Posts tagged ‘Laws of War’

11/04/2012

Undecided Voters: Foreign Policy Issues

The better choice on each issue is in the left column, indicated by a (D) for Democrat, (R) for Republican, or (N) for neither.

(D) TRADE WITH CHINA: Although Romney called China a currency manipulator and promised to prosecute them in the World Trade Organization (WTO) for the right to impose tariffs (10-11-11) (11-9-11) (11-12-11) (1-7-12) (1-19-12), since the Great Depression, both parties have worked together to eliminate tariffs, and in recent years, the Republicans have been the loudest advocate of free trade. It is highly unlikely Romney will seek or impose protective tariffs, or interfere with free trade.

(D) TRADE WITH CUBA: Although Romney said he would not open trade with Cuba, until Fidel Castro is dead (1-23-12) (1-26-12), there is actually no reason to treat Cuba any different than the People’s Republic of China, Vietnam, or any other country we now trade with, who was once our enemy. Open the door now.

(D) EURO CRISIS: If the banks and economies around the world were collapsing, Romney said he would act to prevent contagion. (10-11-11). He also said Europe should take care of their own problems (11-9-11), and if Europe had a financial crisis, he wouldn’t give them a blank check, or save their banks (1-16-12). He was critical of the European for using IMF Funds (11-9-11). It appears, as usual, Romney wants to cover both sides of the issue.

(D) IMMIGRATION: Romney promised to crack down on immigration. (8-11-11). He said employers who hire illegal aliens are magnets. (9-7-11) (9-22-11). He would make businesses check the E-Verify data base. (10-18-11) (12-15-11) (1-19-12) (1-26-11). He thinks illegal aliens without jobs will self-deport (1-26-12). He said amnesty for illegal immigrants is another magnet that only encourages more. (12-10-11). He would not give aliens tuition assistance. (9-12-11) (9-22-11) (10-18-11). He would not give them Driver’s licenses. (9-12-11). He wants people with math and science degrees (11-22-11), and English language emersion for immigrants. (1-23-12) (1-26-12). He opposes special routes to citizenship (1-16-12). Although many Republicans favor what Romney has said, business owners in his own party wish to continue hiring illegal aliens, so they can keep paying cash under the table, to avoid payroll taxes and other legal obligations.

(D) MILITARY SERVICE: Romney, who received several deferments during the Vietnam War, found it extraordinary that only a few families were paying the price for freedom (1-7-12)

(D) IRAQ: Obama carried out his campaign pledge to end the misguided War in Iraq. Romney said he thought we had to go to war against Iraq. (1-16-12). Why is that even remotely true?

(D) BIN LADEN: President Obama was the Commander-in-Chief over the raid that eliminated Osama bin Laden. If a Republican had been President when the mission was accomplished, they would be carving his face into Mt. Rushmore. On the assumption Bin Laden was responsible for 911, it was a job well done, and Obama should be credited.

(D) ASSASSINATION: Romney said he thinks the President has a right to order the death of any “American citizens” suspected of terrorism (11-12-11) Sorry, Mitt, no such right.

(D) LIBYA: President Obama waged an almost flawless campaign to help the Libyan freedom fighters remove Gaddafi, their long-time dictator. He refused to put U.S. troops on the ground, but supplied aid to the rebels, and succeeded in bringing change to Libya. Republicans, who spend time on the recent incident in Bengazi, can’t see the forest for the trees.

(D) AFGHANISTAN: We should withdraw from Afghanistan as soon as possible, so our troops can come home, and we can save billions. Romney was vague about Afghanistan during the Republican debates. He said he would defer to generals and conditions on the ground. (6-13-11) (8-11-11) He thinks our commanders in the field don’t want to withdraw. He wouldn’t cut and run. He thinks Obama’s announcement of a withdrawal weakened us (1-16-12) He accused Obama of withdrawing early, but then he also said he would stay until 2014. (11-12-11) (11-22-11) He gave no reasons for wanting to stay until 2014. (1-7-12). He wouldn’t negotiate with the Taliban, since he said they’re terrorists. He incorrectly said they declared war on us. (1-16-12). Romney wants to win in Afghanistan by defeating the Taliban (1-23-12) He also said he wants a gradual transfer to Afghan Security Forces. Frankly, I think Romney wants to be President and will say just about anything, depending on who’s listening.

