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Law and War: Human Rights Abuses

April 9, 2008

President Bush has obviously done his legal homework in an effort to protect himself. The rage about human rights abuses, notably against torture, physical abuse and assault was reviewed by the Justice Department back in 2003. This review has just recently come to light as U.S. citizens have protested his actions and support of action against military interrogations and the like.

The Justice Department has made the claim that the president’s authority as commander-in-chief cannot be restricted by federal criminal laws during wartime for infractions against human rights. Civil rights are not guaranteed to non-citizens or war victims, so international treaties for prisoners become very important regarding human rights. The Justice Department determined that international treaties and laws prohibiting torture, cruelty and inhumane treatment do not apply to presidential authority. In the eyes of the Justice Department, the war on terror and the war fronts in Iraq and Afghanistan have freed the president from the law.

Congress, as part of the legislative branch, is supposed to exist as a system of checks and balances to monitor and constrain the President’s authority. In theory, the life of the nation is always at stake, depending on accurate determination of laws and legal structure. Destroying the checks and balances that reinforce the Constitution and the foundation that the country is built on will destroy the country in the long-term and weaken the country in the short-term.

Martial law takes effect when the military takes control of the normal administration of justice. Therefore, the presumption of martial law is in effect on the war fronts. The Administration considers that this view usurps supreme power over the Constitution, Bill of Rights and against treaties and conventions initiated, signed and ratified by the United States. This is questionable legal mindset.

Some would make the distinction between the perceived threat of security and adherence to laws that have been legislated in times of peace and stability. To some, the question becomes ethical in nature. To others, ethics is strictly situational, which makes any action justifiable based on circumstances. The definition of legal rules is contained in the understanding of martial law versus normal circumstances, which can be interpreted, further muddying the waters of legal interpretation.

War has not been proclaimed by any legal body and a state of emergency has not been proclaimed. The declaration of war is presumed based on the actions of the president. The claim of extralegal powers for the President of the United States without a definition or limit to those powers is questionable and runs counter to the defining documents of the country. The Justice Department made a convenient legal determination giving the president the authority he is using.

A large portion of the populace and civil rights are unhappy with the current stance on policy. The Congress has become apathetic, with no effort being made to clarify or change the situation. The meaning of the Constitution has become blurred and hazy in the eyes of lawmakers that refuse to consider the cold reality they have allowed. The United States has become a lawless land where “high crimes and misdemeanors” is meaningless.

When the discussion of human rights authority comes into play where other nations are concerned, the United States has no higher ground or authority to make an argument.

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