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When the President Does It, That Means it is Not Illegal
July 12, 2006 5:01 PM   Subscribe

"Saddam Hussein after his capture addressed the court with the same challenge that Charles I threw at his judges: ‘By what legal authority do you try me?’" "Therefore, let me know by what authority I am called hither." ...and therein trusted with a limited power to govern by and according to the laws of the land, and not otherwise;... "‘Lex is Rex’, is what they’d said in the ship money case. The king is the law, the king is above the law, and the king can’t be brought to trial." "-- the president is always right, Senator."
posted by orthogonality (76 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
the president is always right, Senator.

Uh a lawyer selectively believing in rule of law when he thinks its opposed to Rule of The Prez. Dammit Foxnews and Karl do some neeeeat brainwashing !
posted by elpapacito at 5:09 PM on July 12, 2006


The discussion of prosecuting Charles I is fascinating, inspiring stuff. An off-the-cuff comment by someone in the Justice Department under aggressive questioning, taken out of context to make a clumsy political point: not so much.
posted by freebird at 5:12 PM on July 12, 2006


Out of context ?
posted by elpapacito at 5:20 PM on July 12, 2006


Lest that sound too snarky - thanks a lot for the link to the John Cooke stuff. It's a nice follow on to the Edward Coke/Roger Williams story which really opened my eyes to the long roots of the struggle for the rule of law and freedom of speech going back far before we tend to think of it doing in America.

Let's not forget that John Cooke ends up hung, drawn and quartered for his trouble...
posted by freebird at 5:26 PM on July 12, 2006


Out of context ?

Sure - it's an interview excerpt at Rawstory. "The president is always right" could easily be said in an ironic way, meaning basically "look Senator Leahy, you can't possibly expect me to stand here and say the POTUS broke the law. We're both doing a job here and know how the game is played. I work for the Administration, so the President Is Always Right."

He may not have meant it in this way - my point is that the refusal of a White House underling under aggressive questioning to say the President broke the law hardly compares to the struggle to subject the King of England to the Rule of Law, in any but the most polemic, ahistorical, and perspectiveless way.
posted by freebird at 5:32 PM on July 12, 2006 [1 favorite]


Maybe this "Unitard Executive Theory" nonsense isn't the means to an end, but rather a defense intended to keep their shenanigans from the light of day. More a legal defense than an ideological strategy.
posted by rzklkng at 5:32 PM on July 12, 2006


Among the many, many signs of incompetence regarding the US occupation of Iraq, the inability to convict a madman of mass murder when there are freakin' mass graves being dug up takes the cake.

In all sincerity, if we can't stage a show trial for someone as vile as Saddam Hussein and lock him up for life next to a relative cream-puff like Noriega, how the hell do we (speaking as an American) expect to Democratize Iraq, if not the region?

And yeah, there's been lots of coverage of Bradbury's arrogance re: "the POTUS is always right." Two retorts: 1) Herbert Hoover, 2) Hillary Clinton or any other Dem elected POTUS in 2008. All that power the Republican Congress has been happy to roll over and give up to the Executive? It'll be worth keeping these quotations around only to shove it back in their miserable, pusillanimous faces when they whine about how President Obama is "ignoring Congressional oversight."

Fuck these cowards and what they've done to this country.
posted by bardic at 5:34 PM on July 12, 2006


Doug Cassel: 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?

John Yoo: No treaty.

Doug Cassel: Also no law by Congress -- that is what you wrote in the August 2002 memo...

John Yoo: I think it depends on why the President thinks he needs to do that.
posted by sonofsamiam at 5:42 PM on July 12, 2006


I don't think that Bradbury was saying that any President is always right, I think he was saying that this President is always right...

I'll leave it up to you to decide for yourself which is scarier... I already know which position scares me most...
posted by WhipSmart at 5:44 PM on July 12, 2006


Has anybody been able to dig up a full transcript of Bradbury's testimony?

