Sunday, January 29, 2006

Ramsey Clark's Antics of Justice

Here's how AP reported Ramsey Clark's recent outburst:

Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, who is part of Saddam's defense team but did not attend Sunday's session, denounced the court as "lawless" and repeated calls for it to be moved out of Iraq.

"Now the court is seated without the defendants' counsel of choice. This is wrong," Clark said, speaking from New York.

Clark's comments are predictable. He is in Iraq for political reasons, and all his comments are made through the grid of trying to discredit United States actions there. The best way he has to do that now is through criticizing the new Iraqi democratic government and it's judicial system. It makes no difference to Clark that Saddam has committed crimes against humanity. Saddam's crimes are as well documented as Hitler's or Stalin's crimes against humanity, though neither Hitler or Stalin were tried in a court of law.

Here are some of the actions AP reported as triggering the expulsion of the defense team:

The session, which was the first since Dec. 22, rapidly degenerated into chaos. Ibrahim [co-defendant] called the court "the daughter of a whore" and refused to sit down. Abdel-Rahman [the judge] ordered him removed, and Ibrahim scuffled with two guards before they dragged him out of the courtroom.

Then defense lawyer Salih al-Armouti, a Jordanian, was forcibly removed from the court for yelling at Abdel-Rahman [the judge].

The entire defense team walked out in protest. "This is an unjust and illegitimate court," Khalil al-Dulaimi, Saddam's chief lawyer, told the judge on the way out. [emphasis mine]

Now if Clark really wanted to bring up the issue of lawlessness, he could have used the defense used in the Nuremburg trials:


19 November 1945

. . .

The present Trial can . . . not invoke existing international law, it is rather a proceeding pursuant to a new penal law, a penal law enacted only after the crime. This is repugnant to a principle of jurisprudence sacred to the civilized world, the partial violation of which by Hitler's Germany has been vehemently discountenanced outside and inside the Reich. This principle is to the effect that only he can be punished who offended against a law in existence at the time of the commission of the act and imposing a penalty. This maxim is one of the great fundamental principles of the political systems of the Signatories of the Charter for this Tribunal themselves, to wit, of England since the Middle Ages, of the United States since their creation, of France since its great revolution, and the Soviet Union. And recently when the Control Council for Germany enacted a law to assure the return to a just administration of penal law in Germany, it decreed in the first place the restoration of the maxim, "No punishment without a penal law in force at the time of the commission of the act". This maxim is precisely not a rule of expediency but it derives from the recognition of the fact that any defendant must needs consider himself unjustly treated if he is punished under an ex post facto law.

Imposing an ex post facto law is surely more lawless than not allowing a defendant's lawyer of choice to scream at the judge. And there probably wasn't a law in Iraq saying that Saddam couldn't torture or kill whoever he wanted. The only downside is that it would put Ramsey on the side of the Nazis. Hmm. That wouldn't do.

So, instead Ramsey has to stick up for Jerry Springer-type courtroom antics and call attempts to maintain order in the courtroom "lawless". (The actions of Judge Raouf Rasheed Abdel-Rahman in maintaining order in his courtroom wouldn't seem at all strange to US judges who routinely not only throw people out of their courtrooms but also fine them and send them to jail for "contempt of court".)

For theatrics, it would be great to move the trial to, say, New York City. It could be billed as an off Broadway play.

Thinking seriously, since most of Saddam's crimes were against the Iraqi people, they deserve the right to try him by their standards--not Ramsey Clark's or anyone else's. That's what we used to call not imposing your own cultural norms on (bullying?) others. Maybe the Iraqis should consider using the standards of justice and court decorum they learned under Saddam. But, they're better than that--and better than Ramsey Clark's politically motivated, antic-style justice as well.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Oregonian's Sewage Problem Amnesia

Oregonian reporter Anna Griffin wrote the following on Sunday regarding Portland's sewage leak problems:

