Following up on Goldy’s earlier post, I considered titling this “The body of contemporary conservatism.”
This is part II of Max Blumenthal’s unauthorized CPAC documentary:
Sen. Pam Roach has an anus problem. Last night as the Senate passed bill 5297 that requires medically and scientifically accurate sexual health education, Sen. Roach clenched her…her…fists, and proclaimed:
What does the word anus have to do with sex ed when we’re talking to fourth graders? No parent wants their child to be talking about sex and anuses.
Sen. Roach was outraged by instructional materials for a 4th-6th grade curriculum she found on the King County website that includes the word “anus.” (Sen. Roach has a point—hearing your kid talk about sex and anuses is probably not high on the list of parental moments to savor. But it helps if your kid at least uses scientifically accurate terminology….)
Roach’s problem is that she, apparently, doesn’t understand the difference between sexual health education and “talking about sex.” Apparently, there is no room in her world view for an objective discussion of other anatomical structures as part of an education in reproductive anatomy. Might this attitude come from a belief that sex is only for procreation?
Here is a figure from the King County website that is part of a typical lesson in the 4th-6th grade curriculum that includes “talking about sex and anuses.”
Clearly, there is a leftist agenda at play here–I mean sneaking the bladder, urethra, and anus into the same diagram as the female reproductive system is a pernicious attempt to promote promiscuity and homosexuality (while giving in to the terrorists). The agenda could only have been more blatant by including the G-spot….
I think it’s revealing that Pam Roach found “anus” objectionable in the anatomy lesson, but not “bladder”—revealing about the state of Pam Roach’s own anal sphincter. And I think we can all agree that thinking about Pam Roach’s sphincter is inappropriate at any age.
Sen. Roach may have a point. From what I understand about trends in teen sex, the diagram emphasizes the wrong end of the alimentary canal. [–Goldy]
You may remember Initiative 831, written by Goldy, that declared Tim Eyman a horse’s ass. In the end, the initiative had enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, but Goldy’s efforts were thwarted by a meddling Attorney General by the name of Christine Gregoire. She felt that this brilliant initiative was not suitable initiative material (“frivolous,” I think she called it).
Huh? Is there is some kind of truth in anatomical attribution principle that is only known by law students at Gonzaga University? Too bad…by many accounts this was the single best initiative offered since the Rosellini administration.
So you can imagine my surprise and delight today when I learned that…
[o]n a 90-3 vote, with five lawmakers excused, a measure designating the Pacific chorus frog as the state amphibian. “I have not heard from the newt or salamander lobbies,” said bill sponsor, Rep. Brendan Williams, D-Olympia, before passage of the bill, which now heads to the Senate.
Hmm… Pacific chorus frog is the common name for Pseudacris regilla, meaning something like splendidly dishonest locust, which, if you think about it, sounds an awful lot like Tim Eyman. On the other hand, calling Eyman a lying locust is an insult to locusts and other agents of plagues, rusts and pestilences everywhere. I mean, locusts don’t steal money from donors and then lie their supraanal plate off about it, do they?
This House measure got me to thinking that, perhaps, Goldy’s initiative would have succeeded if, instead of declaring Eyman to be the body part of an animal, he had declared Tim Eyman an official state organism—the whole organism. That’s not frivolous, is it? I’m thinking maybe the official state Myxogastria (i.e. slime mould). Or how ’bout the official state Spirogyra (pond scum)? I can’t decide.
In this era of scientific enlightenment, all life forms have equal value. So think of it as an initiative to celebrate biodiversity. I think even the new Attorney General could get behind it.
I-831 had about 60,000 signatures by the time the AG obtained an injunction — pretty impressive for a joke initiative with no money or organization. It still would have been a long shot, but had we managed to qualify it for the ballot, I’m pretty sure the measure would have passed. [–Goldy]
David Horsey has a commentary in Sunday’s Seattle PI on Rep. Jim McDermott, Rep. Jay Inslee, and Rep. Dave Reichert. At one point, while interviewing Reichert, Horsey gives us a telling glimpse into the eyes and soul of Sheriff Hairspray:
[Reichert] described a meeting with anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan during which one of her companions pointedly asked Reichert how many more soldiers’ lives he was willing to sacrifice to the Iraq War.
Recreating the moment, Reichert trained his hardest gaze on me as if I was that upstart activist and said, “That question offends me. Do you know how many partners I’ve lost as a cop?”
What the hell? What does the number of police partners Reichert lost have to do with soldiers dying in Iraq? And where is the offence in a concerned citizen pointing out that (1) soldiers are dying in Iraq and (2) as a Congressman, Reichert shares in the oversight responsibility, and consequences, for our actions in Iraq?
I have several theories about Reichert’s inappropriate (if not bizarre) response. I’ll call them the stupid theory, the fiction theory and the unmanaged anger theory.
The stupid theory is that Riechert simply fucking up his own talking point. He meant to use a talking point along the lines of this one from his DaveReichertForCongress web site:
We may disagree on the timeframe of that, but as a police officer who has lost friends and partners in the line of duty, I do understand how difficult it is for society to make sacrifices in the name of freedom and keeping Americans safe.
