Monday, March 28, 2011

Is Obama a War Criminal?

I'd like to post today some (hopefully) educational and philosophical thoughts on a major current event of considerable importance, on which every American should be well informed.

There has been much said of late (by both liberals and conservatives, even on the usually well-informed Daily Show) to the effect that Obama is a war criminal, because his aerial assault on Libya was unconstitutional and had no legal standing. Simply because he didn't get congressional permission first. This keeps getting repeated, by members of congress no less (who of all people ought to know better), even though it's obviously false to anyone actually aware of the law (much less its precedents: Reagan and Clinton both did exactly the same thing, multiple times, despite being icons of an "ideal president" for both the right and the left).

On the Libya attack being constitutional (and legal) and no different from actions even Reagan and Clinton took: if you doubt this, then read the sound and accurate analysis of the law by Erik Uliasz, "Is President Obama’s Attack on Gaddafi's Forces In Libya Unconstitutional?," which carries particular weight since Uliasz is morally opposed to Obama's action and thus has every reason to sing the popular tune rather that admit, begrudgingly, that Obama obeyed the law, to the letter. And every American ought to understand what that law is and how and why actions like this are legal (even if only so they know they need to lobby congress to change that law if they don't like it, rather than complacently assuming actions like this are already illegal).

As to international law, the action was formally ratified by the UN, an organization of all the world's nations created and granted authority by international treaty (a treaty thus ratified by the U.S. Congress itself), which controls the international war crimes court. In other words, this is the very body that decides what is a war crime and that prosecutes (what there is of) international law. Generally if the UN approves an action, it isn't going to be considered a war crime by any legitimate court in the world. To the contrary, by declaring the action just, by international law, Obama's action was no war crime, but precisely the opposite: an action to police war crimes in a region dangerously close to our NATO allies (which, as a member of NATO, we are also treaty bound to protect, again a fact ratified by U.S. Congress).

As to U.S. law, Congress passed the War Powers Act in 1973 which specifically gives the President full power and authority to attack anyone anywhere for almost any reason without asking Congress first and without requiring any Congressional authority--as long as he tells them about it within 48 hours (in other words, after he's already done it), at which point congress can revoke his authority to continue hostilities (which, it's worth pointing out, Congress didn't do, even after Obama fulfilled the statute by informing Congress as required). Constitutionally, therefore, Congress did give Obama authority to attack Libya without asking for its specific permission...in 1973. As long as he has a treaty, statute, or immanent threat to invoke (and in this case, he has our UN treaty). You might not like that fact. But it's the law. And Obama followed it.

So there is nothing illegal or unconstitutional about Obama's assault on Libya. That leaves the moral and political question of whether he should have done it.

The Daily Show made it into a hypocrisy issue, in that we didn't do this in Bahrain or Rwanda, so why are we picking now to do it? But Bahrain wasn't using air power against civilians, or even battle tanks and ground artillery. So why would Obama attack Bahrain's air power and gunnery battalions? The comparison makes no sense. There simply isn't any action we can take in Bahrain that would do any good. Whereas in Libya the action was a no brainer: it was cheap, easy, fast, not plausibly dangerous to any American, and immediately stopped an actual war crime in progress by destroying the major military assets that were being deployed against civilians. It didn't involve invading the country or putting a single boot on the ground. There is no occupation, no nation building. Just straightforward deletion of a war criminal's military power. With full UN and NATO support (even, in fact, the support of the Arab League, although they are now complaining about it being too effective).

As for Rwanda, the comparison is multiply inapt, because there literally wasn't anything we could do about that. Millions of people wielding machetes can't be stopped with a "no fly" zone and really could only be stopped by a full declaration of war and a major invasion by ground troops and ultimately the mass slaughter of millions of machete carrying lunatics. To be honest, I seriously doubt had we done that that people would be calling it "the good thing" that they now insist it would have been had it been done. At any rate, the analogy with Libya is precisely zero. Intervention in Rwanda would not have been cheap, easy, fast, or free of significant American casualties. Moreover, by the time we had the approval of the UN (and a U.S. Congress constantly bitching about being included in such things even though they gave our presidents the power not to include them), the genocide in Rwanda would have been long concluded. So comparable action to stop the atrocity would actually have been impossible in that case.

There is also the issue of oil (i.e. "gee isn't it bad that we only intervene in oil rich countries") but that's actually a legitimate national security concern (and international security concern, which is why the UN will always be on board with such operations) since spikes in oil prices caused by regional instability actually severely harm us (particularly when struggling our way out of a recession), as well as the whole world (e.g. the consequent doubling of food prices worldwide will no doubt result in millions of deaths from additional starvation, as well as even greater political and military instability). 

Like it or not, keeping oil producing nations peaceful and prosperous is a direct national security interest of the United States, and a direct world security interest of the United Nations. This will remain so even if we miraculously weened ourselves completely off foreign oil--because China, India, Brazil et al. are now far exceeding us in their demand for oil, thus the instability and starvation issues stemming from chaos in oil producing nations will continue to threaten American security no matter what we do about our own oil dependency. This is not to say American policy in this regard has always been sound. But the solution is not no policy but better policy. We can't stay uninvolved.

There is also the humanitarian issue. I think it would be great if we could act the international cop, if we were trustworthy enough (we often aren't) and the UN picked up the bill (it won't). So most humanitarian crises can't be solved by American power, except at too great a cost. We need to look after our own people's welfare first and foremost (which is why we should never have gone into Iraq and need to get the hell out of there already, and why we'd never invade North Korea, unless it wages war on us or our allies). But when we can usefully intervene at minimal cost and risk, we should. And the Libya action is a rare example of a perfect opportunity to make very effective use of America's greatest asset: our incredible technological ingenuity. This is the kind of action stealth tech and guided missiles are perfect for. The benefits are huge (a major humanitarian crisis was averted, a war crime halted) and the costs minor (just two days of easy button pushing). If we could have stopped the genocide in Rwanda this way, no one would doubt it would have been the right thing to do. If then, so now.

Indeed, that Obama's action against Libya was a good idea is already evident from the fact of nearly everyone, in both parties at home and every nation abroad (even Arab nations), who complained he wasn't doing it--until he did, then suddenly they claim it's a bad idea. They are the hypocrites and should be called out as such. But there is one overlooked but very important reason why this was the right thing to do, which is why I would also have done it were I president. I don't agree with everything Obama does (I rate him a B- president, although that's a decent grade when past presidents are compared), but on this he did everything right. It was necessary from a basic standpoint of international relations theory.

It's straightforward strategic-theatre logic: the democracy movements springing up all across the Middle East are an important forward step for U.S. interests, since democracy is a required first step to economic progress, which is a required first step to deradicalization, which is a required first step toward ending the longstanding war against us waged by international cabals like Al Qaeda. In fact, Al Qaeda can never be defeated in any other way. For they will have otherwise an unlimited and eternally renewable pool of recruits, the more so now that these populations are skewing heavily young male, the worst possible security situation, as every political scientist will tell you. None of the democracy movements in the Middle East are spearheaded by, or even majority comprised of, Islamic radicals, but in fact largely secularized urban youth. This was the best thing that could reasonably have happened in the region. We need to get behind it (and without seeming to be secretly causing it--hence even Obama's delays are strategically sound in this regard).

In contrast, if Qadaffi were allowed to successfully put down the democracy rebellion in his own country by the mass murder of civilians through air-to-ground and mechanized military action, it would establish a precedent across the region, legitimizing every other regime to do the same, while simultaneously demoralizing and thus effectively killing all the pro-democracy movements--since if not even America will save them from such atrocities, their efforts are obviously doomed, so why bother?

It was thus absolutely necessary for Obama to tip the scales away from Qadaffi's success (it will be a disaster for us if he wins--we need him to fail, in every conceivable sense of the word). Who succeeds him is irrelevant, even if its someone ambivalent or hostile to the U.S. That's because we have bigger interests here: as long as the precedent is not established that Qadaffi's methods will go unhindered and unpunished, and as long as the precedent is set instead that America supports the democracy trend raging through the whole region even when we aren't assured of gaining an ally (and that we will not support, even by acquiescence, any anti-democracy regime's use of violence--not even in Bahrain, where we are otherwise helpless), then the entire balance of power in the region is shifted in America's favor, which will be a great benefit to us in the long run. Because an anti-American party elected into power today will, if democracy is sustained, be voted out eventually. In fact, that's the only way the region ever can move forward toward better relations with the U.S. We need democracy in the region. And we will not have it if we sit idly by and let Qadaffi holocaust his own citizens, and then, by extension, any other ruler who will take the hint and do the same, knowing we'll do nothing about it.

145 comments:

Mike said...

What about the radical approach of trying not to get involved unless we are imminently threatened?

The loose justification for the Iraq/Afghan wars was the defeat of "the terrorists." That deliciously vague goal can be shoehorned to fit nearly any military action.

I'm not a pacifist, nor am I necessarily saying that assisting Libyan rebels was a bad action. However, I am saying that given the number of variables that are completely out of our control, and given that one of the primary reasons we're scrutinized by the Middle East is our involvement in seemingly *everything*... it seems that at some point we'd focus less on walking a very thin line of what's right and wrong and simply not get involved. Not unlike ~150 other countries in the world do every day.

Invictus said...

I have been a little perplexed by some of the reactions from the left. The Libian situation is unique and I think Obama has handled it rather well. I think your take on it is spot on.

JPL said...

"So most humanitarian crises can't be solved by American power, except at too great a cost."

Remember when you wrote this.

You also base this on the assumption that whatever new government is formed will have a better human rights record than what previously existed. This is a bold assumption.

B. Dewhirst said...

Do you believe you have directed your remarks towards the strongest argument for Obama being a war criminal?

Is it a war crime to cover up the war crimes of others, or to protect others who've committed war crimes from prosecution? What is the level of culpability of someone to fail to prosecute a (prominent) citizen alleged of committing serious war crimes?

When will Bush Jr, or Kissenger, be brought before the international criminal court? Doesn't Obama have a moral obligation to see to it that war criminals living in his country are prosecuted for crimes they are credibly alleged to have been a part of?

Is it appropriate to authorize the use of psychological torture against a member of one's own millitary to illicit false statements to further the legal prosecution of the head of an organization which seeks to publish information of perceived war crimes? Is the use of psychological torture against ones own troops a war crime, or just a crime?

Loren said...

Formal declarations of war have gone out of style since World War II, and not just in the US. So one ought to ask what ought to qualify as a de facto declaration of war.

The Uncredible Hallq said...

When I saw the subject of this post, I didn't expect to come out agreeing with you... and then I did. Good post, Richard.

The Uncredible Hallq said...

Now I'm having second thoughts about the issue of legality, apparently Obama has said things which suggest he himself does not accept your interpretation of the War Powers act. But it's possible that Obama is merely guilty of having said some mistaken things on that score.

In any case, the argument that this was a unique opportunity to do a lot of good at low cost still seems persuasive.

Ben said...

I rather expected that Obama wouldn't do something so stupid as to be ridiculously illegal or invest in something that was mindlessly for profit and without reasonable humanitarian incentive. Your post makes a nice follow up to his speech on the topic. Thanks.

Richard Carrier said...

Mike said... What about the radical approach of trying not to get involved unless we are imminently threatened?

You mean apart from the fact that it's immoral to do nothing to help someone in dire trouble?

By analogy, would you say if a woman was being raped across the street from you that you should "not get involved unless you are imminently threatened?" A sea; a street--no moral difference. The only moral barrier to intervention is unacceptable risk. If you did nothing to help that woman, you would rightly be condemned as a vile ass. Unless you had a good reason, such as that the rapists had guns and you didn't (and there was no phone, and no police who would respond, etc.).

Thus the analogy carries over to larger scales: when military intervention carries too great a cost, it would be immoral to intervene (because we would only be causing greater overall harm). And every sane, rational person agrees with this. But doing nothing even when you bear no risk and little cost is morally reprehensible.

Apart from the morality issue, is again international relations theory: Obama's intervention in Libya crucially aids our long term national security interests, whereas his non-intervention would substantially harm them. Just as I argued. In other words, waiting for an "imminent threat" is foolish when you see the threat already en route. We don't wait for an "imminent flood" to finally make plans and repair dykes and infrastructure. We don't wait for an "imminent invasion" to build, train, and fund military defenses against one. We certainly shouldn't wait for an "imminent economic collapse" before enacting all policing and regulation necessary to prevent one. So, too, in the OPEC region: we need to take affordable actions now to prevent huge losses later, and win instead large long term gains. It's just basic common sense. Smart people think ahead. And act accordingly. Only idiots deal solely with the imminent.

Not unlike ~150 other countries in the world do every day.

They are too poor and helpless, thus not at all analogous to our situation. No one (not even the French and British, who are helping us in Libya and do intervene internationally) has even a fraction of the technologies and resources and wealth that we do, with the possible exception of China, and it's only a matter of time before China starts doing the same thing we do (they are already heavily involved in sub-Saharan Africa, and will eventually begin intervening there militarily when those interests begin to be threatened by terrorists and political instability).

Richard Carrier said...

Is Libya Just Like Iraq and Afghanistan?

Mike said... The loose justification for the Iraq/Afghan wars was the defeat of "the terrorists." That deliciously vague goal can be shoehorned to fit nearly any military action.

Only by ignoring or lying about the facts. Deceiving the public is not at issue in the Libya case.

There was no plausible way invading Iraq would in any actual way assist the war on Al Qaeda. Thus it was an unjust war we should never have been involved in. If you add up what we spent on that war, you'll find that we would be substantially out of debt right now. The one thing people won't admit is that the national debt is a war debt. Thus by going to war in Iraq we did ourselves far more harm than we did Al Qaeda. In effect, they won the Iraq war--our recession is their victory.

Afghanistan was a just war (enemy bases really were there, as well as the whole Al Qaeda central command structure), but we fought it so badly it's an embarrassment. Had we put into Afghanistan the troop strength and resources we put into Iraq, we would have caught all of Al Qaeda's top leaders (including Osama bin Laden), quickly dismantled the Taliban, and had time, manpower, and money left over to build roads, power plants, schools, and hospitals, destroy the poppy fields and replant them with legal cash crops, and provide the infrastructure to begin new industries and international trade. And we would have done all that in only four years. In short, we could have turned Afghanistan around economically and gained a real ally, thus winning the war against Al Qaeda (by leaving the country they had occupied in a far better condition than they did, thus catastrophically refuting their whole narrative). Instead we botched that war from day one. But we're not talking about anything being botched in Libya. So far, Obama has done everything there correctly.

So Iraq and Afghanistan are not analogous. To the contrary, they prove the rule.

Richard Carrier said...

JPL said... You also base this on the assumption that whatever new government is formed will have a better human rights record than what previously existed. This is a bold assumption.

I require no such assumption. It's as if you were saying we shouldn't save a woman from being raped and killed because we have no way of knowing she won't get raped and killed by someone else later. That's just retarded.

Richard Carrier said...

B. Dewhirst said... Is it a war crime to cover up the war crimes of others, or to protect others who've committed war crimes from prosecution?

Do you have evidence that Obama is covering up a war crime?

In fact, do you even have evidence of an actual war crime?

People tend to confuse "he did shitty, stupid, immoral things I don't like" with "he committed war crimes." Those are not the same thing. It's a lot harder to establish an actual war crime has taken place. And as with most crimes, its often impossible to establish who is guilty, even when we can establish there was a crime. "I suspect Bush of being a war criminal" simply isn't a prosecutable allegation.

Plenty of "alleged" crimes don't get past a grand jury, much less to a prosecution, indeed most don't even make it to a grand jury. That's normal.

One of the things I give negative marks to Obama on is that he didn't try harder to acquire and publish the facts in certain matters regarding the conduct and sale of the Iraq war and the treatment of POWs. He deemed it too costly for too little gain (i.e. even had he done this, it's unlikely any actionable evidence would be uncovered, thus burning gobs of political capital for nothing). There are unfortunate political realities that prevent prosecuting high level criminals, e.g. the GOP would destroy Obama and his every goal if he merely attempted such a thing. Remove the GOP from Congress and I think you would certainly have seen a lot more revealed about the dishonesty and immorality of the Bush regime. I personally think Obama could have burned some political capital on this. But I can understand why he'd deem it unwise. He has more important things to accomplish--and is already fighting a pitched battle to achieve even those.

When will Bush Jr, or Kissenger, be brought before the international criminal court?

Obama doesn't operate that court. So if that court does nothing, it's not on Obama.

Is it appropriate to authorize the use of psychological torture against a member of one's own millitary to illicit false statements to further the legal prosecution of the head of an organization which seeks to publish information of perceived war crimes? Is the use of psychological torture against ones own troops a war crime, or just a crime?

This is an example of the difference between perception and reality. Your perception of these events is wholly out of alignment with the reality. And we don't prosecute people for perceived crimes. We prosecute them for actual ones. And you shouldn't want it any other way.

Richard Carrier said...

The Uncredible Hallq said... ...apparently Obama has said things which suggest he himself does not accept your interpretation of the War Powers act.

The article you link to is written by someone who doesn't understand what he's talking about. For example, he says stupid things like "I will simply never understand the view that the Constitution allows the President unilaterally to commit the nation to prolonged military conflict in another country." The Constitution doesn't allow that, it allows Congress to allow that, and Congress is allowing it--not only did they allow it by passing the War Powers Act, but they are continuing to allow it by taking no action to stop it (as the Constitution gives them the power to do, as well as the War Powers Act). In other words, the president's power to act unilaterally act doesn't come from the Constitution. It comes from Congress.

His quote of Obama is out of context, and his quote of Mrs. Clinton is from before she knew what she was talking about.

As for Obama, read the part that he cuts from the quote: Obama said (emphasis mine) "It is always preferable to have the informed consent of Congress prior to any military action." Hmmm. Why would he say preferable? He goes on to say "As for the specific question about bombing suspected nuclear sites [in Iran], I recently introduced S.J. Res. 23, which states in part that 'any offensive military action taken by the United States against Iran must be explicitly authorized by Congress'." Now, why would he need to get a law passed saying that, if it was already Constitutionally required?

Clearly Obama understood the President has the power to unilaterally act militarily, but that this power does not come from the Constitution but from Congress, via the War Powers Act of 1973. Thus when he said that "The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack" except in self-defense, he meant the Constitution doesn't give him that power, not that he doesn't have that power. The Constitution gives Congress the power to grant that power to the President by law, and that's what they did. Thus Obama could have said "The President does have power under the law of 1973 to unilaterally authorize a military attack," and if he were writing a formal legal opinion and not just answering off the cuff questions to a reporter, he would indeed have added that qualification. But from the rest of his remarks its obvious he fully understood that qualification. Thus in context, Obama didn't say anything contrary to what he is doing now, except perhaps in believing it's "always" preferable to get Congress on board first. But when he said that he had no idea what an ass farm Congress would become under his presidency. He actually thought Congress would be cooperative and compromising, in other words an actual rational body interested in doing what's right. The GOP blindsided him on that one. That he is now disillusioned about it being "preferable" to ask Congress for anything is wholly unsurprising.

Ms. Clinton, by contrast, clearly didn't understand the law. But this was long before she was appointed Secretary of State. She is not a legal scholar (unlike Obama, who is--Clinton was a lawyer, but Obama was actually a professor of constitutional law for twelve years). So her opinions on these matters cannot be assumed to be authoritative, especially before she got her present job (which I'm sure she's since studied up for).

Richard Carrier said...

Loren said... Formal declarations of war have gone out of style since World War II, and not just in the US. So one ought to ask what ought to qualify as a de facto declaration of war.

It's not clear that this is so new. I'd have to see stats. Because we just aren't taught in public schools all the military actions the U.S. took since its founding that weren't under formal declarations of war (much of the Indian wars, for example). A Declaration of War is only a formal statement that we are in a formal state of war with a particular nation, which establishes different laws apply in our dealing with that nation, than apply otherwise. The U.S. has only ever declared war five times in the whole of its history. And we certainly did a hell of a lot more fighting than that in the 19th century alone (that link for U.S. declarations of war doesn't even list our wars with Indian tribes and nations on its table of undeclared wars, for example).

Jon said...

If your standard for conformity to the law is Reagan and Clinton then sure, Obama I guess is fine. The kind of change I think a lot of people were hoping for was something better than that. I wasn't hoping for it because I could read between the lines at the time, but I think you had to follow things pretty closely to see that and people have their own lives to deal with. Just getting food on the table is enough to keep most people pretty busy.

The UN Humanitarian Food Coordinators in Iraq, Denis Halliday and Hans Von Spoenik, regard Clinton's sanctions regime as genocidal. These are not extremists. They are highly respected and measured people. The highest recipient of US military aid outside of Israel and Egypt during the Clinton years was Turkey. It happens that they were implementing an astonishing campaign of violence against the Kurds at the time. That extermination program closed out so the aid shifted to Colombia, our hemisphere's worst human rights abuser.

Reagan I don't think you even have to talk about it's so obvious. Nicaragua, El Salvador, South Africa, Indonesia. Reagan gives the US the distinction of being the only state convicted by the World Court of state sponsored terrorism.

If Obama is the same as the above war criminals that's not really saying much. Your point may be that this is no different then what has been going on for a long time, and I can see the point there, but that only means Reagan and Clinton are war criminals as well. Frankly every post war American president would be hanged if the Nuremberg Tribunals were enforced.

But if you want war crimes, look to top UN officials who regard Obama's drone strikes as war crimes.

Jon said...

It's not just in Pakistan, but also Yemen as we learn from Wikileaks. Along with that revelation there's also the revelation that trials of operatives involved in torture are being stymied by Obama. When Israel invaded Gaza and engaged in massive war crimes, including chemical warfare against unarmed civilians as meticulously documented by the eminent South African jurist Richard Goldstone, Obama's efforts focused on stymieing those reports and sustaining diplomatic cover for Israel. Goldstone's report is regarded as the most soft on Israel, with Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch much more emphatic in their denunciations. Obama cast his first UN veto in support of Israel's continued settlement expansion into occupied Palestinian territory, which is also criminal. The lone veto of course. Obama backs Israel's attack on the civilian ship attempting to break Israel's illegal blockade on Gaza, which is in desperate need of repair materials since the Israeli assault.

