The Uighurs at Guantanamo

…are the cynical object of Gingrich’s most despicable exploitation, especially as he had to splash the shirt with ketchup before waving it around. Hilzoy is on him, and for them, with all four feet here, here, and here. The last (earliest) post so appalled me I left a comment framed as ridicule because there seemed no other way to regard our treatment of them and Gingrich’s sleazy lies.

But this is no laughing matter; not only are we being inhumane and putting our souls at risk, but also:

Barack Obama wants to close Guantanamo. To do so, he needs to find countries to take some of the detainees in. Many countries are quite understandably asking: if the United States won’t take them in, why should we?

The Uighurs are the most obviously innocent of all the detainees. Uighur communities have offered to take them in and help them resettle. There are a lot of things in their favor. If Republicans block their release in this country, they can block the release of any detainee in this country. And if they do that, then the task of closing Guantanamo down will become much, much more difficult, perhaps impossible.

We should not let that happen without a fight.

Props to Hilzoy for ringing this bell. It needs echoes.

A Cunning Plan

Joining the ICC would trump Bush’s pardons for war crimes.

So their Cunning Plan is for Bush to pardon everybody in sight before handing over the White House keys and the TV remote. The pardon power looks absolute in US law, though its abuse could be impeachable. So pardons would pre-empt any proceedings other than impeachment for violations of US law.

I have an even more Cunning Plan. President Obama and the Senate ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. The United States then invites the ICC prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, to investigate possible war crimes falling under Bush’s pardons, under the international criminal law codified in the Statute. The case would be admissible under Article 17.1(a), since the USA would be

unable genuinely to carry out the investigation or prosecution.

(The French text is “dans l’incapacité de mener véritablement à bien l’enquête ou les poursuites“; the English adverb would better be properly.)

Have a look at Articles 27, 28, and 33: Presidents, Vice-Presidents, Chiefs of Staff, and subordinates “just obeying orders” are explicitly not exempt from prosecution. Under Article 54, the Prosecutor could investigate on US territory and seek the assistance of its authorities to question witnesses. If the Court issued an arrest warrant, the United States would be required under Article 59 to

immediately take steps to arrest the person in question.

It ain’t over till the fat lady sings.

Question of the Day

Jacob Leibenluft has a useful “Explainer” today on the Presidential pardon power, but then comes up with this clunker:

If someone hasn’t yet been charged with a crime, how does the president know what to pardon them for? As in Nixon’s case, President Bush could issue a pardon that applies generally to any crimes that may have been committed within a certain range of dates. More likely, a pardon could apply only to actions surrounding a single policy or place—say, the detention or interrogation of suspected al-Qaida members.

“More likely” says who?

Put another way: is there any reason to believe that this President will refrain from protecting his political friends because it would constitute an abuse of power or is “just not done”?

Any reason at all?

The Upcoming Pardon Wave: Bring on the Disbarments!

To the surprise of exactly no one, in light of the torture scandal, the warrantless wiretapping scandal, the US Attorneys scandal, the Valerie Plame scandal, and the (fill in blank) scandal, conservative lawyers are pushing the Bush Administration for dozens of pardons for administration officials. Some of us, of course, predicted this months and even years ago (well, okay–a year and a half ago).

I believe that Bush will grant the pardons, including one to Cheney. Instead, at this stage the real question is whether the relevant Bar Associations going to move ahead by disbarring the lawyers involved in all of this. Candidate Number One is Addington. Number Two is Gonzales. Number Three is Yoo (although in Yoo’s case, it’s not actually clear whether he is a member of a Bar: he is not listed as a member in either California or DC. His home state is Pennsylvania, which does not appear to allow on-line access for non-members).

It’s far from clear that this would be real sanction: Richard Nixon was disbarred, as was Bill Clinton, and it didn’t hurt their careers. Gordon Liddy was disbarred, and he is now a conservative saint. But somehow I don’t see most of the Bushies as talk show hosts. For Addington, or Gonzales, or Judge Jay Bybee of the Ninth Circuit, or William Haynes, it could be a real hit. These men make their living as lawyers. On the other hand, I’m sure that some conservative think tank will give them a posh sinecure for their failure.

