U.S. Rejects Anti-Germ Warfare Accord
July 25, 2001 10:58 AM   Subscribe

U.S. Rejects Anti-Germ Warfare Accord and is the only country to do so, effectively killing 6 years of negotiations. As an American, all I can say is: I'm sorry we suck.
posted by gwint (38 comments total)
I'm not an American, I just live here, and I'm sorry you guys suck.
posted by panopticon at 11:29 AM on July 25, 2001

I live here, i'm an american, and we suck.


what a mefi day--> we bake our babies, we fire people for being gay and we make war by making people sick. may i please get off the planet now?
posted by christina at 11:39 AM on July 25, 2001

It could be that they don't want to subject private biotech companies to public inspections, which is perfectly legitimate. Research in this field is extremely competitive.
posted by skyline at 11:48 AM on July 25, 2001

Skyline is hitting close to the truth. The decision came from the pressure and money of pharmacuetical mega-corporations.

There's a lot of negative things you can say about the Bush Crime Family Empire (almost all things!) but loyalty to their "friends" will probably never be questioned.

As an American, I'm ashamed of this decision also. But then, I've been ashamed of a lot of decisions made in the past 6 months.
posted by nofundy at 12:11 PM on July 25, 2001

The 4th amendment also protects "pharmacuetical mega-corporations".
posted by wenham at 12:17 PM on July 25, 2001

Damn that Bill of Rights!
posted by Mick at 12:41 PM on July 25, 2001

Research in this field is extremely competitive.

Especially when you're making biological weapons that you don't want the world to know about. Talk about competitive!

As a country, we don't suck any more than usual. In the last 8 months or so, however, the percentage of our leaders who suck has increased dramatically.
posted by jpoulos at 1:30 PM on July 25, 2001

The obvious answer, of course, is that the US is planning to use bioweapons against WTO-protestors, China, Japan, India, and pretty much the whole of Europe except Italy (since they fell into line on the whole missile-defense thing).

We'll keep Africa & S. America, since we need markets for our stuff, and those are the two continents LEAST capable of competing technologically.

As for the Middle East, well, you do the math. Bush == Big Oil. No OPEC == mondo $$$ for Bush pals, with no irritating dark-skinned people with funny names getting in the way of the rigs or skimming the cash.

Remember: you heard it here first! A conspiracy a day keeps the feds at bay...
posted by aramaic at 1:38 PM on July 25, 2001

If you really think it's all that bad you can always leave.
posted by revbrian at 1:40 PM on July 25, 2001

Cool: that means the rest of the world gets to bomb US chemical research facilities, just like the ones in Iraq that refuse inspections.

No-fly zones, anyone?
posted by holgate at 1:40 PM on July 25, 2001

Biochemical research. Ugh. My typist is on holiday.
posted by holgate at 1:41 PM on July 25, 2001

the problem i have with skyline's argument is that the U.S. was the only country to back out of this agreement, yet there are certainly many biotech firms outside of the U.S. who guard their secrets. Once again America has acted unilaterially-- clearly this means that the Bush administration is the only sane government on the planet and is saving the world from unjust invasive global policing.
posted by gwint at 1:45 PM on July 25, 2001

yet there are certainly many biotech firms outside of the U.S. who guard their secrets

Certainly, but the US has more than anyone else. Of the top ten biotech companies, 8 are American; and of pharmaceuticals, 6. Meaning, we've got more to lose than any of the other players.

I'm against our withdrawl, but it's important to realize that there are real reasons behind these moves.
posted by skyline at 2:07 PM on July 25, 2001

Let's pretend that the US hadn't withdrawn. Would it get past the Supreme Court? The proposed means of enforcement do seem to be unconstitutional.
posted by wenham at 2:44 PM on July 25, 2001

I'm an american and I say that with pride some days, and shame other days but I'll be damned if I'll leave and give up on the one place on earth I most love. Leaving is for wimps. But I can't condone everything that happens in my country, and I wouldn't want to. How can we improve, if we never look at our faults?