Nothing in the written version of the talking point would suggest that Reichert could be offended, per se, by the peace activist’s question. If the web site properly captures the position, Reichert should have sympathetically disagreed—something like this: “I understand your concern about more soldiers losing their life in the line of duty–I’ve experienced the tragedy of losing law enforcement partners. Still, I disagree with you about the best way to achieve a free and safe America in a way that minimizes such sacrifices.” Instead, Reichert forgot or misunderstood the proper response, and invoked faux outrage instead of sympathy.
The fiction theory is that the event didn’t really happen this way at all. Rather, the details given to Horsey constituted a “creative intrepertation” of a more mundane exchange. The purpose was simply to use the interview with Horsey as another opportunity to shape his image as playing the staring role in “Tough Guy Sheriff Goes to Washington.” We’ve seen this before from Reichert…you know, like the bus driver flipping the bird at Bush incident where Reichert bragged before a group of Republicans only to change the story to something more mundane when the “tough guy” version looked damaging.
The unmanaged anger theory is that Reichert really was insulted and outraged, and, therefore, responded irrationally. Reichert is widely known for being sensitive to criticism, being overly defensive when his failures are brought to light, and having a short fuse. In the face of such “insolence,” I can imagine Reichert reacting with a mixture of anger and defensiveness that clouded is thinking, resulting in a response that was a non sequitur. How dare they blame him for deaths in the Iraq war!
We saw this behavior in 2004 when Reichert walked out on a debate and refused future debates with his Republican primary challengers. We saw a little bit of this anger during the 2006 campaign season in his debate with Darcy Burner.
While still King County Sheriff, Reichert sometimes displayed this type of behavior. For example, after an African American man killed a white officer (Deputy Richard Herzog) with his own gun in 2002, Reichert made a series of bizarre media statements. As Geov Parrish put it:
King County Sheriff Dave Reichert bristled last week after the fatal shooting of deputy Richard Herzog—a white officer, allegedly “executed” by a naked, unarmed African-American man with the officer’s own gun. Here’s Reichert: “I’m just going to be blunt about it and get to the point: Race isn’t important. . . . We’re sick and tired of being labeled as racist.”
In other words, Reichert equated discussing race with calling people racists. And then he shut down all discussion.
The sheriff has since backpedaled….
At the time, I was struck by Reichert’s repeated use of the word “execution” to describe the actions of Herzog’s killer. The naked, stoned-out-of-his-gord killer shot Herzog during a struggle after Herzog’s gun fell out of its holster…not particularly the circumstances that go with the word “execution.”
Reichert’s lashing out at the media came on the heals of criticism after Seattle Police shot and killed Aaron Roberts, an African American man. Reichert’s angry, illogical statements prompted the Seattle Times (22 June 2002) to editoralize…
King County Sheriff Dave Reichert irresponsibly lobbed his own grenade when he rushed past an official denunciation of the killing to rail against African- American leaders who have frequently charged law enforcement with using excessive force against minorities. The sheriff’s emotions later cooled to those more befitting a leader, but it was too late. A debate has begun whether the region has seen its first incident of reverse racial profiling: the executing of white police officers by black men….
During Reichert’s entire career as a cop, only five King County officers died in the line of duty. Herzog’s death was the only non-accidental death of an officer in the line of duty under Reichert’s administration. (The only other death was of Deputy Mark W. Brown who died in a motorcycle accident in 1999.)
No doubt, Reichert took Herzog’s death hard. But there was more to it—the King County Sheriff’s office (i.e. Riechert) was taking some heat in Herzog’s death. His death was avoidable. Herzog was killed with his own handgun, in part, because he was allowed to carry a holster not designed for his weapon. The result was that his weapon fell out of the holster during the struggle. Later the state Department of Labor and Industries investigated the incident and fined the King County Sheriff’s Office for safety violations. The root of the problem was mismanagement and a failure to follow established procedure (Seattle Times Sep 9, 2005, B3). (Reichert appealed the Labor and Industries decision and lost.)
Reichert’s statements to the media following Herzog’s death were made under a cocktail of sorrow, some guilt, and denial. And he reacted angrily and irrationally.
My hunch is that Reichert’s reaction to the peace activist involved that same cocktail of sorrow, guilt, and denial. By pointing out the Congressman’s shared responsibility for the death of American soldiers in Iraq, the activist triggered the same kind of angry, illogical, and embarrassingly inappropriate retort.
While South Dakota continues to marginalize itself, Kansas is stepping back from the precipice of kookiness by taking an important step to restore proper science to their education standards:
The Kansas state Board of Education on Tuesday repealed science guidelines questioning evolution that had made the state an object of ridicule.
The board removed language suggesting that key evolutionary concepts are controversial and being challenged by new research, and approved a new definition of science that limits it to the search for natural explanations of what’s observed in the universe…
What is the reaction from the fringies?
John Calvert, a retired attorney who helped found the Intelligent Design Network, said under the new standards, “students will be fed an answer which may be right or wrong” about questions like the origin of life.
“Who does that model put first?” he said. “The student, or those supplying the preordained ‘natural explanation’?”
