Blogs > Liberty and Power > Free Saddam Hussein!

Jun 29, 2004 2:21 am


Free Saddam Hussein!



[cross-posted at Austro-Athenian Empire]

According to Saddam Hussein's lawyer, by officially relinquishing sovereignty over Iraq before relinquishing custody over Hussein, the U.S. has legally committed itself to releasing Hussein. Since Hussein has prisoner-of-war status and has never been charged with a crime, the transfer of sovereignty automatically triggers a requirement under international law that he be set free.

Claiming no expertise in matters of international law, I'm not qualified to evaluate this argument. But no matter how legally airtight the argument might turn out to be, we all know there's not a chance in hell that the Bush régime would ever go along with it. Although Bush appealed to international law to justify invading Iraq in the first place, his real respect for international law is as bogus as the"sovereignty" that was handed over today.

Now don't get me wrong; I'm no great enthusiast for international law per se. It's mostly a bunch of agreements among criminal gangs, and as such has no inherent authority. But it does have some utility as a check on especially bad behaviour by such gangs, and it keeps alive the idea that there are standards of justice higher than the State. In the current global climate, with the United States trying to play Roman Empire to the world, external institutional restraints on its arbitrary power are to be welcomed.

A tepid cheer, then, for international law. And if international law says to free Saddam Hussein, then by all means free him. At this point, George Bush unleashed is a lot more dangerous than Saddam Hussein unleashed.

A rant on the GOP website titled International Law Treachery denounces those"shallow and dangerous elitists" who"help the terrorists" by letting niceties like international law get in the way of"absolute victory" in what to right-thinking Americans is a"war unlike any other," a"battle between the forces of good and evil."

Golly, that sounds familiar…. Remember, back in the 1950s and 60s, when conservatives used to say that anyone who talked about constitutional rights had to be a Communist? The Cold War was a"war unlike any other" too, a war in which ordinary legal protections had to be sacrificed for a greater goal. That was when William Buckley urged us to"accept Big Government for the duration," since"neither an offensive nor defensive war can be waged" against international Communism"except through the instrument of a totalitarian bureaucracy within our shores."

Which in turn sounds a lot like Lewis Mumford back in 1940, arguing that the United States must"temporarily" adopt fascism at home in order to combat fascism abroad. World War II, I guess, was yet another"war unlike any other." Come to think of it, haven't they all been?

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