I know there are reasons for our withdrawl, but for me this is like Bush's being against the kyoto treaty because it's bad for the economy. Somtimes you gotta suck it up and suffer for the long term greater good. I'd say air we can breathe (germ free with a nice safe ozone layer) is a greater good.
posted by christina at 2:53 PM on July 25, 2001

Just as an aside: germ-free is not a desirable state. Germs are our Special Little Friends. We need the little guys, even if some of their friends do get a little rambunctious every now and then.
posted by aramaic at 3:17 PM on July 25, 2001

Holgate, Iraq is getting its facilities investigated and bombed because it just lost a major war. If you want to violate the Fourth Amendment and to search US facilities without a warrant, I suggest you land the Royal Army and fight it out. After you've won, then you can investigate whatever you want.

The argument wasn't about the goal of this treaty, but about the means it proposed to accomplish those goals. The US couldn't agree to this treaty even if Bush had wanted to.

This treaty would have violated the Fourth Amendment because it would have permitted monitors to look wherever they wanted, whenver they wanted, even without any grounds for suspicion, just to see if someone might be committing a crime -- and speculative searches were exactly what the Fourth Amendment was intended to prevent. And as Chris says, the Fourth Amendment applies just as much to corporations as it does to individuals.

Maybe you Brits think this is a good idea, but then you don't really have any rights. (You have privileges that Parliament can revoke at any time, but you have no rights.) We Americans take that kind of thing very seriously, and anyone trying that here is going to learn what the Second Amendment is really about.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 3:27 PM on July 25, 2001

Rights without responsibilities. Gotcha.

But hypocrisy is, of course, the tribute that vice pays to virtue.
posted by holgate at 3:40 PM on July 25, 2001

And, given that the Supreme Court has done its utmost in very recent history to finesse the Fourth Amendment's criterion of "reasonable" down to its English common law origins, bullshit.
posted by holgate at 3:46 PM on July 25, 2001

Holgate, I don't know where you got the idea that we don't also have responsibilities. We have many: we have to serve in juries, we have to obey court orders, we have to serve our nation in time of war, and we have to pay taxes, among others.

I also don't understand what that comment has to do with the issue of this treaty violating the Fourth Amendment. Care to try to stick to the subject? Or are you suggesting that we should go ahead and rip up the Bill of Rights just to make the Europeans happy?

And that case you just linked to has nothing to do with this.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 4:08 PM on July 25, 2001

Our ultimate responsibility is eternal vigilance against those who want to take away our rights.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 4:17 PM on July 25, 2001

I'm all aquiver with fear getting in between you big blokes while you're staring each other down, but : (and granted that I am off topic if the topic is indeed the issue of this treaty violating the Fourth Amendment - I could not care less about your precious constitution, to be honest) it strikes me here before my first coffee that when Steven talks rights and holgate talks responsibilities, they're talking about the rights of Americans within America, and the responsibilities of Americans to their state that as citizens they (if they bother to think about it) naturally assume.

These particular rights and responsibilities, goshdarnswell as may be, though, have little to nothing to do with the rights of America as a nation in the community of nations, or it's concommitant responsibilities. By rejecting Kyoto, and the germ warfare accord, and generally being an Asshole State, I submit that America is not living up to it's responsibilities, and thus should not have the rights as a nation it enjoys.

This is not a troll. Honest.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:26 PM on July 25, 2001

My general point, Steven, is that the very notion of "reasonable" searches under the Fourth Amendment is one that has been subject to judicial redefinition since year dot. And not just redefinition based upon modern circumstances; the Atwater ruling (a 5-4 vote, I note in passing) justifies its reading of the constitution based upon a fresh analysis of 17th and 18th century case law. Which makes the notion of the Bill of Rights' impermeability somewhat questionable.

(While I'm ranting, I should note that the convention itself has quite a few signatories, many of which have constitutional rights to privacy. As does the UK, under the Human Rights Act.)

A parallel: how long is it before the issue of random drug testing of athletes comes under the scrutiny of the Supreme Court? The parallel between such a case and the biological weapons convention make it undoubtedly more apposite than the Atwater case. School and college athletes have already found out that "reasonable" extends to the special circumstances of those in loco parentis or in statu pupillari, but if an Olympic athlete were to complain about the IOC's out-of-event random testing, I'd expect the shit to hit the fan pretty quickly. In fact, it's arguable that the current testing regime violates the Fourth Amendment, but that athletes abide by it for purely pragmatic reasons: to raise such a challenge would automatically mark them out as suspects.

