Cowboy Republic

Marjorie Cohn is a distinguished law professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego where she's taught since 1991 and is the current president of the National Lawyers Guild.

Cowboy Republic

By Stephen Lendman

She's also been a criminal defense attorney at the trial and appellate levels, is an author, and has written many articles for professional journals, other publications, and for noted web sites such as Global Research, ZNet, CounterPunch, AfterDowning Street, Common Dreams, AlterNet and others. Her long record of achievements, distinctions and awards is broad and varied for her teaching, writing and her work as a lawyer and activist for peace, social and economic justice.

Cohn's latest book just published, and subject of this review, is titled "Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law." It provides a thorough, impressive and incisive account of the most important ways the Bush administration defied, defiled and weakened the rule of law and by so doing hurtled the nation toward tyranny. This book is an essential guide to their lawless record, its threat to the nation and world, and the desperate need to confront it, challenge it and remove it from office before it's too late. The stakes couldn't be greater - the fate of the republic hangs by a thread as well as all humanity if people of conscience fail to act and swiftly. Cohn's book lays out the problem clearly. The rest is up to us.

Richard Falk, Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University, introduces what's to follow in his brief introduction to Cohn's book. In it, he states the most important lesson of the disastrous Iraq war is that "adherence to international law serves the national (as well as) human interest in time of war." More than at any other time, with the nation at war, US presidents can practically operate as dictators outside the normally constraining check and balancing influences of the other two branches of government, when they choose to use them.

For the past six and a half years, they've been nowhere in sight, and George Bush took full advantage. He's defied constitutional and international law with arrogance and impunity including the Nuremberg Principles defining what constitutes a war crime. Falk quotes its chief prosecutor, Justice Robert Jackson, saying ...."the record on which we judge these (Nazi) defendants today is the record on which history will judge us tomorrow." Throughout our history, pre and post-Nuremberg, this nation broke the "Nuremberg promise....repeatedly" but never to the degree as under George Bush. That's the legacy he'll pass to future administrations they'll have to live with and confront as an obstacle in an attempt to move ahead. Their job won't be easy.


Cohn begins her book with a definition of "cowboy" applicable to George Bush - one "who undertakes a dangerous or sensitive task needlessly." Other definitions refer to someone who's "reckless, aggressive or irresponsible." Those characterizations pretty much sum up the record of the current President who won't go down in history like the legendary heros who won the West and most dictionaries say are "hired hands who tend cattle and perform other duties on horseback" on the range "where the deer and antelope play."

Despite our nominal constitutional protections, Cohn recounts how the history of the country was marked by abuses of power going back to the Alien and Sedition Acts under John Adams. They were enacted to stifle dissent in time of possible war, but, in fact, were used against Republican opponents to deny them what Jefferson called "the highest form of patriotism" - the right to dissent.

Our reputed greatest President, Abraham Lincoln, followed in Adams' tradition during the Civil War. He suspended habeas and other civil liberties, instituted an unfair draft, blatantly abused his power overall and functioned ad libitum as a virtual dictator. Woodrow Wilson was no different, and so was Franklin Roosevelt, both of whom justified their right to set aside constitutional protections in time of war. No evidence suggests doing it helped. There's plenty, however, to prove they weakened the republic making it easier for future Presidents to take even greater liberties interpreting the law as they wished. Enter George Bush. Case closed.

Cohn notes that few Americans understand international law, or the Constitution either, for that matter, aside from some pro forma words they can recite perfunctorily but not explain. They also don't know international law is US law as well under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution. It states all treaties "shall be the supreme Law of the Land." They include the UN Charter, four Geneva Conventions, the UN Convention Against Torture banning any form of the practice at all times for any reason, and all other treaties the nation signs. Sadly, Cohn observes, constitutional and international law "didn't prevent a series of executive branch violations in the 1960s (under Lyndon Johnson mostly) and 1970s (egregiously under Richard Nixon) when the executive branch" operated outside the limits of the law they were sworn to uphold but didn't.

Cohn then gets into the meat of her important book recounting George Bush's six specific appalling abuses of power still raging unrestrained out of control and in recent days got even worse as explained below.

A War of Aggression

International law bans premeditated aggressive war under any conditions. The UN Charter clearly states a nation may only use force under two conditions: when authorized to do it by the Security Council or under Article 51 that allows the "right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member....until the Security Council has taken measures to maintain international peace and security." In other words, self-defense is permissible but an unprovoked attack on another nation violates sacred international law and constitutes what the Nuremberg Charter called "the supreme international crime against peace."