See, this is what I find most annoying about Raw Story: not that it is partisan, but that it can't be bothered to properly report a story. When did the testimony take place? In front of what committee? What was the purpose of the testimony? Where can I get a full transcript? But no, Raw Story skips all the relevant information, instead going straight for the money shot.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 5:57 PM on July 12, 2006


John Yoo is obviously a lying little weasel. Either that or he's (conveniently) forgotten all about the war crimes act. And, as the twit ought to know, it really does not matter why the president thinks he needs to do that. There are no exceptions, not even for national security.
posted by kaemaril at 6:03 PM on July 12, 2006


Here's Think Progress with more information and video. The hearing was before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the Hamdan case. Here's the notice of hearing and witness list, and here's Bradbury's testimony. Unfortunately, it appears that the Committee's site reproduces the statements of the witnesses, but not the Q&A. Here's a RealMedia link to C-SPAN's video of the hearing.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 6:09 PM on July 12, 2006


It's clear from the video that Bradbury was attempting to give an explanation in answer to Leahy's question, and Leahy cut him off, wanting a yes-or-no answer.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 6:12 PM on July 12, 2006


Real Video of the hearing

The exchange in question starts at about 2:04:15.
posted by rxrfrx at 6:12 PM on July 12, 2006


should've previewed!
posted by rxrfrx at 6:13 PM on July 12, 2006


Looks like the guy was trying to avoid giving a straight answer by using a little of that lawyer charm and legal humor.
posted by rxrfrx at 6:15 PM on July 12, 2006


So, it's another rawstory "story" made from one unsourced quote taken out of context. Great.

I finally figured out what rawstory does in their partisan, emotionally charged, selectively quoted way: they're a tabloid. Like other tabloids (drudge report, fox news), they are best ignored.
posted by mathowie at 6:21 PM on July 12, 2006


Looks like the guy was trying to avoid giving a straight answer by using a little of that lawyer charm and legal humor.

Yeah, it looks like he realized almost immediately after he said it that no one was going to catch his sarcasm in the newspaper headlines. I'm no lawyer, but it seems like common sense that you don't make jokes about infallible monarchy in the US Senate.
posted by scottreynen at 6:28 PM on July 12, 2006


kaemaril: Yoo's opinion is that the War Crimes Act and any other signed and passed Congressional legislation cannot restrain the President's 'executive powers' in a time of war.

This includes the FISA-violating warrentless wiretaps issue.

He believes that Congress does not have the Constitutional authority to restrict the President in these matters.
posted by sonofsamiam at 6:36 PM on July 12, 2006


Didn't Rawstory links get banned?
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 6:37 PM on July 12, 2006 [1 favorite]


Didn't you cheerlead the war in Iraq?
posted by rxrfrx at 6:41 PM on July 12, 2006 [1 favorite]


Saddam Hussein after his capture addressed the court with the same challenge that Charles I threw at his judges...

Yeah, that worked out real well for old Chuckie. I think Saddam needs a better argument.
posted by clevershark at 6:47 PM on July 12, 2006


In all sincerity, if we can't stage a show trial for someone as vile as Saddam Hussein and lock him up for life next to a relative cream-puff like Noriega, how the hell do we (speaking as an American) expect to Democratize Iraq, if not the region?

Should "we" -- the US -- try him, or should the Iraqis?
posted by pax digita at 6:57 PM on July 12, 2006


Thanks, orthogonality, for the John Cooke information. I'm currently reading Neal Stephenson's The Baroque Cycle and find the actual historical information concerning the 17th century just as fascinating. What I also find interesting is the precedence of English Common Law on present-day Supreme Court decisions.

...President Obama...” — bardic

Boy, don't I wish. At the very least, the United States would have a President who practices his impromptu speeches.
posted by Colloquial Collision at 6:58 PM on July 12, 2006


how the hell do we (speaking as an American) expect to Democratize Iraq, if not the region?

- bardic

"The notion that you can duff up a country for three months, pacify it for a bit longer and then miraculously transform it into a liberal democracy is just ludicrous. You might achieve some kind of democracy: it's the liberal bit I take issue with. How can you possibly telescope 1,500 years of history into a few months to create a representative parliamentary democracy?"


