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The Day the Law Died
by bluey - CommonDreams Monday, Mar 5 2012, 9:38am
international / injustice/law / commentary

During my university days I studied all forms of fiction, fabulation, metafiction, realism, horror, gothic and personal favourite, fiction of the absurd; but I never imagined I would one day live in a real world of the fantastic and absurd.

Obama, errand boy
Obama, errand boy

After delivering the death blow to all civil liberties and rights with the indefinite detention law, Obama, the Red Queen of our time, is about to announce, via his Attorney General Eric Holder, the “legal framework” under which the American executive would be able to ‘legally’ assassinate whoever it likes anywhere it chooses by whatever means it deems appropriate. The absurd element in this fictive reality is attempting to legalise the clearly illegal -- murder is murder by any other name and attempting to whitewash crime by using legalistic jargon offends reason beyond measure.

I would add that I was not surprised by this latest absurd announcement, after all, we have the world’s leading civilian killing -- therefore terrorist -- nation actually accusing its victims of terrorism in order to veil, ever so thinly, its own criminal, terrorist activities.

Now consider the horrendous wars waged over the past decade on ‘humanitarian’ pretexts and the flagrant WMD lies and it’s a wonder ‘legal’ extra-judicial killing hasn’t been introduced sooner!

It should now be evident to even the most dim-witted banjo-playing hillbilly that the farce that is the ‘LAW’ is nothing more than a State convenience to justify its crime but oppress the less influential in society -- Obama is merely the latest criminal errand boy to utilise the law in this way, as Martin Luther King once reminded us, “do not forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal” -- there is nothing new under the criminal sun, is there, Barack?

Perhaps I should emphasise that the executive is in no position to impose anything on anyone unless we the masses allow it, or is that too much reality to bear? God forbid that someone would remind us of our social responsibilities in these days of flagrant State crime and social paralysis. But I am not writing this for the current ‘dead loss’ generation but for history.

However, I am heartened by the fact that I am not alone in my outrage and offended civil sensibilities, others with similar values have also sounded warnings and made plain their discontent with these laws. I leave you with one such group to elaborate further on the absurdity we live in today:

U.S. Set to Outline Justification for 'Targeted Assassination' Program
- Common Dreams staff

The Obama administration will later today explain its legal justification for its 'targeted assassination' program, which allows the government to kill U.S. citizens anywhere in the world, the Associated Press is reporting.

The Associated Press reports that Attorney General Eric Holder will explain the legal backing for the program this afternoon at Northwestern University.

CNN adds:

One official familiar with the speech said it was doubtful Holder would mention by name Anwar al-Awlaki, who was targeted in a September drone attack. Another American who was active in Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Samir Khan, was not the target of the strike but was with al-Awlaki and killed at the same time. [...]

Another official familiar with the speech confirmed the attorney general will discuss the legal framework on the use of lethal force. The official, who asked not to be identified because the speech is still under wraps, said the targeted-killing issue is just one aspect of a broad-ranging look at national security issues from a legal perspective.

Defense department lawyer Jeh Johnson said last month:

"Under well-settled legal principles, lethal force against a valid military objective, in an armed conflict, is consistent with the law of war and does not, by definition, constitute an assassination."

On February 1 the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Depart of Justice to demand that the US government release information about the government’s targeted killing program.

Explaining its lawsuit, the ACLU wrote:

Our government’s deliberate and premeditated killing of American terrorism suspects raises profound questions that ought to be the subject of public debate. Unfortunately the Obama administration has released very little information about the practice — its official position is that the targeted killing program is a state secret — and some of the information it has released has been misleading. [...]

Some officials, including President Obama, have spoken on the record about the program. They have publicly claimed responsibility for killing al-Awlaki, and they have more generally defended the government’s right to kill citizens after a secret non-judicial process. Just last week, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta acknowledged on 60 Minutes that the U.S. can and does carry out targeted killings of U.S. citizens subject to the recommendations of the CIA Director and the Secretary of Defense and pursuant to the President’s authorization. And this week, President Obama publicly defended the CIA targeted killing program in a live internet interview [starts at minute 26:30].

