The Boston College Political Science Association’s Undergraduate Journal Winter 2009

The Boston College Political Science Association
President: Allison Broderick, A&S „09 Vice President and Treasurer: Daniel Wilcox, A&S „09 Secretary: David Tapia, A&S „11 Editor, Uncommon Sense: Charlie Curnow, A&S „09 Uncommon Sense is always looking for feedback, submissions for its upcoming issues, and help with editing. We may even publish some responses in subsequent issues. Please e-mail any submissions, comments, concerns, or inquiries to Editor Charlie Curnow at curnow@bc.edu.

Please note that the views expressed in Uncommon Sense reflect the opinions of their authors, and do not necessarily reflect those of Uncommon Sense as an organization, the Boston College Political Science Association, or Boston College. 2

Explaining Election 2008 ………………………………………………………………………..4 Interest and ideology at the ballot box. By Charlie Curnow Race and the Death Penalty……………………………………………………………………..8 Reforming a system of “legal lynching.” By Daniel Wilcox No More Troops to Afghanistan……………………………………………………………….13 Why the President’s plan is unlikely to work. By David Tapia Risky Business in Iran………………………………………………………………………….15 Will Obama be intimidated? By John O‟Toole Dealing with a Nuclear Iran.…………………………………………………………………..17 Should nothing really be off the table? By Michael Madormo The Politics of Universal Jurisdiction…………………………………………………………19 International law or “the law of the jungle?” By Michelle Martínez Human Rights and Traditional Cultures……………………………………………………...23 How “universal” are human rights? By Julianna Morall Overcoming Voter Apathy……………………………………………………………………..26 Can be a matter of simple conversation. By Ben Mayer Book Review: Torture and Truth……………………………………………………………..28 What really happened at Abu Ghraib? By Allison Broderick


Interest and ideology at the ballot box. By Charlie Curnow, A&S „09


happened on November 4, 2008? Precisely what caused Democrat Barack Obama to win 365 electoral votes to Republican candidate John McCain‟s 173, and 52% of the popular vote to McCain‟s 46% to secure him the election and the presidency? What does this outcome mean for the future of American politics? The rational choice school dominant in much of contemporary political science offers two main theoretical frameworks for explaining electoral outcomes in two-party democracies like the United States. One views ideology as the main factor in determining voter and candidate behavior. The other considers interest to be the most important variable. While both theories are rooted in rational choice, each offers contrasting views of the guiding principles of electoral politics. Duncan Black first articulated modern “ideological politics” theory in his 1948 article “On the Rationale of Group Decision-Making,”1 and Anthony Downs popularized it in his 1957 book An Economic Theory of Democracy.2 Analysts in this school tend to assume that in any given election, voters choose the candidate whose policy preferences Black, Duncan, “On the Rationale of Group Decision-Making,” The Journal of Political Economy, 1948, vol. 56, no. 1. 2 Downs, Anthony, An Economic Theory of Democracy, New York: Harper, 1957.

are closest to their own, and candidates strategically manipulate their platforms in order to capture as many votes as possible in order to win elections. For simplicity, analysts often assume that policy preferences exist along a onedimensional ideological scale from left to right. In a two-party democracy like the United States, this causes the nominees of both major parties to move their platforms as close as possible to the preferences of the median voter, the voter whose preferences lie at the electorate‟s ideological center, in order to maximize their votes. Political scientists refer to this predicted pattern of behavior as the median voter theorem. Median voter theorem would argue that Barack Obama won the 2008 presidential election because he came closer than John McCain did to matching the policy preferences of the median American voter, and that this allowed Obama to capture a majority of votes in the country‟s ideological center, as well as the votes of everyone to the left of him. There is some evidence that this was indeed the case. Obama‟s call to “overcome the red state, blue state divide” aimed straight at the American ideological center, and was a centerpiece of his campaign message. John McCain‟s transformation from independent centrist to right wing ideologue over the course of the 2008 campaign presents a challenge to the assumptions of the median voter theorem, however. Before the 2008 election, McCain was best known as a “maverick,” as a politician who would 4