(D) LAWS OF WAR: Romney said the rights that apply to criminal law are different than those applicable in war (11-22-11)

(D) GUANTANAMO: As to the Guantanamo Prison, Romney thinks we have a right to deny al Qaeda due process. (1-16-12).

(D) PAKISTAN: Romney is concerned about the fact Pakistan has nuclear weapons (2-22-12) He believes they are a fragile nation close to a failed state. He wants to bring Pakistan into the 21st Century (11-22-11) He wants them to let us go after the Taliban and Haqqani Network inside Pakistan (11-12-11). We need to stay out of Pakistan, Mitt. You’re playing with fire there.

(D) SYRIA: Romney said Syria is a threat to Israel (1-26-12), and an ally of Iran. He would use covert means to end Assad’s dictatorship (11-12-11) He would not however impose a no-fly zone over Syria. He would use sanctions and covert means (11-22-11) I say let’s stay out of their war altogether.

(D) ISRAEL: Although Republicans accuse Obama of sticking a thumb in Israel’s eye (8-11-11), the American problem is not too little support for Israel, it’s too much. Our bipartisan American foreign-policy has been controlled by Israeli special interests for a long time. Romney is frightening, because he sounds like a weak leader, who would allow outsiders to control our foreign policy. Romney said it was wrong for Obama to criticize Israel for illegally constructing settlements in occupied Palestine (9-22-11) Weak Republicans like Romney would abandon our long-standing objection to Israel’s illegal taking of the Palestinian territories in 1967. (8-11-11) Since Obama courageously followed international law, we need him to keep Israel from taking the U.S. even deeper into their conflict. Romney pandered to the Jewish community while in Florida (1-26-12), and it’s not surprising his first foreign policy trip would be to Israel (11-22-11) We need a leader much stronger than Romney, one who would stand up to Israel.

(D) IRAN: Romney has a desire to impose crippling sanctions against Iran to keep them from developing nuclear weapons, which he called unacceptable (9-22-11) He falsely accused Obama of not putting crippling sanctions against Iran (1-7-12) He supports Iranian dissidents. He favors regime change and would take military action to keep Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons (11-12-11) He called Obama weak on Iran (12-15-11) Romney said if Iran shut down the Straits of Hormuz, it would be an act of war (1-23-12). He thinks they will sneak dirty bombs into the U.S. through Latin America (2-22-12) Romney would indict Ahmadinejad for violating the Genocide Convention (11-22-11)

(D) LATIN AMERICA: Romney actually thinks the Hezbollah is working in Latin America (11-22-11) (2-22-12) Get real Mitt.

(D) RUSSIA: In one debate, Romney sounded like he didn’t know the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991. He was still talking as though Russia was an enemy, as he accused Obama of giving them what they wanted. (11-12-11). Romney worries me.

(D) FOREIGN AID: Romney thinks the U.S. spends more on foreign aid than we should (10-18-11). We are still the richest nation on earth, and if we want allies, we need to give some aid.

(D) HOMELAND SECURITY: Romney would let people who are a “lower risk” go through TSA screening quickly. (11-22-11). Sounds like he wants to set up a fast track for his friends like Donald Trump, while the rest of us wait in line.

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04/07/2011

Guantanamo: A Long Prison History

10 years ago, President Bush invaded Afghanistan and opened the Guantanamo Bay Prison. An estimated 800 men were rounded up and shipped to the Cuban enclave. Photos surfaced showing them in orange prison garb with their hands bound, legs shackled, and faces covered with masks. Many were captured based on nothing more than hearsay, often in response to bounties. Some were not involved in any war, but were linked to certain organizations. Most detainees had no history of any hostile act against the U.S.

President Obama pledged in 2008 to close Guantanamo, but the Congress blocked his efforts. He also said in 2009 the detainees would be tried in federal court, but now they appear to be going back to military tribunals. The issue of holding trials in the regular courts, or military tribunals, depends of the status of the prisoners.

