A Matter of Sovereignty

Let me say up front that I agree with David Cameron: Abdelbaset Ali Mohamed Al Megrahi should not have been released from prison. I think he was a fall guy for what was a Libyan government planned and executed operation, but he was convicted and barring a successful appeal, he should have stayed in prison.  However, I think the U.S. Senate is way out of line in investigating his release.

This goes back to my most recent post: it is consistently the view of the US government – at least of the Executive and Legislative branches – that the sovereignty of other countries is always secondary to American interests. The Senate has invited Scottish Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill, Scottish prison health director Andrew Fraser, former UK Justice Secretary Jack Straw, and former Prime Minister Tony Blair to appear before it to answer questions as to how and why Megrahi was released from prison on compassionate ground. (This despite the fact that Blair had been out of office for nearly two years at the time of the release.)

Though I have no political affinity to any of the Brits invited, I have to agree with the assessment of Jack Straw:

“It is, in my experience, highly unusual for the legislature of one sovereign state to conduct an inquiry into decisions of another sovereign state, including, as in this case, decisions by a devolved administration on the release of a prisoner. There are therefore important issues of principle here which could affect UK governments of any party, and which will need carefully to be considered before I come to a final view.”

In other words, it is none of their business. The crime occurred over Scottish airspace. Even if the bomb was put on the plane somewhere else, at no time in question was the plane in the United States or its airspace. Neither was it even in international airspace, as the death of 11 Scots killed on the ground in Lockerbie made clear. Scotland had jurisdiction then and it has jurisdiction now. It may come as a shock to a lot of Americans, but killing Americans somewhere in the world does not give the government of the United States jurisdiction over that place or the power to investigate their killing. If Americans leave the sovereign territory of the United States, they assume the risk that they may come to harm without the US Government having the right to vindicate their cause.

Perhaps it is David Cameron’s admission that the UK is the junior partner in the Special Relationship both now and for at least the past 70 years that has emboldened the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to think its senior status carries some sort of weight.

Even if, as has been strongly insinuated by New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez, BP lobbied – or even, as has been suggested – bribed UK or Scottish officials or ministers, it is not the business of the US Senate. That is true even though BP is responsible for that terrible oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and apparently needs to be punished further, whatever excuse can be found. If there has been impropriety, it is for the UK government to investigate.

Let’s put the shoe on the other foot, since 67 British people died as a result of the 9/11 attacks. Mohammed al-Qahtani, the alleged 20th hijacker, has been tortured and charges against him have been dropped, re-instated, and dropped again.  Should the British Government open an inquiry and invite US officials to appear before it to answer for how they have dealt with it? Should British parliamentarians and ministers be demanding explanantions? If the American public learned of such an inquiry – that is, if the American press even took it seriously enough to report it – the public would be everything from bemused to outraged that another country would think it had jurisdiction to demand American officials explain themselves.

Sovereignty is sovereignty. It’s time the US respected the sovereignty of other nations to the extent it demands respect for its own.

Dealing with Russian Aggression

With all that’s been happening here in Texas, I haven’t had a chance to comment on the the situation in Georgia.

Bad Russia! Bad, bad Russia!

In an earlier blog identity I posted flags of Abkhazia and South Ossetia on the right column, as I generally support the idea of ethnic self-determination. You may notice that I have now posted the flag of Georgia.

While I understand the desire of the Abkhazians and Ossetians for political autonomy, I also appreciate the principle in international law that is it vital to respect the territorial integrity of sovereign states. While Saakashvili made a tactical error in using military force on Ossetian rebels, it was not lawful for Russia to then invade, not just South Ossetia, but the rest of Georgia.

Unfortunately, the Russians will continue to violate the territorial integrity of Georgia for some time, thanks the to deal brokered by the French president. The only way to get the Russians out would be for a military force bigger than the Russians to kick them out. There’s only one military big enough to do the job and they are mired in a couple of other situations. \

Truth be told, this situation is not unlike the cause of the First Gulf War – one sovereign state invading another. And even the goal of controlling the energy supply is not dissimilar. Saddam wanted Kuwait’s oil fields and Russia wants to further it’s ambition to control the flow of energy into Europe.

However, on top of this is Putin’s anger that so many countries bordering Russia and formerly conquered by Russia don’t want to have anything to do with Russia. Russia’s leaders see themselves as having a right to a sphere of influence in the region. Why? From whence to they derive this right? Why do sovereign states like Georgia, Ukraine, and others not have the right to choose their own alignment?

The Russians believe they have some sort of right to punish the Georgians for wanting to join NATO and strengthening ties to the US. Frankly, I think this is almost enough reason to go to Georgia and kick some Russian ass.

Now Russia has threatened Poland with a nuclear strike for hosting US missiles on its soil. I think Russia should be thrown out of the United Nations for that. How dare they. Again, Poland has the right to choose its allies. If the barrel of one Russian tank nudges across the Polish border – which it would have to do from it’s oblast around Kaliningrad – I think the US should just take Kaliningrad and split it between the Poles and Lithuanians. They should take all of Russia’s many nuclear warheads pointing at NATO, scrap them and send the remains to Moscow.

In the meantime, the US Navy should find a couple of spare aircraft carriers to park next to Russia’s Baltic Fleet. Put one at Klaipėda and one at Gdańsk. Then just line up a blockade between the two.

US Government Can Kidnap Anyone Anywhere

The United States is very big on the idea of national sovereignty – as long as it is American sovereignty. This has long been the case, though it has come as a surprise to The Sunday Times, which made a headline of it.

A senior US government lawyer made it clear to the Court of Appeals in this country that the kidnapping of foreign citizen in a foreign country by an agent of the US for prosecution in the US is in perfect accordance with American law. Extradition treaties are irrelevant. If Uncle Sam wants you, he will get you.

Apparently the British court assumed that the US only exercised “extraordinary rendition”, or the kidnapping of terrorist suspects. The CIA goes around doing that all the time. They get it wrong occasionally but no one is bothered. However in the Tollman case, in which London-based hoteliers are fighting extradition to the US for tax evasion and bank fraud, there was some discussion of the US attempt to kidnap Stanley Tolman’s nephew when he travelled to Canada. Lawyers were very plain about the US position. The US is entitled to have anyone, anywhere, anytime, and by whatever means.

The US Supreme ruled back in 1993 in United States v. Alvarez-Machain that it was perfectly acceptable for the DEA to hire bounty hunters to cross into Mexico and abduct a Mexican citizen to face trial in the US for a crime committed in Mexico. This was merely an extension of Ker v. Illinois (1886) which said that a bounty hunter could go to a foreign country and bring someone to the US. The difference was that Ker was a US citizen, committed a crime in the US and the bounty hunter wasn’t hired by the government.

As a result, the US can pass laws that apply anywhere in the world and then grab anyone anywhere in the world, take them to the US and try them. They started doing this with suspected terrorists, but now have made it clear them can do it for any reason they like.