Mr. Calvert picks an interesting case—the origin of life—because that is truly an elusive, intriguing area of science. We currently don’t have great answers to how life originated on earth. Rather we have several competing theories, each with strengths and weaknesses. The fact of the matter is, all of them may prove to be incorrect (and it is a lot easier to show a theory is wrong than it is to show any given theory is approximately correct). But no scientist is claiming to have unequivocally solved the “origin of life” question.
Mr. Calvert asks who is served by teaching the ideas about the origins of life? I would strongly argue that the students are served. They are served by being introduced to science at the edge of knowledge—something that scientists should neither avoid nor be ashamed of. Science has made progress at different rates across differing areas. Some areas are ripe for innovative ideas and empirical testing; other areas stubbornly resist the best scientific minds. Origin of life studies falls on the stubborn side, and students should know that. After all, the stubborn, poorly developed areas of science offer the greatest and most exciting challenges for young potential scientists.
The students are also served because they receive a proper science education. The “theory” of intelligent design is to evolution what a theory of angels holding up airplanes on strings is to aerodynamics. In my opinion, students who believe airplanes fly because angels sweep them across the sky like puppets have no place in higher education. Likewise, students whose school system forces them to learn that “intelligent design” is a valid scientific theory of evolution, really shouldn’t be allowed into college.
Many colleges have prerequisites for admission that include things like coursework in a foreign language, algebra and trigonometry, English, etc. I think all respectable colleges and universities should add coursework in “scientific biology” to the entry requirements—and they should keep track of school systems that fail to provide courses in scientific biology. That way, school boards that foist anti-science curricula on their students would be excluding their children from qualifying for college. Of course, the students would likely be able to make up the deficiency through night courses, etc., but such school boards would be starting their graduates off with a hefty economic disadvantage.
A harsh policy, to be sure, but nobody said stamping out inter-generational transmission of ignorance was going to be easy.
You say you’re looking for an internet-based outlet for political activism and you just can find that sweet domain name?
And you say you’ve got too much disposable income on hand and you’ve got no good outlet for using it?
Is that what’s troubling you Bunky?
Well, hold your head up high and make a bid for impeachbush.com.
Bid, bid, bid, and never give up, never give up, never give up…that ship!
George Bush likes to think of it as the people’s house:
Well, thank you all so very much for coming to the White House. It’s my honor to welcome you to the people’s house.
But he apparently doesn’t think the people have a right to know who is visiting their house. From the AP:
The White House and the Secret Service quietly signed an agreement last spring in the midst of the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal declaring that records identifying visitors to the White House are not open to the public.
The Bush administration didn’t reveal the existence of the memorandum of understanding until last fall.
The five-page document dated May 17 declares that all entry and exit data on White House visitors belongs to the White House as presidential records rather than to the Secret Service as agency records. Therefore, the agreement states, the material is not subject to public disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.
The memo last spring was signed by the White House and Secret Service the day after a Washington-based group asked a federal judge to impose sanctions on the Secret Service in a dispute over White House visitor logs for Abramoff.
That’s our Bush—always promoting transparency and accountability in government. Really, you don’t want to know if the logs record almost 500 past visits on behalf of someone pleading guilty to fraud and corruption…. Just try not to think about it.
The White House is now using the memo to block a Washington Post request for Secret Service logs identifying visitors to Vice President Dick Cheney’s office.
Clearly, only freedom hating, terrorist sympathizers would want to know about the comings and goings in the people’s house.
Senator Patty Murray is now the secretary of the Democratic caucus. That puts her in the number four leadership position in the U.S. Senate.
She outranks Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Sen. Elizabeth Dole, Sen. Olympia Jean Snowe, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, and Sen. Barbara Boxer. Senator Murray is now the highest-ranking woman in the U.S. Senate.
A kid was shot to death today at Foss High School in Tacoma, Washington.
One of the arguments given by gun control proponents is that handguns make it really easy to take out aggressions on someone. It’s hard to find fault with that claim.
From 1999 to 2004, there were 70,200 people in the U.S. that died of gun-related homicide, which is a rate of 41 gun-related homicides per million people. (And this does not include gun-related suicides.)
Over the same time period, there were 2,927 people who died of terrorism—a rate of less than 2 terrorism-related deaths per million people.
Yet, somehow we’ve chosen a war on terror™ [sic] as our national obsession. And using that “war” as justification, we’ve weakened the Constitution and abandoned other fundamental American values, we’ve spent hundreds of billions of dollars in the effort, we’ve invaded other countries, and we’ve brought death, injury and violence into the lives of millions of innocent people.
My point is this: if we really wanted to make America safer, wouldn’t it be far more effective to launch a war on gun violence with the same resolve? I mean, that war would involve weakening the constitution, too, but I cannot imagine it would entail all the other bad side effects….
Maybe it’s just me. But this Seattle Times editorial, seemingly celebrating Washington State’s achievement of gender parity in politics, comes off as slightly misogynistic in the very last sentence:
Voters, as well as skilled politicians at several levels, understand that men do a very good job at a lot of things and, quite often, women do, too.
