Among the most important questions the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee can ask Alberto Gonzales, the White House’s chief legal counsel and nominee to succeed John Ashcroft at the Department of Justice—the “least accountable Justice Department in my lifetime,” Patrick Leahy, the Committee’s ranking Democrat, calls it—when his confirmation hearings begin, probably right after the inauguration in late January, here are the three that come to my mind:
1. Under what circumstances do you believe it is appropriate for foreigners—state or non-state—to resort to lethal force against U.S. territory and interests?
2. Under what circumstances do you believe it is appropriate for foreigners—state or non-state—to use torture to extract information from the American citizens they hold prisoner?
3. Last, under what circumstances do you believe the Chief Executive of the United States is justified in violating the U.S. Constitution, U.S. statutory law, and international law (i.e., in the latter case, such as it is)?
Of course, these three questions are really one question phrased three different ways. (Sincerest apologies for their repetitive and formal character.—Should anyone care to add a fourth, consider this: Can you give at least one compelling reason why the House of Representatives should not immediately begin impeachment hearings into your boss?)
But, since morally upstanding Americans spend so much time these days contesting the circumstances under which they, their representatives, and their allies can do god-awful things to foreigners, including detaining and torturing them, attacking their countries, and killing them en masse, I think it not only fitting, but damned necessary, to show these same Americans how the world looks when some factor other than sheer power determines who gets to ask the questions, and what kinds of questions get asked. (The point in all of this being that the history of the world appears radically different, depending on which end of the gun one looks at it from—the barrel- or the trigger-end. And strictly observing expressed moral principles “in kind,” as the head of what used to be al Qaeda put the matter in his most recent communiqué.)
(Quick aside. Does anyone still remember the “humanitarian” war-craze of the 1990s, the so-called “golden age of humanitarian diplomacy,” as Richard Falk once put it? Hasn’t there been a lesson to be learned in all of this? Namely, that if you keep lowering the bar for the Americans to start wars, what the Americans will give the world in return are—you guessed it—more and deadlier wars.)
(Quick aside to this quick aside. “No previous human rights experience or knowledge is required,” a course syllabus for the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard’s Michael Ignatieff tells prospective students. Which is exactly how it ought to be, after all—since no genuine concern for human rights is required to be among the cast of Harvard academicians who offer these ridiculous classes in the first place. Remember, friends: This is the same Michael Ignatieff who in the first-half of 2003 supported the crime of aggression that gave the world the shooting gallery of American occupied Iraq. So if you need to know anything else about the reality of this gentleman’s labors on behalf of human rights in the contemporary world, I suggest you start right here, with this fact.—For the most recent tract by this Harvard faker, see The Lesser Evil: Political Ethics in an Age of Terror (Princeton University Press, 2004). And for a linkable extract from the same tract, see “Could We Lose the War on Terror? Lesser Evils,” New York Times Magazine, May 2, 2004.)
In a statement reacting to the Gonzales nomination, Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont noted that the upcoming confirmation hearings “will be a rare opportunity for the Senate and the public to finally get some answers on several issues for which the Administration has resisted accountability, its use of the Patriot Act, the lack of cooperation with Congress on oversight, and the policies that have been rejected by the courts on the treatment of detainees. This also may be the only remaining forum in which to examine more fully the steps that were taken to weaken U.S. policy on torture in the period that led to the prison scandals at Abu Ghraib and Afghanistan.” (Press Release, Nov. 10, 2004.) Not to mention upwards of a couple dozen others.
Well. I can’t speak for the rest of you. But those policies rejected by the courts on the treatment of so-called detainees—including the U.S. Supreme last June, and, more recently, a U.S. District Court—strike me as a particularly useful point of departure. As a backdrop to each of these cases, the Bush regime has left us with a paper trail, and in this paper trail, we find the regime’s chief legal advisers inventing reasons why it has not only the power, but also the authority, to violate the most fundamental laws of the land.—Why shouldn’t Senator Leahy seize the opportunity to question Alberto Gonzales as one important step toward the discovery of every piece of the paper trail this regime has produced in its rejection of the “supreme Law of the Land”?