My gripe -- and the reason for my resort to la Rochefoucauld -- is that the US has been an admirable supporter of actions that defend its rights, and the rights of the world, from a global perspective. To cite constitutional concerns in this case -- and in fact, the public record states that the US's objection was to its threat to "national security and confidential business information" -- is a classic case of not seeing the wood for the trees.
posted by holgate at 4:28 PM on July 25, 2001

stavros: you couldn't have said it better.
posted by holgate at 4:29 PM on July 25, 2001

Like all aspects of the Constitution, there has been a certain amount of judicial investigation of exactly how the Fourth Amendment applies to novel situations. But to try to imply that it is made of jello and will change shape readily to fit the fashion of the day is not correct. There are gray areas around the edge, but the ability of the state to enter private property and look around without a warrant has never been possible.

What the state can do is to apply sanctions. It cannot force its way in without a warrant, but it can say "If you don't let us look around, we'll cut off funding." That then gives the private citizen, or school, or corporation a choice. If their privacy is worth enough, they'll say "Fine" and the state still can't investigate.

For instance, drug testing of student athletes: most universities receive substantial amounts of money from the US government. Also, there is no right to be an athlete. So the government has said that universities which don't do testing won't get federal funds, and in turn the universities have said that anyone refusing tests can't compete. But that doesn't make it so that 100% of students, or 100% of residents of the US, must subject themselves to drug tests. And note that while this may be happening in universities, the US government has never tried to impose drug tests on professional athletes -- because professional sports doesn't get money from the government.

The same thing goes with the IOC: there is no right to participate in the Olympics, and anyone who wants to has the choice of either permitting drug testing or not participating. But they do have the ability to not be tested, as do the student athletes.

There is a difference between coercion and legal force. When you are subjected to legal force, you can't resist. Coercion leaves you a choice, albeit not necessarily a good one.

I think there may be a cultural disconnect here, because your rights in the UK really are as plastic as you describe. Ours are not. And they are far too important to erode for any specific issue, even this one.

This treaty would not use coercion to permit searches, it would use legal force. Under this treaty, the international monitors could look whereever they wanted and those who were being searched would have no choice at all. That would be a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment, right smacko in the middle of what it forbids, and the courts would never permit it.

For any right, there is always some specific case you can make why it should be limited or given away. For the right of free speech and the press there's hate speech. For the right of assembly there's hate groups. For any right at all, you can come up with some reason, some pressing concern, why it shouldn't exist. If we listened to them all, we would have no rights.

We keep our rights by accepting the fact that those rights have a price. By preserving our freedom of speech, we accept the possibility that some people will use that freedom to talk about ugly things. By preserving our right to be free of unreasonable searches we accept the possibility that some people may use that privacy to make bombs or bioweapons.

That is our decision to make. And we did make it that way, and it isn't going to change because the Europeans think that the Bill of Rights is a tiresome barrier preventing them from doing what they want. In their own nations they can do whatever they want, but not here.

Stavros, please show me where in the Constitution there is a clause which describes any responsibilities the US has to the world. That is the contract I have with my government and it is the only one I'll accept. In it, I see numerous clauses describing the responsibilities the US government has to its citizens, but nothing remotely like what you describe.

You may not care about our Constitution (and it's becoming evident in this and a number of other negotiations that the European governments collectively also don't) but it's vitally important to me. And my government works for me; it doesn't work for you.

As soon as my government begins to work for the interests of foreign governments at the expense of its responsibilities to US citizens, that is how soon it will be voted out of office.

I don't really care what the rest of the world thinks of the Bill of Rights. I like it and I intend to keep it. If that makes me unpopular in England or Australia, so be it.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 5:22 PM on July 25, 2001

the US has been an admirable supporter of actions that defend its rights

Here is the main point of this entire thread, I think. Or it should be. There are no bigger kids on the block than the U.S., whether in terms of money or muscle. Until there are, the U.S. will act unilaterally when it wants to, where its own interests are at stake. The rejection of this accord is just the latest example. Kyoto was mentioned, and there was also a global ban on landmines that the government didn't think much of.

Old motto for the U.S. of A.: In God We Trust
New (proposed) motto: Because We Can

Fortunately or no, all nations were not created equal, and, while Stavros' point about America's responsibility in and to the world is well taken and reflects how things ought to be, and here I quote from Machiavelli's The Prince, "the way men live is so far removed from the way they ought to live that anyone who abandons what is for what should be pursues his downfall rather than his preservation."

