amendment to bar the abuse of detainees (by a 90-9 vote) almost three weeks ago, the Bush Administration began lobbying Congress to preserve the ability of officials of the United States government to use torture as a means of interrogating suspected terrorists. Now it appears that effort has come to include a direct appeal from the Vice President to Senator McCain asking McCain to amend his own amendment so that at least the CIA could continue to torture prisoners.
McCain told Cheney and Goss no.
There was a time, believe it or not, when American presidents--both Republicans and Democrats--uniformly condemned torture. Now we have a president who is threatening to veto the defense appropriations bill if an amendment banning torture or one mandating an independent commission to investigate the torture of detainees is attached.
God have mercy.
Today marks the sixtieth anniversary of the entry into force of the Charter of the United Nations. At a time when considerable attention is being devoted to the future of the U.N. (Ambassador Bolton floated the idea before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week of shifting from a system of mandatory assessments--dues--to a system of voluntary contributions to finance the Organization), I want to offer a few observations about the history of the Charter.
The majority of the work of drafting the Charter occurred prior to the conclusion of World War II. In fact, most of the preparatory work was done at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, D.C. during the fall of 1944. The Covenant of the League of Nations, on the contrary, was drafted entirely after the armistice ending World War I had been signed. More importantly, work on the Charter was almost completely dissociated from the diplomatic process of concluding World War II. In contrast, at Versailles in 1919, peace negotiations and negotiations for the creation of the League proceeded hand in hand and the League Covenant, in the end, was embedded in the three treaties of peace proffered to the Central Powers.
One reason work on the Charter was begun rather early was the tenuous nature of the war-time alliance. Significant differences of opinion among the American, British, and Soviet governments were apparent well before Germany's surrender. As Inis Claude noted in Swords Into Plowshares: The Problems and Progress of International Organization (4th ed., p. 65), "If the grand alliance for war was to be preserved as a grand alliance for peace, it seemed that there was no time to be lost."
Having secured agreement from the Allies on the basic outlines of the new United Nations Organization by mid-October 1944, the U.S. State Department was in a position to make an early push to gain public support for the Charter that would be signed at San Francisco on June 26, 1945. Almost two million copies of the Dumbarton Oaks proposals were distributed in the United States by the State Department. Speakers were sent all over the country to address civic groups and radio audiences in an effort to explain the proposed U.N. Again, the contrast with the League experience is instructive. As Woodrow Wilson lingered for months in Paris after World War I directing the negotiations that would produce the League Covenant, public support in the U.S. for any form of internationalism evaporated. Wilson's inattention to public opinion was a mistake that Franklin Roosevelt would not repeat.
In the end, the attention to public opinion paid off. On July 28, 1945, the United States Senate gave its consent to the ratification of the Charter by an 89-2 vote. President Truman communicated U.S. ratification on August 8 and, as we note today, the Charter entered into force on October 24.
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
A new report from the Human Security Centre at the University of British Columbia "shows that most forms of political violence have declined significantly since the end of the Cold War––and finds that the best explanation for this decline is the huge upsurge of conflict prevention, resolution and peacebuilding activities that were spearheaded by the United Nations in the aftermath of the Cold War."
For more about the report, see this site.
[Via America Abroad at TPM Cafe.]
The PBS series Frontline is examining the question of torture in the "war on terror" in a two-hour program entitled "The Torture Question." The entire program will be available here tomorrow. Interviews, photos, a panel discussion on torture, and other ancillaries are also available on the program web site.
Pierre-Richard Prosper has resigned his position as United States ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues, although not soon enough and not for the right reasons. Indeed, Prosper apparently went quietly without uttering a word of regret about the United States' long downward slide since 9/11 into the ranks of states known to employ torture.
So why did he resign? Like Alberto Gonzales before him, Prosper hopes to ride his success as an apologist for torture into the attorney general's office--the California AG's office in his case. Yesterday Prosper filed papers to run for the Republican nomination for attorney general in the 2006 primaries.
Explain Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, Gardez, and Mosul, Mr. Ambassador. Explain your silence. Then think about running for elective office.
Sunday, October 16, 2005
Anyone interested in the United States Foreign Service or in U.S. relations with the Arabic-speaking world should read former Foreign Service officer Jennifer Bremer's op-ed in today's Washington Post. Bremer notes that as of August 2004 there were only eight people in the U.S. Foreign Service who spoke Arabic at a 4+ or 5 level--the levels at which one might be expected to perform well if asked to speak before an agitated crowd or in an Arabic-language television interview.
