Friday, March 11, 2005

Core dump

It has been suggested to me that my last post made unfair sport of Kofi Annan’s wish to outlaw terrorism. Actually, the early reports spun Annan’s remarks (transcript here) rather differently than the Guardian, which describes them as an attack on countries which undermine “core values” in their fight on terrorism, and (and this detail was definitely left out) called for a UN special envoy to monitor whether countries’ counter-terrorism measures -- Patriot Acts, detention without trial, etc -- violate international law.

That said, my problem with the UN addressing terrorism is that it involves defining certain people, groups, organizations as terrorists, which is an inherently political act which the UN is simply not up to.

Blair is still in the process of ramming his terrorism bill through Parliament, removing the right to a trial, the presumption of innocence, and habeas corpus all in one go, on the grounds that 9/11 trumps 1215. The Tories have been fighting for an 8-month sunset clause, but Blair insisted during Prime Minister’s Questions that Al Qaida is more likely to attack Britain if the provisions are not permanent. Comments Simon Carr in the Indy, “You didn’t think the terror situation was so finely poised, perhaps?”

Blair has steadfastly refused to release to Parliament the full legal advice he was given about whether going to war in Iraq was legal under international law. This week it turned out that even the Cabinet wasn’t shown it, and today it has come out that there was none. All there ever was was a single page.

Still, it’s better than the guide which the Labour Party is giving MPs and campaigners on how to answer questions about the war. If asked about the legality of the war, they are advised to respond, “We are where we are,” which seems a little Zen for Eastbourne, somehow.

British satellite tv service Sky is introducing a Bad Movie channel. I’m so jealous.

A federal district court judge has thrown out a civil case brought by Vietnamese harmed by the use of Agent Orange against its manufacturers. Actually, I can see the legal point that they acted according to lawful government orders, but if you know that your product is being misused, in ways that harm innocent civilians, I don’t think the “just following orders” defense is really good enough. (Update: Simon Tisdall points out that Zyklon B manufacturers were executed after World War II).

Similarly, the Pakistani government today admitted that A.Q. Khan aided the Iranian nuclear program, but will not allow him to be prosecuted. Also, according to the misinformation minister, he was acting “in his personal capacity,” and the government had no idea that several centrifuges had found their way onto a ship bound for Iran.

Looking back over this post, every item is about -- as Annan put it -- compromising core values, assuming those core values aren’t a myth. Actually, every item but one: the Bad Movie channel doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it is.

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