I wonder how the logic of your book "Sense and Goodness Without God" would apply to this position you hold that violence on behalf of oil interests is morally justified. One fundamental moral principle in my world is that if an action is wrong for them then it is wrong for us. Suppose China decided that it was in their national security interest to secure our corn production. Suppose they imposed dictators on us that killed us. Suppose the fomented religious extremism to support that goal and variously undermined democracy. Suppose they killed off various villains to sustain corn output, but retained other villains just as brutal that did their bidding. Is that moral according to your book? Sounds like might makes right to me. Saddam Hussein's gassing of the Kurds was ignored by the US for oil interests. His crushing of the Shiite rebellion that probably wold have overthrown him, which creating hundreds of thousands dead and mass graves, was also supported by our regime. Were these moral acts in your world?

The Uncredible Hallq said...

I just went and actually took the time to read the War Powers Act, and I can't see how your interpretation is supported by the text of the act. Section 1541 (c) seems to indicate that the president's use of military force is limited to the three listed circumstances, and nothing in the reporting requirements section says, "until Congress says otherwise, the president can do whatever he wants as long as he reports it." "Reporting is required" does not equal "reporting makes anything okay." It doesn't really surprise me to find this, because upon reflection I've never heard anything like your interpretation of the War Powers Act before, and the fact that Bush sought specific authorization to use military force against Al Qaeda and Iraq suggests that he did not already have authorization from the 1973 act.

Lamplighter said...

The text of the War Powers Resolution explicitly states that the War Powers Resolution does not grant ANY authorization to the president. In particular,

§ 1547. (d) Constitutional authorities or existing treaties unaffected; construction against grant of Presidential authority respecting use of United States Armed Forces
Nothing in this chapter—

(1) is intended to alter the constitutional authority of the Congress or of the President, or the provisions of existing treaties; or

(2) shall be construed as granting any authority to the President with respect to the introduction of United States Armed Forces into hostilities or into situations wherein involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances which authority he would not have had in the absence of this chapter.


So the text of the War Powers Resolution itself says that Richard's claim that "...Congress is allowing it--not only did they allow it by passing the War Powers Act, but they are continuing to allow it by taking no action to stop it (as the Constitution gives them the power to do, as well as the War Powers Act)" is false.

czrpb said...

(Damn it! Had a long comment and lost it! This is the short version! F*ck!)

1. How does you comment: "A sea; a street--no moral difference." not entail the requirement that one do *anything* and *everything* in one's power for *anyone* *anywhere* who is is greater need? It seems to immutably follow logically: What am I missing? (Or in other words: "Why are you not in Africa saving lives?" which would without a doubt have a much more certain and impactive consequences than your excellent efforts on Religion? You *must* have been asked this at some point so please feel free to reference a part of your book(s) or a blog posting!)

2. I suppose I agree with Nel Nodding here that it is human nature to care for needs based on proximity: Why do I care for my dog, spend money on my dog that I should?/ought?/am required? -- it seems by your comment -- to use to help someone somewhere in need? (This criticism is often leveled at Peter Singer with his 1% suggestion. My understanding is his answer is: Yes, my morality does entail I should give much much much more, but then I am just not that moral.) So again, how does your comment not entail that you are massively immoral?!? (Again, as any consequences you believe/know you are having would be massively out-weighed by saving *lives* somewhere: Like, should you not spend your money to study to become a doctor, join Doctors Without Borders and save lives? What am I missing?)

(FYI: I plainly am retarded as I very much love your work, but then there are sometimes I just do not get! Help me!)

JPL said...

The War Powers Act and especially the Constitution do NOT give the President the power to declare or initiate war. This was placed in the Constitution specifically to avoid the executive from doing this because tyrants historically use wars to both bankrupt the public and amass power.

There was no immediate threat to the United States, therefore absolutely no justification. I understand that Obama seeks UN and Arab League consensus prior to seeking Congress' input, but alas, there is absolutely no legal justification for the Libyan action.

We, the People, of the United States, does NOT include the people of the entire world. The Founders specifically changed it from "make war" to "declare war" in order to allow for response to sudden attacks against the United States.

Obama has shown in the past that he wishes to change the Constitution without amendment, by establishing "positive" rights and expanding the power of the executive branch in the same vein as George W. Bush, only this time through health care instead of education. This Libyan action is only another in a long line of unconstitutional and statist actions.

Your attempt to separate out why we should act in Libya versus other nations rests upon one word: timing. In matter of principle, timing does not matter. This war in Libya is unconstitutional. If you don't like it, then change the constitution. It may have been forgotten by most US citizens who think the President can do whatever he pleases, but there is an avenue to change it.

Jon said...

Here's an additional reason why morally intervening in Bahrain or Yemen or Jordan is right and in Libya it is wrong. In the former countries there are peaceful means available. Jordan, Yemen, and Bahrain are dictatorships that sustain their grip on power with massive US military aid. That's not true in Libya. What this means is that there are peaceful means of aiding the democratic process in the former countries. Threaten to withdraw military aid. These have long been extremely unpopular governments that can only continue to subvert democracy with our military funding. The real reason that peaceful option is not pursued is because of course the US opposes democracy in those regions as is evidenced by the years of military funding that have been provided to sustain the regimes.

Of course the same is true in Israel and Egypt. The US has peaceful means of resolving the disputes but doesn't implement them because there are purposes to sustaining the conflicts. The idealistic talk about how our actions are about democracy promotion or other benevolent purposes reflect what Reinhold Niebuhr called emotionally potent oversimplifications served to the public in order to mobilize them to support action that in fact is much more complicated and which the public is incapable of understanding.

Richard Carrier said...

Jon: It's of no relevance that people "call" something a war crime (even if they are diplomats at the UN), any more than it's of any relevance that there are people who "call" abortion murder. According to the actual law it's not murder. Ditto what Obama has done. Or Clinton and Reagan for that matter (two men who actually are criminals by the letter of the law, just not war criminals--Reagan committed treason, by selling arms to a state enemy and funding a foreign military against explicit Congressional prohibition--this is not a war crime, however, so Chomsky is an idiot; Clinton is a perjurer, and that only about a non criminal act of getting sucked off, which is not quite comparable to Reagan, but I digress).

You also need to keep distinct how things are and how you want them to be. Saying you want the law changed is fair enough. But that doesn't allow you to say Obama broke the law. Maybe he broke the fantasy dream law you want passed some day. But courts don't prosecute fantasy dream laws. They prosecute actual laws.

You also should actually read the articles you cite, not just the headlines--which are written by reporters to be sensational, and often don't accurately represent what's in the story. Your citation of "Military
UN expert says drone strikes may be war crimes, but CIA unlikely to stop or alter program
" where in the actual article no mention is made of any war crime accusation by anyone. To the contrary, the "official" in question said only that the rules of engagement need to be carefully drawn because without following clear rules there will be "a higher risk of prosecution...for war crimes." Not that there are any actual war crimes. Indeed, what he actually said is something Obama himself would easily agree with.

Richard Carrier said...

Jon said... When Israel invaded Gaza....

Not a U.S. action. Therefore irrelevant to whether Obama is a war criminal.

One fundamental moral principle in my world is that if an action is wrong for them then it is wrong for us. Suppose China decided that it was in their national security interest to secure our corn production.

I did not say we can go "secure the oil." That's a typical liberal blinder behavior. I talk about acting to maintain stability in a region, and you read "conquer the world." That's simply irrational. Indeed, I specifically said we need better policy, thus I explicitly did not endorse even everything we have done, much less things we haven't (e.g. we are not governing Iraq). I likewise specifically condemned the Iraq war as immoral, yet you act as if I said it was proper.

Please try reading what I say more carefully from now on.

Otherwise I agree there are scenarios in which it would be right and proper for China to attack or even invade the U.S. And they would be exactly the same scenarios in which it is right and proper for us to attack or even invade China (or anywhere else). For example, if Obama were using bombers and gunships to mow down protesters in D.C., not only would I agree with a Chinese military intervention, I'd fight right alongside them if I could. Because we would then, like in Libya, be in a state of just rebellion against our government.

And I do specifically say this in Sense and Goodness without God (p. 378).

Richard Carrier said...

The Uncredible Hallq said... I just went and actually took the time to read the War Powers Act, and I can't see how your interpretation is supported by the text of the act....

(ditto Lamplighter)

The act says (note my italics):

§ 1547. Interpretation of joint resolution

(b) Joint headquarters operations of high-level military commands

Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to require any further specific statutory authorization to permit members of United States Armed Forces to participate jointly with members of the armed forces of one or more foreign countries in the headquarters operations of high-level military commands which were established prior to November 7, 1973, and pursuant to the United Nations Charter or any treaty ratified by the United States prior to such date.


Hence Obama sought to act under a UN resolution, thus he is enforcing a treaty Congress ratified in the months before the War Powers Act. Read Obama's statutory declaration under the War Powers Act delivered as required by §1543(a) within 48 hours.

But you are right, there are statutory limits, i.e. a President can't literally take any military action whatever. I was hyperbolic to say so. There still has to be a relevant treaty or Congressional statute (or immanent threat to Americans). There just happen to be a lot of those, i.e. treaties and statutes.

For example, Congress gave the President statutory authority to take all military action against the agents of Al Qaeda and the Taliban, and anyone else responsible for supporting the 9/11 attacks, so he doesn't need further authority to kill them in Pakistan, he just needs, vis-a-vis international law, the permission of Pakistan.

Richard Carrier said...

czrpb said... 1. How does you comment: "A sea; a street--no moral difference." not entail the requirement that one do *anything* and *everything* in one's power for *anyone* *anywhere* who is is greater need?

Because the same rules apply. I gave the actual example of being unable to help a woman being raped if you will just get killed by armed thugs trying. Then it is moral to not intervene. As then, so on any other scale. Re-read my remarks above on this distinction.

It's likewise universally true that unreasonable charity can destroy the charity giver and is therefore not moral. Which means the Gospel Jesus was wrong when he said you should submit to all theft, slavery, and torture and give all your property and earnings away--to the contrary, if that's the price of charity, charity ceases to be moral.

For a more direct expression of how this applies to your example of starving people in Africa, see my interview on exactly that.

Because there are more ways to harm ourselves than being killed, since serious economic harm can also kill us and/or do the equivalent of nonlethal physical and psychological harm (a category into which rape also falls) or threaten our longterm security (as when you drain your retirement account to ship bibles to Nicaragua). We are not obliged to destroy ourselves to come to anyone's aid; we are only obliged when doing so does not pose a serious harm to ourselves.

Even Singer's own principles would entail this, if he were consistent in applying them (he's not). For example, people earning less than $85,000 a year in California are already giving far more than 1% to the welfare of others, in the form of taxes and all the many state welfare institutions they support (which includes police and fire). After deductions and all taxes are considered they are probably giving between 15% and 30% of their income. That's a hell of a lot of money. Far more than the Mormon tithe. So it would be moral to give more only if they desire it (since it is always moral to spend some portion of your resources on your own happiness, and if charity makes you happy, then it's no different than buying a movie or a drink, so long as you don't spend to such excess on these things that it harms you).

Because otherwise they need their surplus to insure them against disaster and provide for their retirement (one of the most appalling things about the Republican attack on teachers being "fat cats" who earn $51,000 a year, even $75,000 after accounting for benefits, since that is actually dead average and amounts to barely getting by). People who earn more than that have a much greater surplus to spend (and the more so as they earn more, progressively), and thus morally are obliged to do more than just pay their taxes, IMO (unless we ask them to start paying a great deal more in taxes, to the point of meeting their moral obligation to do what won't harm them).

Richard Carrier said...

Just in general, the Golden Rule is: what would you expect from them if your roles were reversed? If you were in Sudan would you expect America to invade to save you? I would not expect that. That would be expecting Americans to undertake far more suffering and cost than I have any right to expect. But if I am in Libya and getting attacked by my own President with gunships and missiles and Americans could just push a button and stop it, at little relative cost and no threat to themselves, I would certainly expect Americans to do at least as little as that. That is what I would expect of Americans if I were Libyan, so it's what I must expect of myself as an American.

Jon said...

You say according to the ACTUAL law Reagan is not a war criminal. According to the ACTUAL law General Yamashita was hanged because soldiers technically under his command, though they were out of contact with him, committed atrocities. Reagan's government specifically ordered the Contras to attack what they called "soft targets" in Nicaragua. That is, undefended civilian population centers. They used reconnaissance flights to track the movements of the Sandinista military so they could be avoided and civilians could be targeted. As I mentioned the International Court of Justice ruled that the US was guilty of unlawful use of force in this case. If that doesn't involve war crimes, what would?

Someone that might know is Chomsky, who's not only read the Nuremberg Tribunal ruling, but also the 700 page dissent from Radhabinod Pal. Chomsky of course is not some nobody. For instance he's the most frequently cited living human. He's been voted the world's top public intellectual (for what that's worth). You can dismiss him as "an idiot" if you like, but I don't think that would be persuasive to anybody that is semi-unbiased.

I'll accept your point that the UN official is really saying that the drone strikes MAY open the door to war crimes prosecutions if proper rules aren't followed. The official was UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston. Amnesty International is also calling on the US to clarify it's chain of command and rules of engagement with regards to the use of drones and of course Obama isn't even acknowledging the program. The civilian toll is extensive.

Jon said...

I think Israeli crimes are US crimes because these are US weapons. The white phosphorous Israel used was US made. Israel doesn't make Apache helicopters or F-16's. Those are Israeli pilots flying US attack vehicles paid for with US tax dollars. Israel can't do this without critical US diplomatic support, such as Obama's veto on settlement expansion or his 2009 vote blocking the peaceful settlement to the conflict.

You need to understand that the word "stability" has a historical use with regards to US foreign policy. What it means generally is that regions are stable if they are under US domination and control. So for instance Kissinger said that we needed to destabilize Chile (make the economy scream by various means, overthrow democracy with a violent coup, install extremely repressive military dictator that built concentration camps for dissenters) in order to bring stability. That's not a contradiction if you understand the dual use of the term. Stability does mean in a sense "conquer the world" in this context.

You can say you object to the invasion of Iraq, but your logic of stability is the same logic used to justify the invasion of Iraq. We need to look after our own interests first. What are we interested in according to you? Control of oil. If we can do that along with relieving suffering (Saddam was a brutal dictator) why not? So I'm responding to what I see is your logic, despite your protestations that you don't think the invasion of Iraq was the right thing to do.

In Libya the protesters themselves were violent. To compare that to Obama mowing down protesters in DC isn't fair. If protesters in DC became violent and tried to over run the government, yes, Obama would turn violent. The protests in Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, and Bahrain are far more peaceful as I understand it and we're doing nothing there. What we have in Libya is a Civil War. What we won't get if the US gets involved is democracy. The US always opposes democracy in that region. There's only one democratically elected Arab government in the region. Hamas. Hezbollah is sort of quasi-democratic. These are not governments that the US is happy with, so the effort to undermine them is constant.

Also it's worth noting that it's not clear they want our help. As far as I can tell they don't, but it's hard to measure at this stage. The perception in the Middle East is that the US gets involved in order to subvert democracy, despite lofty rhetoric. My belief is that years of subjugation allow peoples in that region to see past the propaganda. Americans living here in peace and relative prosperity have more difficulty seeing.

Richard Carrier said...

Jon said... You say according to the ACTUAL law Reagan is not a war criminal. According to the ACTUAL law General Yamashita was hanged because soldiers technically under his command, though they were out of contact with him, committed atrocities. Reagan's government specifically ordered the Contras to attack what they called "soft targets" in Nicaragua.

Asking a native foreign rebel force to do something is not a war crime. Reagan had no official authority to "order" the Contras to do anything. You just aren't grasping what a war crime actually is.

As I mentioned the International Court of Justice ruled that the US was guilty of unlawful use of force in this case. If that doesn't involve war crimes, what would?

That's an irrational inference. Unlawful uses of force are not all war crimes. If you want to know "what is" a war crime, why haven't you actually looked up the official definition of war crimes in the international court? Indeed, why would you cite a court not declaring a war crime in this case and then claim this is declaring a war crime? If it were a war crime, it would have been declared so. You need to get your facts straight and start reasoning soundly here. You keep confusing your own emotion and outrage with the actual law.

Another example of your failure to check the facts is your claim that General Yamashita was hanged even though he gave no illegal orders to troops under his command. To the contrary, he was only convicted because (the court ruled) he was aware of his troops committing war crimes and didn't order them to stop yet had command authority to do so. His defense argued that the prosecution did not present sufficient evidence of these facts. The court decided that there was sufficient evidence. Now, you can dispute that and say there wasn't, but if there wasn't, then even by the court's own rules, Yamashita was innocent and should not have been hanged. Thus this analogy simply doesn't support you. Either he had no responsibility, in which case he was not guilty; or he was guilty because he had responsibility (something Reagan did not have, i.e. the Contras were not under his "ultimate command responsibility" and no one has produced evidence that Reagan knew about, much less commanded, any atrocities through them--although certainly, if you could produce such evidence, then you could indeed declare him a war criminal, i.e. not evidence that they committed atrocities, but evidence he ordered them, or knew about them and did nothing about it, and was able to do something about it).

Again, you can't talk about what you suspect as if it were evidence.

Also it's worth noting that it's not clear they want our help. As far as I can tell they don't, but it's hard to measure at this stage.

No, it isn't. We have video of them cheering our forces and waving American flags. We have actual Libyans on national television praising our involvement and conveying their family's praise for our involvement. They are worried about an American occupation, not American assistance. And we would indeed be wrong to occupy Libya. But we're not.

Richard Carrier said...

Jon said... I think Israeli crimes are US crimes because these are US weapons.

That's your emotional opinion, not the law. Keep the two distinct, please.

You can say you object to the invasion of Iraq, but your logic of stability is the same logic used to justify the invasion of Iraq.

No it wasn't. There was no instability in Iraq and that was never used as an excuse to go in. Either you are a teenager or you really didn't pay attention to current events in 2001.

In Libya the protesters themselves were violent.

No, they weren't. You are confusing the eastern rebels and the street protesters. Not the same.

To compare that to Obama mowing down protesters in DC isn't fair. If protesters in DC became violent and tried to over run the government, yes, Obama would turn violent.

But if he deployed missiles and gunships to kill them, he would be a war criminal all the same. In fact, he would be engaging an act of tyranny against American citizens, who would have as much right to rebel as we did against the English. So the analogy is entirely fair.

That's indeed a key difference between Libya and, for example, Bahrain, where the actions of the government (in their use of police forces) are within international law (although still grounds for armed rebellion there, given that the use of force in that case was still morally unjust, but that's for the Bahraini people to decide--whether we would help them then will depend on the situation; by analogy, France helped us rebel against the English, for which we were grateful and remain strong allies, and we find ourselves in a similar position now vis-a-vis Libya).

Again, as to the issue of intervening to stop war crimes, you must not confuse the eastern rebels with the street protestors. The latter were peacefully protesting for Qadaffi to step down.

Whether we should still have aided the rebels even if Qadaffi obeyed the rules of war would be an entirely different debate. But as that is not what happened, it's moot.

Jon said...

Asking a native foreign rebel force to do something is not a war crime.

What are you basing that assertion on? According to your wiki source planning and waging a war of aggression is a crime against peace. Does it say it's not a crime against peace if it involves a native foreign rebel force? "Planning, initiating and waging wars of aggression and other crimes against peace" is listed as the #2 war crimes charge against Germany at Nuremberg. Aggression is defined here if you need that.

Reagan had no official authority to "order" the Contras to do anything.

Are you suggesting that since Reagan wasn't involved in some sort of official ceremony designating him as the head of the Contras somehow this legally absolves him despite the fact that his administration directly ordered crimes and the Contras precisely followed them?

Seems kind of silly to me, but if you want to try and get Reagan off like Johnnie Cochran got OJ off then just look at Grenada (the UN General Assembly called it a "flagrant violation of international law" or Libya (likewise ruled by the UN General Assembly as a violation of the UN Charter). There you have the US military engaged in outright aggression, and Reagan did go through an official ceremony which delegated him as the head of the armed forces.

Jon said...

Unlawful uses of force are not all war crimes. If you want to know "what is" a war crime, why haven't you actually looked up the official definition of war crimes in the international court?

I didn't say they are ALL war crimes. I said "If that doesn't involve war crimes, what would?" And by THAT I mean the things I described. Attacking civilian population centers while avoiding the military.

And I did look it up what a war crime is. I provided a link to you for the Wiki entry which gives examples. Wiki lists "the ill-treatment...of civilian residents...the wanton destruction of cities, towns and villages, and any devastation not justified by military, or civilian necessity." Since much of that happened under Reagan's direction I say Reagan is a war criminal, the absence of official ceremonies notwithstanding.

Another example of your failure to check the facts is your claim that General Yamashita was hanged even though he gave no illegal orders to troops under his command.

That's not what I said. Here's what I said. "According to the ACTUAL law General Yamashita was hanged because soldiers technically under his command, though they were out of contact with him, committed atrocities." Where here do I state Yamashita gave no illegal orders? Your wiki entry says that there was considerable evidence that Yamashita did not have command responsibility over all the units in the Philippines. What I'm attempting to establish here is that by the Nuremberg standard all of our post war Presidents would be convicted. The level of proof required to establish a command link is not high, so Reagan would meet it.

No, it isn't. We have video of them cheering our forces and waving American flags.

That's not good enough. Such videos are often staged and fake, and even if not they represent an isolated sampling. There is conflicting evidence, so it is hard to know.

That's your emotional opinion, not the law. Keep the two distinct, please.

It's not an emotional opinion. It's a moral opinion. Your post here is not only about what is legally a war crime but also about what is morally right. You talk about the humanitarian issue. If you prefer that these issues remain distinct why did you raise both in your post here?

Either you are a teenager or you really didn't pay attention to current events in 2001.

One of us is describing arguments as "retarded", calling respected intellectuals "idiots", here suggesting I'm a teenager. Let the reader decide which of us is the emotional one or the one acting like a teenager.