On Saturday I documented some ways that the Special Iraqi Criminal Tribunal—the extra-judicial Tribunal under which Saddam Hussein was convicted—was a sham. The root of the problem is that the U.S., while acting as an occupying power, needed to create the Tribunal for ideological reasons: to avoid the International Criminal Court so despised by Bush, and to ensure that capital punishment would be on the menu. The Tribunal was a sham in numerous ways:
My point wasn’t to defend Hussein. Rather, I argued that the U.S. and Iraqis, in prosecuting a dictator for his abuse of judicial power, should have taken the moral and legal high ground, and set an example for the world of good democracy. The prosecution of Hussein should have been unimpeachable—not for Hussein’s sake, but for the sake of restoring some credibility for American democracy (you know, after illegally invading a sovereign nation under false pretenses) and to empirically establish legitimacy for the new Iraqi government.
So, we missed that badly needed opportunity.
Today’s New York Times further documents illegitimacy in carrying out the sentence:
The American role extended beyond providing the helicopter that carried Mr. Hussein home. Iraqi and American officials who have discussed the intrigue and confusion that preceded the decision late on Friday to rush Mr. Hussein to the gallows have said that it was the Americans who questioned the political wisdom—and justice—of expediting the execution, in ways that required Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki to override constitutional and religious precepts that might have assured Mr. Hussein a more dignified passage to his end.
Uh-huh. The U.S. government had concerns and questions about what was going on. But, in the end, they handed over Hussein anyway.
That works for me about as well as the excuse “but…but…but, Your Honor, I really did have concerns and questions about the legitimacy of robbing that bank….”
One political concern was realized during the execution. A video of the hanging showed an…
…unruly, mocking atmosphere in the execution chamber.
This continued, on the video, through the actual hanging itself, with a shout of “The tyrant has fallen! May God curse him!” as Mr. Hussein hung lifeless, his neck snapped back and his glassy eyes open.
The cacophony from those gathered before the gallows included a shout of “Go to hell!” as the former ruler stood with the noose around his neck in the final moments, and his riposte, barely audible above the bedlam, which included the words “gallows of shame.” It continued despite appeals from an official-sounding voice, possibly Munir Haddad, the judge who presided at the hanging, saying, “Please no! The man is about to die.”
The Shiites who predominated at the hanging began a refrain at one point of “Moktada! Moktada! Moktada!”— the name of a volatile cleric whose private militia has spawned death squads that have made an indiscriminate industry of killing Sunnis — appending it to a Muslim imprecation for blessings on the Prophet Muhammad. “Moktada,” Mr. Hussein replied, smiling contemptuously. “Is this how real men behave?”
Of course, the issue isn’t about dignity for Hussein. The concern was that by coming off as a Shi’ite lynch mob, the execution further contributes to the sectarian divide in Iraq. It will fuel the civil war. It will translate into more dead and maimed Iraqis and U.S. soldiers. And that Hussein came off as dignified in the face of a lynch mob is a symbolic failure for the U.S. in “fostering democracy” in the Mideast.
The U.S. was correct when it…
…counseled caution in the way the Iraqis carried out the hanging. The issues uppermost in the Americans’ minds, these officials said, were a provision in Iraq’s new Constitution that required the three-man presidency council to approve hangings, and a stipulation in a longstanding Iraqi law that no executions can be carried out during the Id al-Adha holiday, which began for Iraqi Sunnis on Saturday and Shiites on Sunday.
It was Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki who pushed for an immediate execution. The largest snag for Maliki was that, by the Iraq constitution, he needed
…a decree from President Jalal Talabani, signed jointly by his two vice presidents, upholding the death sentence, and a letter from the chief judge of the Iraqi High Tribunal, the court that tried Mr. Hussein, certifying the verdict. But Mr. Talabani, a Kurd, made it known that he objected to the death penalty on principle.
Rather than adhering to the Iraqi constitution and law, Maliki developed a work-around.
The Maliki government spent much of Friday working on legal mechanisms to meet the American demands. From Mr. Talabani, they obtained a letter saying that while he would not sign a decree approving the hanging, he had no objections. The Iraqi official said Mr. Talabani first asked the tribunal’s judges for an opinion on whether the constitutional requirement for presidential approval applied to a death sentence handed down by the tribunal, a special court operating outside Iraq’s main judicial system. The judges said the requirement was void.
Apparently, everyone was willing to be convinced by the Tribunal judges who opined that the legislation creating the Tribunal (Law No. 10, passed on 9 Oct 2005) took precedence over Article 70 of the Iraqi constitution that requires the President to “[r]atify death sentences issued by the competent courts.” But, the Tribunal cannot override the Constitution; Article 92 prohibits “Special or exceptional courts.”
Without presidential ratification, the hanging violated the clear rule of law (as codified in the Iraqi constitution). It really was a lynching.
The fact that Iraqi law prohibits executions on holidays was never fully addressed. Instead, the Iraqis used simple psychological tricks on us to secure Hussein:
‘Who is going to execute him, anyway, you or us?’ The Americans replied by saying that obviously, it was the Iraqis who would carry out the hanging. So the Iraqis said, ‘This is our problem and we will handle the consequences. If there is any damage done, it is we who will be damaged, not you.’”
To this, the Iraqis added what has often been their trump card in tricky political situations: they telephoned officials of the marjaiya, the supreme religious body in Iraqi Shiism, composed of ayatollahs in the holy city of Najaf. The ayatollahs approved.
