“Murder Is Legal,” Says the Attorney General

The title of this blog is the one used by David Swanson, who wrote the book War Is a Lie and who writes frequently on peace and justice issues. I generally read Swanson in the Oregon Peaceworks newsletter. Swanson takes Attorney General Eric Holder to task for his many questionable and even hard-to-believe assertions made in his March 5 speech to the Northwestern University Law School at its Chicago branch.

David Swanson begins his piece by belittling Holder’s conception of war: he is not talking about a war that looks like a war; he is talking about a war “that is everywhere all the time.”

Swanson contrasts Holder’s view that military commissions have been successfully reformed with the view of the former chief prosecutor for military commissions at the Guantanamo Bay prison, who has said that the “decision to use both legal settings is a mistake. It will establish a legal double standard that gives some detainees superior rights and protections, and relegates others to the inferior rights and protections of military commissions. This will only perpetuate the perception that Guantanamo and justice are mutually exclusive.”

Attorney General Eric Holder said that the National Defense Authorization Act “mandated that a narrow category of al Qaeda terrorist suspects be placed in temporary military custody.” David Swanson counters that President Obama altered the NDAA by use of an unconstitutional signing statement, expanding the NDAA provision to apply to the largely non-Al Qaeda prisoners held in Afghanistan.

Holder argues that because the United States is in armed conflict, the nation is authorized to use force against any enemy belligerents under international law. Swanson’s counter-argument is that the 2001 authorization to use force resolution violates the Kellogg-Briand Act, the UN Charter and the U.S.Constitution. Swanson says, “No international law recognizes secret global war without limitations in time or space.”

Another claim made by Eric Holder in his March 5 speech is that the United States is at war “with a stateless enemy prone to shifting operations from country to country.” I would say that if this is true, there is no way to identify the enemy and our identification of the enemy would shift over time.

Attorney General Holder assured his listeners that the president will only kill someone in a foreign land if that country won’t do it for him and that constitutes “respect for another country’s sovereignty,” which is about as ridiculous a way of showing respect as can be imagined. Also, Holder contends that a kill order from Obama does not violate the executive order banning assassinations, because Obama would only kill those who constitute an imminent threat and U.S. citizens are not immune from being targeted. In reply, David Swanson wonders who knew that “the president alone can give due process without explaining it to anyone else.” Swanson is also very skeptical of Holder’s claim of “robust oversight,” because “informing a handful of Congress members, and no doubt forbidding them to repeat what they are told, does not create Congressional oversight.”

Looking at the specious claims made by Eric Holder in his March 5 speech to justify the war that the Obama administration is waging against Al Qaeda and “associated forces,” there are ample grounds to relieve him of his position as soon as possible; however, there is no reason to believe that Holder was not representing Obama administration positions.

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