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October 15, 2003

Bush Gunning for Regime Change in Cuba

In a brazen move to solidify his electoral support among Cuban-Americans in Florida, George W. Bush is gunning for another “regime change.” Last week, Bush announced the formation of a commission to “plan” for a Cuban change in government.

No country has the right to change the regime of another. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a treaty ratified by the United States and thus part of the supreme law of the land under our Constitution, recognizes self-determination as a human right and guarantees all peoples the right to “freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.”

One need only look at the mess Bush has created in Iraq to understand the wisdom of this principle. Iraq is completely destabilized, the infrastructure has been demolished, thousands are without work, water, electricity and medical care. Many say they were better off under the tyrannical rule of Saddam Hussein. That choice was up to the Iraqis, not the United States.

What if Sweden decided that the United States needed a regime change, because of the high number of people living below the poverty level, without jobs or health care, the police brutality on our streets and in our prisons, the execution of innocent people, and the indefinite detention and inhumane treatment of 600 people in Guantanamo for nearly two years? Would Sweden have the right to impose “regime change” on the United States?

Since Fidel Castro’s socialist revolution in 1959, every U.S. President from Dwight D. Eisenhower through George W. Bush has maintained a cruel economic embargo–now a blockade–against Cuba. The embargo began as a means to foment unrest among Cubans in the hopes they would overthrow the Castro government. More recently, it has been maintained as a vehicle to pander to the anti-Castro Cuban-Americans in Florida who wield tremendous political clout in the U.S. electoral system.

The Association for World Health found that the embargo had “caused a significant rise in suffering–and even deaths in Cuba.” The Cuban people are denied access to half the new medicines on the world market, and are unable to buy some life-saving medical supplies because the U.S. punishes countries which trade with Cuba. Fatal heart attacks have increased because the U.S. pacemaker monopoly refuses to sell to Cuba.

In spite of the punishing blockade against it, Cuba has the highest literacy rate in the Americas and one of the highest in the world. The life expectancy in Cuba is the longest in Latin America and one of the longest in the world. Cuba’s universal health care system puts ours to shame.

To further its political agenda, our government is in denial about the advances Cuba has made in rates of literacy, health care, and low infant mortality.

Cuba is not a threat to the United States. Yet, Bush is opportunistically setting the stage for a regime change in Cuba. The people of Cuba have the right to determine their own system of government, free from the “plans” of George W. Bush.

September 24, 2003

Bush & Co. Fear Prosecution in the International Criminal Court

Overcoming Impunity with the International Criminal Court

Non-governmental organizations and individuals from sixty-six different countries have filed 499 “communications” – or complaints – with the International Criminal Court (ICC), between July 2002 and July 2003. Many of them urge the ICC to investigate the United States conduct in the war on Iraq. The primary charge is that the U.S. committed an act of aggression against Iraq. The ICC has jurisdiction to punish the crime of aggression. However, this crime remains undefined in the ICC’s statute due to disputes among the states parties about how to define it.

The United States is not a party to the ICC treaty. The Bush administration has vigorously opposed it, for fear that U.S. military officials and personnel could be subject to “politically-motivated” prosecutions for war crimes.

In an unprecedented move last year, George W. Bush removed Bill Clinton’s signature from the treaty. A few months later, Bush signed into law the American Serviceman’s Protection Act, which restricts U.S. cooperation with the ICC and prohibits military assistance to states parties to the treaty unless they sign bilateral immunity agreements with the U.S. States which sign these “Article 98” agreements – referring to the section of the ICC statute that addresses treaties between countries – pledge not to hand over U.S. nationals to the ICC. The United States has reportedly extracted these agreements from 60 countries – primarily small nations, or fragile democracies with weak economies. And the U.S. has withdrawn military aid from 35 nations that refused to be coerced into signing Article 98 agreements.

The U.S. has also demanded express immunity from ICC prosecution for American nationals. This demand delayed the passage of several peacekeeping resolutions in the Security Council. But in 2002, the Security Council capitulated when it unanimously passed Resolution 1422, which called for one year of immunity for peacekeepers from countries not party to the ICC statute, and provided that immunity could be renewed in subsequent years. The resolution was renewed in June. But this time, the U.S. was unable to achieve unanimity. France, Germany and Syria abstained from the vote.

Ninety-one countries have signed on as parties to the ICC treaty. So why has the Bush administration resisted it so vehemently? Bush’s handlers were likely prescient about how the world would react to the United States’ illegal invasion of Iraq, which was not executed with Security Council approval or in lawful self-defense. They evidently knew they and their boss might be vulnerable to prosecutions for the unlawful killing of thousands of Iraqi civilians, the destruction of the civilian infrastructure, and the use of weapons of mass destruction – cluster bombs and depleted uranium – by “coalition forces.”

A Preemptive War is a War of Aggression

The United States has sought to ensure the ICC’s legal processes do not jeopardize its role as global superpower by subjecting U.S. leaders to prosecution. It has consistently resisted definitions and jurisdictional provisions that may challenge U.S. impunity for wars of aggression.

Many ICC parties favor a definition of aggression set out in 1974 in General Assembly Resolution 3314, passed in the wake of Vietnam: “Aggression is the use of armed force by a state against the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of another state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Charter of the United Nations, as set out in this definition.”

Bush’s new doctrine of “preemptive war” is a license to prosecute wars of aggression. It runs directly counter to the United Nations Charter’s prohibition on the use of armed force except in self-defense or when authorized by the Security Council. A preemptive war is a war of aggression. “Operation Iraqi Freedom” falls squarely into this category.