B. Dewhirst said...

Richard, I have (or had) no idea what you consider a war crime. Cruise missile strikes against an ally and/or cluster bombing of an ally, forced involuntary sensory deprivation and nudity of military personnel, and intensionally targeting journalists are apparently not on the list... (or you don't believe any of that has happened).

Apparently, you believe UN Resolutions and the international criminal court, and international law (such as it is) are the appropriate metrics.

What I believe to be a war crime is irrelevant, as you and I don't agree on what constitutes valid evidence.

What we do both agree on, though, is that you really shouldn't title your post 'Is Obama a War Criminal' and then only talk about Libya unless you feel this is the most credible argument for him being a war criminal.

So, is it?

If not, what is.

If so, and if Reagan and Clinton really did 'exactly the same thing,' then, given that we've had more time to evaluate the evidence of those past actions, what were the worst two? What makes them worst? Given that, why aren't they war crimes?

...

And if they're the most credible cases, and your standard is international justice, who stood before the international court and cleared their name?

"Nobody stopped us" doesn't imply guilt, especially when you claim (correctly) that we and our allies have an enormous military advantage.

B. Dewhirst said...

edit:
"Nobody stopped us" doesn't imply innocence.

Pikemann Urge said...

As far as this issue is concerned, I am glad that the US & its allies have sought approval from the league of Arab nations. It's a good example to set.

Please try reading what I say more carefully from now on.

A general comment on this: I have noticed that when debating issues on-line, where people have the opportunity to re-read what I have written, that these people will either read into what I have said; or claim that they disagree with me and in the same sentence or paragraph make a statement which agrees with what I wrote.

I find that this occurs when people have a devoted attachment to a party line (not merely to fundamental principles). I have noticed, though, that depending on the crowd, there will be more rationality with some issues than with others.

The desire to be right is stronger than the desire to find out what is right. IMHO.

Ben said...

"or claim that they disagree with me and in the same sentence or paragraph make a statement which agrees with what I wrote."

Yeah, I've noticed that, too, in my neck of the woods. Presuppositional disagreement, like you can't possibly be saying what you are clearly saying. Human psychology is bizarre.

Jon said...

Secretary Clinton has informed Congress that if they attempt to constrain Obama in this war those constraints will be ignored.

Andrew Ray Gorman said...

Professor Chomsky's comments in an article that I agree with:

http://www.chomsky.info/interviews/20110330.htm

Richard Carrier said...

Jon, you still don't seem to understand the difference between morality and the letter of the law. I agree what Reagan did in Nicaragua was immoral, and illegal (and, you seem to keep forgetting these things, I said so here), but unless you have evidence he paid the Contras to commit war crimes or ordered them to do so, it's not a war crime. Reagan did not start, originate, or plan the Contra rebellion. A civil war is also not a war of aggression. You seem hopelessly confused in your use of terminology, as if you are hell bent on clinging to this "war crime" thing even though you have no need to (Reagan was still an immoral criminal, regardless of whether he was provably a war criminal).

Richard Carrier said...

Jon said... Secretary Clinton has informed Congress that if they attempt to constrain Obama in this war those constraints will be ignored.

If she has said that, then that would be illegal (but that crime hasn't happened yet--if it does, it must certainly be condemned).

However, there is no public record of her saying that. It's a "leak" by an anonymous Republican of something said in a classified briefing about funding the rebels, and has not really been confirmed by an on-the-record interview with a Democrat present, Brad Sherman (it's unclear, as quoted, what he is referring to: The actual military action, or funding the rebels and providing CIA support? The (legal) 30 day extension to the 60 day rule, or ignoring the War Powers Act altogether? etc.).

I'd wait until there is something clear and verifiable--or an actual illegal action is taken.

Richard Carrier said...

Andrew Ray Gorman said... Professor Chomsky's comments in an article that I agree with...

That's fine. But his opinions and speculations have nothing to do with the law. And what happened in Libya in 1973 hardly informs us about what Obama is doing now. I find nothing relevantly informative in his analysis.

Richard Carrier said...

B. Dewhirst said... Richard, I have (or had) no idea what you consider a war crime.

Give me specific, actual examples (not vague generalizations), i.e. so I can check the facts and context, and then I'll tell if or why they are or aren't war crimes.

Apparently, you believe UN Resolutions and the international criminal court, and international law (such as it is) are the appropriate metrics.

As to the law, they are the only metrics. There is no other institution that even has authority to decide what is or isn't a war crime. You may be confusing morality with the law here (in this case, a system of treaties, but it's the same thing). You might deem the law to be wrong, and that it should declare certain things war crimes that in fact it does not, but that's a moral opinion, not a legal one (until your view is legislated and ratified).

You must keep distinct whether an action is a crime under any legitimate existing law, and whether you think it's morally wrong even if it's legal.

Once you separate those two, then we can talk about one or the other. If you think what Obama is doing in Libya is evil, make your case. But as to whether it is legal, you have no case, so far as I have seen here. But if perhaps you have evidence to present for a specific case that does meet existing law, then let's see that evidence, with citations and particulars.

Knowledge can only proceed from facts. Not opinions and emotive inferences.

Richard Carrier said...

Jon said... Wiki lists "the ill-treatment...of civilian residents...the wanton destruction of cities, towns and villages, and any devastation not justified by military, or civilian necessity." Since much of that happened under Reagan's direction I say Reagan is a war criminal, the absence of official ceremonies notwithstanding.

Such a conclusion has zero legal validity. I agree we can condemn Reagan as immoral (and, for having defied a Congressional order in this matter, a criminal). But why are you so obsessed with insisting he is legally a "war" criminal, when you have zero evidence of this?

An opinion does not make evidence. That the Contras did evil things, and Reagan supported them, does not entail that Reagan supported those evil things. Maybe he did. But you need evidence of that before you can claim to know it. Your blatant and continued disregard for evidence shocks and worries me. I can only hope you do not represent a typical American citizen.

Legally, you must establish that Reagan knew the Contras were committing war crimes, or asked them to (not that he knew they were fighting a civil war and asked them to continue doing so, because that simply isn't illegal). Granted, if you can prove either, you can prove Reagan a war criminal. Otherwise, he's just an ordinary criminal. Which ought to be enough for you. That it isn't proves you are running on emotion, not reason here.

What I'm attempting to establish here is that by the Nuremberg standard all of our post war Presidents would be convicted.

You don't get it. I'm saying your argument is illogical. Yamashita was either proved to have done what he was accused of, or he wasn't. If he was, then his case simply is not analogous to Reagan (for whom you have no evidence that he did what Yamashita did) and therefore you can't argue from this example. Whereas if you are arguing that the evidence against Yamashita was the same as for Reagan (in other words, legally insufficient), then Yamashita shouldn't have been hanged (and thus was not legally a war criminal), and therefore ditto Reagan. This is a proper disjunctive syllogism, on neither prong of which does your argument stand.

There is conflicting evidence, so it is hard to know.

No, there isn't. You have offered none. The link you pointed to simply didn't say what you claimed. It said the Libyans are concerned about an American occupation, not that they opposed the intervention. Thus, I have evidence, you have none. Your response is to dig a hole into radical skepticism and insist all evidence against you must be faked. If you can't see how insane that is, you are a lost cause.

Let the reader decide which of us is the emotional one or the one acting like a teenager.

I wasn't referring to your mental capacity, I was referring to you being too young to have been aware of the arguments Bush made for invading Iraq. That's why I stated an either/or: either you are too young, or you were old enough and just didn't pay attention. It has to be one or the other, because using the argument "we must go in because of instability in the region" simply never happened.

B. Dewhirst said...

Richard, until existing law results in criminal charges against, say, Colin Powell (or another party responsible for misinforming him), for lying before the UN, it is a pretty shitty law, and court.

I've heard enough to determine I don't care whether someone meets your trivial, legalistic definition of war crimes.

Consequently, I no longer care whether you consider the treatment of Brad Manning ( http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/mar/13/pj-crowley-resigns-bradley-manning-remarks ) or cluster bombing Yemen http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/yemen/7806882/US-cluster-bombs-killed-35-women-and-children.html http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/breaking-news/world/us-involved-in-yemen-air-strikes-14832453.html or drone attacks in Pakistan http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drone_attacks_in_Pakistan to constitute war crimes.

You obviously feel you're a patriot. As a patriot, criticism of acts like these is ten times more important than justifying an ongoing military campaign.

Your patriotism towards the existing United States and your respect for legal institutions whose laws are only applied by the strong and/or rich against the weak are some of the things I feel you consistently get wrong.

Jon said...

You're acting like Reagan was just some sort of passive participant in the Contra War. I just thought that the active involvement was common knowledge. I already talked about attacks on civilians and US reconnaissance support. Mining the harbors was CIA planned. Negroponte directed the war from Honduras in the largest CIA station outside of the US. The training, the weaponry. All US. Not a Civil War. A proxy war. I am not going to haul out the grass though to prove that it is green. The evidence is abundant.

You say I've offered NO evidence that Libyans oppose intervention. The link I provided says the following:

"A spokesman for the new National Libyan Council, which formed in the eastern city of Benghazi after it was taken by anti-Gaddafi forces, said his group did not want foreign intervention."

How you interpret this to mean they are NOT opposed to the intervention I have no idea.

You imply I would say something to the effect "we must go in (to Iraq) because of instability in the region." I didn't say that or imply it. What I said is not unlike what is routinely said elsewhere. The logic of stability is the logic used to justify the invasion of Iraq. In response I get a straw man and this "either you are a teenager or didn't pay attention" line, which you now want to pretend was not intended as an insult. Personally I think this demonstrates that the one being driven by emotion here is you.

B. Dewhirst said...

Jon, he's not being driven by emotions (apart from, perhaps, mild irritation).

When it comes to really-existing-politics, he is half-full of shit, but his principles are sound.

the5crains said...

Hi Richard!

Wow! There have been a number of reprimands here, so let me pile on! grin!

I would not have put it as other have, nor do I necessarily agree, but I do share their feelings: After I read your post, I too immediately interpreted it as a defense of Obama and the system that Obama represents. Now, I am happy to be rebuked by you as illogical and/or retarded, so I suppose my goal here is mostly to give you yet another data point for either self-evaluation OR to plot on the graph of American society's decline! wink!

What I did after reading your post was to reach behind me and pulled from my book shelf _The Massacre at El Mozote_ by Mark Danner. I had not gotten around to reading it yet but your post has motivate me to do so. And I do so because I feel I need to inoculate myself against the ease with which I can image for myself the goodness of Obama, the system, and hence my place as at least a citizen in the insane history of our government of which the book is but one document.

Continuing, because of your requirement of *evidence* of Obama's wrong doing you are able to give Obama a B-. Completely logical and understandable. But -- and this will cause you to choke on your warm tea -- I think it is justifiable to give Obama an F: Based on what I understand he has already done (say via Greenwald, Chomsky, Arthur Silber and other idiots, w/r/t Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Manning, authorization of assassination of American citizens, etc), and the system, and that for Obama to be in the position he is in he must be acceptable to the system, I feel quite comfortable seeing Obama as repellant.

In short I feel like I lost a bit of my humanity reading your post and feel the need to remind myself of our glorious past.

I really do enjoy much of your work and try to pay attention and learn, so I am sorry that this will disappoint and sadden you.

czrpb said...

Crap! Mixed up my emails addresses: the above comment was mine.

Lamplighter said...

Richard,

In the article and in the comments, you said that in the War Powers Resolution, congress granted the president some authority. When I pointed out that the text of the war powers resolution says that this is false, you responded with a passage from the War Powers Resolution which says that the Resolution does not inhibit the president in regards to operating with multinational forces. You wrote

"Hence Obama sought to act under a UN resolution, thus he is enforcing a treaty Congress ratified in the months before the War Powers Act. Read Obama's statutory declaration under the War Powers Act delivered as required by §1543(a) within 48 hours."

Are you now claiming that congress granted the president authority to make war under the treaty you refer to above, which you have not named and do not link to? If so, would you please name the treaty, or provide a link? If the treaty is many pages, could you point to the relevant section(s)? I read Obama's statutory declaration. It does not name any treaty passed before the War Powers Resolution.

psychadelicfuse81 said...

Richard,

On the topic of politics, what is your opinion on the whole Wisconsin Scott Walker collective bargaining fiasco?

Richard Carrier said...

Psychadelicfuse81 said... On the topic of politics, what is your opinion on the whole Wisconsin Scott Walker collective bargaining fiasco?

Overblown and taken too far by both sides. IMO.

For example, it's perfectly reasonable to not force employees to pay union dues if they don't want to (as has been and as far as I know still is the case), but it is not acceptable to forbid anyone from striking (the first amendment should already be clear enough on that point--emergency workers, like soldiers, are perhaps the only conceivable exception, and even that remains debatable) or to arbitrarily outlaw collective bargaining (although I haven't researched if that was ever really on the table--all I've heard as to specifics, for example, was the attempt to outlaw striking and eliminate mandatory dues, and I'm against the one and for the other, but as to what else has gone on over there, I haven't investigated, since I have no vote in that matter--I'm in California).

Outside the straightforward legalities, IMO Walker is a douchebag with criminal, immoral tendencies in his treatment of the matter. And FOX is reprehensible for trying to sell the completely average compensation teachers get as somehow a "fat cat" salary (and, moreover, making it about money when most collective bargaining is about working conditions).

On the other hand, any union is just another greedy obstructionist profit-seeking corporation--and like most corporations, they do a lot of good, while simultaneously doing a lot that's bad for this country and even, ironically, for themselves.

So I guess you can say I'm in the middle on this issue, specifically and abstractly. But my views can easily change, since I know my information is not deep enough on the specifics of this case to be certain I'm correct. So my opinions are empirically tentative.

I only know a little more about teacher's unions because of their obstruction of education reforms, an issue in which I've been involved, and yet at the same time some of their opposition to reform is entirely reasonable (since not all reforms or methods of effecting them are sound) and many unions have not opposed sound reforms (so they're not all assholes).

Richard Carrier said...

B. Dewhirst said... Richard, until existing law results in criminal charges against, say, Colin Powell (or another party responsible for misinforming him), for lying before the UN, it is a pretty shitty law, and court.

If Powell could be proved to have lied, then he should be convicted of perjury (and if there is no UN crime of perjury, I agree there should be). The problem is that there is no evidence he lied. By all accounts, he was duped by the administration, who fed him lies and didn't tell him. That's why he bailed on politics, IMO. He was done with it after that. The moral failure on his part was not telling the world he got burned and how he felt about that. Because he should be doing everything in his power to ensure his successors don't get played the fool like that, even if by shaming and embarrassing the culprits. But as Powell has publicly said (in a different context) he doesn't want to inflict the consequences on his family (e.g. the dirt and lies FOX News would then dig up or claim about him, vilifying him in every low handed conceivable way). I'd say fair enough, except that the future of this nation should matter more than his family. Because the future of this nation matters to many more families as well as his.

Richard Carrier said...

B. Dewhirst said... I no longer care whether you consider the treatment of Brad Manning or cluster bombing Yemen or drone attacks in Pakistan to constitute war crimes.

You may no longer care about the truth, but I do. You seem wholly uninterested in actually checking your facts.

Explain to me on what law these are actual war crimes.

Before blurting out speculations or unverified claims, see the following...

Richard Carrier said...

B. Dewhirst:

(1) There is no war crime against drone attacks, and so far they have only been proven to have been used against actual enemies of war (by Congressional declaration) with the permission (in fact, typically, full involvement) of Pakistan. Perhaps some accidents can be proven, but not to my knowledge any actual illegal uses of the weapon.

So these attacks are not war crimes. Whether you think they are immoral is another matter. Personally, I think they are only immoral if they are being used injudiciously and incautiously. I don't expect any president to perfectly peg the needle out all the way over to the side of "always right" on this. But I trust Obama to be closer to that end of the curve than Bush (or, say, Palin or Gingrich or almost any republican).

My only major objection is the continued secrecy about their use, which if I were President I would end, and if I had a choice (and I never am likely to, owing to the much greater number of issues to be decided) I'd vote for a President who would do the same. We've just never had such a candidate to my knowledge (at least since I became a voter--Carter would likely have been the man, and I'd vote for him in a heart beat, and would have in 1980 if I could, but alas he can't run, and in 1980 I couldn't vote).

Richard Carrier said...

B. Dewhirst:

(2) Manning was on suicide watch (but no longer I hear) and has always had access to council. I'm not aware of any violations of the UCMJ in his case (and as soldiers we know we are accepting much stricter laws upon ourselves than civilians do). Moreover, harsh imprisonment of a nation's own soldiers is not even conceptually a war crime, even if it were a crime (and if it is a crime, it's a crime under that nation's own laws--so what U.S. laws have been broken in Manning's case?).

Whereas, Manning is a criminal (if he did what he is accused of) and could easily, and justly, be sentenced to life in Leavenworth (or even hung, if any of the information he divulged results in an American's death by enemy of war).

Richard Carrier said...

B. Dewhirst:

(3) Cluster bomb deployment is not a war crime. It is banned by some treaties which we have never joined. We are phasing out most of them and I agree even the new policy is inadequate. But it's still legal. By both U.S. and international law (since we are not party to any treaty that bans them, e.g. the UN has not passed any resolution against them; even the 2010 treaty, ratified after the Yemeni attack you are referring to, was not ratified by the whole UN and is only binding on those nations that ratified it). If you don't like that, then protest and write your congressmen to change the law (even I wouldn't oppose our ratifying the 2010 ban, and there's a real chance Congress would do that, if we got the Tea Party out of there). But that's the best you can do. There is no "court" you can take anyone to over this.

Apart from the law, whether the Yemen strike in question is immoral would depend on the actual facts of the case, which we don't know--not even the stories you cite give sufficient details. All too often claims of civilian deaths are bogus, and when not bogus, would have happened regardless of what munition was used, and sometimes is unavoidable or justified, e.g. we firebombed Tokyo and Berlin in WWII, because their citizens were complicit in the war effort against us--and often civilians hanging out with terrorists are as well (e.g. Clinton could have killed Osama bin Laden and his whole high command shortly before 2000 but declined because civilian dignitaries were hunting and hanging out with him--a known declared terrorist and international criminal. I would have taken the shot, and publicly reminded the world not to hang out with known terrorists lest they get the same treatment. We can't fight our enemies with any other policy.).

But if you have evidence that someone responsible for firing that missile knew there were innocent civilians at risk, and had means to kill their enemies of war without putting those civilians at risk, but did it anyway, then you have a war crimes case against that person and whoever actually ordered them to do it with the same knowledge. But I doubt Obama would be one of them. I suspect when the facts come out (as they likely will in fifty years) the decision to use a cluster warhead in no way involved Obama, and was based on a local command effort to reduce civilian casualties (as is the purpose of many cluster bomb deployments, since they are high area-effect, low penetration munitions).

Richard Carrier said...

B. Dewhirst said... You obviously feel you're a patriot. As a patriot, criticism of acts like these is ten times more important than justifying an ongoing military campaign.

I agree. And I have no problem with you saying you are morally against all cluster bomb deployments and making your case for that, to me and the state and the people. But saying they are illegal is simply false.

Likewise, I, too, am against excessive use of cluster bomb deployments and I deem it a fundamental failure of ingenuity and moral leadership that we have less than 99% detonation (and that we think 99% is sufficient). If our government took this moral issue seriously they would have had detonation efficiency well above 99.99% years ago, and we would only use such munitions when they are the only weapon capable of achieving the objective (and of course only when it's legal to seek that objective, but that's true of all weapons), and we accept responsibility for cleanup of unexploded munitions (e.g. I would make it a law that liability for the deaths of neutrals caused by any of our unexploded munitions would be fixed and automatic at some value like a quarter million dollars, and I'd make recovery/avoidance easier with locator chips and internationally recognized warning signs and colors, and educate any local populace at risk). Because this risk attaches to all munitions, not just cluster bombs. And we should take responsibility for such things.

But the nature of democracy is simply that: often what we think should be illegal won't be, because we get outvoted; and often what we think shouldn't be illegal will be, because again we get outvoted. There is no "court" that can prevent that. Thus you have to keep distinct what the law is, which is what the American people voted it to be (directly or indirectly), and what your moral opinions are. And in either case, you need to have the correct facts, and evidence that those facts are true. Just citing what partial interest groups claim doesn't cut it.

Richard Carrier said...

Is Reagan At Least a War Criminal?

Jon said...

Jon, when it comes to Reagan, I am only talking about what we can prove. I am not "acting like" anything but a person who respects the rules of evidence.

But you did lead me to one piece of valid evidence...

I just thought that the active involvement was common knowledge.

Note that I have not said the contrary (you seem consistently not to notice what I have actually said). I am saying funding and helping the Contras is not synonymous with ordering them to commit war crimes or being aware of such.

Mining the harbors was CIA planned.

Now that (in its full context) is a war crime and one for which the U.S. was convicted. Although all the other actions were not war crimes but just the "unlawful use of force" (the use of mines as such is legal, and the U.S. had an "ostensible" excuse: the defense of an allied state, El Salvador), but by not informing Nicaragua of the mining, Reagan committed a war crime.

I have always agreed it was a mark of shame on this country and the Reagan administration that the ruling of that court was ignored (one of many reasons I am appalled Reagan is "admired" by anyone). But I only knew it as a finding of unflawful use of force. I hadn't known of the war crimes ruling buried within, and now that I look into that, I must concur, for that one action at least, Reagan was a war criminal. But that's still not a case anywhere comparable to anything Obama has done--and it was already illegal under U.S. law (i.e. Congress had already ordered Reagan to desist--so even had it not been a war crime or international crime, as I've said from the start, Reagan was already a bone fide criminal, and I've always concurred it's a travesty he was never brought to justice for that).

Richard Carrier said...

Jon said... You say I've offered NO evidence that Libyans oppose intervention. The link I provided says the following: "A spokesman for the new National Libyan Council, which formed in the eastern city of Benghazi after it was taken by anti-Gaddafi forces, said his group did not want foreign intervention." How you interpret this to mean they are NOT opposed to the intervention I have no idea.