The first issue was: are the prisoners civilians or combatants? Civilians are entitled to a trial in a typical criminal court, or an outright release, if there is no evidence against them. Combatants are people who carry arms. They are either lawful or unlawful. Lawful combatants, such as ordinary enemy troops, not accused of any war crimes, may not be put on trial, simply for serving as soldiers. They may be held for the duration of the conflict, but are entitled prisoner-of-war status. Prisoners may be tried in a military tribunal as unlawful combatants, only if they violated one of the Laws of War. If there is doubt as to their classification, they are protected by the Geneva Convention, until their status is determined by a competent judge.

President Bush initially found none of the prisoners were civilians, entitled to a release, or a trial in the regular court system (2002). He declared they were combatants, and more specifically, unlawful combatants, meaning he accused them of war crimes.

Bush issued an Executive Order (2001) ordering all prisoners to be tried by Military Commission, instead of military court-martial or civilian court. He gave the Commission exclusive jurisdiction. He repealed the ordinary rules of law, as he decreed: “It is not practicable to apply in military commissions…the principles of law, and the rules of evidence, generally recognized in the trial of criminal cases in the district courts.” He did not explain why he thought it was necessary to suspend the rights of the accused.

The Defense Dept. issued procedures for the military commissions (2002). The commissioners, prosecutors, and chief defense counsel would be picked by the Dept. Civilian defense lawyers would only be allowed if the Dept. pre-approved. Defense lawyers could be excluded from the hearings, if the Pentagon felt national security was at risk. Hearings were to be conducted in secret and closed to the media. Even the accused could be excluded from the room. He could see only that evidence the military allowed him to see. There would be no right to a speedy trial.  There would be no remedy or appeal: “in any court of the U.S., or any State thereof, or any court of a foreign nation, or any international tribunal.”

When the Pentagon filed their first charges (2004), prisoners filed Habeas Corpus petitions in the federal courts challenging Bush’s military system. In Hamdi v Rumsfeld (2004), Bush argued Hamdi was a combatant and could be held indefinitely, without charge. Hamdi said he was an innocent U.S. civilian, effectively serving a life sentence. The Supreme Court ruled the prisoner had a due process right to contest his status as a combatant.

Bush then created a Combatant Status Review Tribunals (2004) to determine if detainees were properly classified. Panels of military officers reviewed each case. They defined combatants as members of the Taliban, al-Qaeda, or other associated forces. After their reviews, they found some prisoners were not in fact combatants, but they continued to hold them anyway (2005).

Meanwhile, Congress passed the Detainee Treatment Act (2005), which attempted to override Hamdi, by denying Guantanamo prisoners Habeas Corpus petitions. That law was challenged in Hamdan v Rumsfeld (2006), along with Commission procedures, and the type of war crimes that could be prosecuted. The Supreme Court held Congress could not outlaw Habeas Corpus petitions. Procedurally, Hamdan did not want to be tried by Bush’s Commission. He instead wanted a trial in a military court-martial, where the Uniform Code of Military Justice would be applied. The Court agreed and ordered the use of courts-martial rules. As to the substantive charges, Hamdan was accused of conspiracy, but no specific act of wrongdoing. He argued conspiracy, by itself, is not a violation of the Laws of War. The Court agreed saying, the offense must violate the Laws of War, and conspiracy, in and of itself, does not appear in the Hague Conventions or the Geneva Conventions. They also said violations of the Laws of War happen during war, and cannot pre-date the conflict. The Court concluded none of the acts Hamden was alleged to have committed violated any of the Laws of War. After the Supreme Court ruling, a Republican-controlled Congress responded by passing the Military Commissions Act (2006), which again suspended Habeas Corpus, and resurrected Commission rules.

It’s time to be done with Guantanamo. Long ago, the Americans were right as they liberated Cuba and Guantanamo from Spain in the Spanish-American War (1898). The U.S. went wrong when they stayed in Cuba, until the Cubans agreed to lease Guantanamo Bay to the U.S. Navy. The U.S. has now had a lease on Guantanamo since 1903, and it’s time to vacate the premises. The U.S. needs to complete the remaining prisoner cases, close the base, bulldoze the buildings, and give Guantanamo back to Cuba.