More than 50 years ago, Associate United States Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, one of the prosecutors at the Nuremberg Tribunal, wrote: “No political or economic situation can justify” the crime of aggression. He added: “If certain acts in violation of treaties are crimes they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them, and we are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us.” An impartial international criminal tribunal is necessary to prevent “victor’s justice,” where only the vanquished are subject to prosecution.

Universal Jurisdiction for International Crimes

Under the treaty, the ICC can take jurisdiction over a national of even a non-party state if he or she commits a crime in a state party’s territory. The U.S. vehemently objects to this. But it’s nothing new. Under well-established principles of international law, the core crimes prosecuted in the ICC – genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and the crime of aggression – are crimes of universal jurisdiction.

That means that an alleged perpetrator can – and always could – be arrested anywhere. Indeed, the United States itself has asserted jurisdiction over foreign nationals in anti-terrorism, anti-narcotic trafficking, torture and war crimes cases. Even Resolution 1422 notes that states not party to the ICC statute “will continue to fulfill their responsibilities in their national jurisdiction in relation to international crimes.”

However, the U.S. has not fulfilled its responsibilities to seek justice for international crimes. It has refused to extradite four terrorists – right-wing Cuban exiles trained by the CIA – who were convicted more than 20 years ago in Venezuela for blowing up a Cuban airliner in 1976. The U.S. similarly refuses to extradite John Hull, an American CIA operative indicted in Costa Rica for the 1984 bombing of a press conference which killed five journalists in a Nicaraguan border town. It has also refused to extradite former military officer Emmanuel Constant for trial in Haiti. Constant, who worked closely with the CIA, is believed to be responsible for the murder of more than 5000 people under the Haitian dictatorship in the early 1990s.

The ICC statute adds a special safeguard to the venerable principle of universal jurisdiction. It promises the ICC will only prosecute when the alleged perpetrator’s native country cannot, or will not, prosecute one of its nationals. The U.S. should not then fear ICC prosecution, especially in light of the Article 98 agreements it coerced – and continues to coerce – from a multitude of countries. Unfortunately, however, these agreements contain no guarantee that an American national accused of an international crime would be tried if handed over to the U.S.

In June, Belgium indicted Bush, Tony Blair, Paul Wolfowitz, John Ashcroft, and Condoleezza Rice for war crimes during the U.S.-led military campaign in Afghanistan, which predated the effective date of the ICC. The indictment was issued under Belgium’s universal jurisdiction law, which gave Belgian courts the right to judge anyone accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide, regardless of where the crimes were committed. Four Rwandans have been convicted in 2001 under Belgium’s law for their participation in the 1994 genocide which left more than one million dead.

The government of Belgium, fearing a backlash, decided to refer the cases against Blair, Bush and the others to London and Washington, making trials unlikely. Even so, Donald Rumsfeld threatened to move NATO out of Brussels unless Belgium changed its universal jurisdiction law. Belgium capitulated, and its Court of Cassation has asked for the dismissal of the war crimes indictments.

Belgium isn’t alone in indicting Bush and Blair for war crimes. In July, Greece’s Athens Bar Association filed a complaint in the ICC against the two for crimes against humanity and war crimes, this time in connection with their war on Iraq. “Operation Iraqi Freedom” began after July 2002, the effective date of the ICC.

The Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks occurred before the ICC went into effect. Two years later, a Spanish judge charged Osama bin Laden and nine alleged Al Qaeda members with terrorism and murder under the principle of universal jurisdiction.

U.S. Undermines War Against Terrorism

Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the Argentine Chief Prosecutor of the ICC, has decided to begin the work of the Court by investigating possible genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity for the recruitment and use of children as soldiers and sex slaves in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Moreno-Ocampo’s selection of the Congo for his maiden investigation was made partly with an eye to the credibility of the ICC because, he says, “the Congo was a clear case.”

But, John Shattuck, the former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, wrote in the Washington Post in September that the United States has “so far played a passive and sometimes negative role in the region.” Just two days after the Security Council adopted a resolution on July 28 which imposed an embargo on “the direct or indirect supply” of arms or assistance to “armed groups and militias operating in the territory,” the U.S. lifted its own embargo on weapons sales to Rwanda, which has armed its clients in eastern Congo.

Moreno-Ocampo, who has described the genocide in Congo as the “most important case since the Second World War,” plans to investigate businesses in 29 countries, including the United States, suspected of financing ethnic violence in Congo.

Ironically the Chief Prosecutor, an attorney with extensive experience investigating atrocities and prosecuting officials in Argentina, says that the United States’ refusal to work with the ICC will undermine the International Criminal Court’s role in the U.S. efforts to fight terrorism.

August 29, 2003

The Thin Blue Line: How the US Occupation of Iraq Imperils International Law

The day after the truck bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan remarked, “The blue flag has never been so viciously assaulted as it was yesterday.” Whether executed by remnants of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party, or foreign jihadis, or both working in concert, the attack was the result of a steady evisceration of the United Nations and international law by the United States.

“Preemptive War” Violates the U.N. Charter

One year after the September 11 terrorist attacks, George W. Bush invoked that tragedy to announce his new national security strategy of “preemptive war.” Citing Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, and warning that Hussein would likely share them with al-Qaeda terrorists, Bush built his case for waging war on Iraq.

It was clear to the millions of people who marched in the streets before the war began, and it is now evident to most people, that there was no danger to “preempt” in Iraq. Severely weakened by the first Gulf War, 12 years of punishing sanctions, and intrusive weapons inspections, Hussein’s military forces mounted little resistance to the U.S.-U.K.’s “almost biblical force” against the Iraqi people.

