Backtalk, October 29, 2007

Aaron R. Linderman’s Backtalk

First, being held “accountable” to a contract is not the same as being accountable to legal process – the remedy for violating terms of a contract are financial, not penal.

Second, even so, the terms of this contract place primacy on diplomatic security without regard to the holistic counterinsurgency effort – every time a protected diplomat or official makes it uninjured from Point A to Point B, Blackwater complies with the terms of its contract, even when its uses of force in doing so work counter to counterinsurgency strategy and doctrine.

Third, Blackwater has a colorable legal argument that the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (MEJA) does not apply to them because they are not “accompanying the force” overseas – in light of the fact that they are in Iraq on State Department contracts, not DoD contracts.

Fourth, no U.S. attorney is clamoring to have a Blackwater MEJA case tried in his or her jurisdiction because the alleged offenses do not occur in their districts, and they have limited resources and plenty of work to do without importing cases based on alleged crimes that occurred 8,000-12,000 miles away.

Fifth, using MEJA in any case requires a modicum of political will and assumption of risk that DoJ is yet to demonstrate.

Sixth, CPA Order 17, still honored by the Iraqi government, has historically been interpreted so broadly that almost anything a security contractor does in Iraq is deemed to be within the scope of his duties, and therefore immune from Iraqi process.

Seventh, the Uniform Code of Military Justice is no help, despite a modest amendment in the FY07 NDAA permitting court-martial jurisdiction over civilians, because implementing regulations are yet to be issued and because security contractors on DoS contracts can interpose the same defense as in the MEJA cases.

Finally, even if the Iraqis could assert legal jurisdiction, they, too, have demonstrated a lack of will to push the envelope on their criminal jurisdictional powers, knowing that it would provoke a political confrontation with the U.S. administration.

~ Major Rob Bracknell, U.S. Marine Corps, judge advocate

Here’s Hoping Pelosi Peeves the Turks

Charlie Reese says that “The Ottoman government didn’t survive much longer than the Armenians. Defeated in World War I, it was replaced in a revolution led by Kemal Ataturk. Thus, modern Turks and the present Turkish government are as innocent as lambs of having played any part at all in the genocide.” He is wrong.

Even Turkish historians have documented that Ataturk brought into his government many of the Turkish officials that orchestrated the Armenian Genocide. Ataturk permanently suspended the trial and prosecution of those responsible for the Armenian Genocide. Ataturk directed the attack on and mass murder of the Armenians and Greeks at Smyrna in 1922.

~ Francis K. Krikorian

Hebron, City of Terror

The inhabitants of Hebron massacred the entire Jewish population of Hebron in 1929. It should only be fitting that when the Jews took over the town, that they should kill every last inhabitant. In effect, when the first Jewish soldier marched into Hebron, the Arabs were ready to leave the town. I believe in an eye for an eye. If you would have lived in Hebron in 1929, you would think alike. Peace and niceties do not work with Palestinian Arabs. The only thing an Arab is afraid of is fear. If you, Ran HaCohen, would have lived under Arab/Palestinian domination, you would have long since been a corpse. You are lucky to have the State of Israel protect the right of all its inhabitants, Arabs included.

~ Josh Schon

Ran HaCohen replies:

Your notion that “the inhabitants of Hebron massacred the entire Jewish population of Hebron in 1929” is totally uninformed. Most of the murderers in August 1929 were not inhabitants of Hebron, but of surrounding villages. They didn’t massacre the entire Jewish population, but 66 Jewish persons. On the other hand, dozens of Arab families of Hebron gave shelter and saved the lives of more than 200 Jews during the massacre. The offspring of those saviors would undoubtedly be impressed by your preaching about “an eye for an eye” morality – a Biblical phrase that even traditional Jewish law has never been primitive enough to take literally.

The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy

I‘m generally supportive of this article, but I would like to correct the record on the U.S. restoration of Aristide to Haiti.

The author makes a personal judgment: “African-American legislators pushed the Clinton administration to invade Haiti. The U.S. had no policy reason to install a violent demagogue, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, as president of Haiti.”

This is wrong on all three assertions: That the U.S. installed him, that he is violent, and that he is a demagogue.

Aristide had been elected in the first open and fair election Haiti had ever seen, supported by an overwhelming majority of the desperately poor population. He remains popular – nobody contests that if he were to run for presidency today, he would win hands down.

Soon after he assumed the presidency, he was overthrown in a coup by elements of the military, left over from the Tons Tons Macoutes, the brutal gangs of the Duvaliers, which was supported by the Haitian elite who had benefited during the Duvalier dictatorships. During the brief time of Aristide’s rule, the boat traffic from Haiti basically stopped. But as soon as he was overthrown, more and more desperate Haitians took to the sea and fled Haiti on rafts, either to drown or hopefully to make it to the U.S. The U.S. took to catching as many as it could and detaining them at Guantanamo before repatriating them.

This was seen as a major irritant by the U.S. Haiti was a source of instability that might affect the security of the U.S. or its allies. I have no doubt that the American invasion of Haiti and restoration of Aristide had much more to do with this than protests by the “Haitian Lobby,” including black Democratic representatives.

Accusations that Aristide is a “violent demagogue” may spring from a CIA-based disinformation campaign against him before and just after he was first deposed, accusing him of being “mentally unstable.” There was also a single speech he gave to his main constituency – the poor – when the level and violence of opposition to his lawful rule became clear upon his return. He made an offhand reference to “necklacing” – the barbaric practice of placing a tire around someone’s neck and setting it on fire.

This was an unfortunate statement, but his actions speak louder. He dissolved the armed forces, who had been responsible for a great many incidents of lawless capture, torture, and assassinations, and he moved towards the rule of law – what a concept in a country that had been ruled by fiat or military juntas for decades!

During the lawless times after his first ouster and after the U.S.-supported coup against him in 2003, violence, including murder, against his supporters reached epidemic status. During his time in power, violence decreased and there was motion to increase general education and decrease poverty. He did the best he could in a desperately difficult situation.

Please take the time to be more accurate – the statements about Haiti mar an otherwise fine article.

~ Peter Henry

Mearsheimer and Walt are so correct in their book, which I recently bought. The good news is that we can still go back to “evenhandedness” and stop treating Israel with the “Blank Check Syndrome.” Maybe the world would have some respect for this great nation once again.

I happen to be one of the survivors of the deliberate attack on the USS Liberty on June 8, 1967, so I know how even Americans can be discriminated against. There has never been a congressional investigation of this attack because the country that did this seems to think it can just do whatever it wants.

~ Ron Kukal

US Has Double Standard at Home and Abroad

Ivan Eland makes very good points about countries owning up to the sins of their pasts (or presents). But he is slightly off in claiming that the U.S. has pressured Lebanon into making democratic changes. First, Lebanon has been a democracy since it was founded by the French, and it remained a democracy after gaining its independence from France. The local elections held after the so-called Cedar Revolution of 2005 were regularly scheduled parliamentary elections; they did not arise out of the street demonstrations. Second, the U.S. now finds itself in the position of preferring the current, less democratic system of presidential elections (a simple parliamentary majority) than an open popular election. If popular elections were held, it is likely that a candidate would win who, while not favored by the U.S., would probably be the best candidate for Lebanon. The U.S., as usual, is trying to preserve the status quo while masking its preferences by a show of support for democracy.

~ David Wilmsen, associate professor of Arabic, The American University of Beirut

Ivan Eland replies:

Perhaps I should have said that the U.S. has meddled in Lebanon’s democratic process.

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