Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Debate between civilian or military courts for 9/11 mastermind is irrelevant

A disheveled mess of tangled hair and bloodshot eyes emerged in the newspapers as Kalid Shaik Mohammed, the alleged 9/11 mastermind, is granted a public trial in New York City. Many accuse the Obama Administration of using the public trial as a political tool to indict the previous administration’s use of torture during the “war on terror.” Mohammed had been waterboarded 183 times, according to the New York Times. A public trial could also allow Mohammed a podium for his anti-American propaganda and to present his own indictment of American foreign policy.

Some argue that Mohammed should be tried in a military tribunal as an unprivileged enemy belligerent. Only 29 percent of voters agree with the President’s decision to not hold the trial in a military tribunal and only 30 percent think suspected terrorists should have access to US courts, according to Rasmussen Reports. However, military tribunals can only be used when there has been a formal declaration of war. At the moment, there is no precise definition of a formal declaration of war. The last time a piece of US legislation was passed with the phrase “declaration of war” in the title was in 1942 against Romania.

The President has not been allowed to formally declare war since the passage of the War Powers Resolution of 1973. This resolution gave Congress exclusive power to formally declare war. The President is also required to notify Congress within 48 hours of committing armed forces to military action and forbids armed forces from remaining for more than 60 days, with a further 30 day withdrawal period, without an authorization of the use of military force or a declaration of war.

However, the constitutionality of the War Powers Resolution has been questioned. Every President since its passage has treated the act as possibly unconstitutional. The reports to Congress, which the Resolution requires of the President, have been drafted to state that they are “consistent with” the War Powers Resolution and not “pursuant to” the Resolution, implying the Presidential position that the Resolution is unconstitutional.

The Obama Administration, at first, seemed to be in alignment with the War Powers Resolution in regards to Guantanamo. President Obama had immediately halted the military tribunals in Guantanamo when he was elected, pursuant to a Supreme Court decision. However, he has then resumed the Guantanamo military tribunals with a new experimental legal system, which is a hybrid of civilian and military courts. President Bush had previously argued that the military tribunals in Guantanamo Bay were authorized by a congressional joint resolution, which served as a formal declaration of war. The Supreme Court rejected this assertion, ruling that only with the consent of Congress can the President use military tribunals. It also stated that the detention camps in Guantanamo is in violation of the Geneva Conventions. Obama, then, with the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010, defied the Supreme Court's interpretation of the War Powers Resolution and granted the President the right to try the detainees in military tribunals.

This implies that Obama is resuming military tribunals in Guantanamo despite the Supreme Court's ruling that Guantanamo violates the Geneva Conventions. Despite public opinion, there does not seem to be any legal way the President could try Mohammed or any of the other terrorist suspects in military tribunal courts. The debate about whether or not Mohammed should be tried in a military tribunal is irrelevant, because the rule of international law has already been abandoned.

Monday, November 9, 2009

US Government Neck Deep in Heroin

The US government is neck deep in heroin. The CIA maybe contributing to heroine trafficking from Afghanistan, while thousands of veterans of the War on Terror come back home seeking substance abuse treatment. The CIA may have been using government money which is suspected of being used to traffic heroin from Afghanistan into the US and other Western countries. Ahmed Wali Karzai, brother of Afghani president Hamid Karzai, has been receiving payments from the CIA for acting as a go-between for negotiations with the Taliban. Karzai is also suspected of aiding in the trafficking of opium, which eventually ends up as heroine in the US and other Western nations. This adds to the continuing history of the CIA's involvement in the illegal drug trade. However, the US War on Terror’s impact on heroin trafficking reaches further than Afghanistan.

America’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have caused destabilization in both of these countries, enabling drug traffickers and suppliers to more easily distribute opiates throughout Europe and the US. Afghanistan in particular is of concern, because it is the world’s largest producer of heroine. Since the US invaded Afghanistan in 2006 opium production in the country has increased rapidly from 3400 tons, peaking at 8200 tons in 2007 and finally leveling out at 7700 tons in 2008, according to UN Drug Reports. Ninety-two percent of the world’s opium comes from Afghanistan poppy plants, according to the 2008 UN World Drug Report.

However, the US government’s problem with heroin does not end in Afghanistan. Thousands of US military personnel are becoming addicted to opiates while serving in Iraq, as well as Afghanistan. Twenty-two thousand Iraq and Afghanistan veterans sought substance abuse treatment in 2008, which is more than double from 2006, according to Signs of the Times. Despite hard evidence of access to heroin in Afghanistan and widespread drug abuse problems among US soldiers the Drug Enforcement Agency does not any case officers serving in Afghanistan or Iraq looking into drug trafficking. It maybe likely that heroin will become a major problem, in many ways, for American society as a result of the US War on Terror.