Because I check my facts.

The article you cited was before we took any action. When the very same National Libyan Council started asking for our help, then we went in.

Please get your facts straight. That includes timelines.

(I would further cite articles in which Libyans now express concern against an American occupation, but I assume you don't challenge that)

The logic of stability is the logic used to justify the invasion of Iraq.

No, it wasn't. The logic posed was "they have weapons of mass destruction and supported the 9/11 attacks and are planning to attack us again therefore we need to go in now and stop them" (all of which was false, of course, but that's a separate issue). That's not regional instability, nor even an oil matter (we were getting all of Hussein's oil already--the status quo was having little effect on oil prices, and thus this was never used as a public excuse to go in).

More to the point, there is zero parallel between our "excuses" for invading Iraq and our present rationale for aiding the Libyan rebels. Our action there is closer to our treatment of Iraq before Bush (in case you don't remember the no fly zone then: with similar aims, to limit war crimes against Iraqi rebels, in that case the Kurds in the north and the Shiites in the south--although of course in that case the zones were instituted after Iraq invaded an allied nation).

B. Dewhirst said...

Oh, I care about the truth, and I believe you do too. I just don't think you can distinguish knowledge from lies/propaganda/flawed cultural assumptions when it comes to politics, and don't believe I'm capable of persuading you otherwise. (Because they're strong cultural assumptions, because we can't look back on the present with hindsight, and because of my shortcomings at rhetoric.)

My opinion is irrelevant. The soundness of your opinion when it comes to politics is the only matter I'm concerned with here. Different fields have different kinds of evidence. I have no question that you're proposed method as regards most of philosophy is fine.

You write posts with the intent to persuade, so you're the one making claims as far as I'm concerned. You've now indicated what you think the law says as regards 'war crimes.' Fair enough.

As far as I'm concerned, you're the one (in your responses to the incidents I've cited) who is making false claims. I understand that you don't believe them to be false claims, and I don't mean to suggest you're lying. Unfortunately, your sources on politics as regards these matters are full of shit-- thus, you are half full of shit. (This would seem to mirror your opinions of my own facts. I'm not inclined to present more of them, both because I'm aware of your presupposition regarding them, and because you yourself indicated that when you have N pieces of evidence, and you present the N+1th piece, if that additional argument is weaker than the rest it decreases the likelihood of someone accepting the argument.)

I do not accept your definition of what constitutes a war crime, but I do accept your definition of the acceptable meaning of words when arguing with Richard Carrier. Chiefly, this is because I do not accept the legitimacy of the bodies you feel enforce international law (except insofar as one must respect force.)

The only claim I'm making, and the only claim you should be responding to in your replies to my posts in this thread are "Dr. Richard Carrier is half-full of shit when it comes to politics. While his general theory as regards philosophy is sound, he is not treating the kind of evidence found in law and politics appropriately, given his stated political goals, values, and method regarding ethics."

(I believe, were you fully informed of all of the facts, you would feel differently about politics.)

Since I'm reasonably convinced I can't persuade you that your sources are successfully cramming your head with half-truths, lies, etc., I've been attempting to persuade you to more diligently apply your own declared methods, and general methods of critical thinking, to matters of politics. (e.g., at the opening, when I asked if you felt you were attacking the strongest argument for Obama being a war criminal, and later when I asked you to evaluate historical events to which you'd already drawn an analogy.)

Much of your thinking on politics, citizenship, patriotism, etc. is grounded in history. Unfortunately, modern propaganda and the psychology which underlie it are new. (I'm certain the Romans and Greeks had propaganda, but just as we're better at metallurgy and medicine, I believe propaganda has advanced significantly, and that you haven't adequately taken account of this factor.)

(I don't accept that our current really-existing-form-of-government constitutes a (representative) democracy with universal suffrage, a point on which you've previously rejected my evidence. That is not the line of discussion I wish to pursue, but I wish to inform you that arguments which rely on the democratic nature of our government will be unpersuasive.)

How do we determine if your opinions on the veracity of the facts we are discussing (regarding politics) are the product of propaganda or cultural biases lacking truth value?

Richard Carrier said...

the5crains said... I think it is justifiable to give Obama an F: Based on what I understand he has already done (say via Greenwald, Chomsky, Arthur Silber and other idiots, w/r/t Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Manning, authorization of assassination of American citizens, etc), and the system, and that for Obama to be in the position he is in he must be acceptable to the system, I feel quite comfortable seeing Obama as repellant.

Then all wars must be repellant to you.

(You do remember we're at war? Over 3,000 people died in enemy military actions against us? Our ships and embassies have been bombed?)

So far in every case I find that such condemnations of Presidents who fight wars stem from an ignorance of the facts of each case, and/or an ignorance of the facts of every war we've ever fought (including WWII). War sucks. Horrible deaths occur. That's war. But the only way out of a war is peace or victory. Our enemies have yet to offer the former. So what would you have us do?

(Not that I agree we have been using the best strategy, but it hardly counts as a criminal one)

Richard Carrier said...

Lamplighter said... Are you now claiming that congress granted the president authority to make war under the treaty you refer to above, which you have not named and do not link to?

I did link to it. I linked to Obama's letter to Congress which lays out all the details and particulars. As Obama says, his multinational military command was that established by the treaty that founded the very UN itself, which certainly long predates 1973 (specifically, quoting Obama, "Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter," which establishes a UN joint military authority and gives power to the UN Security Council to call upon it). He also has authority under NATO, another pre-1973 treaty establishing a joint military command, but he did not invoke that in his letter to Congress (though he possibly could have).

Ultimately, a President can probably find such a pretext for almost any military action he might plausibly attempt. But Congress should be able to stop him. Reagan's intervention in Nicaragua is a case in point: he continued despite Congressional order not to. That was simply criminal, and he should have been impeached for it (or worse). Thus the parallel with Obama does not hold. Until Congress specifically orders him to stop and he doesn't. Then he'll be a criminal.

Richard Carrier said...

B. Dewhirst said... I just don't think you can distinguish knowledge from lies/propaganda/flawed cultural assumptions when it comes to politics, and don't believe I'm capable of persuading you otherwise. (Because they're strong cultural assumptions, because we can't look back on the present with hindsight, and because of my shortcomings at rhetoric.)

I'm getting the impression it's the other way around. Your standard of evidence seems ideology driven, not based on a principle of reasonable doubt. You trust what our enemies say, and distrust what our authorities say, when in fact you should distrust both equally and look to the facts to ascertain which is telling the truth. And when you can't tell, then you can't claim to know. Period.

You write posts with the intent to persuade, so you're the one making claims as far as I'm concerned.

The claim under dispute is whether Obama is a war criminal. I did not make that claim. I have argued there is no evidence to support the conclusion that that claim is true. You have yet to provide any yourself. That should close the case, shouldn't it? You can't go on claiming to "know" something for which you have no sufficient evidence, can you?

Chiefly, this is because I do not accept the legitimacy of the bodies you feel enforce international law (except insofar as one must respect force.)

Then you have gotten irrationally emotional about this. I have never said I agree with everything those bodies say and do, either. All I have said is that there is no actual law (no actual law) by which Obama is a war criminal. And you go all ape shit. That's not the behavior of a rational person.

I have said consistently from the start that what is presently legal and what is moral are not the same things. You have yet to accept any distinction between them. Except now you say you reject all the world's laws. Which can only be hyperbole, unless you are preparing to launch an armed rebellion or something.

You seem to be saying that all laws in the whole world are all illegitimate because they are not morally perfect. Strange and unworkable philosophy that is, but I needn't bother addressing it, because I have no such philosophy myself. So all I can say is good luck with that.

You have yet to present any evidence that my statements about the law are false. You make some vague declarations that my "politics" are false but you make no distinction between law, morality, political institutions, or political philosophy, so I don't know what of my "politics" you are declaring false, or even why--apart from the fact that you believe something I have said to be immoral, but I have yet to figure out what exactly that is, or how you deem it factually immoral, rather than just something you don't like.

To that end...

Richard Carrier said...

Getting Somewhere for a Change...

B. Dewhirst said...

(I don't accept that our current really-existing-form-of-government constitutes a (representative) democracy with universal suffrage, a point on which you've previously rejected my evidence. That is not the line of discussion I wish to pursue, but I wish to inform you that arguments which rely on the democratic nature of our government will be unpersuasive.)

I actually agree with you that we have a bad democracy. But it's still a democracy, and suffrage is universal for all adult citizens, and the faults for their failure cannot be blamed solely on secret evil cabals anywhere. People get what they vote for. If they don't bother to check the evidence or develop rational beliefs, there is no top-down solution for that. They have to start acting like informed, reasonable adults. Then our democracy will work (indeed, IMO, it will then fix itself, into a form that works better than the one we currently have). Unless you intend to take up arms, there is nothing else you can do but work to change this fact, i.e. work to change how voters behave with respect to evidence and decision making. Just sitting there and rejecting it all isn't going to accomplish anything. Meanwhile, shit is happening in the world and decisions have to be made, regardless of how adamantly you insist on checking out and doing nothing about it.

How do we determine if your opinions on the veracity of the facts we are discussing (regarding politics) are the product of propaganda or cultural biases lacking truth value?

Give me one very specific example of where you think "propaganda or cultural biases lacking truth value" have caused me to form an erroneous opinion. Then I will either change my opinion, or answer your question. But please, stop confusing "law" with "morality" and stop confusing "what the law is" with your beliefs about "what the law should be." When you classify a conclusion as "political," explain what you mean--i.e. are we talking about what the law is, or what the law should be, or how we should vote, or what we should protest, or what we should rally the public toward, or what?

B. Dewhirst said...

First, apparently I'm going to have to clarify what I actually believe, to hopefully prevent you from reaching further erroneous conclusions about my position(s).

As regards my perception of the state of the world and armed revolt: You've neglected the case where I believe arms (or other radical means) should be employed but where I feel the chances of victory are so slim as to constitute suicide. This is a much more accurate description of my position than the one you've raised. Tactics I do employ/advocate are outside the scope of this discussion.

We don't agree on whether the US is a 'bad democracy'-- I don't think this is a democracy, I think this is an aristocracy with democratic trappings. People don't get what they vote for, some people get what they pay for. (Thomas Ferguson, Golden Rule, The Investment Theory of Party Competition and the Logic of Money-Driven Political Systems, demographic data relating to the distribution of wealth in the United States, wealth statistics of Federally elected politicians, the resources dedicated to lobbying, etc.)

I don't believe war crimes are properly a matter of law. I believe that they're properly a matter of morality first, and law secondarily. (One can be a war criminal either by meeting some legal definition of what constitutes a war criminal or by meeting some moral definition-- blowing up large numbers of civilians, for instance.) Consequently, since I don't believe that they -are- separate, I've conceded that the evidence I've submitted will not meet your definition of a war crime.

I have never claimed to have presented evidence that your statements regarding the letter of the law are false. I believe I've stated the opposite. (I have, instead, questioned your interpretation of law generally, and facts surrounding this event, as well as (by implication) your judgement on Obama.)

(1 of 2)

B. Dewhirst said...

2 of 2



Your (following) challenge is difficult, as I am referring to the shape of your overall world-view as respects your perceptions of the motivations of organizations within society, the extent to which journalists' world-views are narrow and biased towards the inside of the beltway, etc. Skepticism of everyone else's poker hand is all well and good, but I'm saying the deck is stacked and the cards are marked. (I'm referring to a mechanistic consequence of people acting on their own perceived short-term interests, not some vast intensional James Bond SPECTRE-style conspiracy.)

Give me one very specific example of where you think "propaganda or cultural biases lacking truth value" have caused me to form an erroneous opinion.

You believe (correctly) that Brad Manning is not presently on suicide watch, yet you find it acceptable that he has been in solitary confinement for 23 hours for the past nine months, has been forced to sleep naked (though he is not presently on suicide watch), and has been forced to stand at attention while naked in front of guards and other prisoners. You do not find it worthy of note that criticizing Manning's treatment resulted in the (presumably involuntary) resignation of a cabinet official. Do you deny that this constitutes psychological torture of a sort which might be employed to elicit a particular behavior (rather than to get a subject to spew nonsense.)? Do you feel that there is no active effort to sway public opinion on this matter on the part of the administration? Have you investigated this matter in great detail, or largely rejected it out of hand based on your perception of the 'smell' of the situation, etc?

Given that I believe there is such an effort to sway public sentiment, and my assumption that you don't generally condone torture for purposes of punishment (judicial torture) or to elicit information as a part of a criminal investigation, I believe your natural response (perhaps something like "That is really horrible, but no laws were technically broken", worded in your idiom rather than mine) was subverted.

Further assumptions (of mine) relevant to this item:

While servicemen/women temporarily give up certain rights, this does not extend to reversing principles of justice. Standards of evidence may be different, punishments may be harsher, but that doesn't mean their government gets to torture them before they go to trial, for instance, or use information gleaned from that torture in the course of related criminal investigations.

Lamplighter said...

Richard said... I did link to it. I linked to Obama's letter to Congress which lays out all the details and particulars. As Obama says, his multinational military command was that established by the treaty that founded the very UN itself, which certainly long predates 1973 (specifically, quoting Obama, "Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter," which establishes a UN joint military authority and gives power to the UN Security Council to call upon it)

Chapter VII of the U.N. charter makes no reference to the office of President of the United States, or to the Congress of the United States. It does not appear to empower any office, body, or individual. Rather, it imposes duties on member nations, without any specification as to who or what body within those those has the authority to carry out those duties. I don't see how the language of this charter can be construed as empowering or authorizing a particular office or body, or restricting the powers thereof.

Perhaps you mean that Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter, combined with some other treaty or law, constitutes Congress's authorization of the President to take military action. But I can't tell from the article and your comments whether you think this is the case.

Richard Carrier said...

Retraction: regarding Clinton and Osama, upon review of the facts, I would not have taken the shot, as it would neither have been legal, moral, nor wise (unless there is something I don't know about the case).

Richard Carrier said...

Lamplighter said... Chapter VII of the U.N. charter makes no reference to the office of President of the United States, or to the Congress of the United States.

It doesn't have to. Congress ratified the treaty (and, as is typical with treaties, enacted it with subsequent legislation), Article 42 of which gives the UN power to call on Security Council forces in an emergency when Article 41 fails. Continued operations (the maintenance of international peace and security) then fall under Article 43 (where Obama would then need Congressional authority to continue, although that may be moot now that the offensive is under NATO command, but I haven't looked into any standing Congressional enactment of the provisions of NATO).

The War Powers Act legalizes participation in joint military commands established prior to 1973, as the UN military command is (as is also NATO, the specific command in charge of this operation). The Constitution establishes the President as commander in chief. That means when the UN calls upon the US to act, the President is the office and individual who has authority to respond.

As 1547(b) of the WPA says: "Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to require any further specific statutory authorization to permit members of United States Armed Forces to participate jointly with members of the armed forces of one or more foreign countries in the headquarters operations of high-level military commands which were established prior to November 7, 1973, and pursuant to the United Nations Charter or any treaty ratified by the United States prior to such date."

The UN Charter and NATO both authorize the introduction of United States Armed Forces into hostilities (at the decision of the treaty organizations themselves) under Article 42 of Chapter VII. Congressional authority is only required when Article 43 is invoked.

See the legal analysis on Jenkins' Ear. To which one should add (quoting Robert Turner, with whom I otherwise don't agree):

Article II, Section 3, of the Constitution vests in the president both the power and the duty to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed," and Article VI affirms that treaties are part of the "supreme law of the land." ... When Congress overwhelmingly approved the 1945 U.N. Participation Act (UNPA), the unanimous House report explained that the ratification of the U.N. Charter "resulted in the vesting in the executive branch of the power and obligation to fulfill the commitments assumed by the United States thereunder." Quoting the unanimous Senate report urging charter ratification, the House report added that the use of U.S. armed forces to enforce the charter "would not be an act of war but would be international action for the preservation of the peace," and thus "the provisions of the charter do not affect the exclusive power of the Congress to declare war." [In fact] a UNPA amendment proposed by Sen. Burton Wheeler requiring congressional authorization before U.S. troops could be sent into combat to enforce the charter received fewer than 10 votes.

Richard Carrier said...

B. Dewhirst said... As regards my perception of the state of the world and armed revolt: You've neglected the case where I believe arms (or other radical means) should be employed but where I feel the chances of victory are so slim as to constitute suicide.

But as soon as they are not, you'll kill us all. Got it.

I don't think this is a democracy, I think this is an aristocracy with democratic trappings.

If enough votes weren't counted or ballots stuffed to reverse clear majority will, I'd agree with you. But that's simply not the case. So far any 55% majority will is enacted (and the other 5% would have to be an acceptable error margin in any system, although IMO we ought to labor to reduce it and it could be a lot lower).

Saying money buys elections isn't true. Voters are not being paid for their votes, vote counters aren't being bribed to fake their counts. All money buys is being heard. That the voters buy what is then said is the voters' failure, not the system's. The worst that can be said is that politicians can be (and are) bribed, but that's all public record, and voters retain the power to de-elect them for this. Thus the remedy is right there. That voters fail to take that remedy is on them. Again, that's not a failure of the system, it's a failure of voters. The system could be improved in various ways to protect voters from their own stupidity, but I've already discussed this elsewhere.

So by now acting like our system is just like, say, that in Libya or pre-revolution Egypt (where democracy actually was a sham), you are only making things worse. It's just one more example of hyperbolically confusing fear with reality. Obama is not just someone you disagree with, he's "a war criminal." Our democracy isn't just something that works poorly, it's "not even a democracy at all." These are not rational inferences. Reality is not that black and white. And you shouldn't want it to be.

I don't believe war crimes are properly a matter of law. I believe that they're properly a matter of morality first, and law secondarily.

Then don't call them "crimes." And be honest. Say these are moral judgments on your part, not statements about what laws have been broken. Then you can stop hiding behind the language of "criminality" and face the fact that you only have a moral opinion on the matter no differently than a pro-lifer has an opinion that abortion is "murder" or a vegan Hindu has an opinion that eating beef is "murder." You want a minority opinion about morality to be enacted by law, and if you could, you'd kill us all if we don't do that.

If, however, you want to admit that no crimes have been committed and then debate whether your minority moral opinion should be shared by the majority, we can have that discussion. But only when you stop confusing the two. Start your argument with "It is my opinion that what Obama is doing is immoral because..." and then we can examine the facts pertaining and see whether you are right.

Richard Carrier said...

The Manning Case: Getting the Facts Right

B. Dewhirst said... You find it acceptable that [Manning] has been in solitary confinement for 23 hours for the past nine months, has been forced to sleep naked...and has been forced to stand at attention while naked in front of guards and other prisoners.

First, this is the military. If we are ordered to strip, we not only say "how fast," we are bound by our oaths to do it. This is not a civilian we're talking about here. Soldiers in training endure far worse things than Manning. They knew going in that that's what they signed up for: to obey all legal orders, no matter how shitty. Indeed, I was naked before dozens of men almost every day, and required to be. We shower together for crying out loud (and there is no way in hell if I asked for a private shower my superiors would do anything other than force me to do fifty pushups for my audacity). So let's not elevate this into a "crime," much less (absurdity of absurdities) a "war crime."

Second, your facts are incorrect. Manning threatened to use all means necessary to kill himself. Consequently he was subject to a strip search order. He slept in a blanket (and thus not exposed) and in his underwear (not naked--this is as reported by Manning himself, in a letter that IMO is the whiniest and most pathetic list of claims I've ever heard from any soldier and would surely piss off anyone in service--indeed, given what I endured for my country, which was mild relative to most, Manning disgusts me, but I'm at least willing to hear both sides to ensure no legitimate boundaries are crossed in his treatment, since I wouldn't want the precedent set for such to be done to anyone in service who wasn't a pussy).

Manning was also never naked before other prisoners, only guards conducting the daily strip search. And he wasn't exactly in solitary confinement. He only couldn't see or speak to adjacent prisoners, but his conditions overall were better than those of most civilians in jails all over the country.

You do not find it worthy of note that criticizing Manning's treatment resulted in the (presumably involuntary) resignation of a cabinet official.

He resigned because his statements against Manning's treatment were false. So that actually supports my point. Those claims were hyperbolic and inaccurate. So much so an official resigned in disgrace for having made them.

Richard Carrier said...

The Manning Case: Why the Facts Matter

B. Dewhirst said... Do you feel that there is no active effort to sway public opinion on this matter on the part of the administration?

I'm reading Manning's own letter, not the Administration's. And there is nothing in there even remotely comparable to "psych warfare" or even intimidation (he isn't even being interrogated), and nothing out of the ordinary for American service prisoners in similar circumstances.

This is what I'm talking about. You believe the false claims and hyperbole of your own ideological side, but don't even check your facts, and even when you have the right facts, you are shockingly oblivious to what life in the military is like. You are driven by ideology, not evidence. Ideology becomes your evidence. That's dangerous and I only hope you reverse that philosophy sooner rather than later. When evidence contradicts your ideology, your ideology should lose. And because it's very easy to be in error, you should check the facts before resting on your ideology, in every case that matters.

While servicemen/women temporarily give up certain rights, this does not extend to reversing principles of justice.

I agree. If Manning were being beaten, or forced into prolonged stress positions, or actually being forced to sleep naked without a blanket, or blasted with constant noise, or denied food, or denied access to counsel, or assigned administrative punishment (like parading him in public naked--he has only been naked in private before guards inspecting him for concealed improvised weapons) without a courts martial (unless he voluntarily accepted the AP in lieu of a CM), etc., then we'd have a crime (though still not a war crime).

Manning simply isn't being tortured. Indeed, by standards of normal service operations, everything he's done is classified as light duty (the exact opposite of torture).

B. Dewhirst said...

While that letter constitutes evidence, your emotional reaction to that letter (and to my statements) are shaped by many factors. Among those factors are propaganda, spin, and (apparently) basic training. While I agree that indoctrination of soldiers is important, I feel that the biases it imposes on your interpretation of evidence outweigh any special expertise you enjoy from two years in the Coast Guard.


