blog

April 7, 2017

Donald Trump’s War Crimes

Just two and a half months into his presidency, Donald Trump has already distinguished himself as a war criminal. His administration is killing unusually large numbers of civilians, in violation of US and international law.

Killing Civilians in Record Numbers

The Trump administration began to kill civilians over inaugural weekend, with two drone strikes in Yemen that claimed 10 lives. One drone struck three people on a motorcycle. The other hit seven people riding in a car. Neither Trump nor Defense Secretary James Mattis admits to having approved the strikes. It is not clear who authorized them.

One week after his inauguration, Trump bemoaned the death of a US Navy Seal in a botched raid he personally ordered in southern Yemen. Trump made no mention of the 30 people, including at least 10 women and children, killed by the US bombers. The attack badly damaged a health facility, a school and a mosque.

Over the past month, the US-led coalition has killed an inordinate number of civilians.

“Almost 1,000 non-combatant deaths have already been alleged from coalition actions across Iraq and Syria in March — a record claim,” according to Airwars, a non-governmental organization (NGO) that monitors civilian casualties from airstrikes in the Middle East. “These reported casualty levels are comparable with some of the worst periods of Russian activity in Syria.”Read more

March 30, 2017

Israel Hits Back Against Boycott

On March 19, Israeli tax officials arrested Omar Barghouti, a prominent Palestinian human rights defender and co-founder of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Omar and his wife Safa, an Israeli citizen, were detained for 16 hours and have been subjected to daily interrogation sessions.

Barghouti’s arrest is indirect evidence of the growing strength of the BDS movement, a worldwide non-violent challenge to Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian lands, a protest campaign that the Israeli government has identified as an existential threat to Israel.

Israel is particularly sensitive in light of the new United Nations report concluding that it has established an “apartheid regime” and recommending that national governments support BDS activities to challenge Israel’s illegal system of oppression of the Palestinians. The report was co-authored by Richard Falk, an international law expert and former U.N. Special Rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories.

In his address to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) earlier this week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated, “We will defend ourselves against slander and boycotts.”Read more

March 27, 2017

Neil Gorsuch and the Deconstruction of the Administrative State

When Donald Trump’s chief of staff Reince Priebus addressed the Conservative Political Action Committee in February, he identified two priorities of the administration: the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, and deregulation.

It turns out that elevating Gorsuch to the Supreme Court and achieving deregulation are inextricably linked.Read more

March 23, 2017

Gorsuch Would Use “Originalism” to Affirm Right-Wing Agenda

Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch says he’s an “originalist.” The late Justice Antonin Scalia, whom Gorsuch called “a lion of the law,” also championed originalism. Justice Clarence Thomas now stands alone on the high court as a self-proclaimed originalist.

Largely discredited by courts and legal scholars, originalism is ultimately a way to reach a right-wing result under the guise of following the original intent of the authors of the Constitution.Read more

March 17, 2017

Evaluate New Muslim Ban in Light of International Law

After a federal district court judge and a unanimous three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Donald Trump’s Executive Order (EO) instituting a travel ban was likely illegal, the president suspended it and issued a new EO on March 6, 2017.

On March 15, a federal judge granted a temporary restraining order in Hawaii v. Trump et al., halting the operation of the new EO nationwide. US District Judge Derrick K. Watson found that plaintiffs met their burden of establishing a strong likelihood of success on the merits of their Establishment Clause claim, that irreparable injury is likely if the requested relief is not issued, and that the balance of the equities and public interest counsel in favor of granting the requested relief.

When the case is heard on the merits, the legality of the new EO, which categorically suspends immigration from six Muslim majority countries to the United States, should be assessed in light of US treaty and customary international law, according to an amicus brief filed in the case.Read more

February 16, 2017

Trump Challenges the Limits of Executive Power

When Donald Trump learned that a federal district court had refused to reinstate his Muslim ban last week, he tweeted in all caps, “SEE YOU IN COURT!” Aside from this strange reaction to a court decision, Trump’s angry outburst raises the question: Is the president allowed to have whatever he wants? To better understand the limits of his power, let’s look back at his attempt to unilaterally impose the Muslim ban, and the ways in which it has been blocked so far.

A week after he was inaugurated, Trump created a constitutional showdown by issuing his executive order prohibiting nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.

People from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Yemen and Sudan were banned from the US for 90 days. The executive order also indefinitely forbade Syrian refugees, even those granted visas, from entry into the US. And it suspended the resettlement of all refugees for 120 days.Read more

Toxic Policies of ‘President Agent Orange’

Rapper Busta Rhymes pegged it at the Grammy Awards when he referred to Donald Trump as “President Agent Orange.” While performing with A Tribe Called Quest and Anderson Paak, Rhymes used the opportunity to call out Trump for his Muslim ban and “all of the evil” Trump has perpetrated since assuming the presidency three weeks ago.

Rhymes said, “I just wanna thank President Agent Orange for perpetuating all of the evil that you’ve been perpetrating throughout the United States,” adding, “I wanna thank President Agent Orange for your unsuccessful attempt at the Muslim ban. Now we come together! We the people! We the people! We the people!”

For some younger readers who may not be familiar with the term, Agent Orange was an herbicidal chemical weapon sprayed over 12 percent of Vietnam by the U.S. military from 1961 to 1971. The dioxin present in Agent Orange is one of the most toxic chemicals known to humankind.Read more

February 4, 2017

Trump’s Unconstitutional Muslim Ban

On January 27, 2017, President Trump made good on his campaign promise to institute a ban on Muslims entering the US. Trump’s executive order(“EO”) is titled “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States.”

The EO bars nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries from the US for at least 90 days. They include Iraq, Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, and Sudan. The EO also indefinitely prevents Syrian refugees, even those granted visas, from entering the US. And it suspends the resettlement of all refugees for 120 days.

None of the 9/11 hijackers came from the seven countries covered by the EO; 15 of the 19 men hailed from Saudi Arabia, which is not on the list. No one from the seven listed countries has mounted a fatal terrorist attack in the United States.

Countries exempted from the EO include Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt, Turkey, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates — countries where Trump apparently has business ties.Read more

February 3, 2017

Trump’s Choice of Gorsuch Endangers Civil, Human and Environmental Rights

As promised, President Trump has nominated to the Supreme Court a judge in the mold of the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Neil Gorsuch, like Scalia, is an “originalist,” who interprets the Constitution the way he thinks the founders intended and a “textualist,” who favors the plain meaning of statutes and the Constitution.

Gorsuch is a very conservative judge who would likely rubber-stamp much of Trump’s reactionary agenda. At age 49, Gorsuch, who would be the youngest justice on the Court if confirmed, could help shape US jurisprudence for three or four decades.Read more

January 30, 2017

Remembering Legendary People’s Lawyer Len Weinglass

In the great tradition of Clarence Darrow, Charles Garry, Ernest Goodman, William Kunstler, Carol Weiss King, Arthur Kinoy, Constance Baker Motley and Michael Ratner, legendary people’s lawyer Leonard Weinglass defended the poor and disenfranchised who struggled for social justice.

Weinglass is now immortalized in “Len: A Lawyer in History,” a valuable graphic historical work by cartoonist/writer Seth Tobocman. The book features some of Weinglass’ most significant cases, analyzing them in the historical context of the political movements in which they took place.Read more