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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

White House Drafts War Crimes Act Amendment


The Bush Administration continues its push to limit criminal prosecution of Americans who violate the Geneva Convention. There is something very wrong with the idea of, "We did something wrong. Let’s change the law so we don't get in trouble." It is scary that they think they can just change laws that get in their way. They are not even considering the fact that the War Crimes Act also creates a criminal offense when a foreigner violates the Geneva Convention on an American Citizen.

Former Justice Department lawyer John C. Yoo similarly said that U.S. soldiers and agents should "not be beholden to the definition of vague words by international or foreign courts, who often pursue nakedly political agendas at odds with the United States."

This is not about foreign courts, this is about American courts. An American statute cannot create a cause of action in an international or foreign court. It is outside our jurisdiction. The federal government would need to prosecute a case under this law. It would be tried in our courts, by our prosecutors, not by foreigners. It would need to be and egregious violation of the Geneva Convention for our government to prosecute under this law (hence the fact that no one has been). If anything, this does more to allow for prosecution of foreigners violating the Geneva Convention than for us violating it.

All this will do is make us look worse in the eyes of the world. Why should we care? We are the New York Yankees of the World. We are big, we are powerful, we win, and we throw our money around. If we continue to pretend like international conventions we helped write and agreed to do not completely apply to us, we will continue to undermine our foreign policy objects and further alienate our allies and harm our relations even further with nations that already see us as the great Satan.