Clear evidence exists that the Bush administration intended to attack Afghanistan and Iraq prior to 9/11. All that was needed (as laid out in 2000 by the neoconservative Project for a New American Century - PNAC) was "some catastrophic and catalyzing event - like a New Pearl Harbor" to militarize the nation and wage aggressive war. On 9/11, the Bush administration got its wish and "swung into action" by going to war based on deceit and lies about invalid threats and for reasons other than stated.

Former CIA head of counterintelligence, Vincent Cannistraro, later acknowledged it was based on "cooked intelligence." And CIA analyst Michael Scheuer said the agency was resigned "that we were going to war" and no facts or analysis would stop it. In addition, an August 6 John Conyers-ordered report found that "members of the Bush administration misstated, overstated, and manipulated intelligence with regards to linkages between Iraq and Al Queda; the acquisition of nuclear weapons" along with other lies to justify war including so-called WMDs known not to exist years earlier.

In July, 2002, the New York Times got access to a highly classified document titled "CentCom Courses of Action" containing what the Pentagon called a "war plan" to invade Iraq. It began in earnest as a secret air war in May, 2002 that by end of August "had become a full air offensive," according to the London Sunday Times. British MI 6 chief Richard Dearlove then revealed the secret contents of the so-called Downing Street memo based on a July, 2002 Washington meeting where "the facts (to justify war with Iraq) were being fixed around the policy."

Earlier on September 18, 2001, the administration set off on the road to war with the joint House-Senate resolution passage of the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). It authorized "the use of United States Armed Forces against those responsible for the recent attacks launched against the United States." Then in October, 2002, Congress surrendered its authority to George Bush by passing the Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq to "defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat of Iraq." Republicans and Democrats acted together knowing Iraq posed no threat and that its action violated the UN Charter.

Cohn explains the real motive behind attacking, invading and occupying Iraq that by now a bright ten year old understands. Paul Wolfowitz finally admitted using WMDs as an excuse was "for bureaucratic reasons" and the one pretext everyone could agree on. He later had to admit what everyone already knew. The real issue is oil and the fact that Iraq potentially has more of the cheap light sweet easily accessible kind than any other country on earth, including Saudi Arabia. One Wall Street oil analyst calls the country "the most valuable real estate on the planet" and the last of the "low-hanging fruit."

Solidifying a huge military presence in the region is also key with the US well-entrenched now on 106 known sites, including four super bases (with more planned) as large as small towns and with all their amenities, and a Vatican-sized largest embassy in the world. The Middle East is where two-thirds of proved oil reserves are located, and that fact was never lost on present and prior US planners. Notions of WMDs, removing a dictator, protecting national security, preventive self-defense, establishing democracy and conducting a humanitarian mission were all concocted rubbish. Sadly, it was believed by most people and too many still do, the result of lots of forced-fed dominant media hyperventilating help round the clock and on board with the administration to the bitter end for an illegal venture gone sour.

Along with so many other violations of international law, Cohn noted the Bush administration ignored the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) that's part of US law "under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution." Article I (1) says: "All people have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they (can) freely determine their political status and (can) freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development." Cohn stated the US had no "legal authority to intervene in the affairs of the Iraqi people and choose their leadership for them."

The Bush administration set about doing it in March, 2003. It followed the secret air war it waged months earlier as a softening up action for the "shock and awe" to come that the New York Times praised as "almost (having) biblical power." The entire corporate media also ignored the use of illegal weapons like depleted uranium, white phosphorous, and cluster bombs that keep killing and maiming long after the end of battle. In addition, experimental weapons are freely used, some targeting innocent civilians to inflict terror, and all intended to subdue a population hostile to a foreign occupier.

These are "weapons of mass destruction," stated Cohn. She also cited the Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in time of War (Geneva IV). It calls "willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body and health" a grave breach of law. The Bush administration deliberately flouts the law and "is committing war crimes with its use of these weapons." The result since March, 2003 alone has been mass deaths in appallingly high numbers, immeasurable human misery and suffering, and destruction on an enormous scale - all of which is still ongoing daily with innocent civilians afflicted most.

Has it made the US and world safer? Hardly, by any measure and quite the opposite, in fact, according to an April, 2006 National Intelligence Estimate Cohn quoted. It stated the Iraq conflict became "a 'cause celebre' for jihadists, breeding deep resentment (against the US) in the Muslim world (and) shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives." In committing "the supreme international crime against peace" against two nations, the US has become "the greatest menace of our times," quoting Nuremberg chief Justice Robert Jackson's reference to the crime of aggression and by implication any nation committing it.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 06 Aralık 2007, 15:39