Moreover, Bush’s preemption doctrine violates the Charter of the United Nations, which specifies that only the Security Council can sanction the use of force and it can only be used in self-defense. “Operation Iraqi Freedom” was not undertaken in self-defense and it was never authorized by the Security Council.

The Security Council Stands Up to Bush…Sort Of

In spite of the Bush administration’s threats and bribes in its attempts to secure the passage of a resolution putting the U.N.’s imprimatur on an armed invasion of Iraq, the Security Council held firm. Bush then cobbled together prior Council resolutions, none of which authorized force in Iraq, to justify his illegal war.

But the Security Council did not condemn the invasion. And the Council legitimized the U.S. and the U.K. as the occupying “Authority” of Iraq when it passed Resolution 1483.

The resolution also provided for the appointment of a U.N. Special Representative to coordinate, in conjunction with “the Authority,” humanitarian assistance and reconstruction activities in Iraq. In effect, the Special Representative would function in a secondary capacity; the occupying power maintained ultimate authority over the occupation and the awarding of the lucrative reconstruction contracts.

Kofi Annan appointed Sergio Vieira de Mello, the U.N. High Commissioner of Human Rights, as Special Representative. Mr. Vieira de Mello was one of the 23 people killed in the bombing of the Baghdad U.N. headquarters last week.

On Monday, the U.S. blocked the adoption of a Security Council resolution which would enhance the protection of U.N. and other humanitarian aid workers, because it called for the prosecution of war criminals in the International Criminal Court. The Council then adopted the resolution without reference to the ICC.

Bush removed the United States’ signature from the ICC’s statute last year out of fear that he and other officials could be prosecuted for war crimes, even though the ICC would only act if the national courts were unwilling to do so. The U.S. also pushed a resolution through the Security Council which provides immunity from jurisdiction to peacekeepers from countries which have not ratified the ICC’s statute.

The U.S. has extracted immunity agreements from 37 countries and cut off military assistance to 35 others who refuse to sign such accords. This defiance by the U.S. further undercuts the international rule of law.

Why Was the United Nations Targeted?

In the wake of the worst attack on the U.N. in its 58-year history, people are asking why the world’s premier peacekeeping organization was targeted. There is understandable resentment against the United States for the devastating bombings and military attacks against the people of Iraq. The occupiers have been unable to deliver safe streets, clean water, electricity and jobs, and they have conducted heavy-handed searches during the occupation.

The U.N. is in Baghdad, in the words of Mr. Vieira de Mello, “to assist the Iraqi people and those responsible for the administration of this land to achieve freedom, the possibility of managing their own destiny and determining their own future.”

Sergio Vieira de Mello sympathized with the Iraqi people. “It must be one of the most humiliating periods in their history,” he observed. “Who would like to see their country occupied?”

But, to many in the Arab world, the United States and the United Nations are indistinguishable. They see the U.N. as a tool of the U.S.

Mohammed Hindawi, an engineer in Cairo, said, “The U.N. did nothing for the Iraqis during the war. They arrived in Baghdad when the coast was clear. People expected the U.N.’s support, and they didn’t get it. It’s payback time.”

Mohsen Farouk, a carpenter in Cairo, noted, “It was just a matter of time. The U.N. is just a puppet of the U.S., and anyone who is angry with the U.S. is likely to consider the U.N. a target.”

The people responsible for the attack on the U.N. are also likely mindful of the devastation wreaked upon Iraqis by 12 years of sanctions.

Following the first Gulf War, the United States manipulated the Security Council into imposing a harsh regime of economic sanctions, which have led to the deaths of an estimated one million Iraqis.

Give U.N. Authority in Iraq

The Bush administration is lobbying for a new Security Council resolution which would urge other countries to send troops to help stabilize Iraq. The U.S., however, would maintain military control over all forces. Such a resolution would, in the words of The New York Times, provide “United Nations cover to the American operation.”

“Operation Iraqi Freedom” has opened a Pandora’s Box of terrorism in Iraq. The only hope for restoring peace and security is for the United States to step aside and allow the United Nations to take over the reconstruction. If the U.S. continues to insist on unilateral authority in Iraq, it will be sucked deeper into a quagmire from which there is no exit. And it will further weaken the U.N. and international law.

August 20, 2003

Sergio Vieira De Mello: Victim of Terror, Or U.S. Foreign Policy?

But for George W. Bush’s illegal and misguided war on Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, would be alive today. Mr. de Mello devoted most of his life to the U.N.’s mission to protect human rights and achieve international peace and security. He served in some of the toughest trouble spots in the world, including Lebanon, East Timor, Yugoslavia, Peru, Bangladesh, Cyprus, Sudan, Cambodia and Mozambique.

Sergio Vieira de Mello went to Iraq at the request of U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan for a four-month humanitarian commitment. One month short of his return to Geneva, Mr. de Mello was buried alive in rubble from a suicide truck bomber who targeted the United Nations in Baghdad.

Ignoring the pleas of millions of people around the world and most of the United Nations members, Bush had persisted in his march to war. Contrary to Bush’s assertions, Saddam Hussein never posed an imminent threat to the United States. Until Bush unleashed “almost biblical” firepower on Iraq, al Qaeda was not operating there. Yet since the U.S./U.K. became the occupying power, Iraq has become fertile ground for outside jihadis.

Many Saudi Arabian Islamists have crossed the border into Iraq to prepare for a holy war against the U.S./U.K. forces, according to The Financial Times. The Arab satellite television channel al-Arabiya broadcast a statement purportedly from al Qaeda, which urged Muslims around the world to travel to Iraq to fight the U.S. occupation, and claimed that recent attacks on U.S. forces had been carried out by jihadis.