readily forsake the conservative orthodoxy of his party when it conflicted with the conventional wisdom of the wider public. This is exactly the sort of strategy the median voter theorem prescribes. Contrary to the expectations of the median voter theorem, however, McCain held his largest lead over Barack Obama during and immediately following the Republican National Convention in early September, when he veered farthest to the right.3 The RNC saw McCain pick Christian conservative Sarah Palin as his running mate, who in her acceptance speech, the most memorable moment of the convention, made standard right wing calls for more oil drilling and barbs against the Democrats for wanting to increase spending and raise taxes the centerpiece of her message. 4 Whether or not this turn to the right made for good policy, it certainly seemed like good politics for John McCain, at least in the short term. Clearly, something other than the centripetal force of ideological politics was at play. William H. Riker, author of 1962‟s The Theory of Political Coalitions is the father of modern “interest politics” theory. 5 Riker used game theory to

“General Election: McCain Vs. Obama,” Real Clear Politics, http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/ 2008/president/us/general_election_mcc ain_vs_obama-225.html [Accessed November 6, 2008]. 4 Transcript can be found at the Republican National Convention official website, http://portal.gopconvention2008.com/spe ech/details.aspx?id=38 5 Riker, William H., The Theory of Political Coalitions. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1962.

formulate what political scientists now call the theory of minimal winning coalitions. The theory of minimal winning coalitions assumes that voters choose the candidate they perceive will maximize their interests, while candidates build political coalitions that are as small as possible while still being able to win elections, because this maximizes the amount a winning political coalition will be able extort from the remainder of the population for its own benefit. There is some strong evidence that the minimal winning coalitions of interest politics were at work in the 2008 election. One of the most obvious manifestations of voter interest is the distribution of wealth. Even though John McCain used Barack Obama‟s plan to “spread the wealth around” as his most prominent political bludgeon against the Democrat in the later stages of the campaign, it may have been this very policy orientation that won Mr. Obama the election. By 2008, Reaganomics and its heirs had brought the highest levels of income inequality to the United States since just before the Great Depression.6 Furthermore, a state of financial crisis leading up to the election likely made the perennial Republican promise, perpetuated by John McCain, that tax cuts for the highest income earners, along with the continued shrinkage of federal welfare programs and a loosely regulated institutional structure would produce a rising tide that would lift all ships seem increasingly implausible in

An interesting analysis of this longterm trend by Nobel-winning economist Paul Krugman can be found online at http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/ 09/18/introducing-this-blog/ 5

the minds of voters. All of this severely limited McCain‟s ability to build a winning political coalition. By contrast, Obama‟s promise to “roll back the Bush tax cuts” on the highest earners and replace them with tax cuts for the remaining “95% of the population” seemed like a welcome change for enough voters to produce a winning political coalition for Obama. By mid-September, the global financial crisis reached full tilt beginning with the September 14 bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers and led Treasury Secretary Paulson and Fed Chairman Bernanke to call for significant government involvement in the financial sector. A few days later, Barack Obama, who promised an interventionist reorientation of economic policy, opened up a lead in national polls over John McCain, whose policies largely echoed the deregulatory instincts of his Republican forbearers, and this lead only increased leading up to Election Day. 7 So which theory provides a more convincing account of what happened on Election Day 2008? Ironically, despite the fact that Barack Obama is likely best known for his inclusive and bipartisan rhetoric, I would argue that the minimal winning coalitions of interest politics ultimately won him the day. The economy was the top issue in the minds of over six in ten voters on November 4 according to exit polls, and 54% of those voters, just over a bare majority, picked Obama. No other issue even came close: the war in Iraq and terrorism, the next most popular issues, were picked by roughly 10% of voters each. In addition, those who voted with the economy in mind were clearly looking for a change.