Manning threatened to use all means necessary to kill himself.

False. He joked that if he wanted to kill himself he could use the elastic on his waistband, to illustrate the point that his treatment (prior to being stripped) was punitive rather than preventative.

Brig psychologists have indicated they do not believe him to be a threat to himself or others.

A prisoner who is forced to be naked is not equivalent to a soldier whose circumstances require him to disrobe in front of others.

...[not exactly solitary]...

Either false, or you're conceding the point with qualifications, depending on how you meant what you wrote.

His attorney has verified that he has been in solitary confinement 23 hours a day since July 2010. (Were he lying, I imagine that would be a serious offense.)

Timing of harsh measures and threats of the death penalty against him coincide with protests outside the brig where he is being held.

[not naked in front of prisoners...]

False. While I can find many references to Manning being naked in front of both guards and prisoners, I am unable to locate a refutation.

Crowley did not retract his remarks; it is typical for someone who makes public statements contrary to an administration to be forced to resign.

Jon said...

Please get your facts straight. That includes timelines.

When I say "as far as I can tell" the Libyans don't want our help and I point to an article that quotes a spokesman for the rebels saying they don't want foreign intervention, and then conclude on that basis that it's just hard to know if they want our help, which fact that I've presented is wrong?

My claim is not that nobody within Libya would want our help. My point is the people matter. Democracy matters. What do the people want? That's hard to know despite the fact that the bbc said the rebels wanted our help at a later date and I had an article that said they didn't want our help at an earlier date.

Following the Wikileaks disclosures we were told by Hillary Clinton that they reveal that states in Iran's region regard Iran as a serious threat. To reach that conclusion she kept to a very narrow definition of Iran's neighbors, namely they are the dictatorial leadership in the region propped up by the US. If we expand the definition to include the population the conclusions are very different. Our government is very selective when it comes to deciding who's opinion matters and reflects the "will of Libya". If the people matter, not just selected and approved leadership, then you don't know what Libyans want. They might want intervention, but not from the state that most frequently imposes dictatorial regimes throughout the world. Or maybe they do want the world's hegemonic power bombing their country. You need to provide broader evidence than this bbc article and until you do the initial claim I made stands. We don't know that they want our help.

Jon said...

There is evidence that drone strikes in Pakistan have been devastating to the civilian population. Pakistani news reported that during a one month period in 2010 123 civilians were killed vs 3 Taliban fighters in 12 strikes, 10 of which went wrong. Maybe that's all lies, but maybe it isn't. That's why we should have investigations. And it's not necessary that the strikes occur with the intention of killing civilians. It suffices that you are aware that these will occur "in the ordinary course of events."

Regarding Manning the UCMJ reads as follows:

"No person, while being held for trial, may be subjected to punishment or penalty other than arrest or confinement upon the charges pending against him, nor shall the arrest or confinement imposed upon him be any more rigorous than the circumstances required to insure his presence, but he may be subjected to minor punishment during that period for infractions of discipline."

They call his name every 5 minutes and make him answer to prevent sleeping during the day. They won't allow him to do push ups. He's allowed 1 hour per day walking in shackles in a room in figure 8's. He's being stripped naked. Even if the suicide concern were legitimate, which it isn't, this doesn't justify preventing push ups.

There's another way out of war. We could stop engaging in war. We could stop aggression, which is the supreme international crime and which is exactly what the war in Iraq was. We could listen to the people of Iraq and Afghanistan and leave. That's what they want. In this 2005 poll 82% of Iraqi's indicated a strong opposition to the presence of US troops. They regard our troops as the primary root of the violence in the region. Since the war was illegal why perpetuate it when the victims don't want our so called help.

Why do you say Manning threatened to use all means necessary to kill himself? You say that Manning himself says that he was not forced to remove his boxers at night, but that was back in January. Subsequently he was forced to sleep naked according to his lawyer.

Pikemann Urge said...

I don't know the full story about Manning (so I won't be signing any petitions) but I'm glad he did what he did, although he did too much too quickly.

However, sleeping naked is pretty normal for me and I don't think anyone - in solitary - would have a problem with it. It's usually more comfortable provided the room temperature isn't too cold and the blankets are of ample size.

Jon said...

Unfortunately for Bradley Manning the blankets are more like carpet. Here's what his friend David House reported after visiting him in December.

"Manning related to me on December 19 2010 that his blankets are similar in weight and heft to lead aprons used in X-ray laboratories, and similar in texture to coarse and stiff carpet. He stated explicitly that the blankets are not soft in the least and expressed concern that he had to lie very still at night to avoid receiving carpet burns. The problem of carpet burns was exacerbated, he related, by the stipulation that he must sleep only in his boxer shorts as part of the longstanding POI order. Manning also stated on December 19 2010 that hallway-mounted lights shine through his window at night. This constant illumination is consistent with reports from attorney David Coombs’ blog that marines must visually inspect Manning as he sleeps."

Jon said...

An update on Manning. 250 eminent legal scholars have signed a letter denouncing Manning's detention and Obama's personal responsibility for it. Details here.

And just for the record, my comment on Manning's bedding reflects the best info I have. Yes, it is months old and may have changed. I'm one person doing the best I can. Richard if you have better, later information please share. That's what blog discussions are for. I say this to preempt any accusations of failure to get my facts straight. I'm sharing the facts as best I know them. I'm grateful for updates and corrections.

Rick said...

The act that makes such an act legal should be repealed. a rhetorical question. Should the US President be able to take out any person that he wants and anywhere in the world? Another question, was this killing moral?

Jon said...

I'll just put this here.

Richard Carrier said...

Rick said... The act that makes such an act legal should be repealed. a rhetorical question. Should the US President be able to take out any person that he wants and anywhere in the world? Another question, was this killing moral?

What are you referring to?

Richard Carrier said...

Jon said... I'll just put this here.

And notice how it ignores every contrary fact I have quoted and presented here. They are data mining, not actually reading the full laws in question. Indeed, most egregiously they quote one section of the law and pretend none of the others are there. This is ideology, not reality. We need to live in reality. Can you join me there, please?

Richard Carrier said...

Was Manning's Treatment a War Crime?

B. Dewhirst said… …your emotional reaction to that letter (and to my statements) are shaped by many factors. Among those factors are propaganda, spin, and (apparently) basic training.

I know you need to believe that, and tell yourself that to maintain your delusion and thus allow yourself to dismiss everything I say. But claiming it simply doesn't make it so.

While I agree that indoctrination of soldiers is important, I feel that the biases it imposes on your interpretation of evidence outweigh any special expertise you enjoy from two years in the Coast Guard.

That is simply bullshit. To assume that I am no longer correct because boot camp (twenty years ago) brain washed me into being unable to see the facts your way, is the rankest of delusional excuse-making.

He joked that if he wanted to kill himself he could use the elastic on his waistband, to illustrate the point that his treatment (prior to being stripped) was punitive rather than preventative.

That's what he claims. But you have to see it from the other side: they have no way of knowing he was joking (if he even was), and he ought to have known that.

To take an example I was involved in, as a teenager I once joked in an airport about how easily I could get a bomb past security. My uncle rightly told me to shut up, because security wouldn't know I was joking and would be compelled by public duty to act on my words as if they were a threat. He was completely right. If Manning had killed himself, no one would believe the military's claim that they thought he was just joking, nor would any jury believe that in a lawsuit. And everyone of sense knows this. Which is why you don't joke about that shit. Nor can the guards not act like it was a joke. They are immediately compelled by their public duty to act as if he was serious, to protect themselves from courts martial and their country from a lawsuit, and in all honesty, to be sure they protected Manning from himself. Because no one is a telepath. They cannot know if he was joking, nor can they trust him if he says he is (since someone intent on suicide would indeed lie about that in order to create an opportunity to carry through). There is therefore nothing wrong here. This is exactly how any custodian should and must behave when someone "jokes" about killing himself (or, as in my case, anyone else). If you don't understand that, then you don't understand how the world works, or what "responsibility" means.

His attorney has verified that he has been in solitary confinement 23 hours a day since July 2010. (Were he lying, I imagine that would be a serious offense.)

If that were even what he said. Let's go to a source: point me to the actual words of his lawyer, then we'll go from there.

(Of course it's moot now, since Manning is off suicide watch; but you need to learn how to check your facts, and separate actual source documents from rumors and media spin)

While I can find many references to Manning being naked in front of both guards and prisoners, I am unable to locate a refutation.

Find a source that is actually in possession of knowledge. Manning's own letter makes no mention of this, so where are you getting your "many references" from?

He was being strip searched in his cell, which by Manning's own report was visually cut off from his fellow prisoners (fellow prisoners you insist don't even exist, because he's supposed to be in solitary confinement according to you--one clear sign of delusion, BTW, is a system of confidently held beliefs that have no reliable source and completely contradict each other).

Richard Carrier said...

Was Manning's Treatment a War Crime?

B. Dewhirst said… Crowley did not retract his remarks.

No, he said they were taken out of context. He has adamantly denied saying or even implying that Manning's treatment amounted to torture or that he was being treated illegally in any way (much less that it was a war crime!). All he said was that Manning's treatment was politically imprudent. But he used language in saying so that was unbecoming an official state spokesman, and it was for the latter he was asked to resign. Now, I wouldn't have asked him to, were he working for me, but I don't begrudge anyone who will not work with someone who speaks as imprudently as he claims the government is behaving; he should have chosen his words more carefully, or else refused to resign, but that's nothing to do with the facts of Manning's case. The facts in that case are simply that there is no crime here, much less a war crime. End of story.

Richard Carrier said...

Manning Is a Criminal, Not a Whistle Blower

Pikemann Urge said… …sleeping naked is pretty normal for me and I don't think anyone - in solitary - would have a problem with it

Just to be clear, though, even Manning has never claimed he was forced to sleep naked, and he never was.

I'm glad he did what he did, although he did too much too quickly.

I disagree. If he had leaked evidence of a specific crime, then he would have an affirmative defense (he cannot be court-martialed for disobeying an illegal order, and concealing evidence of a crime is illegal) and then indeed I would agree with you. But he indiscriminately released vast quantities of classified information without regard for its implications or even its legality, which was very definitely treasonous and could have gotten many people killed (and may have by now), as well as materially harmed our national security.

Because of this there are two reasons why he should spend the rest of his life breaking rocks at Leavenworth:

(1) We cannot allow soldiers with clearances to indiscriminately decide what to keep classified and what not. That would destroy the entire reliability of the military and thus destroy our ability to defend ourselves. We would be forced either to absurdly limit who gets what information (which will cripple our fighting and diplomatic and intelligence capabilities) or to simply broadcast to our enemies all our plans, capabilities, and knowledge of their crimes and operations, all the names of our agents and cooperating confidants, the locations and interests of all our intelligence operations, and so on. Neither should be desirable. So we have to be confident that a soldier given a security clearance will keep his oath to honor the laws governing secret information (remember, Manning swore to do this, a legal oath). If we lose that confidence (by letting Manning get off) the consequences will be disastrous. This is not an issue of a soldier violating secrecy to expose a crime (which is legal). The issue is what Manning actually did: indiscriminately release to our enemies vast quantities of data about our diplomatic and intelligence operations worldwide. That cannot be allowed. Ever.

Which brings us to the second reason...

Richard Carrier said...

(2) The actual data Manning released harmed us in two ways: by telling our enemies everything we knew about them and what they are doing and how we got that information and what we are planning and where our resources are being devoted and what our capabilities are and aren't; and more importantly, in doing so, also thereby telling them what we don't know about them and what they are doing and where we aren't devoting resources and what we aren't planning, these latter three pieces of information being the most harmful to others (by telling our enemies what they've gotten away with and what they can continue getting away with), but the former the most harmful to us.

To see why you have to understand how intelligence works and the reason for classifying information. So I must digress:

This is the same crime committed by Cheney in exposing Valerie Plame, only this time a thousand fold (because not just one agent was exposed, but potentially hundreds). Cheney should be breaking rocks in Leavenworth. So should Libby. But alas we've discussed this fault in our system in this thread before. Now this is what we didn't see publicly: everyone, ever, who dealt with Plame when she was an undercover agent now knows they were dealing with an undercover agent. Everyone who vouched for her then, in every operation ever, is thereby now exposed as a double agent. They also now know what information was leaked to the U.S. (because they now know what she was privy to and that it would have been reported to the U.S.), and thus they can predict where CIA operatives may now be operating (because of natural deduction from the information Plame would have provided them). Those two facts could well have gotten people killed by now, and very likely did. Consequently Cheney committed treason against the United States: he aided and abetted our enemies, and probably got innocent people killed, and certainly destroyed a lot of our intelligence gathering assets (as even double agents who weren't killed would be cut off from any access to further information as soon as it was revealed they were working with a CIA agent).

Now think of how many people Manning has killed, how many intelligence assets he has destroyed, how many of our enemies he has aided and abetted. Our enemies need merely pore over the leaked documents and reverse engineer any information in them: for any information in them that is such that our enemies know it can only have come from a few persons, they now know where their moles are, and can torture or kill them, or remove them from access to information. Manning's crime has undoubtedly had this effect, more than once (the shear size of data he released means the quantity of intel that can be reverse engineered this was is likely not trivial). Likewise, they know where we are diverting our spies (and where we aren't: because the documents also reveal what we aren't doing and information we aren't getting), what our strategic interests really are (as opposed to what we, following the wisdom of Sun Tzo, don't foolishly broadcast to the public so as to inspire our enemies to know how to hurt us either physically or in negotiated treaties and contracts), what our diplomats have been keeping quiet about (and thus harming diplomatic negotiations and relationships, and incidentally scaring diplomats into no longer being candid with our President, for fear of another Manning telling the world--and how on earth does that help us?), and so on. The damage and harm is pervasive, real, and unconscionable. That's why Manning disgusts me. He is a criminal. He is not a whistle blower. He would be the latter if he released only specific and clear evidence of a crime. That is simply not what he did.

Which brings me to a first hand analogy...

Richard Carrier said...

When I was in the Coast Guard I had a secret security clearance. Among the classified information I had (and had to have merely to do my job) were sonar characteristics of specific Russian submarines (as well as Iraqi--yes, they had one; and Chinese and North Korean, etc.). These included defects in their ship's systems that could identify not just the class of submarine, but the specific submarine (e.g. one Russian sub had a slight defect in the manufacture of its main propeller blade, which with our equipment was easily readable, but theirs couldn't detect). We also knew who was captaining that ship, and what his command profile was (cautious/incautious, how he behaved typically, whether he had known U.S. sympathies, etc.). Now any of this information, had Manning leaked it, would have harmed our national security, because once they knew what we knew, they knew how we knew (because they could reverse engineer where the information came from), and could change it (e.g. they could swap propeller blades, change commands, instruct a captain that we were aware of his command profile so he could use that against us by acting against it at a crucial time, etc.; likewise, they would know the operational sensitivity of our sonar equipment, etc.), or make use of it in despicable ways (e.g. executing or imprisoning a sub captain known to have U.S. sympathies, or force him with threats to his family to become a double agent, using our belief in his sympathies against us, etc.). In other words, very bad shit we should have every moral reason to prevent.

Now, Manning wasn't releasing military operational data like that, but what he did release had all the same consequences. Instead of submarines, it's where our spies are and who they are and who they are working with; what our diplomatic corps thinks the intentions and needs really are of those we are dealing with; where we believe vulnerabilities exist, and what vulnerabilities we are unaware of; they know the reliability of our intelligence (because they can see how much of it is accurate or inaccurate, and thus confirm how well any disinformation campaign they are running is working, or how well their secrets are being kept); they can discern what our vulnerabilities and concealed needs are; and so on. This is a treasure trove of intel for our enemies, more than even a hundred of their spies could have gathered on their own. Manning may as well have paid hundreds of millions of dollars into the coffers of our enemy intelligence operations. The effect is identical. And it is simply unconscionable, not admirable.

Richard Carrier said...

More Manning Bullshit

Jon said... They call his name every 5 minutes and make him answer to prevent sleeping during the day

That's quite a lie. You need to stop repeating myths and legends and actually try looking for real documentation before rereating patent falsehoods like that. That you trust such bullshit completely erases any trust I can have in you as a relayer of accurate information. Much of what else you say about Manning's treatment is likewise fiction. Let's stick with facts, please, not anti-military fantasies.

The biggest howler yet...

Jon said… "…he had to lie very still at night to avoid receiving carpet burns."

This is the most absurd thing you've said about this case. I want you to sit and think about this one for awhile. Carpet burns. What does it take to get one of those? Would sleeping under a carpet (even if that were true) ever possibly have that effect? This is basic physics here, so I want you to think hard here before making a fool of yourself by repeating this nonsense.

Richard Carrier said...

Libya

Jon said... When I say "as far as I can tell" the Libyans don't want our help and I point to an article that quotes a spokesman for the rebels saying they don't want foreign intervention, and then conclude on that basis that it's just hard to know if they want our help, which fact that I've presented is wrong?

That any of this pertained to when we went in. You are citing a comment made before the rebels asked us to intervene. Therefore your source is irrelevant to your claim that we went in without rebel approval. That is why I told you to get your timelines straight.

They might want intervention, but not from the state that most frequently imposes dictatorial regimes throughout the world.

Or they want what they have all said they want: intervention from anyone who will help them and not impose a dictatorial regime. If that's the U.S., it's the U.S. That's why I said I have quotations showing them saying exactly that: that U.S. intervention is welcome as long as it does not lead to a U.S. occupation (or the U.S. installment of a dictator). Libyans aren't retards. They could imagine us doing what in fact we actually did: help them without occupying them or dictating who will govern them. The merit of Obama so far is that he has given them what they wanted, and not what past Presidents have given them instead. I agree he should keep to that course.

Richard Carrier said...

Drone Strikes

Jon said… There is evidence that drone strikes in Pakistan have been devastating to the civilian population. Pakistani news reported that during a one month period in 2010 123 civilians were killed vs 3 Taliban fighters in 12 strikes, 10 of which went wrong. Maybe that's all lies, but maybe it isn't.

You actually trust Pakistani news sources? Indeed, we can't even trust their government, much less their anti-American media. It's very unlikely that their statistics have any basis in fact. The idea that there were 10 out of 12 bad strikes is absurd on its face. You should be immediately skeptical of that. Indeed, the idea that we killed only 3 Taliban in any massive bombardment like that is absurd. Not even the most hardened war monger in our military chain of command would continue such a useless program. Common sense should tell you you've been duped here.

A wider look at diverse sources give us more realistic data and results. See January 2010. That shows fifty enemy militants killed at least in those strikes, and others more likely their supporters than actual "innocents," because all too often "civilians" means Al Qaeda and Taliban support staff (often comprised of their families, who help make bombs and ship weapons and hide and feed enemy combatants). See the more credible (for being more diverse in sources) account of one of the strikes you are referring to in the NY Times.

Stop substituting ideology for facts. See the world as it actually is: complex.

Richard Carrier said...

The Bigger Problem of War in General

Jon said… There's another way out of war. We could stop engaging in war.

That would be lovely. Good luck with getting North Korea and Iran and Al Qaeda and Qadaffi and Assad and all that happy bunch to comply.

We could listen to the people of Iraq and Afghanistan and leave.

I agree. I have been saying that myself for quite some time now.

Since the war was illegal why perpetuate it…?

Because we can't just leave. Bush stuck us in a pickle jar. Getting out of it isn't simply a matter of pulling out. The harm to all our local friends would be severe. This was proved by what happened to our local allies when Bush Sr. pulled out after the first Iraq war after promising to support the rebels against Hussein. Thousands were murdered.

And the whole region could explode into a world war, as Syria and Iran would gladly support a power vacuum in Iraq and move in, and Turkey and Israel could not abide a unified Shiite empire beside them with all the oil resources of Iraq and free transit between them (this would be Hitler and Austria-Czechoslovakia all over again), and the U.S. and Europe couldn't let Turkey and Israel go to war without helping them survive their own destruction--and as this all happened before with Japan and Germany, the opportunity for North Korea to exploit our commitment to a world war in the Middle East by expanding into South Korea and an undefended Japan would be impossible to pass up, at which China would have to get involved…you see where this is going.

In Afghanistan, we are in a similar bind, because leaving would be a humanitarian disaster. Bush botched the humanitarian mission there from day one, leaving us screwed in, and there is no easy way out. If we just up and left, thousands, possibly tens of thousands of women would be stoned or killed for having dared to use the freedoms we provided to set up and attend school. Just for example. And once the Taliban were back in charge, they could bring Al Qaeda back in, and we're back where we were on 9/11. Finding a way out that doesn't have those kinds of consequences is not easy. Obama is no doubt facing very tough decisions. You shouldn't make light of them.

Richard Carrier said...

[Sorry, the post this responds to was stuck in the spam box and I didn't find it until now]

Jon said... 250 eminent legal scholars have signed a letter denouncing Manning's detention and Obama's personal responsibility for it.

Many of the claims made in that letter are uncorroborated by Manning or any reliable source. They are protesting a fiction.

Pikemann Urge said...

But he indiscriminately released vast quantities of classified information without regard for its implications or even its legality

Not cool by any standards. There's no gray areas for indiscriminate leaks. End of story. Perhaps the only excuse - and even then it's not a done deal - is if Manning were a soldier in a criminal regime. Such as the Soviets or the Nazis.

Thanks for your detailed response, BTW!

B. Dewhirst said...

But he indiscriminately released vast quantities of classified information without regard for its implications or even its legality

Factually inaccurate.

Richard Carrier said...

Oh dear, I've seen this skit before.

B. Dewhirst said...

Richard, this is a claim you've researched insufficiently. You're the one making this claim, so feel free to back it up. Once you've done so, I'll dig up appropriate counter-evidence, as you're likely to cite a source who is themselves either mistaken or lying. (In particular, the NYT has been beating this dead horse.)

Richard Carrier said...

I don't think you even understand the issue here. You are now claiming every document he released he specifically selected for release because it contained evidence of a crime, and he released nothing else. That puts the burden on you, not me, particularly as it is an extraordinary claim to say he personally vetted for criminal content 90,000 documents, and even more extraordinary since no one has found any actionable crimes in them (though, again, if you have evidence they have, present it).