The blast that killed Mr. de Mello and 19 others, and wounded more than 100 in the U.N. compound in Baghdad Tuesday, was likely the handiwork of the same forces that bombed the Jordanian embassy in Baghdad 12 days before, killing 11 people. Osama bin Laden has long decried the United States’ role in the first Gulf War, the punishing sanctions against the people of Iraq, and the United Nations for “supporting the oppressive, tyrannical and arrogant America [in Afghanistan] against those oppressed who have emerged from a ferocious war at the hands of the Soviet Union.”

In the twisted minds of the terrorists who likely executed the worst attack on a U.N. civilian operation in its 58-year history, the United States and the United Nations are linked. Yet Bush’s new doctrine of “preemptive war” is a clear violation of the U.N. Charter. And in spite of intense pressure by Bush, including threats and bribes, the members of the Security Council refused to hand him a resolution sanctioning his war on Iraq. Bush accused the United Nations of becoming “irrelevant.”

When he was sent to Baghdad, it was Sergio de Mello’s dream “to assist the Iraqi people and those responsible for the administration of this land to achieve … freedom, the possibility of managing their own destiny and determining their own future.” He empathized with the Iraqi people who resented the foreign occupiers. “It is traumatic,” he said. “It must be one of the most humiliating periods in their history. Who would like to see their country occupied?” He wanted “to make sure that the interests of the Iraqi people come first” as they rebuild their country.

Sergio de Mello’s death is an unspeakable tragedy for the cause of world peace. “I can think of no one we could less afford to spare,” observed Kofi Annan. And Salim Lone, Mr. de Mello’s spokesman in Baghdad, said, “He was a wonderful guy. He was the U.N. in a way.” Mr. Lone added, “I grieve most of all for the people of Iraq because he was really the man who could have helped bring about an end to the occupation. An end to the trauma the people of Iraq have suffered for so long.”

We must emerge from this tragedy by redoubling our support for the United Nations. As Iraqis, Americans, and many from other countries continue to die in Iraq, Bush must relinquish control of Iraq to the United Nations. It is the arrogance of occupation that creates roiling hatred against the occupier. Mr. de Mello was confident that Iraqis distinguished between the U.N. and the foreign occupiers. The end of the occupation would empower the people of Iraq to take control of their own destiny. Then Sergio Vieira de Mello will not have died in vain.

July 30, 2003

Why Iraq and Afghanistan? Cheney Tells All: It’s About the Oil

Now that the rationale provided by Bush & Co. for attacking Iraq is unraveling, it’s time to ask what the true motivation was for the rush to war. Many dismissed the signs of antiwar protestors, which read “No blood for oil.” But if we connect the oily fingerprints, beginning with Vice President Dick Cheney’s, it appears those protestors were right.

Cheney’s energy task force, in a May 2001 report, called on the White House to make “energy security a priority of our trade and foreign policy” and encourage Persian Gulf countries to welcome foreign investment in their energy sectors. In August 2002, Cheney warned a meeting of veterans that Saddam Hussein could seek to dominate the Middle East’s vast energy supplies, and said “there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.”

Before the invasion of Iraq, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld sought to decouple oil access from regime change in Iraq, which, he said, had “nothing to do with oil, literally nothing to do with oil.” Rumsfeld, Bush, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice all invoked Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction and his ties to Al Qaeda, neither of which has materialized to date, as imminent threats to the security of the United States. Three days before the attack on Iraq, Cheney said, “we believe he [Hussein] has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons.” That claim, and Bush’s Niger uranium statement in his State of the Union address, were bogus.

When U.S.-U.K. forces took control of Iraq, their first order of business was to secure the oil fields, instead of the hospitals and antiquities museums. Meanwhile, Kellogg Brown & Root was awarded a controversial $7 billion no-bid contract to rebuild Iraq’s oil fields. KBR is a subsidiary of Halliburton, the world’s largest oil services company, formerly headed by Cheney before he was tapped for vice president. In a 1998 speech to the “Collateral Damage Conference” of the Cato Institute, Cheney said, “the good Lord didn’t see fit to put oil and gas only where there are democratically elected regimes friendly to the United States. Occasionally we have to operate in places where, all things considered, one would not normally choose to go. But, we go where the business is.”

The business is in Iraq. Since April 2001, the public interest group Judicial Watch has sought public access to the proceedings of Cheney’s energy task force meetings, under the Freedom of Information Act. Yet Cheney has fought tenaciously to keep them secret. On July 17, however, Judicial Watch secured some of the documents from the task force, which contain the smoking gun: “a map of Iraqi oilfields, pipelines, refineries and terminals, as well as 2 charts detailing Iraqi oil and gas projects” and “Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield Contracts.” The documents are dated March 2001, two years before Bush invaded Iraq.

The Bush administration’s October 2001 bombing of Afghanistan, although justified as a response to the September 11 attacks, was also part of U.S. oil strategy. Afghanistan never attacked the U.S. Yet, the U.S. and U.K. ousted the Taliban and secured Afghanistan for the construction of an oil pipeline from Turkmenistan, south through Afghanistan, to the Arabian Sea. Bush had been uncritical of the Taliban’s human rights record when Unocal oil company was negotiating for the pipeline rights before September 11. After assuming control of Afghanistan, Bush conveniently installed Hamid Karzai, a former Unocal official, as interim president of Afghanistan. “Operation Enduring Freedom” will allow oil corporations freedom to exploit Afghanistan for profit, while the Afghans continue to live in squalor.