Take a look at the piece to gain some insight into America's problems in the Middle East and into the nature of language training for American diplomats as well.
[Via Washington Monthly.]
The Lifetime cable network will air an original miniseries October 24-25 that addresses the issue of human trafficking in the United States. The two-part movie, entitled Human Trafficking, will star Mira Sorvino and Donald Sutherland as Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.
Lifetime secured the cooperation of the Department of Homeland Security in making the film. Two nongovernmental organizations that deal with the issue of human trafficking--Equality Now and International Justice Mission--also contributed their expertise.
Today's New York Times notes that Lifetime has engaged a number of political issues in its programming over the past decade. With Human Trafficking, the network hopes to generate support for two anti-trafficking bills currently before Congress.
Saturday, October 15, 2005
Anthony Lewis, the distinguished former New York Times columnist, writes today about the responsibility of the Supreme Court to check the president's power as commander-in-chief. He says:
The framers of the Constitution, when they met in Philadelphia in 1787, feared concentrated power. In constructing a new federal government, they divided its powers among three branches: legislative, executive, judicial. The idea, as Madison explained, was that if one branch overreached, another would check it.
The Bush administration has often resisted checks on executive branch decisions taken under the heading of war power. In memorandums in 2002 and 2003 on the torture of prisoners, for example, the administration argued that the president could order the use of torture even if it was forbidden by treaty or by Congressional statute.
When those memorandums leaked out last year, the administration withdrew them. But Alberto Gonzales, who as White House counsel rejected objections to them, is now attorney general. And one of their principal authors, John Yoo, now a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, continues to argue forcefully for dominant presidential power. To hear him tell it, the framers constructed a political system on the model of King George III.
Lewis notes that the Supreme Court has rejected some of the Bush administration's claims of presidential authority, but he wonders--as all who care about the Constitution's carefully calibrated system of checks and balances should--how Chief Justice John Roberts and Harriet Miers, if she is confirmed to fill the vacancy created by Justice O'Connor's retirement, will vote in cases challenging presidential war powers.
Friday, October 14, 2005
Tomorrow's edition of the Guardian (London) reports that President Bush had his sights on Saudi Arabia early in 2003:
George Bush told Tony Blair shortly before the invasion of Iraq that he intended to target other countries, including Saudi Arabia, which, he implied, planned to acquire weapons of mass destruction.
Mr Bush said he "wanted to go beyond Iraq in dealing with WMD proliferation, mentioning in particular Saudi Arabia, Iran, North Korea, and Pakistan," according to a note of a telephone conversation between the two men on January 30 2003.
The note is quoted in the US edition, published next week, of Lawless World, America and the Making and Breaking of Global Rules, by the British international lawyer Philippe Sands. The memo was drawn up by one of the prime minister's foreign policy advisers in Downing Street and passed to the Foreign Office, according to Mr Sands.
Certainly the mention of Saudi Arabia is surprising, but so is the concern expressed over Pakistani nuclear weapons given the "see no evil" policy adopted eleven months later when A.Q. Khan, the father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb, was revealed to have sold nuclear secrets.
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
Liberians went to the polls today to vote in their country's first elections since the end of a fourteen-year-long civil war. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, making a bid to become the first female president in Africa, was expected to finish behind 1995 world soccer player of the year George Weah. (Weah played for Chelsea and AC Milan.)
Situated in West Africa between Sierra Leone and Cote d'Ivoire, Liberia has a population of 3.5 million and a GDP per capita of $900. The nation was devastated by a civil war that ended in August 2003 when President Charles Taylor agreed to go into exile in Nigeria. The capital, Monrovia, is still without running water and reliable electricity.
Liberia was colonized by freed slaves from the United States. It declared its independence in 1847, but was not recognized by the United States until 1862.
For 133 years, Liberia was well established as a republic with a presidential system of government based on the American model. in 1980, Samuel K. Doe assassinated Liberia's president during a military coup. A second republic was formed in 1986 with Doe continuing as head of state until his ouster in 1989 by Charles Taylor. For the next fourteen years, civil war raged in Liberia. Plans for today's elections were made when Taylor's departure was negotiated in 2003.
Monday, October 10, 2005
Three weeks after Germany's parliamentary elections left the two major parties virtually even in the Bundestag, Angela Merkel has emerged as the new chancellor (as Germany calls its prime minister). Merkel, leader of the conservative Christian Democratic Union, will head a deeply divided coalition government.