It is untrue that there would be no damage to the U.S. The U.S. needed the trial and execution of Hussein to be above reproach. There is only one way that the U.S. can achieve something resembling a “victory” in Iraq, and that would be to leave behind a functioning democracy.
Instead, we have replaced a lawless Sunni dictator with a lawless Shi’ite theocracy. And Iraq is led by a Prime Minister who has now committed one of the crimes that Hussein was guilty of: a lawless execution.
And to what end? What difference would it have made if Hussein’s execution had to wait for a week or wait for several years until a new President was elected?
None of the Iraqi officials were able to explain why Mr. Maliki had been unwilling to allow the execution to wait.
But the explanation may have lain in something that Bassam al-Husseini, a Maliki aide closely involved in arrangements for the hanging, said to the BBC later. Mr. Husseini, who has American citizenship, described the hanging as “an Id gift to the Iraqi people.”
Hey, well, you know…whatever it takes for Happy Holidays.
Saddam Hussein was hanged early this morning in Baghdad. (He was hanged, not hung—big difference there.)
President Bush said he was “executed after receiving a fair trial.”
Fair trial, my ass.
Hussein was found guilty of crimes against 148 Iraqis from al-Dujail who were accused of trying to assassinate him in 1982. The people were convicted, sentenced to execution, and then executed. Hussein admitted that he ordering the trial of the 148 individuals, but argued that he was entitled to do so under the laws of Iraq. Apparently, Hussein’s crime was to use his powers as dictator to deny justice to these individuals. The 149 people were convicted by a court that likely failed judicial independence—in short, a kangaroo court.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not defending Saddam for any of his crimes. Hussein had a well-deserved reputation as a murderous and brutal dictator. It seems likely that he committed numerous crimes that warrant execution.
My problem with Hussein’s conviction and execution is that he was tried in a kangaroo court. The judicial process that Hussein was tried and executed under was highly flawed—essentially, little better than the kangaroo court Hussein used to execute other people.
Let me take a moment here for a preemptive strike against our treasured Wingnut readers. My arguments here involve complex issues of international law and the Iraq legal system. If you are not willing to read this essay carefully, just shut the fuck up and go smoke your little green footballs or whatever it is you do to maintain a postmodern haze over reality. If you read carefully, you will learn that this essay isn’t about Hussein. Rather, it is about flaws in the process used to convict him—a process ill conceived by the arrogance and stupidity of the Bush administration. They fucked up another opportunity to offer Iraq some semblance of legitimacy.
All Americans have common ground in wishing for a peaceful, legitimate Iraq. It would solve our collective needs to get the hell out of Iraq and stop hemorrhaging money and American lives in support of the Bush administration’s past mistakes. Until late 2006, the Neocons wanted to pretend that Iraq was stabilizing, that the government was achieving legitimacy within and outside of Iraq, and that the U.S. had made the right decisions for post invasion Iraq. No more.
I talked about my desire to promote institutional change in parts of the world, like Iraq where there’s a free press and free religion, and I told him that a lot of people in our country would hope that Russia would do the same.
To which an incredulous Putin sniped back:
We certainly would not want to have the same kind of democracy that they have in Iraq…quite honestly.
Free press and free religion is a joke for a nation under the grip of violence and chaos. (That Bush would even suggest something so idiotic to Putin is beyond belief!)
The Supreme Iraqi Criminal Tribunal (SICT or Tribunal), likewise, has caused harm to any semblance of legitimacy that the Iraqi government may have had. There are many reasons for this. Some reasons result from the execution of the Tribunal itself, but ultimately the problems boil down to (1) uninformed decisions made under the rule of the Coalition Provisional Authority (i.e. while the U.S. occupied Iraq), (2) prior “issues” the Bush administration had with the International Criminal Court (ICC), and (3) rotten decisions made under the fog of wingnuttery.
The realization of the Tribunal was a debacle from the get-go. We all cringed in embarrassment as Hussein managed to make a mockery of the court’s early proceedings. The whole world squirmed as events unfolded. We squirmed as two defense lawyers were killed—not just because the murder of a defense lawyer is unconscionable (although “spraying” one in the face with bird shot can be pretty darned entertaining), but because replacement of a defense lawyer threatens the integrity of the defense. Didn’t we all want to take the high-road by convicting Hussein through an unimpeachable process? We squirmed when one judge was killed. Finally, we flinched in embarrassment as the Iraqi government removed the chief judge in a second Tribunal for making minor statements that appeared sympathetic to Hussein. What integrity remains knowing that the government removed a judge for some minor statements? Can we really believe that judges in the first trial were completely free to weigh the evidence for and against Hussein with judicial disinterest?
In fact, the SICT was established outside the normal Iraqi judicial system. It was enacted on 10 Dec 2003 as the Iraqi Special Tribunal (IST) under Order No. 48 of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA). The Iraqi government later abolished the IST and reestablished it, nearly wholesale, as the SICT under Law No. 10 on 9 Oct 2005.
The IST is at the root of the court’s kangarooness. The laws under which Hussein was tried were, largely, a U.S. concoction that fails standards of international law, Iraqi law, and even U.S. law.