B. Dewhirst said...

How many documents did Brad Manning allegedly release to the public?

I took your reference to consideration of legality as pertaining to the legality of release, rather than the legality of the actions contained therein. I don't claim his intent was to release documents pertaining to specific claims-- had that been the case, there likely wouldn't be 90,000 documents involved.

B. Dewhirst said...

Frankly, if you're giving me a choice between patriots like Colin Powell (My Lai report -- see wikipedia, Iraq war declaration) and (alleged) 'traitors' like Brad Manning or Daniel Ellsberg, you can go screw.

B. Dewhirst said...

Necessary clarification: I'm not claiming Richard is claiming Powell is a patriot. I am, however, very concerned at his relative lack of concern for unequal justice-- the high and mighty walk free, the low must be made an example of (even if they haven't been charged.) He also can't seem to see he keeps getting his facts wrong.

He wants a politics predicated on evidence, but wants the messenger stoned.

In the discussion of Manning, Richard was supposed to be demonstrating to me that he wasn't deluded. I'm convinced, at this point, that he is allowing his reaction to Manning to undermine his evaluation of the evidence and his conception of justice. Either that, or he doesn't see it as a problem to have justice inversely proportional to power.

As such, I am withdrawing from this discussion and don't intend to engage him further on subjects dealing with politics unless he shows signs of making a serious attempt to reassess either the evidence or his (implicit) position on justice and power.

If anyone else in the thread, or subsequent readers, would like me to substantiate any claims I've made herein, I can be reached at b.dewhirst@gmail.com

Richard Carrier said...

B. Dewhirst said… How many documents did Brad Manning allegedly release to the public?…

Manning gave 90,000 classified documents to a foreign agent. Are you actually now claiming Manning had the reasonable belief that none of those documents would enter the hands of U.S. enemies? That definitely puts the burden on you to prove such an astonishing claim. And it would be futile, since releasing classified documents to a foreign agent is and ought to be a crime. Thus Manning remains a criminal, morally and in the eyes of the law. Or are you going to claim he released those documents by accident, that he just slipped and accidentally attached them to a personal email without noticing?

Frankly, if you're giving me a choice between patriots like Colin Powell (My Lai report -- see wikipedia, Iraq war declaration) and (alleged) 'traitors' like Brad Manning or Daniel Ellsberg, you can go screw.

Which is an attitude that will get innocent people killed. And for that reason, you can be assured you will never receive a security clearance. Which is a good thing--and why, in actual practice, it is you who is left to go screw. The rest of us will be running the country and defending your liberties.

I am, however, very concerned at his relative lack of concern for unequal justice-- the high and mighty walk free, the low must be made an example of (even if they haven't been charged.)

I have never expressed any lack of concern for that. You are attributing to me views I have never espoused--part of your delusional architecture again. I actually believe that unequal justice is wrong, and have said so repeatedly here. But tu quoque is a fallacy, so you can't use it to defend Manning as you are now attempting to do. Dependence on fallacious arguments is another indicator of delusion.

I am withdrawing from this discussion…

And avoidance behavior is one of the classic evidences of delusion.

Richard Carrier said...

I'll just reiterate the issues here: no reliable evidence (none whatever) was presented that Manning's treatment amounted to a war crime or even an ordinary crime, which is the only issue pertinent in this thread (read the blog post's title).

Of course, also, though it was not pertinent to this thread, no evidence (none whatever) was presented that what Manning did was not a crime. So here we have a man who is very definitely a criminal, and a President who has yet to be proved to be. When ideology causes you to switch the two, and make a criminal into an innocent man and an innocent man into a criminal, you are delusional, out of touch with reality, and not competent to make decisions that actually hold lives in the balance.

psychadelicfuse81 said...

Here is a link showing Glenn Greenwald's take on the situation. Very insightful.

Richard Carrier said...

The source you just linked to is lamely confusing impeachment (which is the sole prerogative of Congress) and a citizen lawsuit (which is not an impeachment and by which no impeachment can proceed). I hope you at least understand the difference. By citing that source, I'm not sure you do.

Even if what Obama did was an impeachable offense (I have yet to see any violation of the law in his actions), that in no way would vindicate a citizen lawsuit, which has no standing to "impeach" a President. Thus comments as to whether it was impeachable have no relevance to that lawsuit. At best such a lawsuit could obtain an injunction against further spending on the Libyan conflict, but since the War Powers Act explicitly grants that power only to Congress, the suit is a dead letter, and obviously a political stunt. Just observe what happens to it in court.

For example, Republicans pulled exactly the same lawsuit stunt against Clinton's action in Serbia. It was thrown out of court. The War Powers Act already gives Congress power to pull the funding. It's thus absurd of Congressmen to bypass the law by trying to get a minority vote to kill the funding (via a lawsuit), when the law explicitly says a majority vote is needed. So just because some angry congressmen can't get their way, they are trying to bypass the actual law they profess to be upholding!

And this you cite in your favor?

psychadelicfuse81 said...

Here's my response.

The substance of Glenn's argument was that Obama has allegedly violated the War Powers Act and Article I, Section VIII of the Constitution. Doing so is an impeachable offense, therefore Congress ought to impeach Obama if the allegations hold. The civil lawsuit may be a "political stunt", as you cheaply describe it, but it does have the effect of raising public awareness, and steering political opinion in a positive direction. I obviously have read the transcript myself (otherwise I wouldn't be a royal dumb-ass and link it to you), and I could not find a verbatim quote from Glenn where he says the lawsuit has direct impeachment power of the POTUSA. Unless you are a half-baked moron, which you are obviously not, you know that a constitutional lawyer would at least catch an inkling of the difference between a civil lawsuit and an impeachment process. Bottom line is, if Obama violated the War Powers Act and the Constitution, he can and ought to be impeached. That's just incontrovertible.

Furthermore, the civil lawsuit will amount to a symbolic demonstration, and an attempt to obstruct the Libyan campaign by any means possible short of impeachment (I will concede that trying to block funding is a dead end too). Democracy Now! really ought to have established the difference more clearly for its viewers, but there was nothing on the webpage that was demonstrably factually inaccurate (at least to the best of my knowledge). Whether the civil lawsuit will win or not, or even whether Obama will be impeached or not, is a parallel topic, and not my main point at the moment. But at the very least, Glenn provided some credible food for thought in the ongoing debate; pointing out emerging facts and developments and giving his take on them as a professional constitutional lawyer, which is exactly what I meant when I described his comments as "very insightful."

Moreover, to make my personal views clear, I was slightly in favor of Obama at the start when he announced the Libyan campaign, due to the rebels' explicit request for a no-fly zone. However, my support for him has begun to wane over the course of the invasion. What Obama ought to have done IMHO was implement a no-fly zone over Libya to protect innocent civilians from being peppered and torn apart by Gaddafi warplanes. Minimal, effective and explicitly what the rebels requested. That literally could not be more justified in my book. What is not morally justified is launching, via NATO, a heavy aerial assault, and using war-planes to attack Gaddafi compounds with the obvious intent of assassination, killing his youngest son and some of his grandchildren in the process, and not even apologizing for it! What is not justified is continuing the occupation past the 90-day approval period, and interpreting the War Powers act in a semantically manipulative fashion to try and exempt yourself from its consequences; semantic legerdemain which was consequently refuted in a statement by the CRC.

I could go on, but I think enough has been said for the moment. I expect a snarling, condescending reply from you, insinuating that I don't check my facts, and that I amount to the intellectual equivalent of a retarded creationist. Excuse the intentional hyperbole, but as the late and great George Carlin said, "I'm here to entertain and inform." ;)

psychadelicfuse81 said...

Typo: meant CCR, not CRC.

Richard Carrier said...

I wasn't talking about the lawyer the article quoted. I'm talking about the article. You didn't cite a post by the lawyer, you cited an article that confused that lawyer's comments as being relevant to the lawsuit.

I quite agree that "if Obama violated the War Powers Act and the Constitution [indeed, either/or], he can and ought to be impeached." But lawyers' opinions don't make law (otherwise you'd count the legal opinions of John Yoo as being correct, too).

You are simply contradicting yourself by praising an attempt to bypass democracy (congressmen who can't get a majority vote subverting democracy by using the courts to replace the majority will with their own minority will) as "Democracy Now!" That's the exact same thinking that led to Stalinism: oh, we can't get our way because we got outvoted, so to hell with the majority, democracy now!

What is not morally justified is launching, via NATO, a heavy aerial assault, and using war-planes to attack Gaddafi compounds with the obvious intent of assassination...

Obama didn't do that. NATO did, without U.S. involvement (we didn't even give them armaments for it, nor did any U.S. planes, personnel, or ships engage in that attack, apart from surveillance and intel). In fact, the U.S. is no longer involved even in maintaining the Libyan no-fly zone. We are at most supplying munitions, but even on that score we just bitched NATO out for not having stockpiled its own and depending on us to resupply them. At most we've allowed NATO to borrow our drones, but solely under foreign command. The U.S. war in Libya is over. It's a NATO conflict now. You just won't let it go.

psychadelicfuse81 said...

First I want to point out that Democracy Now! is the name of the news website; I wasn't making some grandiose assertion about the power of democracy. That is why I made sure to put it in italics so as not to be confusing.

With that digression out of the way, onto my response-to-your-response.

Like I said previously, at best, the lawsuit is a symbolic demonstration, raising awareness of the issue and forcing the public to pay attention to what is going on in Libya. I say good on them for filing it! The public ought to be involved and informed, even if they do become so via initially seeing a “political stunt” on TV and taking an interest that way. The legal goals of the lawsuit will probably fail, but it doesn't matter. For example, if I filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of my county against a fracking company for polluting our local water supply and causing ill health, dead livestock and low crop yields, there is a good chance we might lose. But the trial would be highly publicized and would raise awareness about fracking and its dangers. People would as a result become more informed, and it may spawn off subsequent efforts by others to pressure the EPA to finally start regulating the assholes.

Analogously, the civil lawsuit may be lost, but the public knows about it. That is a win for Dennis Kucinich and all the other plaintiffs who filed the lawsuit.

You are correct in pointing out that lawyer's opinions don't make law, and thank god they don't! What a lawyer thinks about the legality of x, y or z is just the same as any other kind of expert testimony: useful and informative; not an infallible decree. If you claimed that Ponchias Pilate invented the steam engine, the past would not magically change to conform with this belief. If a lawyer gives her professional opinion on judicial matters, it does not become law upon utterance. I don't know what your intention was in stating something so painfully obvious. In other news: 2+4=4, water is wet, the word “blue” begins with the letter “b”, and Fox News is neither fair nor balanced.

psychadelicfuse81 said...

Read what the abstract of the article actually said:

The New York Times recently broke the story that President Obama rejected the views of top administration lawyers when he decided he had the legal authority to continue U.S. military participation in the war in Libya without congressional authorization. Obama continues to face congressional opposition to the ongoing Libya attack. Republican House Speaker John Boehner has called on the White House to further clarify the legal basis for the war in Libya or face a cutoff of war funds. Last week, a bipartisan group of lawmakers filed a lawsuit accusing President Obama of violating the War Powers Act of 1973. To examine the legal dimensions of U.S. military intervention, we speak with Glenn Greenwald, a constitutional law attorney and political and legal blogger for Salon.com. “The idea that presidents can start wars on their own, without any congressional authorization, violates not just the law but the Constitution,” Greenwald said. “In theory, when the president violates the law and the Constitution, that’s an impeachable offense. At the same time, we’ve set a very low standard for our tolerance of rampant presidential law breaking.” [includes rush transcript] [100% awesomely true statements bolded]

It could not be more clear: Greenwald is saying that Obama has failed to seek Congressional approval for his Libyan shenanigans, and this amounts to a violation of the Constitution and the War Powers Act. Violation of the Constitution or the War Powers Act is an impeachable offence. You agreed with this. The reason they interviewed Greenwald is because of the story about the civil suit which broke that day; they had him on immediately afterwards to offer some general comments about Obama and Libya. Greenwald is a regular interviewee on that show because of his breadth of knowledge and his progressive leanings. The assumption that the article “lamely confuses impeachment with a civil lawsuit” is entirely in your imagination dude.

Your central argument leaves much to be desired. I do not, and have never praised anyone who tries to subvert the democratic process for her own personal gain. If a politician or a group of politicians broke the law and attempted to force their own principles on an unwilling population in spite of the constitution they swore to uphold, then I would be the first to join you in singing their downfall. Kucinich and the others behind the lawsuit did not violate any laws or democratic processes. You have no basis whatsoever for the mock outrage.

Furthermore, I loved the tenuous inference you pulled out of your ass about my supposed crypto-Stalinist attitude towards democracy.

Stalinism.

Are you freakin kidding me?!

If we are serious about democracy, we should see what the U.S. population thinks about Libya. A June 14 Rasmussen report states the following: “Only 26% of all voters feel the United States should continue its military actions in Libya.  Forty-two percent (42%) are opposed, and 32% are undecided.“ If the United States actually enjoyed a functioning democracy instead of being a DINO (Democracy In Name Only), this would have a tangible effect on policy. Any of Obama's underhanded attempts to continue helping NATO in Libya would be smacked down by Congress if it was run by politicians who represented rather than ruled.

psychadelicfuse81 said...

You seem to be inferring that U.S. Drones in Libya somehow do not count as “hostilities” according to the War Powers Act. This was the first line of apologetics made by the Obama administration when they tried to wriggle their way out of the mandate to withdraw U.S. involvement. Jack Goldsmith, a Harvard University law professor, has indicated that the Obama administration may be being less than honest when they assert all of the U.S. strikes are via UAVs and not manned aircraft. Secondly, it is actually irrelevant, because NATO contains many leadership personnel from the U.S. Armed Forces. You'll see why this matters in a minute.

You made the final claim that since NATO has taken over the reigns, Obama bears no responsibility for Gaddafi's attempted assassination, and is immune from the War Powers Act. Jack Goldsmith (yes him again) pointed out in a recent PolitiFact article that: (a) leadership positions in NATO are occupied by members of the U.S. Armed Forces and (b) the United States is one of NATO's chief sources of funding. He states: "The fact that this command and participation happens via NATO seems irrelevant; the fact is that U.S. Armed Forces are helping those nations engage in military hostilities."

Moreover, the the words of the WPA itself leave no room for escaping this conclusion: "For purposes of this joint resolution, the term 'introduction of United States Armed Forces’ includes the assignment of members of such armed forces to command, coordinate, participate in the movement of, or accompany the regular or irregular military forces of any foreign country of government when such military forces are engaged. . . in hostilities." The actions of the Obama administration certainly fall within the purview of this statement. It takes deliberate semantic trickery to avoid the facts. As the Center for Constitutional Rights observes, “United States military actions in support of the NATO forces directly engaged in hostilities fall within this provision. Indeed, here the United States was not and is not simply a passive participant or accompanier of foreign forces, but was one of the key instigators of this military action and played a key role in the early military strikes against Libya.”

At the end of the day, the Obama administration appears to be basing its case for Libya on a very questionable set of assumptions and interpretative sleights-of-hand. I am disgusted in many ways by how NATO has conducted its affairs, and it has soured my whole attitude over the invasion. I am now opposed. I think another tack should be pursued that does not involve NATO taking the side of the rebels in a civil war, but that is a tangential issue. What it comes down to is this: the preponderance of the evidence speaks a loud case against Obama, despite his claims to the otherwise. Congress should take heed of these developments and act accordingly, but something tells me that ain't gonna happen.

Richard Carrier said...

psychadelicfuse81 said… Like I said previously, at best, the lawsuit is a symbolic demonstration, raising awareness of the issue and forcing the public to pay attention to what is going on in Libya.

Right. Like I said, a political stunt.

And an absurd one at that. They have not said they believe it would be wrong of the courts to allow them to overrule the majority vote of Congress--they clearly believe it would be good if the courts ruled in their favor. Thus they want to violate the very law they purport to be upholding. Exactly as I said. That is not a message to be sending to the public. Indeed, it gravely misinforms the public as to the law and the constitution. All just to grandstand. That's reprehensible to me. Not admirable.

For example, if I filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of my county against a fracking company for polluting our local water supply and causing ill health, dead livestock and low crop yields, there is a good chance we might lose.

If your case had merit and lost, that would be a travesty of justice. What these politicians are doing is a perversion of justice. Not the same thing. You don't seem to understand the point at issue here. The law they claim to uphold says (in effect) that Congress must by majority vote pull funding. They want to use the courts to force their minority vote to stand in for a majority vote, in direct violation of the very law they claim they are defending. If you don't see what is horribly perverse about that, you aren't getting it.

Yes, the WPA says the operations must end at the ninety day mark, but they have. Thus the issue now is whether the current level of U.S. involvement has Congressional mandate (through the already-standing NATO and UN treaties). But everyone knows if that went to a vote, the majority would authorize the current involvement (no one could get re-elected voting to overturn the NATO treaty, especially doing so only to avoid overthrowing a terrorist dictator). The only reason they don't vote on this is because it's more politically useful to never vote on something than to have yourself pegged on one side or the other of it.

That's the reality of the situation. And in that context this court case is a cynical insult to the American voter.

You are correct in pointing out that lawyer's opinions don't make law…I don't know what your intention was in stating something so painfully obvious.

You were citing a lawyer's opinion as establishing as a matter of law that Obama violated the war powers act. I answered by pointing out that lawyers are routinely wrong about the law (and cited a prominent example) and for that very reason their opinions have exactly zero legal standing. You apparently forgot what you said and thus didn't even notice your argument was being refuted by the very premise you now affirm.

Richard Carrier said...

The War Is Over. Get Over It.

psychadelicfuse81 said… Only 26% of all voters feel the United States should continue its military actions in Libya

There are no United States military operations in Libya.

Again, you don't seem to have noticed this.

We are not in Libya any more. We have no ships engaged there, no planes engaged there, are not firing a single shot or dropping a single bomb. NATO is. Without any U.S. command. We are supplying and staffing NATO exactly as the NATO treaty requires us to. We are no more at war in Libya now than we were with Hitler in 1940--when we were spending vastly more to fight him by shipping arms and supplies to England and Russia, than we are spending to supply NATO in Libya. Since it would be absurd to say President Roosevelt should have been impeached for making unauthorized war against Germany in 1940, it would be a thousand times more absurd to say this now of Obama and Libya.

leadership positions in NATO are occupied by members of the U.S. Armed Forces

Yes, as required by treaty. Even the War Powers Act states that the NATO treaty supersedes it. Thus there is no violation of the WPA having U.S. personnel under foreign commands and administration in service of NATO treaty requirements.

You keep forgetting things I've already proven in this thread, like that NATO actions aren't even covered by the WPA. You seem hell bent on convincing yourself Obama is a war criminal, and are willing to ignore evidence, and invent evidence, however suits that belief. That's simply perverse.

Jack Goldsmith, a Harvard University law professor, has indicated that the Obama administration may be being less than honest

And what a Harvard professor thinks "might" be true is therefore true. Is that really the epistemology you are going with?

Certainly, if the President is lying and is actually waging open war in Libya, that's impeachable. But that's the crux isn't it? You keep saying he's a war criminal, but when I ask for evidence, all you have are the opinions of lawyers who have no actual evidence backing their accusations or beliefs. You cite someone saying what he thinks might be the case. And instantly to you that's evidence that convicts Obama. I sure hope you never sit on a jury. No rational justice can proceed from reasoning like yours.

psychadelicfuse81 said...

Reply forthcoming.

I was wondering when the vitriol and accusations about my supposed lack of fact checking would come. Now they have!

czrpb said...

Hi!

(I hope this is intelligible! Sorry if not.)

I have been trying to figure out how to reply as I agree with pretty much most of what most of the dissenter have been posting.

Happily (sort of), recently Glenn Greenwald (the idiot lawyer from the previously linked transcript) wrote this post:

http://salon.com/a/scT0fAA

I mentioned earlier that I was reading _The Massacre at El Mozote_ by Mark Danner, in which I read this quote:

"Then I heard one of my children crying. My son, Cristino, was crying, 'Mama Rufina, help me! They're killing me!' ... Rufina could not see the children; she could only hear their cries as the soldiers waded into them, slashing some with their machetes, crushing the skulls of the others with the butts of their rifles." p 75-76 (Actions by the US trained, supported, and politically shielded Atlacatl Battalion in El Salvador.)

I see little diff w/ the quote from Glenn's article, given to those in the US military unit:

"Listen up, new battalion SOP (standing operating procedure) from now on: Anytime your convoy gets hit by an IED, I want 360 degree rotational fire. You kill every [expletive] in the street!"

(And of course Vietnam, Philippines, US military history in general, etc. that I am aware of.)

While you are not defending these actions or any individual actions and in fact would say that IF there are crimes the ought to be accountability, I feel you *are* defending the system (ie. the US military, the US gov, "American exceptionalism", etc.) which creates the conditions for these sort of actions. And since I am also a fan of Phil Zimbardo (of the Stanford Prison experiment fame) and "Situationalism" (simplified): The idea that there are not rotten apples (ie. bad individuals) but bad barrels (ie. the situations they are in and since we are human ...) and, finally the worst part, bad barrel makers (ie. those in power that create the situations: Bush, the US military leaders, our messed up 'democracy' and political system), I have been quite unhappy with your position on a number of topics: It may be true that we are not physically on the ground in Libya, or that you could find some sort of justification in the mess of treaties, or that there really are dictatorships, etc. that can salve one's conscience about our actions in say Libya, or our/US general militarism (military bases in nearly every country of the world), your position seems to be that without the US the world would go to hell in a hand-basket.

I just can not get there.

And feel more aligned on these topics with say Chomsky, Zinn, Russell, etc .. I might be an idiot though.

psychadelicfuse81 said...

You Gadda-bi kidding me!

Ahh...back from a lovely short vacation; feeling refreshed and revitalized :). Now, where were we?

Richard says...Lawyers are routinely wrong about the law....and for that very reason their opinions have exactly zero legal standing.