Three-quarters of all voters thought the country was headed in the wrong direction, two-thirds worried about being unable to afford health care, and nobody thought the economy was in excellent shape. Indeed, more than 90% of voters thought the economy was not doing well, or that it was doing poorly. Perhaps most tellingly, people with incomes under $50,000, the clearest beneficiaries of Obama‟s proposed economic policies, broke big for Obama, while Obama and McCain split people with incomes above $50,000 more or less evenly.8 The most obvious causal narrative we can draw from this data gives clear credence to the predictions of interest politics theory: in a time of extraordinary economic hardship, middle and working class Americans faced a choice between one candidate who promised what was, past the surface, a continuation of the economic policies that led to the current crisis, and another who promised change. The fact that this change would likely entail an element of wealth redistribution further sweetened the deal. In other words, it was simply in the perceived self-interest of a majority of voters to pick Obama. Just as interesting as the question of “What happened on Election Day 2008?” is the question of “What will happen next in American politics?” Whether interest or ideology, or some combination of the two was the prime cause of Obama‟s win, Election 2008 was a striking show of force by a new Democratic political coalition, and a display of weakness by the Republican

“General Election: McCain Vs. Obama,” Real Clear Politics.

Davis, Bob, “Voters Cast Their Ballots with the Economy in Mind, Exit Polls Indicate,” Wall Street Journal, November 5, 2008. 6

coalition that has largely dominated American politics since 1968. As the aforementioned theories suggest, if the Republicans wish to reclaim their former influence in American politics, they will need to find a way to counter the Democratic argument that right wing economic policies worsen the plight of the poor and middle class, and indeed, even sacrifice the long-term growth and stability of the economy in order to make the rich even richer.

Unfortunately for them, in a political environment that looks primed by deep recession to be dominated by the Keynesian and redistributionist economic theories of the American left, this will likely prove a formidable challenge to overcome.


Reforming a system of “legal lynching.” By Daniel Wilcox, A&S „09

Race has played a cruel and flawed
role in the historical practice of capital punishment in this country. The practice of capital punishment and the due process accorded to the accused has been largely dependent upon the race of the accused. The basic legal framework through which these practices would be challenged was created during the Reconstruction period. Starting in 1923 challenges brought before the Supreme Court successfully mandated reforms to the judicial system to improve the means of due process in this country. Today, capital punishment no longer functions as a tool of state-enforced racial order, yet discrimination has not been erased from society. Given this country‟s history we must be mindful of evidence indicating improprieties, especially based on race, in the operation of the judicial system. From the Colonial period to the Civil War race was a major factor that clearly influenced the likelihood of a capital sentence. While there was variation in the criminal codes of the Colonies and later states, blacks were not regarded as full citizens. Accordingly blacks were generally subject to harsher penalties, if not an entirely separate, more draconian criminal code.9 This legal disparity meant that race was frequently the deciding factor in whether one would

receive any semblance of a fair trial and be put to death. In effect there were two legal systems. There was one for whites, which afforded the accused due process rights, and another for blacks, which was totally lacking in protections. For example, in Virginia, a black person could be tried and executed for sixty-six different crimes, while a white man could be tried and sentenced to death for only one.10 Furthermore, a black person could be tried and executed following a hearing before a magistrate, who may have had very limited knowledge of the law.11 Therefore, given the combination of unequal law codes and an utter disregard for the due process rights of black defendants many more blacks were put to death than whites.12 Additionally, frequent reports of these figures do not consider the prevalence of lynching which cannot be considered a legal process in any light. Race was invariably a factor that would exponentially increase or decrease the likelihood of receiving a capital sentence, especially in the South.


Stuart Banner, “Traces of Slavery Race and the Death Penalty in Historical Perspective,” in Charles Ogletree and Austin Sarat (eds.) From Lynching Mobs to the Killing State (2006), 97-8.

Charles Ogletree, “Making Race Matter in Death Matters,” in Charles Ogletree and Austin Sarat (eds.) From Lynching Mobs to the Killing State (2006), 66. 11 Stuart Banner, “Traces of Slavery: Race and the Death Penalty in Historical Perspective,” in Charles Ogletree and Austin Sarat (eds.) From Lynching Mobs to the Killing State (2006), 98. 12 Banner, 99 8

In this era capital punishment was part of enforcing a racialized order on society.13 The very substance of due process was dependant on the race of the accused, and capital sentencing was only part of a larger pattern of systemic racial oppression. I therefore argue that the death penalty during this period could accurately be considered “legal lynching.”14 Following Reconstruction, reform of the legal system, particularly in the South, was attempted so that equality would become equal in principle; however, the actual practice of capital punishment was not substantively changed. If an accused was atypical enough to make it to trial, the process was a trial in name only. 15 Frequently, counsel would be ineffective and the hearings abbreviated. One example of this anemic due process comes from Kentucky, in which a man was hung immediately after a trial that lasted less than an hour.16 Even after