- Dr. David Starkey

Stupid fucking Americans. Get over yourselves and learn some history. A measure of common sense and a soupcon of humility wouldn't go amiss, while you're about it.
posted by Decani at 7:01 PM on July 12, 2006


Some of us have learned it, Decani. Unfortunately, we're not in control of the country.

And yes, it makes us unhappy.
posted by zoogleplex at 7:08 PM on July 12, 2006


The Think Progress link is great. What the fuck is wrong with these dudes.
posted by chunking express at 7:19 PM on July 12, 2006


Stupid fucking Americans. Get over yourselves and learn some history. A measure of common sense and a soupcon of humility wouldn't go amiss, while you're about it.

Because Human History is chock full of common sense and humility, I take it? Because your average history book is filled to the fucking brim with intelligent use of power and societies which succesfully work for the common weal? Jesus dude, I don't think we're the only ones who need to "learn some history".

Right now we happen to have the biggest stick to break shit with - as long as everyone thinks it's something wrong with us and unique to the USA, we should have plenty of of other blind idiots ready to take our bloody, smelly Empire Stick and start playing in the china shop.
posted by freebird at 7:28 PM on July 12, 2006


here's another one that's wry with the quote out of context but thankful for the history lesson.
posted by carsonb at 8:04 PM on July 12, 2006


"The notion that you can duff up a country for three months, pacify it for a bit longer and then miraculously transform it into a liberal democracy is just ludicrous.

How long did it take in post-war Japan?
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 8:50 PM on July 12, 2006


One of the things that is distinctive about Americans is that when they're told, "No one has ever succeeded in doing what you're attempting" then we tend to think, "Aha! We have an opportunity to be first."

And we have been, a lot of times: first powered heavier-than-air flight, first telephone, first man on the moon... I could list fifty other things (first synthetic polymers) but you see what I'm talking about (first steamship, first electric telegraph, first transistorized digital computer, first integrated circuit, first wide area network, first microprocessor, first home computer, first cell phone, first electric light, first movie camera and projector).

So no one has ever succeeded in what we're trying to do in Iraq? Good, that means we have an opportunity to be first. And even if we don't fully succeed, what we create may well be good enough.

If we do succeed, it won't be the first. Japan is not quite a good example in as much as technically it was a democracy between the Meiji restoration and the mid-1930's. Of course, the system had some deep flaws that prevented it from really operating in the way we ordinarily think a democracy should operate, but it did mean that the country had some limited experience with the concept.

But so has Iraq, it turns out. There was a fledgling democracy there before the Baathists took over. And for the ten years or so before our invasion, the Kurds had a rather yeasty little informal democratic system running in the north.

Germany is actually a better example. The first democracy ever in Germany was the Weimar Republic, and we all know what happened with that. Germans had little in the way of experience with democracy and had a very martial past and a history of police states. But the FRG has largely been a very successful liberal democracy. Even so, that's not what I would choose as the best example.

It turns out that Americans do have experience establishing a liberal democracy in a place where there had not been one before. Where? Right here, my friends, right here. The US itself.

No one else has ever succeeded at this, so you should give up is extremely unconvincing advice as far as I'm concerned. If you refuse to risk failure, you'll never accomplish anything worthwhile.

This isn't arrogance, it's self confidence. What we're being counseled to adopt isn't humility, it's defeatism. I don't buy it.

"There's no point in even trying" is why Europe is in decline. "We might succeed" is why America is the most powerful nation on Earth.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:20 PM on July 12, 2006


you don't make jokes about infallible monarchy in the US
posted by taosbat at 9:21 PM on July 12, 2006


By the way, there's also the case of the Philippines. No democracy there before we took it from the Spanish, but they've been marginally successful at it since we turned them loose in 1946.

We also established a democracy in South Korea where there had never been one before.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:22 PM on July 12, 2006


Some of us have learned it, Decani. Unfortunately, we're not in control of the country.

Don't fret, zoogleplex. The younger generation has witnessed the bullshit and what it's gotten us into. They will grow up with great wisdom.
posted by MarkO at 9:40 PM on July 12, 2006


Riverbend: Atrocities...
posted by homunculus at 9:43 PM on July 12, 2006


There was a fledgling democracy there before the Baathists took over.