Merkel will also be the first female chancellor in German history. Women have served as prime ministers in the United Kingdom (Margaret Thatcher, 1979-1990), Portugal (Maria de Lourdes Pintasilgo, 1979-80), Norway (Gro Harlem Brundtland, 1981, 1986-89, 1990-96), Yugoslavia (Milka Planinc, 1982-86), Lithuania (Kazimiera Danute Prunskiene, 1990-91, and Irena Degutiene, 1999), France (Edith Cresson, 1991-92), Poland (Hanna Suchocka, 1992-93), Bulgaria (Reneta Indzhova, 1994-95), Finland (Anneli Tuulikki Jaatteenmaki, 2003), Macedonia (Radmila Sekerinska, 2004), and Ukraine (Yuliya Tymoshenko, 2005). The generally ceremonial role of president has also been occupied by a woman in a number of European states, most notably the Republic of Ireland where Mary McAleese succeeded Mary Robinson, but women in political leadership is still the exception to the rule.
Last month, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers--ICANN--created for the first time ever a top-level domain (TLD) for a cultural region. Except for the descriptive TLDs such as .com, .edu, .net, and so on, TLDs are generally abbreviations of the name of the country in which the web site is based. (A complete list of TLDs--although without interpretive information--is available here.) Catalonia (or Catalunya in Catalan, the language of the region) has become the first subnational region (or cultural community) to receive a TLD. Its TLD is, of course, .cat.
Catalonia is, depending on one' s perspective, either the Autonomous Community of Catalonia--one of the regional units of Spain--or a stateless nation of Catalan-speaking peoples in an area straddling the Pyrenees in northeastern Spain and southern France. ICANN took no position on the matter, but one can't help but wonder whether someday the TLD might be regarded as an essential element of statehood--or, in the case of Catalonia and future non-state TLD-holders, a precursor of statehood. One can imagine a future version of Article 1 of the 1933 Montevideo Convention on Rights and Duties of States looking like this: "The state as a person of international law should possess the following qualifications: a) a permanent population; b) a defined territory; c) government; d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states; and e) a top-level domain name."
Sunday, October 09, 2005
According to today’s New York Times, the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) is having difficulty raising $100 million from member states to pay for its efforts to slow the spread of avian flu in Asia. Vietnam’s attempts to address the avian flu epidemic have been cut back because insufficient funds are available to compensate farmers whose stocks of chickens are destroyed to prevent the spread of the disease. In Indonesia, the government has begun vaccinating rather than destroying chickens for the same reason. Although cheaper than culling infected flocks, this policy carries the risk of hastening mutations in the disease that might increase its virulence.
The failure of member states to fully fund FAO initiatives is particularly disturbing given the recent news that (1) the Bush Administration is now poised to spend billions of dollars to address the threat of avian flu spreading among humans in the United States and (2) some form of avian flu (although possibly not the Asian strain) has now been reported in Turkey and Romania. Helping the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization slow the spread of avian flu in Asia would be a wise investment for the United States.
Saturday, October 08, 2005
Wednesday night, by a vote of 90-9, the Senate approved an amendment to the Defense appropriations bill offered by Senator John McCain that would prohibit the use of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment of any detainee in U.S. custody. It also mandates that the U.S. Army Field Manual be regarded as the authoritative guide for all military personnel concerning which interrogation techniques are lawful and which are not.
The amendment, which is opposed by the Bush Administration and by Duncan Hunter, who chairs the House Armed Services Committee, must survive a House-Senate conference committee to have even a chance of becoming law. Furthermore, President Bush, who has yet to veto a bill, has threatened to veto the entire Defense appropriations bill if it comes to him with the McCain amendment attached.
Has Senator John McCain, who flew combat missions in Vietnam and was held by the North Vietnamese in the Hanoi Hilton, become an enemy combatant? Sadly, yes--at least according to those who espouse the concept of "lawfare."
What is lawfare? According to the Council on Foreign Relations, it is a "strategy of using or misusing law as a substitute for traditional military means to achieve military objectives."
Like terrorism, lawfare is a form of asymmetric warfare in which the weak, seeking a comparative advantage that cannot be found on the traditional battlefield due to the overwhelming military superiority of their opponents, resort to unconventional means of waging war. But while terrorists attempt to sow fear and destruction by blowing themselves up, their allies on the lawfare front do the same thing by filing motions and passing amendments requiring respect for the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Rather than "Death to America!" the lawfare warrior announces his presence with the words, "May it please the Court."
Absurd? Absolutely. But that hasn’t prevented the concept of lawfare from being carried from the fevered imaginations of wingnuts to the halls of the Pentagon and the West Wing.
