From Nuremberg to Guantánamo

International Law and American Power Politics

by Lisa Hajjar
published in MER229

All that is needed to achieve total political domination is to kill the juridical in humankind.
-- Hannah Arendt, On the Origins of Totalitarianism

In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks on the US, George W. Bush used terms like "punishment" and "justice" to assert what his administration would make happen and why. Using such legalistic terms was the logical means of legitimizing the American state's planned response to the violence. This logic became all the more apparent when Bush also used the distinctly non-legal term "crusade," for which he was roundly criticized.

From the Editors

published in MER229

"If Saddam had nuclear weapons, Iraq's geographic location at the head of the Persian Gulf would allow him to threaten the destruction of a number of targets of great importance to the United States. The Saudi oilfields are a particularly worrisome target." These lines do not come from a pilfered Halliburton notepad doodled upon by Dick Cheney before he was summoned to lend gravitas to George W. Bush's presidential ticket.

Elusive Justice

Trying to Try Saddam

by Joost Hiltermann
published in MER215

Saddam Hussein's regime has long been one of the world's worst human rights violators. But the international community largely ignored Iraq's record of human rights abuse -- brutal repression of internal dissent, atrocities during the eight-year war with Iran -- until after Hussein crossed the red line by sending his forces into Kuwait. Even since 1990, evidence of human rights violations has been marshaled solely to score political points or justify military action, and not to hold a vicious regime accountable for its crimes.

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From the Editor

published in MER255

During his second term, his approval rating heading stubbornly south, President George W. Bush was fond of comparing himself to Harry Truman. The dour Missourian, too, was “misunderestimated” -- lightly regarded when thrust onto the world stage and then raked over the coals for strike breaking and a stalemated war in Korea. Like Truman, Bush mused, he would be reviled in his own time only to be accorded great respect in popular history.

World Court's Ruling on Wall Speaks with Utmost Clarity

by Nidal Sliman | published July 27, 2004

The International Court of Justice has rendered its advisory opinion on "the legal consequences arising from the construction of the wall being built by Israel, the occupying power, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem." Though the near-term fate of the wall is unclear, subject as it is to international power politics, the Court's ruling, issued on July 9, speaks with the utmost clarity.

The Guantánamo "Black Hole"

The Law of War and the Sovereign Exception

by Scott Michaelsen , Scott Cutler Shershow | published January 11, 2004

Declining to Intervene

Israel's Supreme Court and the Occupied Territories

by Jonathan Cook | published August 4, 2003

On Settlement Trade, Europe Doesn't Stand Tall

by Peter Lagerquist | published April 8, 2003

The transatlantic rift over the war in Iraq, and now post-war reconstruction, builds on growing European disenchantment with muscular US unilateralism. French and German opposition to the war—echoing the sentiments of a majority of the European Union's member states—highlighted seemingly growing differences between European and American attachments to international laws and conventions, underscored by recent trade disputes and wrangling over US attempts to exempt its nationals from the jurisdiction of the new International Criminal Court. Differences between European capitals and Washington have been particularly acute as regards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel, the US and "Targeted Killings"

by Chris Toensing , Ian Urbina | published February 17, 2003

Six Hamas militants killed in a car explosion on February 16 were assassinated by Israel, Hamas claims. While Israel denies involvement in the deaths, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported on February 17 that Israel will assassinate other members of the military wing of Hamas as part of its planned lengthy incursion into Palestinian-controlled areas of the Gaza Strip to avenge four soldiers killed when Hamas blew up a tank near the town of Beit Lahiya in northern Gaza. Israel’s assassination policy is openly declared.