With the help of the CIA.

By the way, there's also the case of the Philippines. No democracy there before we took it from the Spanish, but they've been marginally successful at it since we turned them loose in 1946.

With a brutal 14-year war along the way as we crushed their independence. The Filipinos declared independence from Spain on June 12, 1898; US troops arrived on August 14.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:48 PM on July 12, 2006


"There's no point in even trying" is why Europe is in decline. "We might succeed" is why America is the most powerful nation on Earth.

Well, it's part of why: our deep grasp of politics and history, our Wise Younger Generation(s), and our rejection of Exceptionalism and Empire help too. Plus we're all drop dead sexy here.
posted by freebird at 9:54 PM on July 12, 2006


Well Kraftmatic, it did work in Japan but it took the unconditional surrender of their leader, that guy from a family of rulers chosen by god.

Trying any head of state is a dangerous proposition. It's done by heads of state to heads of state. It becomes extremely grey and that's why international law is sketchy. It's like having criminals write our law . . . . crap nevermind.
posted by cmfletcher at 10:01 PM on July 12, 2006


It turns out that Americans do have experience establishing a liberal democracy in a place where there had not been one before. Where? Right here, my friends, right here. The US itself.

Yeah, and we only had to systematically destroy nearly everyone who lived on the continent to do so. Go team.
posted by jmgorman at 10:01 PM on July 12, 2006


Among the many, many signs of incompetence regarding the US occupation of Iraq, the inability to convict a madman of mass murder when there are freakin' mass graves being dug up takes the cake.

Am I the only one who finds these show trials distasteful and disingenous? The events at Nuremberg are often used to legitimize proceedings similar to the current trial of Saddam, but those rub me the wrong way as well; sure, a few people were acquitted, but surely there was never any doubt that Göring, Hess, Speer, et al would be convicted with extreme prejudice. Since the outcome was pre-ordained, and since the judges in this case were chosen specifically to ensure the desired outcome, it would have been more honest simply to state, "The Third Reich's actions were inexcusable, and this is so self-evident that we have no need to justify ourselves; Messrs. X, Y, and Z will be executed at the earliest possible opportunity." I don't like the idea of adopting the trappings of the law to enforce what is clearly an extra-legal, ex post facto system of justice (however justified). There's not a chance in the world that Saddam will be acquitted; it's grandstanding and public relations to pretend otherwise.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 10:06 PM on July 12, 2006


I could list fifty other things (... first movie camera and projector).

I believe the french Lumiere brothers are credited with developing the first projector.
posted by gsteff at 10:07 PM on July 12, 2006


"... Plus we're all drop dead sexy here."
posted by freebird at 12:54 AM EST on July 13


And don't forget our nuclear defense triad complete with 5,000+ active warheads, our 11 aircraft carrier battle groups, and our extensive satellite/remote sensing/remotely controlled munitions capabilities.

"Drop dead sexy" doesn't begin to describe the shine on our cute little pointed heads...
posted by paulsc at 10:11 PM on July 12, 2006


Someone's optimism and can-do spirit is only oustripped by his selective view of history and belief in American exceptionalism.

I'm not saying who, though.
posted by moonbiter at 10:19 PM on July 12, 2006


It turns out that Americans do have experience establishing a liberal democracy in a place where there had not been one before ... right here.

Except this time it's being attempted by a dull-witted president that has no knowledge of history or geography, a psychopathic vice-president who embraces torture, and an incompetent secretary of defense who thinks he can win hearts and minds using bombs and tanks. It's a far cry from George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.
posted by JackFlash at 10:59 PM on July 12, 2006


So no one has ever succeeded in what we're trying to do in Iraq? Good, that means we have an opportunity to be first

hate to break it to you, but we're hardly the first country to start a war of aggression with another country over a resource.
posted by Hat Maui at 11:06 PM on July 12, 2006


"There's no point in even trying" is why Europe is in decline. "We might succeed" is why America is the most powerful nation on Earth.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:20 PM PST on July 12


Have you ever been to Europe? Europe might be "in decline" but your average European lives a heck of a lot better than your average American does. I don't mean your disgusting huge SUV's and TV's and your consumerist lifestyle, I mean important things like being in touch with your family, eating good food, being culturally aware.