You may recall an awkward period following the capture of Hussein when the Coalition had no idea what to do with their prized prisoner. Would there be an international tribunal in The Hague (a la Bosnia)? Would there be an Iraqi tribunal with assistance of the International Criminal Court (a la
Rwanda Sierra Leone)?
In fact, neither of these happened. The Coalition (i.e. the U.S.) could not accept oversight by an international court for a number of political reasons, like the fact that the Bush administration had been openly hostile to and attempted to undermine the ICC, and eventually withdrew from the treaty. Perhaps the most important political consideration, though, was that any oversight by the ICC would exclude the death penalty for Saddam Hussein. That was “unacceptable to the Iraqi people,” as the Bush administration told us. But more importantly it was unacceptable to the Bush administration.
Instead of relying on the ICC, BushCo decided to “roll their own” and they established a Tribunal that took an unprecedented, and legally questionable, track: they established an Iraqi national extra-judicial process to prosecute Hussein and others for international crimes. This had never been done before. In fact, such special additions to a national judicial system by an occupying power are explicitly prohibited by article 23 of the Hague Regulations of 1907 and Convention IV of the Fourth Geneva conventions of 1949. The short story is that these binding international conventions prohibit occupying powers (i.e. the U.S. at the time) from changing the legal system, changing the status of judges, changing the penal system, changing any tribunals, or even prosecuting anyone for acts committed prior to occupation. In legal parlance, the construction of the IST effectively made it an instrument of victor’s justice, the very thing that international laws attempt to prohibit.
Finally, the Tribunal violates the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that requires fairness, openness, and competence in trials, requires independent and impartial justice, that is conducted by established applicable law (i.e. it explicitly prohibits special tribunals). As I explain below, the Tribunal bore no real resemblance to Iraqi law.
The Tribunal’s difficulties began immediately. Salem Chalabi, nephew of the infamous Ahmed Chalabi, was appointed General Director of the IST upon its establishment in May of 2004. He, in turn, created the structure for the IST, and appointed the initial panel of seven judges and prosecutors. Whether or not Salem Chalabi was qualified for the position (he is a U.S. educated lawyer), his appointment by the Executive branch, and the nepotism, certainly gave the appearance that the U.S. was running the show. This was confounded by serious conflicts of interest in his U.S. business and ties to “Neocon Central”—The Project for a New American Century. In August, 2004, an arrest warrant for suspicion murder was issued against Salem Chalabi while he was in London. The charges were later dropped, but Chalabi resigned as the IST General Director. The U.S. took over administration for the duration of the IST, a clear violation of judicial independence that further undermined any sense of legitimacy.
With much fanfare, Paul Bremer announced that the IST would be funded by $75 million from the U.S., a figure that was to double. The U.S. Department of Justice subsequently provided teams of investigators and prosecutors to collect evidence and develop legal strategies. The U.S. trained all the Iraqi judges and prosecutors.
In 2005, the Iraqi government took the IST decree and passed it legislatively as the Iraqi Special Criminal Tribunal, thus lending the Tribunal some legitimacy. The damage was done, however. A Tribunal initiated in violation of international and domestic law is a pariah, and can, at best, achieve bastard status in the eyes of Iraqis and the international community after being patched. Unfortunately, the ISCT was not changed to be consistent with the Iraqi system of laws. Nor did it correct other legal problems as they existed in the IST. As the courtroom drama played out, there was nothing to dispel the perception that the victor’s justice was being served.
An immediate concern with the Tribunal law was that Iraqi law had no prior provisions for crimes against humanity, war crimes, or some other crimes that the Tribunal was charged with investigating. Thus, the Tribunal violates the nullum crimen principle that is fundamental to every modern legal system. This principle prevents retroactive application of criminal laws against a defendant. If the laws were not on the books prior to 2003, Hussein and his henchmen cannot be prosecuted for violations of a law decreed (by the occupying power) in 2003 and passed legislatively in 2005. Note that if the ICC had prosecuted the case, this would not be an issue, since these laws were established internationally. But, international prosecution would have excluded a capital sentence. Here is a clear example where a Bush administration political requirement undermined the integrity of the process.
A huge difficulty with the Tribunal is that its procedures bear no resemblance to the Iraqi legal system. Rather, it is based on the U.S. legal system. Iraq’s laws are based on the Egyptian legal system which, in turn, is modeled after the French legal system. Under the French inquisitorial system, the judge acts as an investigator, using evidence provided by prosecutors prior to trial. The U.S. legal system is an adversary-accusatorial system complete with introduction of new evidence and cross-examination occurring during the trial. The roles of judge, prosecutor, and defense lawyer differ significantly under the two systems.
It can hardly be surprising then that the Tribunal started off with an air of incompetence. None of the participants had any experience with the American-style legal system. And it showed. As one scholar described it:
The proceedings were choreographed as an American hearing where an investigative judge read an indictment and asked the defendant to plead guilty or not guilty, and was thus more American than Iraqi. There is no such procedure in the Iraqi criminal justice system. The investigative judge, sitting behind a table facing Saddam, was obviously uncomfortable. On the table where he sat facing Saddam Hussein was a copy of the 1971 Iraqi Code of Criminal Procedure, which does not provide for such an American-style arraignment procedure. The investigative judge asked Saddam to enter a plea, something unknown in the Iraqi system, and Saddam, who has a law degree, realized this.
