I found some transcripts from a conversation sponsored by the American Society of International Law
. In attedence were Condoleeza Rice, Sandra Day O'Connor, Judge Rosalyn Higgins and ASIL President-Elect Jose Alvarez. They discuss international law, the war on terror and some other issues. If you're like me, you're probably getting all itchy in the pants to know what was said and by whom...but odds are, you're not like and and you're instead thinking "wow...boring." Anyway, I'll dilute it down to some of my favorite quotes for you:
First, Secretary Rice said:
It is our very strong view that we are in a new kind of conflict, a new kind of war in which the conventions do not easily apply and in which, in fact, we have to be careful not to stretch the Geneva Conventions to cover people who should, in fact, not be covered by them. And so terrorists who, of course, do not fight according to the laws of war -- and I don't mean just not wearing uniforms, I don't mean just not carrying weapons openly, I mean where the entire purpose is the wanton killing of innocents -- I think that we have to be very careful about stretching the Geneva Conventions to cover people who are neither party to the convention nor really could ever be party to the convention.
Which was followed by this response from Judge Higgins:
Then you come to a variety of other specifics. The first point I'd make is I do believe it's quite clear that having the benefit of the Geneva Conventions has never depended upon the actor himself or itself complying with those rules, going beyond, as the Secretary put it, harming others through collateral damage but quite deliberately harming innocents. That has never been a ground and was deliberately never meant to be a ground for the Geneva Conventions not applying. That allows one not, first of all, to have to decide who is behaving correctly in order for them to be applicable and that is in the common good.
This next part is a long quote, but it's neccessary to read as a whole. Basically, Judge Higgins said that there is confussion throughout the world about what is and isn't legal, and that is in no small part due to the fact that we have created confussion. When the Attorney General himself refuses to rule out waterboarding and mock executions...what is
torture? Here was Secretary Rice's response:
But there are a couple things on which there are not dilemmas. The United States is going to live up to its obligations under the Convention Against Torture. The President has been very clear about that. The United States is going to live up to its own laws which relate to those issues. About that there is no confusion.
And the United States has a case before the Supreme Court about the military commissions so I'll not speak further about that. But the military commissions were designed, and the design overseen by a panel of distinguished people who were brought in to look at them from the outside, in order to try to balance the requirements of protecting information that might still be relevant to stopping the next terrorist attack and trying to give people a process that was defensible in terms of due process.
So if there is confusion, I want to be just very clear that I don't think there should be confusion on those issues.
OK, good...glad she cleared that up. Just to re-cap, to rebut the argument that our policies have created confussion, well...um...there is no
confussion. OK? Whew...glad that was settled. It's kind of like a really high ranking person saying, "not-uh"
Here is another money quote from Secretary Rice:
The United States went to war against Iraq with a number of other states because Iraq had been deemed a threat to international peace and security. Let's be very clear about the grounds for war against Iraq. It was actually not to bring democracy to Iraq. The Chapter 7 resolutions which had been passed against Iraq since 1991 had constituted Iraq a threat to international peace and security. That was the basis on which we went to war.
go to war to bring Democracy to Iraq. So when we say we will "stay the course" what course is that exactly, and when did we get on said course?
Now, if you follow law, you'll know that people like Frist and other wignuts in the Senate have been ballyhooing (is that a word?) about the Supreme Court and it's decisions. Basically they don't like the way some of the judges think (yes, that's a simplification, but I'm pretty sure the overall argument can be summed up as such). Particularly after last years decision that executing minors was un-Constitutional. The majority opinion cited foreign law as a basis of comparrisson...not
as a means to interpret our own Constitution. Anyhow, the mere citing of a foreign court drove the wingnuts into a frenzy. O'Connor and Alvarez were asked about that to which they replied:
This is a frequently discussed subject of late and I cannot think of an instance when the United States Supreme Court has cited a foreign judgment as binding authority for any interpretation of our Constitution. That hasn't happened. But a number of the Justices on our court have referred to judgments of other nations or the Court of Human Rights or something of that sort, by way of illustration of how other courts have perceived or handled certain problems, just as judges will sometimes cite a law review article or a textbook writer or some other source of interesting comparative information.
Yes. I think that the debate is a little misleading in that we use foreign law, or at least that's how Congress puts its, but we use, say, international law, which is the subject of our society, in different ways for different purposes. With respect to a domestic statute, we have the Charming Betsy presumption, which is a canon of interpretation that basically says you presume that what Congress did is consistent with international law and you try to interpret the law to be consistent with international law.
Now, with respect to using international law for purposes of constitutional interpretation, that's where some of the controversy lies. I agree with Justice O'Connor that I do not see -- I mean, the Supreme Court wrote or any of the recent cases a reliance by the court on international law to interpret a provision of the U.S. Constitution. For that reason, I totally agree with her that these moves in Congress that would suggest that you should impeach a judge for using foreign law are deeply, deeply misguided especially because I think they don't even understand necessarily the difference between foreign law and international law.
There was some talk by Rice about democratic institutions in Russia which prompted this snide comment by Alvarez that got me "rolling on the floor laughing my ass off" (or, roflmao, for those of you who speak IM):
I would just like to say I'm delighted to hear the Secretary praise a system of checks and balances and unreviewable authority because at least some members of this society have been quite concerned about that much closer to home.
OK, sorry for the amazingly long post. I'm waiting for some friends before I can go out and
I don't want to change to eat breakfast yet. Hmmm...if you read this whole thing, leave a comment...I'm interested to see who all read it.