America is the most powerful country in the world for many reasons but certainly one is the fact that it has by far the most powerful military ever created which has been continuously fighting in one war or another for over 60 years. The Cold War ended, Russia disarmed, you instead increased spending even more (why?! why?!) and now the US military is as far as I can see *the most expensive project ever undertaken by human beings*.

Frankly, most of the world and even a large chunk of Americans, are scared to death that the most powerful nation in the world is a country where money is unashamedly the higest ethical value, ruled by short-sighted religious fanatics who flaunt their ignorance while they loot the Treasury and kill a hundred thousand people in the name of "Liberty".

Success proves only that the United States is better at competition -- it doesn't mean that what they are doing is sustainable, nor that what they are doing is right.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:14 PM on July 12, 2006


In other news: Israel attacks Beirut's airport
posted by homunculus at 11:27 PM on July 12, 2006


bardic: "In all sincerity, if we can't stage a show trial for someone as vile as Saddam Hussein and lock him up for life next to a relative cream-puff like Noriega, how the hell do we (speaking as an American) expect to Democratize Iraq, if not the region?"

Ah, yes. Democracy is all about the show trials.
posted by Drexen at 11:56 PM on July 12, 2006


I think when you start comparing the lives of millions of innocent people to building transistorized personal computers, or whatever the fuck, you've pretty much lost me.
posted by cell divide at 12:09 AM on July 13, 2006


Europe is in decline? Really? And what is America in? Deep shit?
posted by Goofyy at 12:27 AM on July 13, 2006


Good FPP. It is an interesting analogy, orthogonality. Charles I "the bloody King" to his Presbyterian opponents for the energetic way in which he waged the first Civil War, also faced a "court" hobbled together for a specific purpose. There was never any doubt that Cromwell intended to strike off his head and the "trial" if it can be called as such, was a thinly veiled attempt at creating the legitimacy that military victory with the New Model Army could never achieve.

Charles I, who was not known as a good speaker, showed some balls and rose to the occassion. His refusal to recognize the legitimacy of the court - which is something even members of the court doubted - was a tactical decision. By the "rules" of Cromwell's court, not pleading was received as a plea of guilty. The King was so convicted and his head removed from his body. Regicide was some serious business back in the day and the resonance of that act had a long tail.

Within a generation, King Charles II made good with the regicides.

Saddam Hussein has no such obvious exit path, no hereditary right to protect, and not nearly the eloquence of Charles I. Nevertheless, to accept the legitimacy of that kangaroo court would be stupid.
posted by three blind mice at 12:31 AM on July 13, 2006


Drexen, to quote the dude from the remake of Dawn of the Dead here, I'm doin' my best here. The occupation of Iraq is obviously a sham, and I oppose it, but on a purely cynical level I long for the days of overpaid, neurotic CIA spooks who actually knew how to do propoganda. Reread what I typed--it wasn't a hope for greater disinformation, just a simple plea for the days when a thuggish empire could at least do the basic things right.

God, that's pretty sad of me. I realize that.
posted by bardic at 2:04 AM on July 13, 2006


I will say this: Europeans are unsurpassed at rationalizing that their failures are successes and that their faults are virtues.

Have you ever been to Europe? Europe might be "in decline" but your average European lives a heck of a lot better than your average American does. I don't mean your disgusting huge SUV's and TV's and your consumerist lifestyle, I mean important things like being in touch with your family, eating good food, being culturally aware.

Then why the "brain drain"? Why is it that so many of Europe's best and brightest want to leave Europe and come to America? And why is that movement so unbalanced -- why do so few of America's best and brightest want to go to Europe?

If Europe is so much better of a place to live, so much more civilized, so much more comfortable and comforting and spiritually nourishing, then why is Europe having such a hard time keeping its smartest college graduates? They're voting with their feet -- and their feet say "America".

