Sunday, November 19, 2006

Mike and Al at it again

No, I don't mean Michael Moore and Al Gore. I mean Michael Chertoff and Alberto Gonzales.

While Gonzo was off calling those who are against warrantless wiretapping a grave threat to the nation's security (which has been covered ad nauseum everywhere, so I'm not saying anything), Chertoff was saying that "international law is being used as a rhetorical weapon against us."

I've long since made my point clear on how I think the Bush administration disregards and ignores ideas like the law, but let's have some discourse on international law, shall we?

The concept of international law is to make certain crimes and actions universally forbidden, as well as to structure a basic legal system so common ground can be found between nations on everything from military issues to territorial waters to salvage operations. It is there to keep us safe from unending war, political battles, and unnecessary arguments.

The administration has, as in many domestic issues, unilaterally declared that the Geneva Conventions don't apply to those we've captured through various means throughout the world. The Geneva Conventions are one of the bedrocks of international law. And in Chertoff's speech, we get a real glimpse of the administration's feelings towards long-held international standards.

"Chertoff said the U.S. Supreme Court decision on Guantanamo prisoner Salim Ahmed Hamdan that required the United States to treat detainees under Geneva Conventions standards showed international law's entry into the U.S. domain."

The Supreme Court decision simply recognized what many of us have said already. As a signatory to the Geneva Conventions, which are treaties that have been ratified by the Senate, they are, by the Constitution, not international law imposing on us, but part of actual law. I quote Article VI of the Constitution: "This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding."

The Geneva Conventions are a set of treaties which the United States ratified on February 8, 1955, therefore making them part of domestic law. Mr. Chertoff, for a lawyer and a former appeals judge, really should know better. To say that international law is encroaching upon us, well, if we sign onto those laws and ratify them, we've made them part of our own domestic legal system, and therefore the Supreme Court was bound to consider Geneva as part of its framework in the Hamdan decision.

Look, not all international law applies to the situations we face. But when we sign onto to something and give our word as a nation, we are bound to honor it. How can people trust us to keep our word when we've forsaken the ABM Treaty (when Russia did not want to) and the Geneva Conventions. Things like international law may not mean much to the Bush administration, but how we adhere to such laws and handle these cases goes towards showing potential allies how much they can trust us, and it gives our enemies fodder to use against us. International law is important, and instead of ignoring and belitting it, we should be out front, setting an example for the world, showing them that we can win while playing by their rules.


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