City and state leaders, who enforce federal water quality laws for the EPA, say Portland is doing everything it can to prevent untreated sewage and storm water from reaching public waterways. Federal regulators say Portland must do more.
Oregonian, January 15, 2005

What's really strange is that less than two months ago, the same Anna Griffin noted that Oregon's Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) slapped huge fines on Portland precisely because it too thought Portland was negligent and should do more. She wrote:

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality slapped the city of Portland with nearly $500,000 in fines Monday for allowing raw sewage to reach Portland-area waterways 67 times over a four-year period -- the first in what could be a season of bad news from state and federal regulators.
Oregonian, November 22, 2005

In levying those fines, Oregon's DEQ publicly cited specific health and environmental concerns regarding Portland's sewage control system.

Oregon environmental law prohibits sewage overflows to state waters because sewage contains disease-carrying bacteria which are a threat to public health and the environment. Many of these discharges occurred during dry weather, when there was a greater likelihood of human contact with sewage in local streams and the Willamette. Sewage is also a significant water pollutant that can harm aquatic life and cause public waters to be unsuitable for recreation, commercial and agricultural uses.

Ms. Griffin's Sunday report leaves the impression that Oregon environmental quality officials have no concerns with Portland's sewage spills. That's not true, and she and the Oregonian should correct that impression. This was poor reporting.

Portland's negligence has polluted and, without significant pressure to change, is very likely to continue to pollute public waters and endanger public health and the environment. The EPA's concern and pressure on Portland to clean up its sewage and runoff failures and protect its water supply is welcome to citizens who have to suffer the effects of Portland's negligent polluting.

(For a more indepth account of the DEQ fines and reporters' penchant to give City officials a pass on polluting public waters see:

Clean and Safe Waters Are Just Too Expensive for Portland
Tribune Coverage of City Sewer Deal Stinks)

Friday, January 06, 2006

Rep. Murtha, Call Your Office: We Are Not THE TARGET

As violence in Iraq erupted yesterday in deadly terrorism, the real target is again shown to be the majority Shiite Muslim population in Iraq--not US troops. But, Rep. John Murtha's foggy thinking continues in spite of the facts.

The AP story on the violence noted that of 136 killed in the latest violence, eleven were Americans. In other words, 92% of the victims were Iraqis, most of them Shiites.

Shiites have understood the simple math that is beyond Congressman Murtha and those standing with him.

About 5,000 Shiites, meanwhile, rallied in Baghdad to protest the bloodshed and denounce what they said was American backing of some Sunni politicians who have supported - or at least failed to condemn - insurgent groups in order to bring them into a broad-based government.

. . .

Iraq's main Shiite religious party, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution, issued a veiled threat to Sunnis supporting the insurgency that its patience was wearing thin.

But in a chord struck by several politicians, the party also condemned policies it said were imposed by the U.S.-led coalition that were hampering Iraqi security forces' counterterrorism work. The Americans have increased their oversight of Shiite-dominated forces following widespread charges of abuse, especially of Sunni detainees.

"Not allowing these two ministries to do their job means exposing helpless Iraqis to ruthless terrorists," SCIRI said. "They should know that the patience of our people will not last for a long time with these sectarian dirty crimes."

The warning to Sunnis carried the possibility of using militias like the Badr Brigade, the former military wing of SCIRI, to take vengeance on Sunni supporters of insurgents.

Unfortunately, the innocent Iraqis dying by the hundreds are not an important factor to Rep. Murtha. Thus, he cannot see what is clear to the friends and relatives of the people who are the real targets of the terrorists. The problem is not the US presence in Iraq. The real problem is that the Sunni minority is shielding and supporting terrorism against the Shiite majority.

Rep. Murtha and his congressional supporters need to be addressing the issue of how to protect Shiite civilians if they care about peace in the Middle East, stability in Iraq, and world security. As more than one Middle East observer has noted, an even bigger threat than terrorist attacks in Iraq is that the Shiite majority in Iraq may unite with a nuclear Shiite Iran to not only dominate the region, but imperil the rest of the world. Wake up, Congressman Murtha!