Likewise, “Operation Iraqi Freedom” has enabled U.S. corporations to exploit Iraq’s oil, while thousands of Iraqis continue to die, lose their jobs, and live without electricity. American soldiers are still dying while U.S. taxpayers foot the $3.9 billion monthly bill. Oil has proven to be the most terrible weapon of mass destruction.

July 29, 2003

Assassination and Display in Iraq: The Killings of Uday and Qusai Hussein in International Law

Last week the US military assassinated Uday and Qusai Hussein in a villa in Mosul, Iraq. Hundreds of troops armed with automatic weapons, rockets, rocket-propelled grenades, and tow missiles, and dozens of vehicles and aircraft, attacked four people armed with AK-47 automatic rifles. Mustapha, the 14-year old son of Qusai, was also killed in the operation, along with another individual who was apparently a bodyguard.

The subsequent firestorm of media coverage momentarily diverted public attention from the Bush administation’s failing Iraq war – its vain attempts to find any weapons of mass destruction or link between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, the White House’s admission that the President used false information in his State of the Union address, and the continuing deaths of American soldiers in an occupation with no end in sight.

The assassinations prompted chest-thumping and back-slapping all around. Even Senator Ted Kennedy joined British Prime Minister Tony Blair, The New York Times and the Washington Post, in congratulating Bush on the good news. Then, after reportedly reflecting on the pros and cons, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld gave the go-ahead to display the grisly photographs of the Hussein brothers’ reconstructed bullet-riddled faces. The Pentagon didn’t want to appear to be “gloating,” but Rumsfeld thought the photos would convince skeptical Iraqis that Uday and Qusai were indeed dead, which would reduce the attacks on U.S. troops and encourage informants to come forward without fear of retaliation by the old regime.

Both the targeted assassinations and the photographic display violated well-established principles of international law. Targeted, or political, assassinations are extrajudicial executions. They are unlawful and deliberate killings carried out by order of, or with the acquiescence of, a government, outside any judicial framework. Extrajudicial executions are unlawful, even in armed conflict. In a 1998 report, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions noted that “extrajudicial executions can never be justified under any circumstances, not even in time of war.”

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a treaty ratified by the United States, prohibits the arbitrary denial of the right to life, a right so fundamental, there can be no derogation from it even in “time of public emergency which threatens the life of the nation.” The U.N. General Assembly and Human Rights Commission, as well as Amnesty International, have all condemned extrajudicial executions.

After the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence disclosed in 1975 that the CIA had been involved in several murders or attempted murders of foreign leaders, President Gerald Ford issued an executive order banning assassinations. Although every succeeding president has renewed that order, the Clinton administration targeted Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, but narrowly missed him.

In July 2001, the U.S. Ambassador to Israel denounced Israel’s policy of targeted killings, or “preemptive operations.” He said “the United States government is very clearly on the record as against targeted assassinations. They are extrajudicial killings, and we do not support that.”

Yet after September 11, former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer invited the killing of Saddam Hussein: “The cost of one bullet, if the Iraqi people take it on themselves, is substantially less” than the cost of war. Shortly thereafter, George W. Bush issued a secret directive, which authorized the CIA to target suspected terrorists for assassination when it would be impractical to capture them and when large-scale civilian casualties could be avoided. In November 2002, Bush reportedly authorized the CIA to assassinate a suspected Al Qaeda leader in Yemen. He and five traveling companions were killed in the hit, which Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz described as a “very successful tactical operation.”

Nearly sixty years ago, the U.S. government opposed the extrajudicial executions of Nazi officials who had committed genocide against millions of people. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson, who served as chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal, told President Harry Truman: “We could execute or otherwise punish [the Nazi leaders] without a hearing. But undiscriminating executions or punishments without definite findings of guilt, fairly arrived at, would … not set easily on the American conscience or be remembered by children with pride.”

Americans should not feel pride in the public display of the gruesome photos of the assassinated Hussein brothers. The First Geneva Convention requires combatants to ensure that the dead are not despoiled. Reconstruction of their faces violates this treaty, which also provides that the dead be honorably interred; Islamic law requires immediate burial. When Iraqis displayed images of captured U.S. troops, Bush demanded that the POWs be treated humanely, and he warned that anyone who mistreated them would be tried for war crimes. But Bush didn’t complain when American media outlets featured Iraqi prisoners down on their knees, blindfolded and handcuffed. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

Uday and Qusai Hussein should have been arrested and tried in Iraqi courts or an international tribunal for their alleged crimes. George W. Bush cannot serve as judge, jury and executioner. This assassination creates a dangerous precedent, which could be used to justify the targeted killings of U.S. leaders. The display of the photographs may backfire and turn the brothers into martyrs who stood against the foreign invaders. It could also result in even more violence against U.S. troops.

July 17, 2003

Bush, Lies, and Impeachment: The Boy Who Cried Wolf

Revelations that the Bush administration sold us a bill of goods about Iraq’s weapons program are growing faster than the imaginary mushroom cloud George W. Bush used to whip up support for his invasion of Iraq. Weapons of mass destruction provided the excuse to distract Americans from the real reasons Bush and his men were itching to get into Iraq.

Two days before he invaded Iraq, Bush declared there was “no doubt” the Iraqi regime possessed and concealed “some of the most lethal weapons ever devised.” That claim has proved specious. If he had those horrible weapons, Hussein surely would have used them in self-defense, which he did not. Systematic searches by hundreds of weapons inspectors have failed to turn up any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Indeed, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, in Vanity Fair, described the weapons of mass destruction rationale as a “bureaucratic” excuse for war, upon which everyone could agree.

