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Category: Politics

Ah, Mr. Sullivan

I haven’t picked on Andrew Sullivan for a while, have I? (And why do I do it? Because he keeps getting held up as an example of modern conservative thought, that’s why.)

Let’s start with this condemnation of Dianne Feinstein (scroll down a bit). I can swing to that rhythm. Feinstein is one of my least favorite Senators. So, she said something dumb… which Andrew inflates into a commentary on all Democrats everywhere. Sure, OK. Dianne’s a prominent Democrat.

But what about this? (Scroll down again; the headline is “Conservatives and Mental Health”.) Sullivan’s OK with extending one Democrat’s remarks to represent the opinion of the entire party, but it’s not OK to notice when a Republican differs from the Republican mainstream? It’s utterly factual to say “Republican House leaders opposed this mental health bill,” and it’s fair to point out that individuals within the Republican Party supported it.

So much for the right to hold opinions as an individual.

It is their cheese

Hm. You know, I guess it is illegal to visit the moon without permission. From the 1979 Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies:

Article 14

1. States Parties to this Agreement shall bear international responsibility for national activities on the moon, whether such activities are carried on by governmental agencies or by non- governmental entities, and for assuring that national activities are carried out in conformity with the provisions set forth in this Agreement. States Parties shall ensure that non-governmental entities under their jurisdiction shall engage in activities on the moon only under the authority and continuing supervision of the appropriate State Party.

OK, I take back my little rant. I am still not entirely thrilled about the world’s governments extending their control to celestial bodies, but the US is acting in accordance with international law. Mind you, the US hasn’t ratified the 1979 treaty, but we have ratified the 1969 Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space. And Article VI in that document is nigh identical to Article 14 above. Oh, and here’s a list of signatories (PDF) to all five UN space law documents. Now I want to go work in Vienna.

A professor speaks

Jeff Cooper is an actual law professor, and so much more qualified than I to discuss the legalities of declaring war on Iraq sans Congressional approval. He read the Security Council resolutions I referenced earlier and reports that their goals have been achieved. So there you go.

Parenthetically, and I mention this because it’s been brought up from time to time, Clinton also used the 1991 Security Council resolutions as justification for military action against Iraq. So it’s not as if Bush doesn’t have some precedent. Clinton’s stance was that enforcing the no-fly zones was a means of preventing further Iraqi aggression against neighboring states, which was in fact mandated by the UN. Although the UN didn’t approve the no-fly zones. Muddy waters.

On the nature of the press release

I don’t really have any objection to Bush announcing that his lawyers believe he has the authority to attack Iraq without a Congressional vote. I don’t know about the de jure, but I’d bet he has authority de facto.

The legal argument rests primarily on this Congressional resolution, passed last year, which authorizes the use of armed forces against those responsible for 9/11. They’re also citing H.J. Res. 77, a Congressional resolution passed in January 1991 which authorized the invasion of Iraq.

The argument there is that the resolution is still in force; one must admit, reading the resolution, that there was no time limit involved. I have not exhaustively determined whether or not Security Council Resolutions 660, 661, 662, 664, 665, 666, 667, 669, 670, 674, and 677 have been implemented — said implementation being the specific end for which the use of armed forces was authorized. The Security Council Resolutions are available in PDF, if you want to do your own research. Most of them appear on a quick read to be quite specific to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, which had ended the last time I looked. However, there’re also a couple of explicit injunctions requiring Iraq to fulfil its obligations under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and while a first glance at those shows no obvious current transgressions, this is about where I remember I don’t get paid for researching these things.

One counterargument may be found in the form of H.J Res. 109, Proposed House Resolution on Use of Force Against Iraq. Amusingly, it also cites the 1991 resolution. Unsurprisingly, since it predates today’s announcement from Bush, it doesn’t specifically address Bush’s claims.

Anyhow, as I said, I don’t object to Bush issuing press releases about what is in the end just the opinion of one set of lawyers. We’ll see what the judges say, I imagine. I just think if he’s going to make an announcement every time his lawyers back him up on a proposed plan of action, he ought to make an announcement every time his lawyers say “That’s not legal, George.”