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September 08, 2006


By Article VI of the U.S. Constitution, senate-ratified treaties, e.g., the Geneva Conventions, are the supreme law of the land, "any thing in the constitution [e.g., presidential powers] or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding." But it is the Republican-sponsored War Crimes Act of 1996 that makes the Geneva Conventions a source of judicially enforceable individual rights. Per Justice Kennedy's concurrence in Hamdan: "By Act of Congress ... violations of Common Article 3 [of the Geneva Conventions] are considered 'war crimes,' punishable as federal offenses, when committed by or against United States nationals and military personnel." And, those federal offenses are capital whenever death results to the victim, as it has to three-dozen detainees in the Global War on Terror. In effect, a majority of the Supreme Court consider Bush guilty of war crimes punishable in federal courts.

Needless to say, the White House has set out to legalize war crimes, i.e., to gut the War Crimes Act and retroactively indemnify White House officials against war-crimes prosecution. The attack on the War Crimes Act has been coming for weeks -- see [1] thru [8] below -- and everyone knew it would occur after Labor Day but in time to get passed while the Republicans still have a majority in both houses of Congress.

In fact, the attack began on Wednesday Sept. 6. "The proposal is in the last 10 pages of an 86-page bill devoted mostly to military commissions, and it is a tangled mix of cross-references and omissions," according to [12]. The rationale was given voice in a presidential speech and echoed throughout the Republican noise machine, e.g., [10]. The rationale was soundly refuted in an article, "The Torturer's Apprentice," by Ray McGovern, see [11].

Patriots of conscience must rally to the defense of the War Crimes Act. If we can't defend it, we can't defend any principled stand. It is what links us to people of conscience throughtout the world. It is what puts the strength of law behind our visceral feelings that what Bush is doing is so wrong.


[1] "Is George Bush Guilty of War Crimes...and Who Cares?" David
Wallechinsky, HuffingtonPost.com, 8/9/06:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-wallechinsky/is-george-bush-guilty-of-_b_26669.html [Very good background]

[2] "Detainee Abuse Charges Feared, Shield Sought From '96 War Crimes
Act," By R. Jeffrey Smith, The Washington Post, Friday 28 July 2006

[3] "Top Military Lawyers Oppose Plan for Special Courts" By
R. Jeffrey Smith, The Washington Post, Thursday 03 August 2006

[4] "War Crimes Act Changes Would Reduce Threat Of Prosecution"
R. Jeffrey Smith, Washington Post, 8/9/06:

[5] "Retroactive War Crime Protection Proposed"
By Pete Yost, The Associated Press, Wednesday 09 August 2006:

[6] "Amendments Sought in War Crimes Act"
From the Associated Press, August 10, 2006

[7] "Rewriting the Geneva Conventions"
Editorial, The New York Times, Monday 14 August 2006:

[8] "Bush Aims to Kill War Crimes Act"
By Jeremy Brecher and Brendan Smith, The Nation, 05 September 2006:
http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/090506B.shtml [Excellent]

[9] "Plan for Tribunals Would Hew to the First Series"
By Kate Zernike and Neil A. Lewis, The New York Times, 07 September 2006
[The last line reads: "To inoculate officials and civilian interrogators from the potential of being charged under the War Crimes Act for what they may have done, the bill has a provision making it retroactive to Sept. 11, 2001, the day of the terrorist attacks."]

[10] "Fighting fair"
Editorial, Riverside Press-Enterprise, 10:00 PM PDT 07 September 2006
[RNC talking points]

[11] "The Torturer's Apprentice"
by Ray McGovern, TomPaine.com, 07 September 2006
[a masterpiece]

[12] "Interrogation Methods Rejected by Military Win Bush's Support"
By Adam Liptak, The New York Times, 08 September 2006

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