Glenn Greenwald wrote after the ACLU lawsuit was filed:

From a certain perspective, there’s really only one point worth making about all of this: if you think about it, it is warped beyond belief that the ACLU has to sue the U.S. Government in order to force it to disclose its claimed legal and factual bases for assassinating U.S. citizens without charges, trial or due process of any kind. It’s extraordinary enough that the Obama administration is secretly targeting citizens for execution-by-CIA; that they refuse even to account for what they are doing — even to the point of refusing to disclose their legal reasoning as to why they think the President possesses this power — is just mind-boggling. Truly: what more tyrannical power is there than for a government to target its own citizens for death — in total secrecy and with no checks — and then insist on the right to do so without even having to explain its legal and factual rationale for what it is doing? Could you even imagine what the U.S. Government and its media supporters would be saying about any other non-client-state country that asserted and exercised this power?
Follow link below for additional information and embedded links:

Attorney General Holder and Obama
Attorney General Holder and Obama


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War Crimes Hypocrisy
by Tom Gallagher via stan - CommonDreams Monday, Mar 5 2012, 10:26am

Asked whether Syrian president Bashar al-Assad was a war criminal, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the Senate Appropriations Committee that "Based on definitions of war criminal and crimes against humanity, there would be an argument to be made that he would fit into that category," although she downplayed the idea of charging him as such, in the interest of persuading him “perhaps to step down from power.” And with maybe 7,000 Syrian civilian deaths in the past year, probably few outside of al-Assad’s power apparatus would argue strenuously with her characterization. There was a rather large elephant in that committee room, though. The Senate and the Administration are accustomed to thinking that they define and enforce justice on a global basis, but doesn’t justice, like charity, begin at Photo: Osman Orsal/Reuters)

Like perhaps with George W. Bush? Prosecuting the former U.S. President for the crime of invading Iraq would, of course, be considered absurd on Capitol Hill and is virtually ignored in the mainstream American media, yet the matter is not taken so lightly everywhere. Last November, for instance, a War Crimes Tribunal in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia convicted both Bush and former United Kingdom Prime Minister Tony Blair of “crimes against peace.” The verdict concluded that “Weapons investigators had established that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. Iraq was also not posing any threat to any nation at the relevant time that was immediate that would have justified any form of pre-emptive strike.”

Few Americans have ever heard of this tribunal, which was initiated by former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, and it possesses no enforcement powers. Yet while official America may not take the idea of Americans being charged with war crimes seriously, it’s not absolutely clear that George W. Bush counts himself among that consensus. In February, 2011, he cancelled a trip to a charity gala in Switzerland for reasons that are disputed. Event organizers attributed the cancellation to demonstrations planned to protest the alleged torture of U.S.-held detainees during his presidency. Human rights groups, however, thought the cause was their announced intention to file an official criminal complaint against him with Swiss prosecutors upon his arrival (along with the call for his arrest by a right-wing member of the Swiss parliament.) A Bush spokesman declined comment at the time, but in a later story about Amnesty International’s call for his arrest during an upcoming visit to Africa, CBS News attributed the Switzerland cancellation to “fears that he may have faced legal action there.”

And the elephant in that committee room wasn’t entirely Republican, either. For Clinton, justice could literally begin at home – with her husband, Bill Clinton, who’s also been accused of war crime complicity. Now, this can be a very touchy subject because the source of the war crimes allegations is the 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia and that was the campaign that made a lot of liberals like war again. So a substantial portion of those willing to consider Bush a war criminal entertain no such notions about Clinton.

And yet, in 2000, Amnesty International, an organization that enjoys wide respect in the U.S. when it criticizes other countries (and winner of the 1977 Nobel Peace Prize), charged that civilian casualties ''could have been significantly reduced if NATO forces had fully adhered to the laws of war.'' Human Rights Watch, claimed that half of the 500 Yugoslav civilians killed by NATO bombs died because of NATO violations of law and failures to protect civilians – not an insignificant number in that the total of civilian deaths specifically charged to Yugoslav leader Slobodon Milosevic was under 800. Amnesty specifically cited the April 23 bombing of a Belgrade TV station that killed 16.

Milosevic died in 2006 while on trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and relatively few would argue that his indictment was not justified. But no charges were filed against NATO, despite the fact that ICTY acknowledged an attack against a “propaganda” target rather than a military target would constitute a war crime and Tony Blair had described the attack on the Belgrade TV station as just that. The incident was not even investigated. Likewise, Yugoslavia and NATO both used cluster bombs, yet only side was indicted for their use.

Why the one-sidedness? Well, in his 2004 book, “Getting Away With Murder,” Canadian law professor Michael Mandel reported that for a considerable period of time a hyperlink actually connected the ICTY and NATO web sites, suggesting that they pretty much considered themselves partners. And you don’t indict a partner, do you?

At NATO and in Washington, this all fits into the Leona Helmsley theory of international law. In case you’ve forgotten Helmsley, who died in 2007, she was a real estate entrepreneur who was convicted of federal income tax evasion in 1989. The highpoint of her trial came when a former housekeeper alleged she had heard Helmsley say: "We don't pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes."

And so far as foreign policy goes in the U.S., no matter whether the Secretary of State be Hillary Clinton, Colin Powell, or Madeline Albright, the operative principle is the same – the Leona Helmsley theory of international law: We are not guilty of war crimes. Only little countries are guilty of war crimes. We don’t go to war crimes tribunals. Only little countries go to war crimes tribunals.

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