Before the war began, Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee asked the C.I.A. to make intelligence available to Congress; but only findings supportive of the Bush administration’s position on Iraq were declassified, according to Senator Bob Graham (D-Fla.). The Defense Intelligence Agency’s classified assessment of Iraq’s chemical weapons program concluded “there is no reliable information on whether Iraq is producing and stockpiling chemical weapons, or whether Iraq has–or will–establish its chemical warfare agent production facilities.” Nevertheless, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld unequivocally told the House Armed Services Committee shortly thereafter, “We do know that the Iraqi regime has chemical and biological weapons.”

Another reason we were given for going to war with Iraq was that Hussein would share weapons with Al Qaeda. The Iraq-Al Qaeda link has also been thoroughly discredited. A United Nations panel found no such connection. The F.B.I. determined that Mohammed Atta, the lead September 11 hijacker, was in the United States when he was reputed to have met with an Iraqi official in Prague. And the senior Al Qaeda leader whom Secretary of State Colin Powell accused of operating out of Baghdad turned out to be in Kurdish, not Hussein-controlled, territory.

Now the lies are being revealed and Bush is busy shifting the blame and trying to change the subject. When confronted with the false uranium report in his State of the Union address, Bush blamed the C.I.A. and repeated his mantra that the world is a safer place without Saddam.

The problem is, Saddam posed no imminent threat to the United States prior to the war. He was weakened by Gulf War I, years of punishing sanctions, nearly daily bombings in the no-fly zones, and intrusive inspections. American soldiers are still dying in what Senator Ted Kennedy characterized as a “shooting gallery,” with no end in sight. General Tommy Franks predicted that our troops would be in Iraq for years, to the tune of $3.9 billion a month of taxpayers’ money.

So why did we go into Iraq?

Was it the oil and the desire to clinch U.S. control of the Middle East?

Did Bush think he would be vindicated by weapons found after he took control of Iraq?

His new doctrine of “preemptive war” is really a faith-based foreign policy. Bush’s breach of our trust will make it impossible to believe the boy-who-cried-wolf when he claims another country is threatening our national security.

Americans are demanding answers to many questions about why our soldiers were, and continue to be, placed in harm’s way. Why are the Republicans resisting a full and public investigation into “intelligence” about Iraq? Why did C.I.A. Director George Tenet take the fall for Bush’s misstatement about the African uranium? If Tenet is responsible for such a colossal failure, why does Bush express “absolute” confidence in him? Why wasn’t Tenet fired forthwith?

What else has Bush lied about?

An independent commission headed by a special prosecutor should be convened immediately to get to the bottom of this. Bill Clinton was impeached for lying about sex. If it is determined that Bush misled American soldiers into war, the House of Representatives should initiate impeachment proceedings against him. There is no higher crime or misdemeanor.

July 10, 2003

Affirmative Action Counteracts Centuries of Racism

Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent momentous affirmative action decisions, the talking heads have railed against “reverse discrimination,” a term that entered our vernacular 25 years ago with the Regents of the University of California v. Bakke opinion.

But focusing on equal rights for whites misses the point. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in her separate opinions in the Michigan cases, hits the nail on the head. In her dissent in Gratz v. Bolinger, where the court struck down the University of Michigan’s undergraduate admissions program, she decries the majority’s view that judicial inspection of all official race classifications should be judged by the same standard of review. This would be appropriate, she writes, if our country were “free of the vestiges of rank discrimination long reinforced by law.”

Ginsburg documents the large disparities between whites and minorities in earning power, unemployment rates, poverty levels and access to health care and quality education. She also discusses institutional racism. Ginsburg then says that the issue presented in Bakke — where a white man claimed discrimination because blacks were admitted before him — is categorically distinct from the issue presented in Brown v. Board of Education — where the Supreme Court said that black kids have the right to go to the very same schools as white kids.

Ginsburg reinforces this distinction with reference to international treaties, saying “Contemporary human rights documents draw just this line; they distinguish between policies of oppression and measures designed to accelerate de facto equality,” citing the United Nations-initiated Conventions on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

The United Nations Human Rights Committee, which administers the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, has determined that affirmative action may involve preferential treatment, and as long as it is needed to correct discrimination in fact, “it is a case of legitimate differentiation.”

Illegitimate differentiations have been maintained for years. The children of alumni — who are primarily white — have always been granted preference in admission at the elite universities (e.g., George W. Bush). This system has served to discriminate against the children of non-alumni, or non-whites.

Justice Clarence Thomas, dissenting in the law school decision, Grutter v. Bolinger, where the court held that race can be used as a factor to achieve diversity in higher education, says “blacks can achieve in every avenue of American life without the meddling of university administrators.” He focuses on the stigma attached to blacks who take positions in “the highest places of government, industry or academia,” saying “it is an open question today whether their skin color played a part in their advancement.”

Thomas apparently wonders whether he himself benefited from affirmative action when he was admitted to Yale Law School and appointed to the Supreme Court. In any event, he disingenuously seeks to slam the door behind him, and deprive future generations of black students the opportunities that were available to him.

Thomas misses the point. As Justice Sandra Day O’Connor writes for the majority in Grutter, “By virtue of our Nation’s struggle with racial inequality, such [minority] students are both likely to have experiences of particular importance to the Law School’s mission, and less likely to be admitted in meaningful numbers on criteria that ignore those experiences.”