Benjamin Fleury-Steiner, “Death in „Whiteface‟ Modern Race Minstrels, Official Lynching, and the Culture of American Apartheid,” in Charles Ogletree and Austin Sarat (eds.) From Lynching Mobs to the Killing State (2006), entire. 14 Timothy Kaufman-Osborn, “Capital Punishment as Legal Lynching?,” in Charles Ogletree and Austin Sarat (eds.) From Lynching Mobs to the Killing State (2006), 27. 15 Stephen Bright, “Discrimination, Death, and Denial: The Tolerance of Racial Discrimination in Infliction of the Death Penalty,” in Charles Ogletree and Austin Sarat (eds.) From Lynching Mobs to the Killing State (2006), 214. 16 Stephen Bright, 215.

Reconstruction, race continued to play a fundamental role in the nature of due process afforded to the accused. During Reconstruction attempts were made in the South to provide blacks with equal rights and protections under the law. For a time the 14th and 15th amendments did successfully provide newly freed blacks with increased rights. Additionally, the Enforcement Act passed in 1870 made it a federal crime to violate the civil rights of any person. 17 In spite of these efforts, newly conferred rights quickly came under assault. While this legislation was intended to reduce racial violence and inequality, it did not function effectively and was actively subverted by Southern states.18 After a brief hiatus Southern states resumed an active role in racial oppression. Jim Crows laws were enacted that mandated segregation in nearly every facet of public life. Blacks were actively disenfranchised. When the state did not act promptly to maintain the racial order citizens would take matters into their own hands. Lynching was a public event and was not subject to interference from the state for many years.19 If the accused was lucky enough to avoid lynching the judicial process only provided a different venue and slightly more extended procedure which could only end death. In the postReconstruction South capital punishment continued to function as a means of racial oppression. 20 Reconstruction did not have the effect of reducing racial inequalities in capital punishment in the South. A culture of inequality continued to permeate society
17 18

Kaufman-Osborn, 26. Ogletree, 57-8 19 Osborn, 34-5. 20 Bright, 214. 9

and the legal system so that the operation of justice was perverted.21 Nevertheless, legislation and constitutional amendments enacted during Reconstruction provided the basis on which challenges to the system of racial inequality in the South would be based later in the twentieth century. In the 1923 U.S. Supreme Court case Moore et al. v. Dempsey the systemic racial inequalities of the legal system began to be successfully challenged. In a series of cases over the next forty years the U.S. Supreme Court expanded due process rights to the states by incorporating the Bill of Rights through the Fourteenth Amendment.22 This process, in theory, had the affect of enhancing due process rights for all Americans. Reform of the legal system in the United States culminated in the 1972 U.S. Supreme Court case Furman v. Georgia. The court held that the death penalty as it was currently practiced in the United States was unconstitutional because it was applied in a seemingly arbitrary manner in violation of the Eighth Amendment.23 Over the next four years thirty-seven states enacted new death penalty statutes with the intent to eliminate seemingly arbitrary death sentences. These reforms enacted by state legislatures included implementing separate trial and sentencing phases in capital cases, as well as statutory standards to guide
21 22

Bright, 215. Gideon v. Wainwright, Miranda v. Arizona. 23 Austin Sarat, “The Rhetoric of Race in the New Abolitionsim,” in Charles Ogletree and Austin Sarat (eds.) From Lynching Mobs to the Killing State (2006), 262.