Yes, I've been to Europe. It was a nice place to visit, but...
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 2:18 AM on July 13, 2006


bardic: "Reread what I typed--it wasn't a hope for greater disinformation, just a simple plea for the days when a thuggish empire could at least do the basic things right."

Sorry, but I'm honestly a bit confused by your comment -- aren't these "basic things" you're talking about really disinformation, injustice, and all that? I don't know about you, but I really would rather my country fail in any given country than succeed by using dirty, undemocratic tactics - especially since such tactics are usually used towards ignoble ends, anyway.
posted by Drexen at 2:28 AM on July 13, 2006


Steven C. Den Beste writes "then why is Europe having such a hard time keeping its smartest college graduates?"

Because some people, regardless of their original nation, is considered more valuable by others and is paid accordingly. Consider for instance an average italian college graduate in some scientific course ; most of the cost of his preparation was sustained by family and state, so he/she is a fruit ripe for picking by private industry anywhere in the world because

1) there is little funding of advanced research in italy from public sector, so best college graduate seek more research job elsevwhere. The funding is even lower in absolute value from the private sector in italy. Europe average isn't that dramatically better. Obviously, why should the public finance work/study that doesn't have measurable direct mass public benefits ? It's the job of private to invest and risk in advancement and then reap the benefits of their risk.

2) because primarily an european college graudate it cost A whole LOT LESS then a comparable U.S. college graduate and some private industries, surprise surprise, don't want to take the risk of investing in people, also because people leave their jobs ; yet they want the benefits of a good education :)

3) because culture , education is much much more appreciated (in most of europe) as an instrument then enlightens humankind far more then any money or valuables. Actually I remember seeing a documentary in which sicilian peasants +- during 1940 , which were certainly brutes by any standard, thatwere so sensible and intelligent they pushed their offspring into a future of STUDY , as they didn't want them to live the life of a proletarian.

4) ignorance isn't used as an instrument of people management as much as is it is U.S. ; of course we have our share of incensed idiots, but we still have people resisting to mass dumbification and appreciating the dangers coming from a nation of ignorance.


Steven C. Den Beste writes "They're voting with their feet -- and their feet say 'America'"

No their feet say "money" primarily , a pay that is more proportional to their skill , the intellectual fatigue and investment they MUST sustain to obtain certain levels of preparation and analysis ; yet a friend of mine who was "stolen" from Stanford university is complaining a lot about the quality of her life in US as she has an hard time adapting to customs such as "routine barbeque" and "beer like it rains" ...but superficial customs aside, her complains is about the enormous differences between poor and rich people, the rich treating poor as-if they deserved their condition, the poor "agreeing" to become even more poor and bitter and incredibly undereducated into a costant "stupor" or "fear" , the constant climate of class-war masked by a phony smiles and a faked friendly at all cost attitude and it's opposite "you don't bullshit me" or "get lost" scared attitude

Her complains are not on americans -because- they are american (it's a nonsense) , but because she sees behaviors and a lifestyle that she wouldn't accept anywhere in the world, yet the contrast of the immense material power of US and its "winner gets al, loser shall pay the winner for the privilege of losing" increases her feeling of having the right job in the wrong country.
posted by elpapacito at 3:51 AM on July 13, 2006


By the way, there's also the case of the Philippines. No democracy there before we took it from the Spanish, but they've been marginally successful at it since we turned them loose in 1946.

With a brutal 14-year war along the way as we crushed their independence. The Filipinos declared independence from Spain on June 12, 1898; US troops arrived on August 14.


And we had to slaughter somewhere between 250,000 and 1,000,000 civilians to do it. We've got a lot of work to do in Iraq--we'd better get cracking!
posted by EarBucket at 4:03 AM on July 13, 2006


The events at Nuremberg are often used to legitimize proceedings similar to the current trial of Saddam, but those rub me the wrong way as well; sure, a few people were acquitted, but surely there was never any doubt that Göring, Hess, Speer, et al would be convicted with extreme prejudice.

