Thursday, June 29, 2006
This probably qualifies me as a knuckle-dragging Neanderthal (apologies to those guys in the GEICO commercials) but, because nation-states are sovereign entities, all "international law" relies on the willingness of those entities to comply with it. It is totally a creature of treaties, and as we note in the cases of Iran and North Korea, among others, nations can, and do (a) breach treaty provisions, and, (b) withdraw from treaties, whenever they deem it in their interests to do so. In most cases, there are no, or immaterial, consequences to them for doing so. Consequently, "international law" has only so much meaning as nation-states are willing to grant it.
The United States is one of the relatively few countries that actually tries to comply with all the terms of the treaties it signs, primarily because of the weight that our own Constitution (Art. VI) gives to them. It is because treaties become the law of the land that the Constitution (Article II, Sec. 2) requires ratification by two thirds of the Senators present. Accordingly, the United States has historically been circumspect about entering into treaties.
Today there are people in the United States (including, apparently, some on the Supreme Court) who advocate looking to "international law" for guidance in interpreting US laws, and even the Constitution. I think this is folly, and ultimately suicidal for our society. I think that any Supreme Court justice who bows to "international law" in interpreting the Constitution and domestic laws of the United States should be subject to impeachment for violating Article II of the Constitution.
Following "international law" that does not arise from a treaty that the United States has duly entered into and ratified is, to my thinking, not only unconstitutional, but extremely dangerous, because the people of the United States (and, frankly, the people of most other countries) cannot vote for the internationalists who advocate and promulgate such "laws," and those who interpret such "laws" are not politically beholden to anyone. One need only look at history to see that people in power who have no politically accountability invariably become despots.
Is that what we really want?
UPDATE: This was posted before SCOTUS released their decision in Hamdan today. I am appalled that five justices found that the terrorists detained at Guantanamo are entitled to Geneva Convention treatment, even though they do not belong to any nation-state, much less one that is a signatory to the Convention, and laugh derisively at the Geneva principles with respect to hostages they take (I guess beheading isn't explicitly mentioned in the Convention). Congress must act, and promptly, to resolve the open issues that the Hamdan decision has created.