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Monday, January 16, 2006

A glimpse of oligarchic methodology.

This follows from the comments to "I'm not arsing about here..." [title link] and a nod goes to Dave Hansell (who provides no link to his own stuff) for urls and thoughts.

In Cheney's Shadow, Counsel Pushes the Conservative Cause

From TomDispatch [Apparently. I couldn't find this text, but it seems a good site so it's going in the blogroll]:
“Last week, in an important, if somewhat overlooked, front-page piece in the Wall Street Journal ("Judge Alito's View of the Presidency: Expansive Powers"), Jess Bravin reported on a speech Sam Alito gave to the right-wing Federalist Society in 2000 in which he subscribed to the "unitary executive theory" of the presidency ("gospel," he called it) which puts its money on the supposedly unfettered powers of the President as commander-in-chief. This theory has been pushed by administration figures ranging from the Vice President and his Chief of Staff David Addington to former assistant attorney general and torture-memo writer John Yoo. As Alito put the matter in his speech: "[The Constitution] makes the president the head of the executive branch, but it does more than that. The president has not just some executive powers, but the executive power -- the whole thing." And Yoo put it even more bluntly while debating the unitary executive theory recently. In answering the question, "If the president deems that he's got to torture somebody, including by crushing the testicles of the person's child, there is no law that can stop him?" he responded, "No treaty."”
What does "unitary executive theory" mean then, if it isn't a euphemism for dictatorship? To take this view however would be to be seduced by spin: to miss the extent of the wood due to the proximity of a large tree obscuring one's view, to rail against a straw man. Because it is not Dubya who is being invested with the powers Cheney and his terrier Addington are engaged in clawing from the wider democratic process of Congress, but the Office of President: itself more firmly in the gift of a few corporate masters than the potential for popular support makes Congress; thus the oligarchic nature of the arrangement is strengthened.

The combination of civic duty and the role of Commander-in-Chief seems to allow for excesses in one sphere to be plausibly excused by claiming authority from the other, however Yoo is quite plainly lying out of his arse, because the conduct of armed forces and intelligence services is the subject of international treaty both under the UN (which i've covered previously) and The Geneva Conventions:
Convention (III) relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War. Geneva, 12 August 1949.

Part I. General Provisions

Art 1. The High Contracting Parties undertake to respect and to ensure respect for the present Convention in all circumstances.

Art 2. Although one of the Powers in conflict may not be a party to the present Convention, the Powers who are parties thereto shall remain bound by it in their mutual relations.

Art 3. In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each Party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions:

(1) Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely... To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time...
(a) violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;
(b) taking of hostages;
(c) outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment;
(d) the passing of sentences... without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court...

Art 4. A. Prisoners of war, in the sense of the present Convention, are persons belonging to one of the following categories...

(2) Members of other militias and members of other volunteer corps, including those of organized resistance movements, belonging to a Party to the conflict and operating in or outside their own territory, even if this territory is occupied, provided that such militias or volunteer corps, including such organized resistance movements, fulfil the following conditions:
(a) that of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates;
b) that of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance;
(c) that of carrying arms openly;
(d) that of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.

(6) Inhabitants of a non-occupied territory, who on the approach of the enemy spontaneously take up arms to resist the invading forces, without having had time to form themselves into regular armed units, provided they carry arms openly and respect the laws and customs of war.
So then, quite clearly, members of Al Qaida, or any other informal militia, are covered by this Convention when captured whilst resisting US invasion of territory, whether the territory's sovereign Power is a signatory to the Convention or not. The fact that they do not have "a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance" is pure nonsense: US troops wear camouflage in an attempt to prevent their being seen at a distance at all, but this is superceded, in many cases anyway, by Art.4.A. (6). The sticking point comes there though, regarding "customs of war," however precedent has been set amply by the US & UK themselves: the bombing of civilians in furtherance of the aims of military conflict, without warning, is customary. As are 'covert operations'.

The fact that we don't like being on the receiving end of it doesn't alter the fucking facts one jot and Dubya's Yapping Crew's attempts to blur the line between civil policing and military conflict won't wash: there would be no jurisdiction for policing without armed invasion in the first place but; either a person is suspected of criminality, thus entitled to a fair trial and humane treatment under criminal law, or a combatant and thus entitled to be treated humanely under this Convention. As we all know: one cannot have one's cake and eat it.

Dave is right to point up the sinister nature of the increasingly "presidential style" of Prime Ministerial power. I'm not entirely sure of the facts regarding where responsibility for the conduct of armed forces and security services in an international arena ultimately lies here in the UK: from what i can tell, Whitehall has a whole raft of arcane procedures and precedent, which may well have accreted spontaneously, as a result of the evolution and powers of existing and new agencies, but the main function of which today seems to be as a barrier to the understanding of just what the fuck is being done, by whom, in our name and whose responsibility it is. However, regardless of that, there is no squirming out of criminal culpability for personal crimes, trying to claim 'military authority', for our Government. It seems that there is no single "UK Commander-in-Chief" with whom the buck would stop, but various senior figures who collectively command the different services in various theatres, reporting to and receiving direction from Cabinet.

But i'm on the case, DLA's: plumbing the depths of, i suspect, largely disorganised and probably mainly pointless bureaucracy, so you don't have to. Over the coming months (because i don't expect this to be easy), i'll be reporting here just exactly who is a cunt and why they deserve the appelation.

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