Damn, I wish I could write like that. Sorry. My point is that to expect the U.S. to sacrifice its own interests in favor of the greater good is nothing more than wishful thinking.
posted by Bixby23 at 7:40 PM on July 25, 2001

So, why couldn't they do the checking the same way the EPA does the checking, or OSHA, or the DOE, or any other regulatory agency? This isn't exactly uncharted teritory...
posted by Ptrin at 7:48 PM on July 25, 2001

Stavros, please show me where in the Constitution there is a clause which describes any responsibilities the US has to the world. That is the contract I have with my government and it is the only one I'll accept.

Precisely my point, Steven.
The fact that you, clearly a well-educated and intelligent American, are able to so totally miss the point that your marvellous constitution applies to affairs solely within your own country is distressing. That this then seems to lead to people like yourself and, sadly, those less intelligent and informed, such as your simian president, to feelithat America is perfectly justified in flagrantly committing acts of lese-majeste against whatever nation or nations are irksome at the moment....that's unacceptable.

Bixby23's right - what I'm talking about is what should be, rather than what is, and as such is of less intrinsic value perhaps.

If that makes me unpopular in England or Australia, so be it.

Don't worry - I still love you. (I can't speak for Australia or the Australians though - I only live here at the moment)
Regardless, though, the American tendency to focus on 'What's right for America', with the silent corollary 'Fuck everyone else', will eventually kill this planet and everyone on it as surely as the next big-ass asteroid that whacks into us.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:21 PM on July 25, 2001

SDB: Holgate, Iraq is getting its facilities investigated and bombed because it just lost a major war. If you want to violate the Fourth Amendment and to search US facilities without a warrant, I suggest you land the Royal Army and fight it out. After you've won, then you can investigate whatever you want.

Um, Stevie-baby, since at least about the time Malory was putting together Le Morte D'Arthur 500 odd years ago, "Might makes Right" has been a pretty discredited moral philosophy. Not to say it's an unsuccessful one- it got Adolph quite a ways- but basically a morally bankrupt one nonetheless. Part of the reason America pisses so many non-Americans off- and I say this as a born & bred New Englander living in Seattle- is that there is ZERO chance any army or air force in the world will be able to enforce the kinds of sanctions or inspections on the US that we so readily impose on others, rightly or wrongly. Steven- ya gotta realize that whether you're happy about it or not, the real history of the US in the 20th century- and certainly in the post WWII era- is one to be profoundly ashamed of as an American.

All that said, now Stavros: not all Americans have that isolationist/ unilateralist view point! I'm sure a significant number of my countrymen and women are xenophobic- a cursory look at freerepublic.com shows that some of these f*ckwits are actually dyed-in-the-wool fascists, they're just too stupid to know it. :) But still, lumping all us 'murricans together isn't much better than folks like Bush lumping all the G-8 protesters (et al) together...

And swear to god, don't no one point out that I lumped the f*ckwitted freepers together just like STWC did to us Americans. I know that, it doesn't make my point less valid...
posted by hincandenza at 11:59 PM on July 25, 2001

Point taken, hincandenza. I know tons o' swell 'murricans. In fact, some of my best friends.... (ok I'll stop now)
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:10 AM on July 26, 2001

As soon as my government begins to work for the interests of foreign governments at the expense of its responsibilities to US citizens, that is how soon it will be voted out of office.

And of course, that's true if you spin it that way. But it comes at a price: every attempt to expand domestic protections internationally, and every pronouncement against the behaviour of foreign powers will be laughed off the table. (Welcome to the world of the categorical imperative.) In short, it'll be 1901 politics with 2001 military and economic clout. And that's just a different kind of irresponsibility towards your citizens.

Don't you get the feeling that if the past six months' "negotiations" by US delegates is repeated for the next couple of years, you'll get a situation where the opportunity to make constructive change -- exporting some of your blessed freedoms -- is no longer there? Talk about the boy who cried Wolf.

But that kind of unilateralism is politically expedient right now, because it caters to the whole "unpoliceable rogue state" argument, and provides happy justification for navel-gazing fuckwittery like missile defence.