As a result, Hussein not only succeeded in disrupting the proceedings, but he succeeded in undermining the court’s credibility. Imposing a system so foreign enforced the idea that this was a kangaroo court. When the arraignment took place on 1 Jul 2004, both supporters and detractors saw an illegal concoction, created by an occupying power, and designed simply to convict and execute Hussein and other Ba’ath party officials.
This view was reinforced by numerous anomalies in this case. For example, the indictment against Hussein was apparently not handed down until 15 May 2006, almost two years after the arraignment and seven months into the trial. This violates all legal principles (including International and Iraq domestic law). Due process demands that a defendant be promptly notified of the charges brought against him prior to the start of trail.
It is easy to say that Saddam Hussein got what he had coming to him. However, the Tribunal, to be successful, had to administer real justice in a way that lent credibility to the fledgling (but now failing) Iraqi government. Instead, Saddam Hussein was convicted and executed under a cloud of illegitimacy not unlike that he used to execute 147 residents of al-Dujail in 1982. Sadly, his execution will make him a martyr to some and will deepen the civil war.
What bothers me about this is that it could have been done correctly. An international court exists and has the experience and mandate to prosecute crimes against humanity and war crimes. A conviction in that court (with the likely outcome of permanent incarceration) would have avoided making Hussein a martyr and likely would have been far less disruptive of the Iraqi government. Now it’s too late.
Chalk it up to another massive fuck-up by a Bush administration driven by incompetence and ideological extremism.
Because relatives are visiting from New York this week, the cellulose-based legacy media is finding its way into my house. I spotted this interesting introduction to an Op-Ed piece by Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann in today’s New York Times:
HERE is the redacted version of a draft Op-Ed article we wrote for The Times, as blacked out by the Central Intelligence Agency’s Publication Review Board after the White House intervened in the normal prepublication review process and demanded substantial deletions. Agency officials told us that they had concluded on their own that the original draft included no classified material, but that they had to bow to the White House.
Indeed, the deleted portions of the original draft reveal no classified material. These passages go into aspects of American-Iranian relations during the Bush administration’s first term that have been publicly discussed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; former Secretary of State Colin Powell; former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage; a former State Department policy planning director, Richard Haass; and a former special envoy to Afghanistan, James Dobbins.
These aspects have been extensively reported in the news media, and one of us, Mr. Leverett, has written about them in The Times and other publications with the explicit permission of the review board. We provided the following citations to the board to demonstrate that all of the material the White House objected to is already in the public domain. Unfortunately, to make sense of much of our Op-Ed article, readers will have to read the citations for themselves.
The term redacted is, of course, a euphemism for censored. The Times printed the Op-Ed with the censored sections of text blacked out.
Why the White House feels so threatened by a series of facts contained in the original draft—all drawn from public sources— that they would engage in such gratuitous censorship is beyond me.
I suppose it could be because the article documents how Bush double-crossed Iran after a period of fruitful cooperation in the early years of the war in Afghanistan. I suppose the White House was a little miffed by being exposed as squandering opportunities to get Iran’s help in fixing the Iraq
civil war quagmire. But neither of these reasons justifies government censorship of the press or the free speech rights of the authors. It is clear from numerous sources—the censored Op-Ed, the authors’ statement, the statement of CIA Publication Review Board, and the cited sources—that the Op-Ed contained no classified information or information that compromised national security.
Simply put, the only rationale the White House had for censoring this article was to save the Administration a little embarrassment. And that is outrageous. Every American, regardless of political persuasion, should be alarmed by the realization that the White House even bothers to intervene in newspaper Op-Ed pieces, not to mention that they gratuitously censor embarrassing material.
I first heard about Gov. Gregoire’s viaduct “punt” last Friday following the big wind storm right as I was in the middle of a two-hour commute from Redmond to U-Dub. (Yeah…I know I should have stayed home, but I didn’t really have a choice.) Normally, my commute is 25 minutes by car or an hour by bus. On Friday, however, the SR520 floating bridge was shut down to repair wind damage. At about the one hour mark, crawling along at under 10 mph on I-405, I was contemplating the many ways my quality of life would decline if the SR520 bridge decided to sink. And then the news broke about Gregoire’s statement.
Frankly, I was irritated by another delay in replacing a failing piece of critical infrastructure. Gregiore had her chance to be The Decider™ and she decided to punt. Or so I thought from the media account.
After the sting of a painful commute faded, I looked into Gregoire’s statement and it became clear to me that she had, in fact, made nearly all of the important decisions. She decided that all options were out except the tunnel and the rebuild. Essentially, Gregoire validated (politically and practically) the engineering, environmental, and fiscal analyses found in DOT’s Supplemental Draft, Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) that rejected all but these two options. And eliminating the fringe options is a good decision.
The DEIS dealt with each fringe option in turn. I’ll only mention the so-called no-replacement option because, I believe, Goldy disagrees with me on it. The DEIS finds that the no-replacement option isn’t viable:
- Replacing the viaduct with a four-lane surface street would substantially increase congestion for most of the day and part of the evening on I-5 through downtown Seattle, downtown streets, and Alaskan Way. These congested conditions are predicted to occur even if improvements were made to downtown streets and transit ridership substantially increased.