So your argument is this formally analysed:

P1: If expert testimony is known to be wrong sometimes, it has exactly zero epistemological merit.
P2: Testimony on the law by lawyers is known to be wrong sometimes
C: Therefore, it has exactly zero epistemological merit

That argument should generalise reasonably well then:

P1: If expert testimony is known to be wrong sometimes, it has exactly zero epistemological merit.
P2: Testimony on medical diagnostics by physicians is known to be wrong sometimes
C: Therefore, it has exactly zero epistemological merit

P1: If expert testimony is known to be wrong sometimes, it has exactly zero epistemological merit.
P2: Testimony on epidemic disease outbreaks by epidemiologists is known to be wrong sometimes
C: Therefore, it has exactly zero epistemological merit

I'm sorry Richard, this does not pass the straight face test. Lawyer's opinions don’t make law, but it does not follow that their comments are therefore evacuated of all credibility. Greenwald is a competent constitutional lawyer who deserves his reputation. Comparing the validity of his testimony to John Yoo's is like comparing the validity of Kenneth Miller's testimony on evolutionary biology with Guane Gish's.

I said…Only 26% of all voters feel the United States should continue its military actions in Libya

Richard says...There are no United States military operations in Libya.

There are operations in Libya involving members of the United States Armed Forces, and there is also logistical and financial support by way of the Pentagon. This involvement is currently mandated by treaty as you have countered, but this is a red herring. Just because it was done under the auspices of NATO decree does not mean it is not happening.

Richard says...the War Powers Act states that the NATO treaty supersedes it.....NATO actions aren't even covered by the WPA.

That reasoning is not as watertight as you think. The Congressional Research Service published a very comprehensive report report a couple of months ago on the Libyan intervention. I found their commentary on this issue to be quite cogent and well-argued. Here it is:

Regarding NATO operations, Article 11 of the North Atlantic Treaty states that its provisions are to be carried out by the parties “in accordance with their respective constitutional processes,” implying that NATO Treaty commitments do not override U.S. constitutional provisions regarding the role of Congress in determining the extent of U.S. participation in NATO missions. Section 8(a) of the War Powers Resolution states specifically that authority to introduce U.S. forces into hostilities is not to be inferred from any treaty, ratified before or after 1973, unless implementing legislation specifically authorizes such introduction and says it is intended to constitute an authorization within the meaning of the War Powers Resolution [Emphasis mine].

In a nutshell: according to the War Powers Act, treaties only give the president power to override Congress if the treaties explicitly give this authority. The NATO treaty does not appear to confer such an overriding power to any nation-state under its wing.

Just like with most dilemmas of politics and law, there is wiggle room for differing interpretations of these documents. But I think the prima facie case is on the side I'm arguing from.

psychadelicfuse81 said...

Richard says...You seem hell bent on convincing yourself Obama is a war criminal, and are willing to ignore evidence, and invent evidence, however suits that belief.

You seem unusually clairvoyant for a person who acts as a paragon of reason and evidence, and has lambasted interlocutors in the past for engaging in premature “armchair psychology”. Also, please back up your assertion that I have concocted evidence out of thin air, or retract the claim.

I said...Jack Goldsmith, a Harvard University law professor, has indicated that the Obama administration may be being less than honest.

Richard says...And what a Harvard professor thinks "might" be true is therefore true. Is that really the epistemology you are going with?

No it is not. Thank-you for actually asking if these are the kind of bullshit standards I adhere to, rather than just directing the facile accusation at me without rhyme or reason. The statement above was just something interesting to think about. It was a lead-up to my main point: that even if it was only drones that the US was supplying to NATO, it is irrelevant.

Richard says...You cite someone saying what he thinks might be the case. And instantly to you that's evidence that convicts Obama.

Oh, you are directing this facile accusation at me without rhyme or reason.

Richard says....I sure hope you never sit on a jury. No rational justice can proceed from reasoning like yours.

Too late. I did jury duty for the first time 8 weeks ago. Buahahahaha!

Richard Carrier said...

czrpb said... "Listen up, new battalion SOP (standing operating procedure) from now on: Anytime your convoy gets hit by an IED, I want 360 degree rotational fire. You kill every [expletive] in the street!"

Where is your evidence that that was ever a U.S. military tactic in Iraq or Afghanistan?

You seem to be confusing movies with reality here.

The rest of your remarks confuse what you want as a voter, and what actual crimes Obama has committed. I am not here arguing you shouldn't pressure your legislators to pull all U.S. funding for actions in Libya. By all means if you want that to happen, advocate for it. That's democracy. But don't go around saying Obama is a war criminal simply because he doesn't agree with you.

Keep those two issues distinct. I have been. You won't misinterpret what I've been saying here if you understand these kinds of distinctions. Likewise you also won't assume I have ever said I endorse every aspect of our present political system. Even in this thread I have repeatedly denounced several aspects of it, and I've been even more vocal on those points elsewhere.

You just need to keep reminding yourself that reality is not black and white. "Sucks" is not a synonym of "Evil."

Richard Carrier said...

Psychadelicfuse81 said... So your argument is this formally analysed:

P1: If expert testimony is known to be wrong sometimes, it has exactly zero epistemological merit.


No. But nice textbook example of a straw man fallacy.

Notice that even in your quote of me I said "exactly zero legal standing." Now compare what I said, with your P1. Hmmmm. What's wrong with this picture? I said something that's factually true. You turned it into something that I never said. Clever.

Now, when you actually pay attention to what I really said, we can proceed. But I'm not going to hold your hand and repeat myself here. Get it the first time, or go back and try again.

Richard Carrier said...

Psychadelicfuse81 said... There are operations in Libya involving members of the United States Armed Forces, and there is also logistical and financial support by way of the Pentagon.

And as I said, that in itself is irrelevant to the War Powers Act. You want to bootstrap the fulfillment of normal NATO treaty obligations into "an undeclared U.S. war on Libya." Such a bootstrap simply has no legal merit. We would be in violation of treaty if we didn't do these things, and the WPA cannot force us to violate a treaty signed before the WPA.

Congress could unilaterally withdraw from NATO, or directly pull U.S. funding for Libyan operations. That they don't is simply the way democracy works. That some congressmen don't like being outvoted does not make their being outvoted a crime.

So to this extent you are still confusing normal NATO funding and staffing (which we are legally obligated to do) with "dropping bombs on Libya." Whether the U.S. is doing the latter is the evidential issue. Certainly, now that we've passed the 90 day mark, Congress would now have to authorize that, as your cited CRS report says (there are some exceptions, e.g. we could bomb an Al Qaeda troop in Libya, as Congress has already authorized that). But if that isn't happening, there isn't anything for Congress to authorize. Its only options are withdrawal from NATO, or rescission of funding. The WPA no longer applies.

Unless Obama has been lying. And he might be (I'll follow up in the next post with where the evidence stands on that). Although I personally doubt it, Congress could find out if it actually cared. It doesn't. And that's what really pisses off the minority legislators pulling that political stunt of a lawsuit. They are being outvoted by default. But that's what happens in a democracy. You will often get outvoted. You can't refuse to accept that and still claim to believe in a democracy.

Indeed, from your last post, it seems you have conceded almost every argument here, as you now claim not to be accusing Obama of being a war criminal anymore, but merely suggesting it's something "interesting to think about." That's fine if you plan to write novels. But as a basis for voting, it's weak tea.

Otherwise, the only way we'll know is if Congress cares to know. What they say is just political posturing. What they do indicates what their desires actually are. If they desired to press the issue of putting the Libya action to a vote (either to approve it or impeach over it), they would. They haven't, so obviously they don't really care.

As a voter, you are welcome to lobby your congress to care. But I predict that if they were convinced to act at all, they'd really just approve the Libya actions by majority vote. Because the majority would never vote any other way.

I thus think it's politically foolish of Obama not to put it to a vote. But then, I often find him making little mistakes like that. As to what he is doing, apart from the law, I have no objection to it. But I've already made my case for that, and that's just my vote as a citizen. How I think we should vote is a separate issue from what laws have been broken. You need to start keeping those distinctions clear yourself. You also need to keep distinct how things stood before the 90 day deadline, and after. I worry you will start conflating the two circumstances. You were wrong about the state of things before that deadline. You may well also be wrong about the state of things after it. Evidence decides, not opinions.

Richard Carrier said...

Is Obama Lying? There might be evidence that Obama is lying to Congress about U.S. involvement in the NATO action. This is implied by The Air Force Times, but even from its own cited evidence it's unclear whether any manned strike missions continued after the WPA deadline of June 19, or if any drone strikes are being operated by U.S. command (rather than foreign command). So the evidence of a real violation is not yet in. But this is certainly something Congress could determine, were it really concerned to (see previous post).

If either manned U.S. fighter strikes are still occurring, or drone attacks are being run under a U.S. command (rather than, e.g., French or British command, using borrowed equipment and staff--reporters tend to confuse U.S. drones operated by NATO with U.S. drones operated by the U.S., apparently unaware that there is a difference, both actually and legally), that should be an impeachable offense at this point (at the very least it would warrant an impeachment proceeding), if Congress deemed it so (since they could approve the actions by majority vote, whether the actions are impeachable depends on whether they specifically don't approve them).

That's where the reality stands at this point. And it's very ambiguous, as reality tends to be.

psychadelicfuse81 said...

A very quick follow-up.

Sorry about the strawman, it was not intentional. I accidentally misread your words, taking "legal standing" to imply something equivalent to the "medical standing" of a doctor's testimony (i.e. credibility). I am not proud of it.

You made a plausible case overall, but I remain in disagreement over some fundamental points.

The War Powers Act only gives a treaty the power to override if it explicitly says so. Neither the NATO treaty nor the UNPA unambiguously give the commander-in-chief executive power to diss Congress and unilaterally committ forces to hostilities. I know this is an assertion, but I have provided evidence for each in previous posts, either directly, or via linked reports. It is notable that neither the WH nor the Office of Legal Counsel have never ever used the treaty argument to justify their activities. Not once. Ever. I actually emailed Glenn Greenwald asking him if the treaties do give the POTUSA an excuse to go past 90 days. His reply barely concealed his incredulity. In his words: "Nobody takes the argument serious - as I just told you - did you ignore it? - not even the WH, its lawyers, or the OLC - in all the times they offered justifications for what they're doing - even alluded to, let alone relied upon, the UN treaty argument. Shouldn't that tell you something about that argument???"

Therefore, the White House's only recourse is to redefine the meaning of the word "hostilities." I also argued against this in previous posts, buttressed by sources and evidence.

Lastly, I am still puzzled by your outrage over the civil suit. An 'assault on democracy' can only occur when government policies are implemented in spite of the public's opposition (e.g. if SS and Medicare were overhauled, or if the US withdrew from the UN). The survey I linked to showed the public was on the side of the plaintiffs. Ironically, to proclaim the suit as "undemocratic", you have to exclude the totality of opinion, i.e. you have to disregard what the population thinks as fanciful and irrelevant. That is reprehensible to me. Not admirable.

That's it--my case wrapped up in a nutshell.

By now it is obvious that Obama is not going to be impeached. From the start I had low expectations, opting to think in realistic, pragmatic terms, putting it into proper perspective, ruefully conceding to myself that the analogous episodes in political history gave little reason to be hopeful that justice would be served.

There is a good chance that he may not be back for a second term. Despite what I have been saying, I think it will be disastrous for the USA. Not because I think he is a fantastic progressive who wants to bring about real Change(tm) for the people, but because the opposing party are a bunch of illogical, factless, theocratic nutcases who are not fit to run a mental hospital, let alone the executive branch of the world's main superpower.

gnosis21 said...

czrpb said... "Listen up, new battalion SOP (standing operating procedure) from now on: Anytime your convoy gets hit by an IED, I want 360 degree rotational fire. You kill every [expletive] in the street!"

Richard said: Where is your evidence that that was ever a U.S. military tactic in Iraq or Afghanistan? You seem to be confusing movies with reality here.

Richard, he is not confusing movies with reality. He provided you with evidence at the following link:

http://salon.com/a/scT0fAA

There is a video of US soldier Ethan McCord talking about this available on YouTube and on Wikileaks' website.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kelmEZe8whI

http://www.collateralmurder.com/

Richard Carrier said...

psychadelicfuse81 said... It is notable that neither the WH nor the Office of Legal Counsel have never ever used the treaty argument to justify their activities. Not once. Ever.

Yes they did. In their original notification of congress (they explicitly cited the UN treaty, in detail). In their refusal to ask for congressional approval later, they didn't need to (because there is no longer any actionable involvement in the war). Your query to Greenwald is thus moot: you were asking if one could continue a war past the 90 day mark. But that's confusing the situation when I wrote this blog, and the situation now: there is no war. I've called you on this conflation fallacy several times now.

The survey I linked to showed the public was on the side of the plaintiffs.

You're missing my point. If the public disagrees with its representatives, the constitution gives them a democratic recourse: vote them out. It does not permit the public to overrule their own representatives. What the constitution says is that the majority vote of congress represents the people's choice (and there are good reasons for this: congress has access to information the public does not--largely by choice, which is why public polls are useless, since polling a willfully ignorant populace is the worst form of democracy conceivable). Thus for a minority of Congress to want to use the courts to make their vote override the majority of Congress is indeed an usurpation of democracy (an outright perversion in fact). They won't succeed for precisely that reason: as the courts will tell them, what they are attempting to do is simply illegitimate.

Not because I think he is a fantastic progressive who wants to bring about real Change(tm) for the people, but because the opposing party are a bunch of illogical, factless, theocratic nutcases who are not fit to run a mental hospital, let alone the executive branch of the world's main superpower.

On both points I quite agree. Indeed, after his recent botching of the tax debate, I've just downgraded him to a C+ president: just barely above average. (The "above" coming from the many things he actually has done that were stalled and would have remained so under a Republican, which list I'll blog about come election time, from finally letting gays serve in the military to restoring the pre-Bush food safety laws; even things Congress watered down, like credit card regulation, are still a significant improvement over the previous status quo; but slight progress is more than people expected, and though Congress is to blame for childishly opposing everything, there could have been a lot more boldly standing up to them and actual campaigning for new laws rather than expecting Congress to be reasonable, and that's where Obama has failed us, more than in any other way.)

Richard Carrier said...

RE: "Where is your evidence that that was ever a U.S. military tactic in Iraq or Afghanistan?"

gnosis21: You just believe whatever supports your assumptions, without even bothering to check its plausibility? Or its logic?

The video you link to doesn't support the claim. It doesn't show the tactic I was doubting, but engagement errors by a helicopter crew (and that under Bush), not a response to an IED attack by ground troops, much less any official tactic or illegal order. That you didn't even notice the contradiction is why I don't trust claims like this.

If the things that McCord said (but had no video of) happened (i.e. the order regarding IED response tactics), they are indeed war crimes (or at the very least illegal orders), but certainly not policy from above (I don't believe even Bush would have endorsed that--and indeed the actual rules of engagement ordered by both Obama and Bush thoroughly contradict McCord, so McCord was essentially accusing his battalion commander of disobeying the direct orders of his superiors). And McCord's description of what they then did (choosing to disobey an illegal order) would have survived courts martial as perfectly legal. (In fact, McCord does not report any actual crime, since he says soldiers disobeyed the order he claims was being given.)

But that's just one guy. All the objective evidence shows that Bush and Obama explicitly ordered the contrary: Petraeus even relaxed the Bush rules of engagement (see also the Time report as well as the Marine Corps Times) and yet even his rules do not support McCord's statement. In fact, all the evidence we have shows that the actual rules of engagement were regarded by all other soldiers as being over protective of possible harm to civilians (that's debatable [see, for example, another soldier's perspective on what orders he was given, and everyone else he knew, and this has been the common sentiment of all other troops], but the point is, this is the exact opposite of "indiscriminate 360 rotational fire," which is simply not what anyone else was seeing or reporting, and exactly contrary to what any of the actual documented orders show). I thus simply don't believe McCord. Every other soldier I know, and every objective piece of evidence contradicts him, and the only evidence he ever presents is of an error, not the tactic he was describing being ordered to deploy. It's also intrinsically dubious, since the point of IEDs is to not be near the attack when it happens, so why would anyone think there were insurgents to shoot, much less in all directions, after an IED attack? It makes no sense.

czrpb said...

quick 1st: "In fact, McCord does not report any actual crime, since he says soldiers disobeyed the order he claims was being given." Is not the order itself a crime? Planning to kill someone is a crime right? Is the military that much different?

but, this is why i wrote earlier that i am not sure how to reply anymore and honestly do not listen to you on such topics (though i am an idiot.)

my understanding of war, combat, etc. is that they are pretty fucked up, ie. full of what you call "errors". my understanding that this is not uncommon. but you want "objective" evidence for each and every assertion. for you it seems the history of war does not allow me to infer that the likelihood is great (to certain) that there are a plethora of "errors".

another example, my understanding is that EVERY bombing campaign (vs. 1 or 2 times) has killed at least 1 non-combatant. thus, i would like to infer that current bombing campaigns have kill at least 1 non-combatant. i would like to infer that the next bombing campaign will kill at least 1 non-combatant.

i feel though you will not assent to my inference. i feel you do so, basically because we (America) are the good guys to you, everything "bad" we (America) do are "errors", and while you will never use an absolute we (America) are as perfect as humanly possible which is what gives the right to have our military engaged or embedded in nearly every country in the world.

gnosis21 said...

Richard: The video you link to doesn't support the claim. It doesn't show the tactic I was doubting, but engagement errors by a helicopter crew (and that under Bush), not a response to an IED attack by ground troops, much less any official tactic or illegal order. That you didn't even notice the contradiction is why I don't trust claims like this.

The helicopter video had nothing whatsoever to do with what I was saying. The only point I was defending was that there was an eyewitness report by a U.S. soldier for the illegal order about the IED. That’s it. I never even brought anything up about the helicopter video. So I would appreciate if you’d be more charitable instead of assuming that I’m such a complete and total idiot that I wouldn’t have noticed there was a contradiction.

Richard: But that's just one guy. All the objective evidence shows that Bush and Obama explicitly ordered the contrary…

It doesn’t follow that simply because an order is given it is necessarily obeyed.

Richard: In fact, all the evidence we have shows that the actual rules of engagement were regarded by all other soldiers as being over protective of possible harm to civilians…

We should distinguish between the official rules of engagement and the rules that are actually given on the ground and only reported in eyewitness testimonies from soldiers (my sources are numerous, so I’m putting them in the subsequent post). The sources you cite are talking about the official rules of engagement.

Richard: It's also intrinsically dubious, since the point of IEDs is to not be near the attack when it happens, so why would anyone think there were insurgents to shoot, much less in all directions, after an IED attack? It makes no sense.

I don’t know. But whether the order seems ridiculous or not says nothing about whether the order was actually given. It’s understandable that if you’re under an incredible amount of stress you might give out a stupid order.

gnosis21 said...

Richard: …but the point is, this is the exact opposite of "indiscriminate 360 rotational fire," which is simply not what anyone else was seeing or reporting, and exactly contrary to what any of the actual documented orders show. I thus simply don't believe McCord. Every other soldier I know, and every objective piece of evidence contradicts him, and the only evidence he ever presents is of an error, not the tactic he was describing being ordered to deploy.

Very few soldiers are honest about the kinds of things that happen during wartime. Perhaps you don’t know any personally, but my brother once had a friend who went to Iraq. He told me that one of the rules they had in Iraq was to kill anyone who had a cell phone (since apparently you can set off IEDs with cell phones), and civilians were frequently the ones who were targeted. He also said that soldiers are trained to believe that Iraqis are not human. Of course, you’re not supposed to talk about this, and even if you were few people are going to want to share this information.

There are several corroborating eyewitness accounts of illegal orders being given, carried out, and covered up by the military. There may not be any corroborating evidence for McCord’s claim in particular, because much of what happens over there goes undocumented. Of course, if crimes are routinely being covered up, they won’t find their way into news reports—journalists are almost never given firsthand access to that kind of information.
In the case of war the most extensive and reliable evidence we can possibly have is from the soldiers themselves, who see everything that goes on during wartime. I am basing my claims off of their testimonies, which are posted below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vwoVOSdElx4&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZuJbZ-SVqHA&feature=related (part 1 of 9)

http://www.youtube.com/ivaw#p/c/CBB6996B83EB96FD/0/Iqc6z8Y4zbY (part 1 of 6)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fYz5gawnUeY&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1rYIDYYmBQw&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H0QYoGynjjc&feature=related

gnosis21 said...

I said: He told me that one of the rules they had in Iraq was to kill anyone who had a cell phone (since apparently you can set off IEDs with cell phones), and civilians were frequently the ones who were targeted.

Just to clarify, I didn't word this very well. I absolutely don't mean to say that civilians were intentionally targeted--just that they were not properly distinguished from actual threats.

gnosis21 said...

Also, in this video two more soldiers corroborate McCord's claim about "indiscriminate 360 degree rotational fire":

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JhScS0lKcZk&feature=related

Also I wanted to address this comment you made: "If the things that McCord said (but had no video of) happened (i.e. the order regarding IED response tactics), they are indeed war crimes (or at the very least illegal orders), but certainly not policy from above." Just to be clear it seems as if you're saying here that I'm trying to use this as evidence that Obama is a war criminal, but I'm not. I never made such a claim. (I guess I forgot the whole point of this post was debating whether Obama is a war criminal!)

Richard Carrier said...

czrpb said… Is not the order itself a crime?

Possibly. That depends on how UN war crimes laws are written. Since I don't know, I left that open. At the very least, if the story is true, it's actionable insubordination (since his battalion commander was going against the explicit general orders of his commander in chief).

Planning to kill someone is a crime right? Is the military that much different?

I don't know what this remark refers to. All war constitutes planning to kill people. Not all war is a crime.

My understanding of war, combat, etc. is that they are pretty fucked up, ie. full of what you call "errors".

That is certainly true. But even non-war contexts are full of what we call "errors." Planes crash. Cranes crush people. Levies break. Pedestrians get hit by buses. Kids die of allergic reactions to properly prescribed drugs. Etc. Thus we must weigh the costs and benefits. I agree we are over-eager to go to war, because the American public is insulated from the actual costs (not just in casualties and destruction, but plain old money as well). But that's a wholly separate issue from whether Obama is a war criminal (remember what this thread is about).