judges and juries in capital sentencing. These statutory changes were upheld as constitutional in the 1976 case Gregg v. Georgia. In sum, according to the U.S. Supreme Court the legal system has been reformed in order to eliminate systemic injustice based on the race of the accused. In 1987 McCleskey v. Kemp came before the Supreme Court. In this case the petitioner, Warren McCleskey, alleged that Georgia‟s capital sentencing process was handled in a racially discriminatory manner, thus violating the Fourteenth Amendment. This accusation was based on the Baldus study that illustrated racial disparity in capital sentencing in Georgia.24 However, the court held that while statistically valid, this data did not prove that discriminatory intent had actually entered into the sentencing procedure in McCleskey‟s case. Such a persistent discrepancy in the number of blacks sentenced to death relative to the aggregate composition of the general population is held as evidence of continued systemic racism that makes the current practice of capital punishment a state-mandated “lynching behind prison walls.”25 Given the history of capital punishment in this country, allegations of continued racial discrimination in the legal system must be subject to close scrutiny. A disproportional representation of a minority group relative to their composition of the general population does not in fact prove systemic nor individual discriminatory intent. While disproportion may be indicative of a flawed or unjust system, it is not in itself proof of this. In fact,
24 25

Ogletree, 63. Bright, 214. 10

when considering the proportion of a racial group sentenced to death relative to the proportion of that racial group‟s composition of society in general is largely irrelevant for the question of race and the death penalty. The only proportional comparison that is relevant is that of the proportion of those eligible for the death penalty to those who actually receive a capital sentence.26 When this comparison is made today, in federal capital cases for instance, it is found that blacks are actually sentenced to death at a lower rate than their percentage of those eligible for the death penalty would indicate.27 Furthermore, this initial discrepancy in those eligible for the death penalty relative to society is a manifestation of socio-economic forces rather than evidence of continued systemic racial oppression. Today the death penalty is not a form of legal lynching. While the death penalty has been carried out in a highly discriminatory manner in the past, broad accusations against the system as a whole have little merit today. Instead individual cases may point towards a troubling persistence of discrimination in the legal system, resulting in unwarranted and disproportional sentences. Wherever such conditions are found in the judicial system, they cannot be tolerated.28

It cannot be said that Furman v Georgia solved all the problems in our judicial system. Even though disproportion is not in itself proof of injustice it should merit closer examination and consideration. For example, when the circumstances of Chattahoochee County, Georgia are examined they are certainly indicative of probable discriminatory practice.29 Such practices cannot be tolerated. But Chattahoochee County is only a single instance. Still, such discriminatory practices are today the exception rather than the rule. Another allegation about the current practice of capital punishment is that the race of the victim unduly impacts the capital procedure, meaning that blacks are more likely to be sentenced to death for killing whites than vice versa.30 However, while these statistical studies raise important questions they are hampered because they do not control for externalities to the crime, such as past criminal record or the brutal nature of a murder.31 Still such troubling disproportion has not been proven discriminatory (or even fully factual), but certainly merits closer examination and study in the coming years.

Brad Zuber, “Death Penalty Déjà vu,” Guest Comment, National Review Online, 9/18/00, accessed 10/28/08. [http://www.nationalreview.com/ comment/comment091800a.shtml] 27 Of those eligible for the death penalty 20% were white and 80% minority, the death penalty was sought for 28% of white and 72% of minority defendants. 28 Michael Radelet and Glenn Pierce,“ The Role of The Victim‟s Race and

Geography on Death Sentencing,” in Charles Ogletree and Austin Sarat (eds.) From Lynching Mobs to the Killing State (2006),125. 29 Bright, 222-3. 30 Mona Lynch,”Stereotypes, Prejudice, and Life-and-Death Decision Making: Lessons from Laypersons in an Experimental Setting, in Charles Ogletree and Austin Sarat (eds.) From Lynching Mobs to the Killing State (2006), 187. 31 Radelet and Pierce,121, & 142-4. 11

Race has played a wholly inappropriate and criminal role in the operation of justice in this country. However, the legal system that could try and hang a man in less than two hours is a thing of the past. The reforms launched by Moore v. Dempsey have been successful in improving the legal system.32 But we still must be mindful of allegations and perceptions of racial discrimination in the imposition of capital sentences, and ensure that prejudice is never again allowed to subvert the rights of the accused and the very foundations of our judicial system.