In March of this year, a new edition of the National Defense Strategy for the United States of America was issued by the White House. In its description of security threats facing the United States there was this line: "Our strength as a nation will continue to be challenged by those who employ a strategy of the weak using international fora, judicial processes, and terrorism."
I teach a course called "International Organizations and Law." My course was transformed by that statement in the National Defense Strategy. It went from being a routine (although richly rewarding and hugely entertaining) Political Science offering to being a training ground for subversives. (I've just informed the class of this fact and have told them that they can still get out if they want to.)
Just think, if I had assigned The Anarchist's Cookbook along with Inside the UN and Carter, Trimble, and Bradley's International Law, we'd have the anti-American trifecta.
But maybe the wingnuts are on to something. There is, after all, a certain logic--and even some historical continuity--to the view that lawfare is indeed something to worry about.
Can law be used as a political weapon? Can it be used to weaken one’s political opponents? Ask Bill Clinton. Indeed, there's a delicious irony in the fact that some of those who most fear the use of lawfare in the war on terror are the same ones who perfected it in the war on Clinton.
But (to get back to Senator McCain and the other 89 senators who voted to end the deliberate ambiguation of torture) we're witnessing lawfare against the Bush administration, aren't we? Yes, and it's about time, because those who fight on the side of law are defending American values.
Friday, October 07, 2005
Thursday, October 06, 2005
The nine senators who voted last night in favor of the continued use of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment of detainees in U.S. custody and in favor of continuing to keep U.S. military personnel in the dark regarding which interrogation methods might result in a court martial deserve special mention. Here they are:
- Wayne Allard (R-CO) -- 100%
- Kit Bond (R-MO) -- 100%
- Tom Coburn (R-OK) -- NR
- Thad Cochran (R-MS) -- 100%
- John Cornyn (R-TX) -- 100%
- James Inhofe (R-OK) -- 100%
- Pat Roberts (R-KS) -- 100%
- Jeff Sessions (R-AL) -- 100%
- Ted Stevens (R-AK) -- 83%
The percentages to the right of each name are the Christian Coalition's ratings for 2004. A rating of 100% indicates a perfect convergence between the Christian Coalition's position on key issues and the senator's voting record. (Tom Coburn is unrated because his term in the Senate began in 2005.)
There's something very wrong with this.
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
The Senate voted tonight to approve an amendment to the defense appropriations bill that would prohibit cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment of anyone in U.S. custody and make the U.S. Army Field Manual the standard for determining which interrogation methods are legal. The Bush Administration has threatened to veto the defense appropriations bill if the language barring torture, which passed by a 90-9 vote, is not removed before final passage. Removal of the amendment, unfortunately, is possible as Senate and House versions of the bill will have to be reconciled in a conference committee. The House has not yet expressed the same concern over torture.
Sen. John McCain, who was tortured by his North Vietnamese captors during the Vietnam War, sponsored the amendment. His statement on the Senate floor is well worth reading.
There were, of course, a handful of administration loyalists who opposed Sen. McCain's long overdue proposal. According to Reuters, "Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions opposed the amendment, saying the Pentagon has disciplined those responsible for abuse. 'It just galls me that we have people suggesting that this was a policy of our Army,' he said."
Sessions is entitled to be outraged. The policy of abusing detainees came from the White House, not the Army.
US firms are at or near the forefront in technological advances, especially in computers and in medical, aerospace, and military equipment; their advantage has narrowed since the end of World War II. The onrush of technology largely explains the gradual development of a "two-tier labor market" in which those at the bottom lack the education and the professional/technical skills of those at the top and, more and more, fail to get comparable pay raises, health insurance coverage, and other benefits. Since 1975, practically all the gains in household income have gone to the top 20% of households. (Italics added.)
Which liberal commentator is this making the claim that technological developments in the United States have made the rich richer while everyone else gets left behind? Paul Krugman of the New York Times? Lefty historian Howard Zinn? Maybe Senator Ted Kennedy?
Nope. The statement comes from the most recent edition of the CIA World Factbook.
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
This, from Washington Post columnist David Ignatius about a week ago, is interesting:
DOHA, Qatar -- Posted on a bulletin board at Centcom headquarters here is a 1918 admonition from T.E. Lawrence explaining what he learned in training Arab soldiers: "It is better to let them do it themselves imperfectly than to do it yourself perfectly. It is their country, their way, and our time is short."
