Thursday, May 05, 2011

Osama legality

I find it interesting to look at the arguments of those who claim the death of OBL was legal. The two most prominent arguments are:

  1. The law allowed the President  to take this action.
  2. It was a military action taken during wartime against the opposition's leader.
Let's look at each. In the first case there is a law passed during the W Bush era that allowed the President to take any necessary action against anyone he thought was involved with the 9-11 atrocity. That is the US Congress passed a law that allowed the US President to take any action he wants against an individual. Somehow that's supposed to apply legally outside the US? Of course not. It does mean that legal action can't be taken within the US and as they tend to ignore anyone else there's little point in trying such outside; however that doesn't make it legal in the same way that an American citizen can't claim fifth amendment rights in a UK court hearing. Your laws don't apply outside your country.

The second case is that this is war. Except is it? Several countries have been attacked by Al-Qaeda and they have claimed responsibility and OBL has claimed leadership of them and issued what amounted to a public declaration of war against them. We in turn have retaliated and thus a state of war can be said to exist. Except if that's the case certain restrictions come into play such as the Geneva convention regarding humanitarian treatment of prisoners. Everyone now look at Guantanamo Bay and other facilities. If this was a war actions taken in them were illegal under international agreements; if it's not a war than this second case argument is moot. You can't have your cake and eat it.

Some of those pushing these views attack the opposition by calling them hand-wringing lefties; and in some cases that might be true. However look at the liberties being lost or constrained in the name of this war; look at how they're being misused and applied to cases that they were never meant to cover.

If you can justify the actions taken it becomes precedent.