Ogletree, 75, “Considerable expense and interminable delays result from the exceptionally-high standard of procedural fairness set by the United States courts in attempting to avoid arbitrary decisions.” 12

Why the President’s plan is unlikely to work. By David Tapia, A&S „11 troops in Afghanistan will not decrease violence in the region; they will not solve the country‟s political and economic problems; and they will certainly not guarantee success for the United States of America. If more than seven years of military occupation in Afghanistan have not accomplished more than disrupting Al-Qaeda and dethroning the Taliban, why would more years of the same failed military strategies produce any successful outcomes? While many Americans feel optimistic about a remote possibility for success in Afghanistan, NATO allies see the Afghan mission as one that is “doomed to fail.”33 Ultimately, more troops in Afghanistan are likely to increase violent attacks against American soldiers, are unlikely to rebuild the country, and are likely to face the same disappointing outcome other foreign troops have experienced there. The number of violent attacks in Afghanistan against American troops and Afghan civilians has increased as the number of troops has been augmented. The reason is simple: more troops multiply the number of targets available for insurgents, and increase the potential number of “mistakes” by American forces that result in civilian casualties. The latter causes Afghans to become outraged at the occupation, which subsequently leads them to engage in further violent attacks. Between 2007


and 2008, militant violence, including roadside bombs and suicide bombers, rose by thirty percent.34 It is also highly probable that violent attacks will persist if the Taliban continues to enjoy safe haven across the border in Pakistan. From Pakistan, the Taliban can safely coordinate attacks against American and NATO troops fighting in Afghanistan. This means that instead of adding more troops, a possible alternative for the United States would be to cooperate more with Pakistan. For Afghanistan to be rebuilt there must be a competent government and economic development. Karzai‟s government is incompetent, and economic development in Afghanistan is practically nonexistent. Karzai‟s inability to govern effectively has become apparent on numerous occasions. In one instance, Dutch soldiers fighting in the Oruzgan Province discovered that funds they needed and that were supposed to be allocated to the region‟s governor were not going to him, and instead were going to the former governor, who happened to be Karzai‟s protégé.35 Furthermore, under Karzai, the country continues to rely heavily on the opium trade. Opium accounts for a significant portion of the economy, and revenues from its trade go directly into funding the Taliban‟s

Koebl, Susanne. "The West Is at a Loss in Afghanistan." Der Spiegel. 10/17/2008

Shanker, Thom. "NATO Tries to Reduce Afghan Casualties." The New York Times. 09/16/2008 35 Koebl, Susanne. "The West Is at a Loss in Afghanistan." Der Spiegel. 10/17/2008 13

operations.36 If economic resources keep flowing onto the Taliban‟s side and the Karzai government cannot manage a country run by warlords, how will more troops ever defeat – or even outlast – the Taliban and achieve military victory? Furthermore, the death toll continues to rise among Allied and American forces. British sources suggest that additional US soldiers could be more likely to heat up conflict rather than encourage reconciliation and 37 reconstruction. Yet, the current American counterinsurgency doctrine suggests that it would require 400,000 troops for a successful occupation like the one in Iraq.38 It would be a far greater number of troops than the ones used in Iraq, because Afghanistan is more populous and less governable than Iraq.39 More troops, besides being a great commitment, have not shown any success in Afghanistan in the past. Despite having over 100,000 Afghan men and 120,000 Soviet troops at their disposal, the Soviet Union ultimately failed in Afghanistan and withdrew in 1989. The British also attempted to maintain control of their territories in the region earlier in the 20th century, but they also failed.

More troops in Afghanistan are unlikely to produce anything meaningful for the United States. Violent attacks against American troops will continue because more troops will give insurgents more targets and popular opposition to the occupation is likely to increase as civilians continue to suffer from the consequences of military presence. These facts alone also show how using military power to tackle terrorism is an ineffective tactic. Likewise, more troops will not solve the internal political and economic problems that plague the country. Afghanistan will continue to breed terrorism if there is not a centralized government that maintains authority throughout the country, and if there is no economic development that prevents the current flow of opium revenues from ending up in the hands of enemies of the United States. Lastly, more troops are likely to do nothing more than risk the lives of more soldiers. In the past, other ambitious superpowers have failed to secure control over Afghanistan. There is nothing that indicates that the fate of the United States will be any different.