And just to keep things clear: even a Presidential pardon will not keep any of these guys free from international criminal indictment. Larry Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, had it right:

Haynes, Feith, Yoo, Bybee, Gonzales and – at the apex – Addington, should never travel outside the US, except perhaps to Saudi Arabia and Israel. They broke the law; they violated their professional ethical code. In future, some government may build the case necessary to prosecute them in a foreign court, or in an international court.

The arrest of Radovan Karadzic

Karadzic down, more war criminals to go.

ὀψε θɛῷν ἀλέουσίμύλοί, ἀλέουσί δε λɛρṯά

– an ancient Greek proverb quoted by one Sextus Empiricus, Against the Professors (sic).

Longfellow’s translation:

Though the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small.

The crimes of Radovan Karadzic, arrested in Belgrade on Friday, ended 13 years ago. It’s idle on the part of the Bush gang to think that last-minute executive pardons, and retroactive immunity provisions stuck into unrelated legislation by a sycophantic Congress, will let them off the hook for good. Pinochet and the Argentine death squads also found their immunity rescinded.

Continue reading “The arrest of Radovan Karadzic”

How fair was that trial?

Jesus’ trials were fairer than GITMO ones.

Good Friday, 2008

The trials of Jesus that led to his execution were, if the Gospel accounts are credible, miscarriages of justice. But they were trials, not a lynching or assassination. Exactly how unfair were they? How do they compare to another set of trials that have come under heavy criticism, those at Guantanamo Bay? Seeing as the Administration responsible for them advertises its allegiance to the person of Pilate’s victim, if not to his teaching.

Standards of justice change. I’m not competent to apply the contemporary ones, in one sense the most appropriate; but it’s still illuminating to hold these trials up to our benchmarks. A reasonable list of 22 criteria for a fair trial was published in 2000 by an American legal NGO, Human Rights First.

The rights are not of equal importance and some of them are anachronistic, but the list is a professional modern attempt, dating from just before 9/11, to capture what we mean today by a fair trial. I’ve renumbered for my own convenience.

Continue reading “How fair was that trial?”

Padilla loves Big Brother

Padilla is a victim of Stalinist brainwashing.

The conviction of José Padilla on terrorism charges in Miami in an ordinary criminal court is only good news by the standards of Rumsfeld’s drumhead tribunals. It’s an obvious miscarriage of justice; the guy is a broken wreck of a defendant, unfit to plead.

Read Democracy Now!‘s interview with Dr. Angela Hegarty, director of forensic psychiatry at the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in Queens, N.Y. and assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University. (full transcript here, hat tip Lewis Koch at Firedoglake).

Continue reading “Padilla loves Big Brother”

Empathy damage assessment

Follow-up to post on Coleen Graffy’s radio remark on GITMO suicides with estimated worldwide audience

The radio programme on which Karen Hughe’s sidekick Colleen Graffy made the GITMO comment I posted about earlier wasn’t some little talk show in the boonies. It was the flagship twice-a-day Newshour programme of the English-language BBC World Service.

How many people does it reach? The weekly global audience for the World Service in English is 39 million. The BBC ran the item on other programmes; to my knowledge the high-profile domestic morning Today radio programme (about 6 million daily – only proles watch breakfast TV in Britain) and the struggling 24-hour TV news channel BBC World (no audience figures available). I assume the story also ran on the radio World Service in Arabic (12 million weekly) and Urdu (10 million), and probably in other languages. Let’s say the daily audience is half the weekly one and it only follows news. That gives a global audience for Ms Graffy’s sensitive public diplomacy of 35-40 million, nicely focused on wavering pro-Americans. To give perspective, Fox News’ most popular programme, The O’Reilly Factor, draws 2 million viewers a night.


Three detainees at GITMO hanged themselves on Saturday. Colleen Graffy, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy (that is, under Karen Hughes), told a BBC radio news programme yesterday that the suicides were

a good PR move to draw attention.

(A Pentagon spokesman later dissociated himself from the phrase.)

That’s what I call really putting yourself in the other person’s shoes.