You want "objective" evidence for each and every assertion.

No, I want reliable evidence of dubious assertions that sound inherently implausible and contradict all the objective evidence there is.

So should you.

For you it seems the history of war does not allow me to infer that the likelihood is great (to certain) that there are a plethora of "errors".

Not at all. The claim I was addressing was not of an error, but of an explicitly dictated and deliberate tactic. Errors are not war crimes. They are therefore irrelevant to this thread.

I would like to infer that current bombing campaigns have kill at least 1 non-combatant.

Likewise when we defeated Hitler and Japan. If you are a devout Quaker and would sooner be enslaved or killed and let all other people be enslaved or killed lest "1 non-combatant" die, then we are simply radically different in our value structures. Which is fine, because this is a democracy and you can vote your side and I mine and that's the way it should be. But don't convert your value system into "everyone who disagrees with my values is a war criminal." That's just absurd. And factually untrue.

I feel you do so, basically because we (America) are the good guys to you, everything "bad" we (America) do are "errors", and while you will never use an absolute we (America) are as perfect as humanly possible which is what gives the right to have our military engaged or embedded in nearly every country in the world.

Now you are letting your delusions show. All I have presented is a fair and reasonable position. All you see is instead weird false generalizations, declaring I have said things that in fact I have not. When have I ever said "everything bad we do are errors" rather than simply discuss and ask what evidence we have to adjudicate between errors and crimes? Indeed, when did I ever say "we are as perfect as humanly possible" rather than, as I have actually done, repeatedly mention our fallibility and the wrongness of many of our decisions, e.g. the Iraq war?

Richard Carrier said...

Doing the Right Math

gnosis21 said… The sources you cite are talking about the official rules of engagement.

Which are general orders from the commander in chief, aka Obama. Since this thread is about whether Obama is a war criminal, I hope you can now concede the point. I realize you lost track of that, but please remember, I have not. You seem to assume that when I say something I am addressing something else, but I am only speaking to that issue. Always interpret my remarks in that context.

Very few soldiers are honest about the kinds of things that happen during wartime.

So all soldiers are liars. Except the one you cite.

Catch a flaw in your argument?

I happen to know several veterans personally. I have absolutely no reason to consider them liars. Indeed, even the records show that all other soldiers report exactly the opposite orders from their commanders. The probability that ten soldiers are lying (or "in error" about what really happened) is vastly less than that only one is. And you only have one soldier attesting your actual claim. Do the math. (The "two" others you add don't actually attest the claim you made, an epistemological error on your part, as I'll explain next--you seem prone to reifying your own hyperbole)

He told me that one of the rules they had in Iraq was to kill anyone who had a cell phone (since apparently you can set off IEDs with cell phones), and civilians were frequently the ones who were targeted. He also said that soldiers are trained to believe that Iraqis are not human.

Let's have him come on here and say that--that he was ordered to kill anyone who had a cellphone. Because I suspect either you or he has exaggerated the actual orders given, or confused what he did with what was ordered. Because I know what some actual orders have been regarding targeting threats like that--and from that knowledge I can confirm that the film Hurt Locker gives the most accurate depiction of the actual rules, orders, and behavior in that regard of any I've seen, and they don't corroborate the stupid order you just reported.

I absolutely don't mean to say that civilians were intentionally targeted--just that they were not properly distinguished from actual threats.

What would be "properly" distinguishing them? The actual laws of war allow killing an innocent validly believed to be a threat. For example, if you order a civilian to drop a cell phone and they don't, and you have valid grounds to believe there is a bomb in the vicinity, you are authorized, by law, to shoot them. Even police officers in peacetime can have a valid defense in court under those conditions. It's tragic, but there really isn't any "better" way to proceed. It's straightforward cost-benefit: a few innocents killed vs. hundreds. The Trolly Problem is not such a fiction. As long as you follow good rules of engagement, there will be many times more lives saved than lost (e.g. even if you kill one innocent "cell phone holder" for every two not-innocent "cell phone holders" and the average IED kills ten people, for every innocent person you kill, you save twenty innocent people from being killed). The only question is, what ratio of lost to saved shall we consider acceptable, and what is the actual ratio of lost to saved. All war is predicated on this math. Again, unless you are a devout Quaker who rejects all war whatever, even you accept this math. You just don't do the math. Whereas if you are a devout Quaker and oppose all war, that does not give you the right to declare all war a crime and all who go to war criminals.

Richard Carrier said...

Cleaning Up Your Epistemological Method

gnosis21 said… There are several corroborating eyewitness accounts of illegal orders being given, carried out, and covered up by the military.

Sure. But what has that to do with this specific case, or whether Obama is a war criminal? Don't fish for desperately irrelevant premises. Stick to the actual point at issue.

Of course, if crimes are routinely being covered up, they won’t find their way into news reports—journalists are almost never given firsthand access to that kind of information.

Spoken like a true conspiracy theorist. "There is no evidence because it is always covered up." How on earth can you ever escape that hall of mirrors? You can prove any claim you want once you start down that road.

I am basing my claims off of their testimonies, which are posted below

None of which corroborate the claim you made (of an officially ordered tactic of indiscriminate 360 degree rotational fire in civilian areas after an IED attack), nor, again, have they anything to do with whether Obama is a war criminal.

Also, in this video two more soldiers corroborate McCord's claim about "indiscriminate 360 degree rotational fire"

Actually, no. They are talking about being outside civilian areas (note the mention of shooting up "the landscape" and "farmers" being mistaken as soldiers--no mention of indiscriminate 360 rotational fire in cities or towns), where indeed the tactic makes sense (since an IED could then prelude an ambush, and no civilians are believed to be present). This may in fact be the confusion McCord fell victim to, editing his memory to vindicate his views, when in actual fact his orders only pertained to conditions where civilians weren't present and ambush threats were real. That sometimes soldiers don't do due diligence in deciding whether a "farmer" is an enemy combatant is surely a reality, and a problem to be addressed (and I know cases when it was), but it isn't an order, it isn't a tactic, and it doesn't have anything to do with Obama. It's a failure of discipline and protocol. And that we need to elevate our discipline and protocol in wartime is certainly true, and Obama has not neglected this fact (soldiers receive Ethics Training for improving adherence to official rules of engagement and this is now a standard component of basic training as well as enhanced training on deployment, and what happens to some isolated soldiers is not necessarily typical across all teams in the field--that eternal problem of "anecdotal evidence" vs. actual data is not just a problem for skeptics facing miracle claims, but any claims whatever, which is why you need to develop ways to check yourself against confirmation bias).

psychadelicfuse81 said...

Well, it looks like Qaddafi is out.

Oil companies in the NATO-based countries are most likely going to be receiving special treatment in regards to access to the oilfields within Libya.

We just have to hope that the Libyan people do not allow their new government to impose radical neoliberal policies. They deserve better.

psychadelicfuse81 said...

There's some pretty good commentary I just read here. Doesn't really mention Obama, but is interesting nonetheless.

Lamplighter Jones said...

Richard (8 July): Again, you don't seem to have noticed this.

We are not in Libya any more. We have no ships engaged there, no planes engaged there, are not firing a single shot or dropping a single bomb. NATO is.


CNN, Yesterday: U.S. has nearly doubled air attacks on Libya in past 12 days

Washington (CNN) -- As the rebels in Libya push closer to ending the regime of embattled Col. Moammar Gadhafi, U.S. warplanes have been increasing their attacks on government positions as part of the NATO campaign.

New numbers released by the Pentagon on Monday show that the number of U.S. air attacks on Libyan air defenses, ground forces and other targets has nearly doubled over the past 12 days, compared with air attacks in the first 132 days of the NATO mission.


http://www.cnn.com/2011/POLITICS/08/22/us.libya.costs/index.html

Richard Carrier said...

psychadelicfuse81 said…

Oil companies in the NATO-based countries are most likely going to be receiving special treatment in regards to access to the oilfields within Libya.

Probably. But no more so than they already do in, e.g., Saudi Arabia and other OPEC nations. If Libya remains in OPEC (and it likely will, e.g. Egypt extensively armed the rebels and thus may be seen as their closest ally in the region) no NATO countries will be able to dictate policy there. All they can do is try to cut deals. Which is all any oil company can do, no matter what country they're from. Unfortunately the U.S. government can't really affect that process (even Congress could only legislate how American companies behave, and precisely because that would give us a trade disadvantage in competing with Europe, they won't).

Basically, if the Libyans get screwed, it won't be any more unusual than when you or anyone else gets screwed by a business deal. We should certainly hope they are savvy in their negotiation, and if OPEC has any brains (and it does) they will likely send experts to help them with that.

We just have to hope that the Libyan people do not allow their new government to impose radical neoliberal policies. They deserve better.

The phrase "radical neoliberal policies" (aka total capitalism) is a fake threat. There is no such thing, and no state on earth is governed that way, nor will any state ever be. I wouldn't worry about it. Imposition of sharia law is actually more probable (and that's already pretty improbable).

Lamplighter Jones said... …ground forces and other targets has nearly doubled over the past 12 days…

Drones. No fighter planes, no personnel. And those drones were commanded by NATO, not the U.S.

psychadelicfuse81 said...

Richard,

I was being a little hyperbolic in referring to "radical" neoliberal policies. NATO helped the rebels big time--they expect to be payed back, and they probably will. NATO represents some big players who stand to gain from privatization (and there will be much to privatize in Libya).

We will see though. The war is not over yet; things could go a million different ways from here.

gnosis21 said...

Before I start addressing your claims I would just like to say that you have unknowingly been missing my main point. To refresh your memory lets go back a ways. Several posts ago “czrpb” gave this quote from Ethan McCord:

"Listen up, new battalion SOP (standing operating procedure) from now on: Anytime your convoy gets hit by an IED, I want 360 degree rotational fire. You kill every [expletive] in the street!"

You responded to it by saying: “Where is your evidence that that was ever a U.S. military tactic in Iraq or Afghanistan? You seem to be confusing movies with reality here.”

My point was simply and only that he wasn’t confusing “movies with reality,” as you put it, but that this was an actual report by a real soldier. Now whether this report is accurate or not is a different story, and is completely irrelevant to my point. (Of course I believe it to be accurate, which is why I cited two other soldiers confirming that this was an order, but I’ll address that later).

Now to address your arguments…

gnosis21 said: The sources you cite are talking about the official rules of engagement.

Richard said: Which are general orders from the commander in chief, aka Obama. Since this thread is about whether Obama is a war criminal, I hope you can now concede the point. I realize you lost track of that, but please remember, I have not. You seem to assume that when I say something I am addressing something else, but I am only speaking to that issue. Always interpret my remarks in that context.

Yes, my mistake. I said that in my last post.

gnosis21 said: Very few soldiers are honest about the kinds of things that happen during wartime.

Richard said: So all soldiers are liars. Except the one you cite.

When did I ever claim that all soldiers are liars except the ones I cited? I’m not making any universal claims here. I’m simply saying that there are several soldiers who don’t feel comfortable sharing some of the things that go on during wartime. If they happened to kill civilians or witness other soldiers killing civilians during wartime most of them are not going to come home talking about it to their friends and family. Also, I wasn’t just talking about Ethan McCord, I was talking about crimes committed by the military in general, for which I cited numerous sources, not just one.

Richard said: I happen to know several veterans personally. I have absolutely no reason to consider them liars. Indeed, even the records show that all other soldiers report exactly the opposite orders from their commanders. The probability that ten soldiers are lying (or "in error" about what really happened) is vastly less than that only one is. And you only have one soldier attesting your actual claim. Do the math.

Different orders can be given in different units. I have no doubt that there were probably several units that were never given illegal orders, my point was simply and only that some have. You aren’t claiming that just because you personally are unaware of anyone who was given illegal orders that therefore no illegal orders have ever been given, are you?

gnosis21 said...

gnosis21 said: He told me that one of the rules they had in Iraq was to kill anyone who had a cell phone (since apparently you can set off IEDs with cell phones), and civilians were frequently the ones who were targeted. He also said that soldiers are trained to believe that Iraqis are not human.

Richard said: Let's have him come on here and say that--that he was ordered to kill anyone who had a cellphone. Because I suspect either you or he has exaggerated the actual orders given, or confused what he did with what was ordered.

I wasn’t there, so I can’t double-check the veracity of his claim, but that is precisely what he said, so you can take it or leave it. Again, I’m not claiming that this was the case for every unit that was ever deployed—this order may have only been given only to certain units under certain circumstances. Also, just a clarification, he never said that he or other soldiers carried out these orders (whether or not anyone did I don’t know), simply that this order was given.

Richard said: Because I know what some actual orders have been regarding targeting threats like that--and from that knowledge I can confirm that the film Hurt Locker gives the most accurate depiction of the actual rules, orders, and behavior in that regard of any I've seen, and they don't corroborate the stupid order you just reported.

Hurt Locker was written by an embedded journalist (Mark Boal). If you want documentation of illegal orders you’d have much better luck finding them in accounts of unembedded journalists or from soldiers.


gnosis21 said: I absolutely don't mean to say that civilians were intentionally targeted--just that they were not properly distinguished from actual threats.

Richard said: What would be "properly" distinguishing them? The actual laws of war allow killing an innocent validly believed to be a threat.

By “properly distinguish” I mean what the rules of engagement state, which is:

“All personnel must ensure that, prior to any engagement, non-combatants and civilian structures are distinguished from proper military targets. Positive Identification (PID) is required prior to engagement. PID is a reasonable certainty that the individual or object of attack is a legitimate military target in accordance with these ROE. Military operations will be conducted, in so far as possible, to ensure that incidental injury to civilians and collateral damage to civilian objects are minimized.”

Richard said: For example, if you order a civilian to drop a cell phone and they don't, and you have valid grounds to believe there is a bomb in the vicinity, you are authorized, by law, to shoot them.

Yes, IF you order the civilian to drop the phone and they don’t. According to my brother’s friend this is not what happened. (But again, like I said, if I’m unable to find any corroborating accounts of this I will rescind my point).

gnosis21 said...

gnosis21 said: There are several corroborating eyewitness accounts of illegal orders being given, carried out, and covered up by the military.

Richard said: Sure. But what has that to do with this specific case, or whether Obama is a war criminal? Don't fish for desperately irrelevant premises. Stick to the actual point at issue.

I already admitted that I forgot this post was about whether Obama is a war criminal, so don’t accuse me of fishing for “desperately irrelevant premises.”


gnosis21 said: Of course, if crimes are routinely being covered up, they won’t find their way into news reports—journalists are almost never given firsthand access to that kind of information.

Richard said: Spoken like a true conspiracy theorist. "There is no evidence because it is always covered up." How on earth can you ever escape that hall of mirrors? You can prove any claim you want once you start down that road.

You’re straw-manning my claim. I never said “there is no evidence because it is always covered up.” I simply said that if crimes are being covered up, they won’t find their way into news reports, so I gave you eyewitness accounts by the soldiers themselves, which is evidence (I could have given more evidence but I’m too lazy to fish through it all. If you’re interested you can look at reports from unembedded journalists or read through the war logs on Wikileaks). Now of course there are crimes that do make it into news reports, but in that case they wouldn’t be covered up, would they?


gnosis21 said: Also, in this video two more soldiers corroborate McCord's claim about "indiscriminate 360 degree rotational fire"

Richard said: Actually, no. They are talking about being outside civilian areas (note the mention of shooting up "the landscape" and "farmers" being mistaken as soldiers--no mention of indiscriminate 360 rotational fire in cities or towns)…

Watch the video again, they never specified whether they were outside of civilian areas or not; and even if they were, indiscriminate fire against civilians is still illegal. They never said that there were different orders given in different locations, nor did they say that farmers were “mistaken” for soldiers; they said that civilians were killed indiscriminately. Your imagination seems to be at work here.

Jon said...

Richard, you write:

More Manning Bullshit

Jon said... They call his name every 5 minutes and make him answer to prevent sleeping during the day

Richard - That's quite a lie. You need to stop repeating myths and legends and actually try looking for real documentation before rereating patent falsehoods like that. That you trust such bullshit completely erases any trust I can have in you as a relayer of accurate information.

You don't think to do at least minimal research before accusing me of lying? This is reported in the NY Times, the Independent, by Glenn Greenwald (primarily responsible for bringing this story to the public's attention), by Firedog Lake, and a myriad of other sources. Even if I'm wrong and this is all a big conspiracy, why go the evangelical apologist route and immediately accuse someone that disagrees with you of lying? It's obvious to me that you have an emotional commitment to this position and just cannot address these issues dispassionately and without ad hominem diatribes.

Richard - This is the most absurd thing you've said about this case. I want you to sit and think about this one for awhile. Carpet burns. What does it take to get one of those?

One person has been allowed to visit Manning as a friend in prison and I'm reporting what he said. Why take away a man's clothes and make him sleep in carpet? It's not the kind of carpet burn you get when you literally cut yourself on carpet, but it's a way of describing the discomfort. Torture from our government often involves seemingly modest discomfort extended for months on end. I think describing it as a carpet burn is appropriate, though it's true that these vary in intensity. But why are you focusing on how he's just being a baby and ignoring the larger issue. He's being subjected to unpleasant conditions in violation of the UCMJ. Maybe you have a vision of Obama that this treatment conflicts with, which explains your frequent use of ad hominem and emotionally laden replies.

Jon said...

Jon said... When I say "as far as I can tell" the Libyans don't want our help ... which fact that I've presented is wrong?

Richard - That any of this pertained to when we went in.

I wasn't talking about when we went in. I said "it's worth noting that it's not clear they want our help." You say it doesn't pertain to when we went in. So what? I wasn't addressing that. I was addressing how we should act right now. So once again I ask, which fact did I present that was wrong?

Richard - That's why I said I have quotations showing them saying exactly that: that U.S. intervention is welcome as long as it does not lead to a U.S.

You have quotations? And you think that's enough to establish that as a whole Libyans want us there? Are you serious?

Richard - You actually trust Pakistani news sources?

Those primitive rubes, how can we believe anything they say? Instead we'll read up on tales of Jessica Lynch single handedly fighting back against the enemy, Pat Tillman was killed by enemy fire as he charged the hill, and only Iraq could be responsible for the anthrax attack.

The NY Times is far more credible. That's why the front page of the NY Times repeated government propaganda that Saddam had stepped up his nuclear program. I mean seriously, do people never learn? I didn't accept the Pakistani source uncritically. You quoted me as saying it could all be lies. But US media has a tendency to likewise spout our government's talking points.

Richard - Good luck with getting North Korea and Iran and Al Qaeda and Qadaffi and Assad and all that happy bunch to comply.

Yeah, that's a standard commissar tactic intended to prevent us from looking at our own mistakes. Seriously, that's precisely what the Soviet Union did when dissidents said they should take a look at themselves and stop engaging in crimes, like the invasion of Afghanistan. "But look at how bad America is!!" So I can say we should stop sending arms to Colombian paramilitaries. "But Ahmadinejad denies the Holocaust." Who cares man, look at what we're doing. And by the way I don't recall Iran invading another country since at least the Shah days and he was a US backed dictator.

Richard - Because we can't just leave. Bush stuck us in a pickle jar. Getting out of it isn't simply a matter of pulling out. The harm to all our local friends would be severe. This was proved by what happened to our local allies when Bush Sr. pulled out after the first Iraq war after promising to support the rebels against Hussein. Thousands were murdered.

That was a bit different. Bush called on the Shiites to rebel and when they did he assisted Saddam's efforts to crush them. He also specifically authorized Saddam to put that rebellion down violently. The point there was to apply additional pressure on Saddam to leave Kuwait, but when that was accomplished of course our government greatly feared democracy in the region, preferring Saddam instead. So once again what you have here is massive death (hundreds of thousands killed in fact, not just thousands) and that could have been prevented if it didn't have the support of the US. That's more evidence that we should leave.

One last important point. Obama's top lawyers reject his excuse making on Libya, including the claim that there are no "hostilities". Obama's war here is illegal according to the Office of Legal Council and the Attorney General Eric Holder. But Obama has rejected their opinions in favor of lower level attorneys.

Jon said...

Just one more here. Here's a statement from candidate Obama in late 2007. He was asked whether the President has the authority to bomb Iran. Here is what he said in reply:

"the President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation."

Bush had John Yoo and Obama now has Harold Koh. When you aren't getting the info from the lawyers that you like, fish around until you find one that will say the right thing. Koh was asked to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee where he was asked to tell us what Obama's position was. Was it the President's 2007 statement? Isn't that Obama's view. Nope. That position is not "legally correct". Watch here. Candidate Obama thinks this Libyan invasion is unconstitutional. President Obama takes precisely the opposite position.

Richard Carrier said...

Jon, I already answered that last bogus argument here months ago.

As to two of a dozen state lawyers taking a dissenting opinion, that's disingenuous. This happens on the Supreme Court all the time. The minority opinion is by definition not the law, the majority opinion is. Note that the Supreme Court is almost never unanimous, even on things that should be obvious like basic constitutional freedoms. Thus that there is a minority dissent in any team of lawyers does not in itself mean anything. That many more top lawyers said Obama was legally correct cannot be ignored, as if a minority trumps a majority just because the minority agrees with you. This is that tendency to ignore democracy I pointed out earlier. People like you seem to be little autocrats without an army: the majority is always wrong, whenever it disagrees with you. May you never have the power to enforce your will on the rest of us.

gnosis21, you're just repeating yourself at this point and ignoring what I have actually said. Indeed in some cases you even argue for a point as being against me that in fact I myself had already argued for! There doesn't seem to be any further chance of fruitful discussion.

Richard Carrier said...

Note to all: I am soon retiring my blogger account and thus locking all posts, so no further comments can be made. I will announce my new blog location later this week. Anyone who wants to continue discussions unfinished here will have the opportunity to initiate them anew after my inaugural post. But you will have to wait out the delay as I close out this account and get the other up and running. I apologize for the inconvenience.