Traveling to Washington for a summit Thursday and Friday with the American President the exact purpose of which was next-to-unfathomable (unless it was PR strictly), the British Prime Minister—who faces a small but serious and growing movement within his own country calling for his impeachment for “high crimes and misdemeanors in relation to the invasion of Iraq“—notice the unmistakable echo of Article II, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution—was dismissed by his own press as “damaged goods” (Daily Telegraph) and “desperate” and “almost out of political capital” (The Times). And worse.
During Friday’s news conference at the White House, one British reporter even broached the infamous ‘P’-word with the two heads of state. “The Prime Minister,” this question began, “is sometimes, perhaps unfairly, characterized in Britain as your ‘poodle’. I was wondering if that’s the way you may see your relationship?”
This whole wonderful exchange—which happened to punctuate the end of the news conference—went as follows (“President and Prime Minister Blair Discuss Iraq, Middle East,” Nov. 12):
Question: Mr. President, first. The Prime Minister is sometimes, perhaps unfairly, characterized in Britain as your “poodle.” I was wondering if that’s the way you may see your relationship? And perhaps, more seriously, do you feel for the —
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: Don’t answer “yes” to that question. If you do, I would be — (laughter.) That would be difficult.
Question: Do you feel, for the strong support that Britain has given you over Iraq, that you have to pay back Britain for that support in some way?
PRESIDENT BUSH: The Prime Minister made the decision he did because he wanted to do his duty to secure the people of Great Britain. That’s why he made the decision. Plenty capable of making his own mind. He’s a strong, capable man. I admire him a lot. You know why? When he tells you something, he means it. You spend much time with politics, you’ll know there’s some people around this part of the — this kind of line of work where they tell you something, they don’t mean it. When he says something, he means it. He’s a big thinker. He’s got a clear vision. And when times get tough, he doesn’t wilt. When they — when the criticism starts to come his way — I suspect that might be happening on occasion — he stands what he believes in. That’s the kind of person I like to deal with. He is a — I’m a lucky person, a lucky President, to be holding office at the same time this man holds the Prime Ministership.
These are troubled times. It’s a tough world. What this world needs is steady, rock-solid leaders who stand on principle. And that’s what the Prime Minister means to me.
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: I just want to add one thing, which is that, well, this — this concept of payback — we are — we’re not fighting the war against terrorism because we are an ally of the United States. We are an ally of the United States because we believe in fighting this war against terrorism. We share the same objectives; we share the same values. And if we look back over our own history in the last half-century or more, we, both of us, in different ways, the United States and Britain, have a cause to be thankful for this alliance and this partnership. And I should we — I believe we should be thankful that it is as strong as it is today. And as long as I remain Prime Minister of our country, it will carry on being strong — not because that’s in the interests of America, simply, or in the interests of the international community, but because I believe passionately it is in the interests of Britain.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Good job. Thank you, sir.
Thank you all.
A more realistic assessment of the fabled Atlantic relationship was offered by Blair in late September, when addressing the British Labour Party’s annual conference. After apologizing very unapologetically for having gotten much of the pre-war “intelligence” on Iraq’s weapons capabilities “wrong” (not in my opinion—but this is another story, best left for another time), and after defending, once again, his decision to dispatch the British military to invade Iraq right alongside the Americans to drive the old regime in Baghdad from power, Blair then turned to a list of the objectives he would like to achieve during his next term in office, including a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a curb on the causes of global warming, and improvements in the lives of people across the African continent.
And then Blair added (“The opportunity society,” Sept. 28):
But understand this reality. Little of it will happen except in alliance with the United States of America.
“A Better Life For All,” was the theme of the British Labour Party’s annual conference in September.
May these two heads of state sink together. Or roll together.
Whatever it is that happens to heads when they are removed from the states they once led.