Of course they were guilty, but a trial, even one with an obvious outcome, serves several purposes:

1) It creates a formal record of the evidence against the accused. Things that may seem obvious to those present at the time (the Nazis killed a lot of innocent people) may become cloudier as time passes--witness the spate of Holocaust deniers we already began seeing only a few decades later. Two hundred years from now, the records of those trials will be the firmest historical evidence that It Really Happened.

2) It heads off accusations that the sentences the guilty receive aren't simply the vengeance of a conqueror on the conquered. Barbarians summarily execute the vanquished; civilization gives them the same justice everyone else gets.

3) And, there, I think, is really the rub--we give everyone the benefit of law, even Saddam. To quote A Man For All Seasons:


More: "Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?"

Roper: "I'd cut down every law in England to do that!"

More: "Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you - where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast - man's laws, not God's - and if you cut them down - and you're just the man to do it - d'you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake."


It's why Eichmann needed a trial, it's why Hussein needs a trial, and it's why those men in Guantanamo need trials--because you and I want to have trials, if we're ever accused of something.
posted by EarBucket at 4:12 AM on July 13, 2006


The Nuremberg trials, and the (west) German war crimes trial process more generally, ought to be given more respect than they receive above. Great effort was expended to determine individual culpability and to determine appropriate sentences, and many people received lesser sentences than they might otherwise have received had less care been taken. The Russians in what became East Germany were rather less scrupulous.

The trial of Saddam was guaranteed to be a farce from the moment the U.S. decided to make Iraqis try Saddam under Iraqi law and to insist that the Iraqis attempt to make the trial meet contemporary Western judicial standards, despite the fact that his conviction and execution was then, and remains, highly likely.
posted by MattD at 5:32 AM on July 13, 2006


I will say this: Europeans are unsurpassed at rationalizing that their failures are successes and that their faults are virtues.

Pot to Kettle said...
posted by taosbat at 5:58 AM on July 13, 2006


No one else has ever succeeded at this, so you should give up is extremely unconvincing advice as far as I'm concerned. If you refuse to risk failure, you'll never accomplish anything worthwhile.

This isn't arrogance, it's self confidence. What we're being counseled to adopt isn't humility, it's defeatism. I don't buy it.



posted by prostyle at 8:07 AM on July 13, 2006


I believe the french Lumiere brothers are credited with developing the first projector.

Forget it, he's on a roll.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:15 AM on July 13, 2006


It turns out that Americans do have experience establishing a liberal democracy in a place where there had not been one before. Where? Right here, my friends, right here. The US itself.

And that took what, 130 years?
posted by mr.marx at 8:18 AM on July 13, 2006


Man, I used to love USS Clueless. Then, like so many other so-called "conservatives", SDB lost his shit after 9-11, deciding that the socialists were right: you can make the economy whatever you want it to be and you can bring about utopias by force.

"I used to think you were cool."
posted by sonofsamiam at 8:31 AM on July 13, 2006


did anybody else hear patriotic music rising in the background (a la oliver wendell holmes' speeches in Green Acres) when they were reading SDB's post?
posted by lord_wolf at 8:51 AM on July 13, 2006


Forget it, he's on a roll.

He's right. Psychotic, but absolutely right. We gotta take these bastards. Now we could do it with conventional weapons that could take years and cost millions of lives. No, I think we have to go all out. I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody's part.
posted by anotherpanacea at 9:05 AM on July 13, 2006


We aren't doing our democracy-establishing credentials any good by rigging Iraqi elections and ousting their democratically-elected leaders.

Saddam's trail reminds me of the line from Silverado: "We're gonna give you a fair trial, followed by a first-class hanging." And they're being careful to try him for things that won't embarrass the US.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:23 AM on July 13, 2006


"There's no point in even trying" is why Europe is in decline. "We might succeed" is why America is the most powerful nation on Earth.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:20 PM PST on July 12


"We might succeed" also leads people to "invent" perpetual motion machines that on examination, do not actually work, and can never actually work, wasting time and money.