Gall, Carlotta. "Ragtag Taliban Show Tenacity in Afghanistan." The New York Times. 08/04/2008

Koebl, Susanne. "The West Is at a Loss in Afghanistan." Der Spiegel. 10/17/2008 38 Fichtner, Ullrich. "Why NATO Troops Can't Deliver Peace in Afghanistan." Der Spiegel. 05/29/2008 39 Bull, Bartle Breese. "The Wrong Force for the „Right War‟." The New York Times. 08/13/2008 14

Will Obama be intimidated? By John O‟Toole, A&S „11

As President Obama has officially
taken office, he must now realize that much of his idealism is about to be shot in the foot. Much of the campaign promises will have to be put on hold, or he will not fully address the issues that plague our country. One of these most pressing issues is relations with Iran. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, president of Iran, is, in a word, irrational. He was elected in 2005 as a radical conservative movement swarmed Iranian voters and they elected the man who so sharply contrasted with his predecessor, Mohammad Khatami.40 He has repeatedly broken U.N. regulations concerning the enrichment of nuclear products, which is the beginning of the process meant to develop nuclear bombs. He intends to wipe Israel, a faithful United States ally and the only successful democracy in the Middle East, off the face of the planet. And, he has made it quite clear that he is not a fan of United States foreign policy, to say the least. In a letter that Ahmadinejad wrote to President Obama, he included such ominous lines as “As you know, opportunities that are bestowed upon humans are short lived” and “People in the world expect war-oriented policies, occupation, bullying, deception and intimidation of nations and imposing discriminatory policies on them and international affairs, which have evoked

hatred toward American leaders, to be replaced by ones advocating justice, respect for human rights, friendship and noninterference in other countries‟ affairs.”41 Ahmadinejad is trying to intimidate the newly elected president. He is making an unprecedented outreach to the United States president by sending his letter, but this isn‟t to say that Obama shouldn‟t be wary that ulterior motives lie beneath the surface. Ahmadinejad has proven that he is untrustworthy and uncooperative. He is passionate, yet dangerous, and he must be dealt with very seriously. Our relations with Iran also have direct effects on our relations with Israel. Iran, among other nations, has supported groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah, which have repeatedly attacked Israel in a hope that the Jewish state will soon disappear. If the United States is to honor its devotion to its ally Israel, as it should, we must fully consider the potential repercussions of making such a whole-hearted pledge. Do we condemn Israel for their retaliation or Hamas, Hezbollah, and, potentially, Iran for their actions? Do we intervene? Do we utilize the U.N., even though its authority is almost laughable? All these questions must be considered by Obama as serious options that could have nuclear repercussions for both Israel and our own nation. The Jewish-Muslim conflict is deepridden in the traditions of these two religions. It is difficult for many

http://topics.nytimes.com/topics/referenc e/timestopics/people/a/mahmoud_ahmad inejad/index.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/07/wo rld/middleeast/07iran.html?_r=1 15

Americans to understand how such heated debates arise. But, these nations are thousands of years older than our own, and their histories are so intertwined, yet so at odds, that there is more at stake than we can really understand. Then, of course, religion is added to the situation and we get an even messier situation. Such questions arise as “Who is right? Which God is the true God (though one could arguably say they are the same God)? Whose land is this? And can others exist who dissent from my own views, or are they a threat to the very existence of my own religion, race, or state?” What is important for Obama and his cabinet, mainly Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to recognize is that our culture, based on rationality, fairness, and justice, is fundamentally different from the culture of the nations of the Middle East. We cannot try to understand the conflict in our own terms, but rather we try to see it in their terms. We must understand that the IsraeliArab conflict is one rooted in history; and diplomacy, though desirable, may just not work. To be successful, each state, including the United States, must make concessions. Yet, Israel and especially the Arab nations must be convinced they are actually benefiting from any deal that is made. Otherwise, war will prevail.