In my own criminal procedure classes, the perspectives of African-American students about racial profiling which enrich the classroom discussion could not be duplicated by their white counterparts. Indeed, according to O’Connor, “Effective participation by members of all racial and ethnic groups in the civil life of our Nation is essential if the dream of one Nation, indivisible, is to be realized.”

Affirmative Action Counteracts Centuries of Racism

Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent momentous affirmative action decisions, the talking heads have railed against “reverse discrimination,” a term that entered our vernacular 25 years ago with the Regents of the University of California v. Bakke opinion.

But focusing on equal rights for whites misses the point. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in her separate opinions in the Michigan cases, hits the nail on the head. In her dissent in Gratz v. Bolinger, where the court struck down the University of Michigan’s undergraduate admissions program, she decries the majority’s view that judicial inspection of all official race classifications should be judged by the same standard of review. This would be appropriate, she writes, if our country were “free of the vestiges of rank discrimination long reinforced by law.”

Ginsburg documents the large disparities between whites and minorities in earning power, unemployment rates, poverty levels and access to health care and quality education. She also discusses institutional racism. Ginsburg then says that the issue presented in Bakke — where a white man claimed discrimination because blacks were admitted before him — is categorically distinct from the issue presented in Brown v. Board of Education — where the Supreme Court said that black kids have the right to go to the very same schools as white kids.

Ginsburg reinforces this distinction with reference to international treaties, saying “Contemporary human rights documents draw just this line; they distinguish between policies of oppression and measures designed to accelerate de facto equality,” citing the United Nations-initiated Conventions on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

The United Nations Human Rights Committee, which administers the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, has determined that affirmative action may involve preferential treatment, and as long as it is needed to correct discrimination in fact, “it is a case of legitimate differentiation.”

Illegitimate differentiations have been maintained for years. The children of alumni — who are primarily white — have always been granted preference in admission at the elite universities (e.g., George W. Bush). This system has served to discriminate against the children of non-alumni, or non-whites.

Justice Clarence Thomas, dissenting in the law school decision, Grutter v. Bolinger, where the court held that race can be used as a factor to achieve diversity in higher education, says “blacks can achieve in every avenue of American life without the meddling of university administrators.” He focuses on the stigma attached to blacks who take positions in “the highest places of government, industry or academia,” saying “it is an open question today whether their skin color played a part in their advancement.”

Thomas apparently wonders whether he himself benefited from affirmative action when he was admitted to Yale Law School and appointed to the Supreme Court. In any event, he disingenuously seeks to slam the door behind him, and deprive future generations of black students the opportunities that were available to him.

Thomas misses the point. As Justice Sandra Day O’Connor writes for the majority in Grutter, “By virtue of our Nation’s struggle with racial inequality, such [minority] students are both likely to have experiences of particular importance to the Law School’s mission, and less likely to be admitted in meaningful numbers on criteria that ignore those experiences.”

In my own criminal procedure classes, the perspectives of African-American students about racial profiling which enrich the classroom discussion could not be duplicated by their white counterparts. Indeed, according to O’Connor, “Effective participation by members of all racial and ethnic groups in the civil life of our Nation is essential if the dream of one Nation, indivisible, is to be realized.”

June 17, 2003

Terrorism or National Liberation Struggle?

The word “terrorism” is bandied about by the Bush administration as it suits its political agenda. It is important to try to define and distinguish between different forms of terrorism, and to distinguish that from national liberation struggles.
M. Kalliopi K. Koufa, the U.N. special rapporteur for the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, has differentiated between five different types of terrorism: individual or group terrorism, international state terrorism, state regime or government terror, state sponsored or state supported terrorism, and national liberation struggles for self-determination. I will apply those definitions to the September 11th attacks, the U.S.-U.K. bombing of Afghanistan and Iraq, Israel’s occupation and massacre of the Palestinians, U.S. support for Israel’s military operation and Palestine’s response to the illegal occupation.

Individual Terrorism

The September 11 attacks are examples of sub-state terrorism. Individual acts of violence and intimidation, including assassinations, bombings, sabotage and robberies, have historically been perpetrated by individuals and groups to terrorize the state and the public in order to revolutionize the masses and create social and political change. Individual terrorism has been waged by religious as well as national and political groups. The planning of the September 11 attacks has been largely attributed to Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda. In 1996, Bin Laden declared a jihad to drive the U.S. military forces out of the Arabian Peninsula, overthrow the Saudi government and liberate Mecca and Medina. Four years later he issued a fatwa stating it is the duty of all Muslims to kill U.S. citizens and their allies. After September 11, he said, “America and its allies are massacring us in Palestine, Chechneya, Kashmir and Iraq. The Muslims have a right to attack America in reprisal….The September 11 attacks…targeted America’s icons of military and economic power.”

Bin Laden’s other flash points were the deaths of one million innocent Iraqis as the result of sanctions and U.S. complicity in Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. He holds the American people responsible for electing a government that manufactures arms and gives them to Israel.

The Convention of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference on Combating International Terrorism defines terrorism as follows:
Any act of violence, or threat thereof notwithstanding its motives or intentions perpetrated to carry out an individual or collective criminal plan with the aim of terrorizing people or threatening to harm them or imperiling their lives, honour, freedoms, security or rights or exposing the environment or any facility or public or private property to hazards or occupying or seizing them, or endangering a national resource, or international facilities, or threatening the stability, territorial integrity, political unity or sovereignty of independent states.