- I-5 through Seattle doesn’t have room for additional trips since it’s already congested through much of the day and into the evening. However, under the No Replacement concept, many trips that currently use the viaduct would shift to I-5, causing it to become even more congested.
- Downtown street traffic would increase by 30 percent, though traffic increases to specific areas like Pioneer Square and the waterfront could exceed 30 percent.
- With a four-lane roadway, traffic on Alaskan Way would quadruple to 35,000 to 56,000 vehicles per day compared to about 10,000 vehicles today. This traffic would make it difficult for patrons to get to waterfront businesses and would create more conflicts between vehicles and the many bicyclists and pedestrians that use Alaskan Way.
- Neighborhoods west of I-5 (Ballard, Queen Anne, Magnolia, and West Seattle) would have less direct connections to and through downtown; therefore, travel times for trips to and through downtown would increase for drivers from these areas.
A four-lane Alaskan Way would create more congestion on I-5 and downtown streets than the Surface Alternative evaluated in the Draft EIS. The project partners dropped the Surface Alternative because it didn’t meet the AWV Project’s purpose, which is to “maintain or improve mobility, accessibility, and traffic safety for people and goods along the existing Alaskan Way Viaduct Corridor.”
More congestion, longer trip times, and greater susceptibility to accidents, construction, and events? No thanks. The no-replacement option would make a trip to (or through) downtown Seattle less desirable than a field trip through a rendering plant. If anything, it’s a plan to slowly strangle downtown Seattle.
I’m also not convinced by reports that other cities have removed capacity with minimal long term effects. Such decisions are generally not made randomly—there is engineering judgment that precedes such a drastic move. With I-5 at capacity and downtown already too congested at peak times, the engineering judgment suggests that the Seattle waterfront is not a good candidate for capacity reduction.
Gregoire made another important decision. She decided that the decision between the tunnel option and the rebuild option would come down to a vote of the people. But not just any people. She put it up to a vote by the people who would gain the greatest benefit. Oh…and the people who would have to pay the price difference for a tunnel.
The Seattle Times editorial board refers to this as Gregoire’s pragmatic punt.
Effectively, Gregoire is saying, “we will go with the rebuild option because the State has an obligation to replace an important and failing part of the highway infrastructure and, by the way, Seattle, if you want a tunnel instead let us know (soon!) and, if so, include your credit card number.”
What some consider a “punt” is really an offer of an upgrade option for Seattle.
The tunnel upgrade option for Seattle is good politics, too. If the voters decide to spend a couple billion of their own dollars for the tunnel, who can deny them? Or if the voters cheap-out and decide that a rebuilt monstrosity along the waterfront is good enough, then…well, then let them lie in their own noise pollution.
This morning on KUOW’s Weekday, Joni Balter and Joel Connelly had a mini-debate over the Governor’s decision. Balter considered the decision strategically sound. Why? Because Gregoire knows that House Speaker Frank Chopp will do everything he can legislatively to kill the tunnel. And Mayor Nickels will interfere with any attempt to implement the rebuild option. As Balter points out, there is one power higher than Gregoire, and that is the voters.
Joel Connelly, on the other hand, felt that Gregoire offered a shanked punt. We pay her to be The Decider™, and she ought to decide. In case you haven’t figured it out, I find Balter’s arguments more compelling.
Clearly, Gregoire favors the rebuild option; she probably expects Seattle to fail in coming up with either the public support or the funding for a tunnel. The ball is now in Nickels’ court to both build public support and convert his fantasy funding plan into something grounded in reality.
The DEIS prices the tunnel at between $3.6 and $4.3 billion, and the elevated rebuild from $2.5 to $2.9 billion. Funding for the rebuild is almost in place, as there is now $2.45 billion committed to the project, including $2.2 billion from the State, $0.24 billion from the Feds, and $0.016 billion from Seattle.
The tunnel option would likely draw an additional $500 million from Seattle and $200 million from the Port of Seattle. Other potential funding sources include a local improvement district (actually, this was proposed by Goldy) that could provide $250 million, a regional ballot measure (i.e. new taxes), additional Army Corps of Engineers funding for the seawall part of the project, and additional Federal highway and emergency relief funding.
In the long run, the tunnel option offers significant advantages. Most importantly, it will remake the downtown Seattle waterfront. Have you ever walked from the Pike Place Market to the waterfront? Man…talk about an unpleasant experience! A tunnel would …
…dramatically decrease noise levels by about 12 A-weighted decibels (dBA) along the waterfront. This would sound like cutting the noise level by more than half. Noise along the central section of the project corridor is currently loud and would not change much if the Elevated Structure Alternative is built.
The way I see it, the tunnel option is a long term investment, and one that will be appreciated by generations of Seattleites. I can imagine thirty years from now, two lovers will be strolling down to the waterfront, hand in hand. Under one scenario they’ll excitedly discuss their future life together as they take in the pleasant views. Under the other scenario, one will bellow at the other , “I can’t believe they built a fucking freeway through the waterfront!”
So I hope Seattle goes for the option…who knows what kind of difference it could make. I’m just sayin’.