That quote sums up an important shift in U.S. military strategy on Iraq that has been emerging over the past year. The commanders who are running the war don't talk about transforming Iraq into an American-style democracy or of imposing U.S. values. They understand that Iraqis dislike American occupation, and for that reason they want fewer American troops in Iraq, not more. Most of all, they don't want the current struggle against Iraqi insurgents, who are nasty but militarily insignificant, to undermine U.S. efforts against the larger threat posed by al Qaeda terrorists, who would kill hundreds of thousands of Americans if they could.
Perhaps we are, in fact, approaching the endgame in Iraq.
On this date in 1957, the Soviet Union launched the first man-made satellite--Спутнйк (Sputnik, meaning "fellow traveler" or "satellite"). The basketball-sized sphere created a panic in national security circles and a firestorm of recriminations in American domestic politics. Three years after the first Sputnik launch, John F. Kennedy defeated Richard M. Nixon in one of the closest presidential elections in history thanks in part to public concern over a non-existent "missile gap."
The launch of Sputnik suggested to American military strategists that the Soviet Union might have rockets with sufficient throw-weight to deliver nuclear weapons to the continental United States. Intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) would have flight times of approximately 30 minutes as opposed to the six to eight hours that bombers flying over the Arctic Ocean might be expected to take to reach their targets. Furthermore, the possibility of defending against ICBMs was nil. (Fifty years and billions of dollars' worth of ballistic missile defense research later, it remains uncomfortably close to nil.) The strategic impact of the Sputnik launch, therefore, was to accelerate the move toward nuclear deterrence based on the development of an assured second-strike capability (known as "Mutual Assured Destruction," or MAD). Albert Wohlstetter, in a seminal article entitled "The Delicate Balance of Terror" published in Foreign Affairs in January 1959, said, "The notion that a carefully planned surprise attack can be checkmated almost effortlessly, that, in short, we may resume our deep pre-Sputnik sleep, is wrong and its nearly universal acceptance is terribly dangerous."
In April 1960, Henry Kissinger argued in Foreign Affairs that "the advantage of surprise can be overwhelming." He was not alone in this view. The fear of surprise attack fostered by the Sputnik launch (filtered through memories of Pearl Harbor) was soon combined with a growing suspicion that the security dilemma and action-reaction processes in international affairs loomed large in the Cold War. What followed was much concern about "the reciprocal fear of surprise attack," to use Thomas Schelling's term. Schelling put it this way in The Strategy of Conflict, a book published in 1960:
If surprise carries an advantage, it is worth while to avert it by striking first. Fear that the other may be about to strike in the mistaken belief that we are about to strike gives us a motive for striking and so justifies the other's motive. But, if the gains from even successful surprise are less desired than no war at all, there is no "fundamental" basis for an attack by either side. Nevertheless, it looks as though a modest temptation on each side to sneak in a first blow--a temptation too small by itself to motivate an attack--might become compounded through a process of interacting expectations, with additional motive for attack being produced by successive cycles of "He thinks we think he thinks we think . . . he thinks we think he'll attack; so he thinks we shall; so he will; so we must."
Did you follow that?
Mutual assured destruction, in other words, wasn't enough because it wasn't inherently stable. Stable deterrence was the goal. The action-reaction processes had to be managed so that fear, rather than leading to an outcome that neither side wanted, would lead to caution on both sides. Arms control (which is not the same thing as disarmament) was therfore developed as a tool for managing the strategic nuclear arms race (of which the October 1957 Sputnik launch was a part) in an effort to escape the tensions inherent in a world full of ICBMs armed with nuclear weapons.
Sunday, October 02, 2005
With the trial of Saddam Hussein scheduled to begin in three weeks, a new blog--Grotian Moment: The Saddam Hussein Trial Blog--has been created by the Cox International Center at the Case Western Reserve University School of Law. A number of experts on international criminal law including former U.S. Ambassador for War Crimes Issues David Scheffer and former Chairman of the UN Security Council's Commission to Investigate War Crimes in the Former Yugoslavia Cherif Bassiouni are participating. The expert commentators have thus far been responding to questions such as "Should Saddam Hussein be exposed to the death penalty?" and "Did the Anfal Operations constitute genocide?"
The blog also provides links to a number of key documents including the Geneva Conventions, the English translation of the Iraqi Special Tribunal Statute, and the Iraqi Criminal Procedure Code.
[Via Opinio Juris.]
James Yee, a Muslim and a former Army chaplain who served at Guantánamo Bay, has a new book coming out this week in which he claims that Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, the commander of the military detention center, regularly incited guards to abuse prisoners. Yee also says in the book that he regularly heard accounts of detainees being abused during interrogation sessions. The Department of Defense continues to insist that cases of abuse at Guantánamo were isolated occurrences.