Decision Re Application of the Geneva Convention on Prisoners of War to the Conflict with Al Qaeda and the Taliban, Alberto R. Gonzales, January 25, 2002 (a.k.a. the Gonzales Memo)
Memorandum for Alberto R. Gonzales Counsel to the President, Office of Legal Counsel, U.S. Department of Justice, August 1, 2002
Rasul et al. v. Bush, President of the United States, et al. (No. 03-334), Supreme Court of the United States, June 28, 2004
Hamdi et al. v. Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense, et al.. (No. 03-6696), Supreme Court of the United States, June 28, 2004
Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense, v. Padilla et al. (No. 03-1027), Supreme Court of the United States, June 28, 2004
“Reflections on the War,” Richard Falk, The Nation, June 28, 1999
“Establish a Right to Intervene Against War, Oppression,” Bernard Kouchner, Los Angeles Times, October 18, 1999
“Anticipatory Humanitarian Intervention in Kosovo,” Jonathan I. Charney, Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, November, 1999
Kosovo Report. Conflict—International Response—Lessons Learned, Independent International Commission on Kosovo, 2000 (Esp. Part III, “Conclusion,” with its list of “Threshold” and “Contextual” principles that allegedly make for a just “humanitarian” war.)
“Kosovo Revisited,” Richard Falk, The Nation, April 10, 2000
“A Just Response,” Richard Falk, The Nation, October 8, 2001
“Defining a Just War,” Richard Falk, The Nation, October 29, 2001
“In Defense of ‘Just War’ Thinking,” Richard Falk, The Nation, December 21, 2001
“Subverting the UN,” Richard Falk & David Krieger, The Nation, November 4, 2002
“Humanitarian Intervention: A Forum,” Richard Falk, The Nation, July 14, 2003
“45 Questions and Answers Regarding Intervention in General, 9-11 and Afghanistan One Year Later, and Iraq on the Verge of War,” Stephen R. Shalom and Michael Albert, ZNet, [Date?]
A Failed “Transition”: The Mounting Costs of the Iraq War, Phyllis Bennis et al., Institute for Policy Studies/Foreign Policy In Focus, September 30, 2004
“Mortality before and after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: cluster sample survey,” Les Roberts et al, The Lancet, posted October 29, 2004.
“Human Rights First Deeply Troubled by Nomination of Alberto Gonzales to Be Attorney General,” News Release, Human Rights First, November 10, 2004
“Gonzales’ Appointment is a Danger to Human Rights,” Joel Wendland, www.dissidentvoice.org, November 11, 2004
“Alberto Gonzales: Some General Questions,” Christy Harvey et al., American Progress Action Fund, November 12, 2004
“The Quaint Mr. Gonzales,” Marjorie Cohn, Truthout, November 13, 2004
“Draft Impeachment Resolution Against President George W. Bush,” Francis A. Boyle, CounterPunch, January 17, 2003
“It’s About the Rule of Law: Impeaching George W. Bush,” Francis A. Boyle, CounterPunch, July 25, 2003
Destroying World Order: U.S. Imperialism in the Middle East Before and After September 11th, Francis A. Boyle (Clarity Press, Inc., 2004)
A Case to Answer: A first report on the potential impeachment of the Prime Minister for High Crimes and Misdemeanours in relation to the invasion of Iraq, Glen Rangwala, Dan Plesch, et al. (Adam Price, MP, British House of Commons, August, 2004)
Iraqpolicy.org.uk (some powerful analytic tools)
“Impeachment Time: ‘Facts Were Fixed’,” Greg Palast, May 5, 2005
“The special bond has soured into an awkward and unrequited love,” David Rennie, Daily Telegraph, November 13, 2004
“So much bonhomie, but what has Mr Blair achieved in Washington?” Editorial, The Independent (London), November 13, 2004
“Was the Commitment for Show or Was It for Real?” Roland Watson, The Times (London), November 13, 2004
“‘You want payback over Iraq, Tony? Well, just listen to this’,” Tim Reid, The Times (London), November 13, 2004
“‘Lucky’ President praises Blair and promises Palestinian state,” David Charter, The Times (London), November 13, 2004
Michael Ignatieff’s Apologetics for Torture, ZNet Blogs (the old ones), May 17, 2004
Ignatieff & Lewis, ZNet Blogs (the old ones), May 29, 2004
Contemporary Barbarism, ZNet Blogs (the old ones), June 17, 2004
An American Gulag, ZNet (the old ones), July 13, 2004
Another American Gulag, ZNet (the old ones), July 14, 2004
High Crimes and Misdemeanors, ZNet Blogs, November 9, 2004
“New Paradigm,” ZNet Blogs, November 11, 2004
The Blair Era, ZNet Blogs, April 30, 2005