Saturday, April 01, 2006

The Ever-Increasing Political Sphere

Michael Froomkin points me over to a resolution recently passed by the American Society of International Law:
1. Resort to armed force is governed by the Charter of the United Nations and other international law (jus ad bellum)
2. Conduct of armed conflict and occupation is governed by the Geneva [Conventions] of August 12, 1949 and other international law (jus in bello)
3. Torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment of any person in the custody or control of a state are prohibited by international law from which no derogations are permitted.
4. Prolonged, secret, incommunicado detention of any person in the custody or control of a state is prohibited by international law.
5. Standards of international law regarding treatment of persons extend to all branches of national governments, to their agents, and to all combatant forces.
6. In some circumstances, commanders (both military and civilian) are personally responsible under international law for the acts or their subordinates.
7. All states should maintain security and liberty is a manner consistent with their international law obligations.

Roger Alford says he voted against the resolution because he fears "it will be seen as politically motivated." To which Froomkin ask: which of those statements possibly could be construed as political? And if "obey the law" and "international law prohibits torture" are considered "political" statements, what exactly isn't?

I think that politics is whatever people make it to be, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't vote for this resolution. Sometimes one has to take a stand, even when something is politically contested, because sometimes a given side on a political issue is morally or factually wrong. The law is pretty clear on this subject--I haven't heard anyone this side of John Yoo claim that states can claim exemption from the categorical bar on torture. The real "debate" on the matter is about as substantive as the evolutioon/creationism "debate," which is also "political" even though there isn't any actual dispute amongst the experts.

I think the scarier thing is what this says about our political system, when one reasonably could assert that "torture = bad" is a "political question." I'm fine with taking a stance on political issues, but on issues like this, it's a tragedy that I even have to.

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