And the real cultural disconnect is that Americans tend to assume that their constitution actually protects their rights. (Until they find those rights violated, that is.) That presumption is the modern equivalent of bread and circuses. It's a happy illusion, sustained while transgressions are finessed away in the courts. Most Europeans know from bitter experience that any talk of "protected human rights" is risible. They exist on a wing and a prayer.
posted by holgate at 6:46 AM on July 26, 2001

I find it quite interesting that for the most part, the same people that are anti-globalization (in a free-trade sense) are pro-globalization in a governing & regulatory sense.
posted by jbelshaw at 8:45 AM on July 26, 2001

Which isn't hypocritical as you make it sound; those are two very, very different issues.
posted by skyline at 9:01 AM on July 26, 2001

One of the interesting aspects of the Kyoto Treaty affair was that, after the US picked up their football and went home, the rest of the world continued to play the game. They are demonstrating that the US is no longer the default world leader. (How the treaty stands up as the US exploits the competitive edge it will enjoy without the restrictions is another matter.)

If that scenario is repeated here, it could be the second step towards the dissipation of the threat of Pax Americana. Maybe this is the hidden, benevolent plan of the Bush administration. (To be fair, the original Kyoto Treaty would not have been signed under Clinton, either. However, the administration didn't walk away from the table and much of the treaty as it now stands reflects the grind-em-down approach of Bill and his boys.)

As for the shame of being an American, I can't agree with that. I'm ashamed of what I do sometimes, but not of what I am. For that matter, the US is the most powerful nation the world has ever seen and has shown some pretty good restraint from using that power at times. If I were POTUS, Iraq would be the nightlight of the Middle East and my apologies to China would have been written on the side of cruise missiles. (And yes, I too thank God that my "If I were..." won't come true. I don't need absolute power to corrupt me -- I'm pretty much there already.)
posted by joaquim at 9:24 AM on July 26, 2001

Thank you for your input in this thread. From reading the article I can't see how the Bill of Rights applies to the decision made by our government. Not that it isn't a valid talking point.

Since the link to the Fourth amendment and corporations has already been made here let's consider the history of that connection. From my reading it is not clear that individual rights as defined by our founding fathers were intended to apply to corporate entities. Or better, if any did apply, they were not to be given the same weight that an individual might have. Corporations are soulless entities with only the profit motive to guide them. No conscience, no guilt. The question becomes: Is it wrong to assign the same rights to multinational corporations that we assign to individual persons? I would say no. You care to comment?
posted by nofundy at 10:57 AM on July 26, 2001

That is just what I was going to say, nofundy! Corporations should not have the same rights as people unless they also have the same responsibilities ( which could lead to some amusing jokes, such as the Coca-Cola Corp. serving jury duty etc.) Seriously, you could argue that corporations are the property of the people that own them and that those people have rights that prevent their property from being arbitrarily searched by random foreigners, but on the other hand if a corporation's actions result in death or injury, those same people aren't held criminally responsible for it. Do corporations pay income tax? Did a corporation ever pass a citizenship test? Can I create an LLC to stand in for myself and undertake every action on behalf of my corporation and shield myself from real liability?
posted by donkeymon at 12:39 PM on July 26, 2001

Corporate officers are frequently held accountable for crimes committed "by the corporation." SDB wrote about a company called Avanti who stole intellectual property from Cadence (ex Cadence employees started Avanti). Top officers from Avanti are going to go to jail and serve real time because of the theft.

But now tell me at what point a company becomes so "soul less" that it's okay to repeatedly violate its rights? What's the legal difference between a corporation started in Mom & Pop's kitchen with a $150 Certificate of Incorporation, and, say, Coca Cola?

Shall we make it okay to raid somebody's kitchen without a warrant because a previous act, one that had to do with bioweapons, laid groundwork intended for your "soul less corporations"?
posted by wenham at 1:23 PM on July 26, 2001

And the real cultural disconnect is that Americans tend to assume that their constitution actually protects their rights

Geez Louise, again with the Americans this and Americans that nonsense! I'm trying ta tells ya that not all Americans think the same way! Cripes, maybe we should just nuke you furriners and learn you's a lesson! :)

Can I create an LLC to stand in for myself and undertake every action on behalf of my corporation and shield myself from real liability?

Now this is an intriguing idea... perhaps some progressive type should hook up with someone experienced in corporate law and figure out how do-able this would be, advantages and disadvantages, and put it up on a website. Exist both as a citizen, and as an employee of Hal Incandenza Corporation, and when it's advantageous to do so I'd act as my corporation instead of my person. Why, just imagine the tax benefits alone! Fawk, this is brilliant!
posted by hincandenza at 8:09 PM on July 26, 2001

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