Ignoring reality and substituting baseless optimism is a recipe for disaster; addressing you, and expecting you to understand that, is similar.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:29 AM on July 13, 2006


Someone [cough SDB] in this thread exhibited why the US is in serious decline today.
Not to get personal but how the hell can anyone actually believe that US exceptionalism bullshit and take it seriously?
That's levels upon levels of disassociation from reality. Sounds kinda like when someone doesn't take their "required" medication.
posted by nofundy at 9:30 AM on July 13, 2006


how the hell can anyone actually believe that US exceptionalism bullshit and take it seriously?

It has a long history.
posted by hangashore at 10:23 AM on July 13, 2006


Oh come on, it started with Manifest Destiny? It goes back about as far as we (humans) do doesn't it? Certainly the Romans and Greeks thought they had their shit *way* tighter than everyone else. Don't you think that very first tribe of humans was all "We DESERVE all this grassland and the stuff in it - because we're extra-special and beloved of the Great Bear!"

Don't you think viewing it as some uniquely American trait is, well, exceptionalism of a different kind? That countries gleefully pointing our our ridiculous sense of self-worth and importance are doing the same damn thing? Don't you think as long as we keep seeing these destructive yet eternal traits of human cultures as something Other People Do, we'll just keep doing the same stupid crap in the name of other causes, under other stupid flags?

The more you rant about how Stupid America is, the more stupid we all seem to me. Not because you're not right about us, but because you're not seeing the grand historical and global sweep of the stupidity. And if we don't start to do that - and quick - I can't really see things getting much better.
posted by freebird at 10:39 AM on July 13, 2006


kaemaril: Yoo's opinion is that the War Crimes Act and any other signed and passed Congressional legislation cannot restrain the President's 'executive powers' in a time of war.

This includes the FISA-violating warrentless wiretaps issue.

He believes that Congress does not have the Constitutional authority to restrict the President in these matters.
posted by sonofsamiam at 2:36 AM GMT on July 13
Yeah. He's wrong.

The president's power comes from two sources:
1) The power the constitution grants him.
2) Anything else congress allows him to have.

And he's still bound by law in all other respects. He can't walk up to you in the street, shoot you in the head, and then claim he should be able to walk away because it was a matter of national security, and congress had no right to pass any law that restricted his ability to defend the nation ...

Barring something explicitly in the constitution that says 'Feel free to torture people, even if the mean old congress disallows it' he's on a hiding to nothing. The President is not somehow able to act outside or above the law simply because there's a war on (and even that's iffy) as has been demonstrated, for example by Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer over 50 years ago.

The President of the USA does not get to ignore laws that inconvenience him, simply because there's a war on.
posted by kaemaril at 11:02 AM on July 13, 2006


threeblindmice: Nevertheless, to accept the legitimacy of that kangaroo court would be stupid.

You should really read the linked interview with the author of The Tyrranicide Brief has to say about that, about Cromwell's actual role, and the historical significance of John Cooke's argument in the trial you so readily dismiss. I, for one, found it fascinating, and will be reading that book.

freebird: late to the party, but wanted to reply to this: [M]y point is that the refusal of a White House underling under aggressive questioning to say the President broke the law hardly compares to the struggle to subject the King of England to the Rule of Law, in any but the most polemic, ahistorical, and perspectiveless way.

I don't think that's why it was included in the post. I think it was included as a question--'is this what's going on in the US?' Many Americans are very anxious, frustrated, and unhappy about what our country is doing in the world, what's going on here, etc. There is, on different levels, an undercurrent of fear in many--a sense of foreboding, that asks 'could this happen here?'

Whether or not that's a reasonable fear or not would be the more salient question.
posted by LooseFilter at 11:29 AM on July 13, 2006


Heh... hey Steve, what color is that Kool-Aid, eh? Red or blue?

(I like the purple stuff best.)
posted by zoogleplex at 2:45 PM on July 13, 2006


I would posit that exceptionalism is the province of idiots, most especially of idiots defending empires in decline.
posted by nofundy at 5:26 PM on July 13, 2006


Yah! Thank goodness we're all so much smarter than those stoopid exceptionalists! They think they're better than everyone!
posted by freebird at 5:47 PM on July 13, 2006


Is Bush Pulling a Fast One on NSA Warrantless Surveillance?
posted by homunculus at 12:56 AM on July 14, 2006


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