The Convention defines a “terrorist” crime as “any crime executed, started or participated in to realize a terrorist objective in any of the contracting states or against its nationals, assets or interests or foreign facilities and nationals residing in its territory punishable by its internal law.” Under the Convention, the September 11 attacks constituted individual or group acts of terrorism because they were acts of violence to carry out an individual or collective plan to terrorize and imperil the lives of people in the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

International State Terrorism
International state terrorism is the use of force as coercive diplomacy, the unlawful use of force in violation of the U.N. Charter. A number of states have endorsed the following definition of this form of state terrorism:
. . terror inflicted on a large scale and with the most modern means on whole populations for purposes of domination or interference in their internal affairs, armed attacks perpetrated under the pretext of reprisals for preventative action by states against the sovereignty and integrity of third states, and the infiltration of terrorist groups or agents into the territory of other states.

The bombing of Afghanistan by the U.S. and the U.K., undertaken in violation of the U.N. Charter, inflicted large scale terror on the whole population. The military strikes against Afghanistan were armed attacks perpetrated under the pretext of reprisals for the September 11 attacks and the prevention of further terrorist attacks on the U.S.9 They constituted international state terrorism and violated international law.

The sanctions against Iraq, the on-going bombing of Iraq in the “no-fly zones,” and the U.S-U.K.’s war on Iraq-none of which has been sanctioned by the Security Council-are other examples of international state terrorism. The U.S. and U.K. are not responding to an imminent threat of danger from Iraq. Regime change violates the sovereignty of Iraq as guaranteed by the U.N. Charter.

State Terrorism by a Regime or Government

Traditionally, “regime” or “government” terror is conducted by organs of the state against its own population or the population of an occupied territory for the purpose of preserving a regime or suppressing challenges to its authority. It is frequently characterized by kidnapping and assassination of political opponents of the government, by the police, secret service, army or security forces; imprisonment without trial; persecution and torture; massacres of racial or religious minorities or certain social classes; internment in concentration camps; and government by fear. Regime or governmental state terrorism is legitimized by the law the state has itself established.

Israel’s 36-year occupation of the Palestinian territories, its subjugation of the Palestinian people, in a system of apartheid, and its recent brutal massacre of hundreds of Palestinians, particularly in Jenin and Nablus, constitutes regime or governmental state terrorism. The Israeli government justifies its policies as lawful self-defense against Palestinian terrorists, e.g. “suicide bombers.”

State-Sponsored/Supported Terrorism

State-sponsored or state-supported terrorism includes overt or covert assistance or support by a state to terrorist agents in order to subvert or destabilize another state or its government.12 According to Koufa, “State sponsored terrorism occurs when a government plans, aids, directs and controls terrorist operations in another country. It is sometimes called ‘surrogate warfare.’”

Congress votes annual appropriations of military aid to Israel, which was $2.76 billion dollars this year.14 The U.S. financial and military aid to Israel, with the knowledge of Israel’s brutal occupation of Palestinian lands and massacres of Palestinian civilians, constitutes state-supported terrorism. Further, the U.S. exercise of its veto in the Security Council to prevent condemnation of Israel’s actions enables Israel to continue its occupation and terror against the Palestinians. The paramilitary forces tolerated by the U.S.-supported Uribe government in Colombia also characterize this form of terrorism.
Terrorism vs. National Liberation Struggles

In her report, the U.N. rapporteur Koufa distinguished between “terrorism” and “wars of national liberation in the context of the right of self-determination,”15 which are memorialized in the 1999 Convention of the Organization of the Islamic Conference on Combating International Terrorism. That convention says:
Peoples’ struggles, including armed struggle against foreign occupation, aggression, colonialism, and hegemony, aimed at liberation and self-determination in accordance with the principles of international law shall not be considered a terrorist crime.

Likewise, the 1998 Arab Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism excepts struggles against foreign occupation and aggression for liberation and self-determination from the definition of terrorist crime.

Two Islamic resistance movements, Hizbollah in Lebanon, and Hamas in Palestine, were born in the 1980s in reaction to Israel’s invasion, occupation and oppression of the Palestinians. They combine political action and militant jihad with humanitarian, social and educational programs.18 Hizbollah is a political party with seats in Parliament, and it continues to function in mainstream Lebanese society.19 Through suicide bombings, roadside booby traps and other violence, Hizbollah forced Israel to withdraw from the southern strip of southern Lebanon in May 2000.20 In response to Israel’s 2002 invasion of the occupied territories, Hizbollah fired rockets from Southern Lebanon into Israel.

Before 1994, Hamas restricted its guerrilla actions to political and military targets in the occupied territories. But after Baruch Goldstein, a Jewish settler, shot and killed 29 Muslim worshippers in the Mosque of the Patriarch in Hebron, Hamas took revenge with a new weapon-the suicide bomber. Israel has responded by massacring Palestinian civilians.

In September 2000, the Palestinians began a campaign of resistance (intifada), sparked by Israel’s increasing aggression in the occupied territories. The armed resistance of Palestinians to the 36-year Israeli occupation is not terrorism. It is an armed struggle for self-determination against foreign occupation, aggression and colonialism. Suicide bombers who target civilians, however, are engaging in terrorism.

Conclusion

The international community has long sought to eliminate international terrorism. It recently adopted U.N. General Assembly resolution 55/158, which reaffirmed international cooperation and stated that actions by states to combat terrorism should be conducted in conformity with principles of the charter. The U.S. must immediately ratify: the International Criminal Court statute, the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings, the International Convention for the Suppression of Financing Terrorism, the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production, and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and Their Destruction, and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. The United States government must stop claiming unilateral jurisdiction over individuals, organizations and nations it defines as “terrorist” or “aiding terrorists.” Instead it must work through the international legal community.