The most promising hope we have is to try to promote democracy and freedom as positive ideals. We need not be the World Police, but we cannot be pacifists either. We must defend ourselves if attacked, but cannot always restore order in the world. Obama needs to do more than lead, he must re-shape the public image of our country in a way that demonstrates our strength and our values, while not preemptively attacking others. We cannot deplete our nuclear arsenal because that does not guarantee that other countries will do the same. For many other nations, rules are only superficial; if they can get away with breaking them, they will. Instead, we must work to educate young Iranians and the youth of countless other nations, either directly or indirectly, so they can understand the benefits of rationality, respect, and equality. Iran does not need to change the things that make it distinctly Iranian, but it must recognize that it cannot decide who is right or who deserves to live, or believe that it has the right to take the lives of other innocent people. Iran must respect differences, even if it disagrees with them. Though it will be difficult to implement and certainly a challenge for the Obama Administration, without the establishment of mutual respect among all nations concerned, no progress will be made.


Should nothing really be off the table? By Michael Madormo, A&S „09 has become an unquestioned assumption in the American political discourse that a military strike against Iran is preferable to a nuclear-armed Iran. Although Senators John McCain and Barack Obama differed on how they would like to deal with Iran, both agree that a nuclear-armed Iran is intolerable and that military strikes are a real option. Senator John McCain has said that there is “only one thing worse than military action, and that is a nuclear armed Iran.” Although Senator Obama has chided the Bush administration for its confrontational attitude toward Iran, Obama has also maintained that all options are on the table, implying the use of military force if diplomacy fails.42 While conventional wisdom on Iran dictates that its nuclear program must be stopped at all costs, I believe this argument does not hold up to costbenefit analysis and we need to fundamentally reassess how we think about the ongoing diplomatic effort to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons. We can all agree that a nuclear Iran is undesirable, but the alternative of military strikes would do more harm than good. First, diplomacy is still a viable option. Iran is several years away from having a nuclear weapon and the ongoing EU-led negotiations and IAEA inspections have slowed down the progress of Iran‟s program. Although negotiations have failed to achieve a real


“The Candidates on Iran” Council on Foreign Relations September 30, 2008.

agreement thus far, the Iranian leadership has expressed interest in negotiations with the US and it is time for there to be talks at all levels between US diplomats and Iranian leadership. If nothing else, the failure of these talks would pave the way for other measures to be taken, with the support of the international community since the US can credibly claim to have pursued other options. Importantly, the US cannot make the halting of enrichment a precondition to negotiations because that would require Iran to concede its primary contention from the beginning and it is a non-starter for the Iranian leadership. When diplomacy is not producing the desired results, political and economic coercion are crucial parts of a carrot and stick approach. Throughout the negotiating process, the US must hold out the eventuality of increased economic and political isolation, targeting the political elites in particular. Since the hardliners, personified by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, are becoming less popular among the Iranian people, any punitive action against Iran should avoid galvanizing Iranian nationalism. Political and economic coercion, coupled with direct talks with the Iranian leadership and a willingness to make some concessions, could lead to the halting of the Iranian nuclear program. Most importantly, a military strike against Iranian enrichment facilities would be counterproductive in the longterm. Any strike would be limited to “known facilities” and would only temporarily delay the nuclear program. 17

Iran would inevitably continue the program in secret and the Iranian people would rally behind the regime in support of their right to pursue nuclear power. At a time when the US is overstretched militarily, it would be unwise to engage in open hostilities with a major regional power player like Iran that has the capabilities to strike back. In the event of a US attack, Iran could strike back directly at American troops in Iraq or Afghanistan, use proxy forces like Hezbollah to strike Israel, or disrupt shipments in the Gulf and the oil supplies. In the worst-case scenario of Iran getting nuclear weapons, we can learn to live with a nuclear Iran and containment is a better alternative than military strikes. Barry Posen made the case for containing a nuclear Iran in a New York Times op-ed in February of 2006. First, the spawning of a regional arms race as a result of an Iranian nuclear weapon is unlikely. Israel is already nuclear armed, and Afghanistan and Iraq are engulfed in civil conflict and occupied by American troops. Egypt relies on

international aid and would be vulnerable to pressure, while Saudi Arabia and Turkey would be content to rely on the US nuclear umbrella rather than pursue a politically and economically costly nuclear weapons program. Second, it is highly unlikely that Iran would give nuclear weapons to non-state terrorists because a nuclear attack would likely be traceable, leaving Iran open to counterattack from the US or Israel. Third, deterrence has worked in the past and there is no reason to assume that the US and Israeli nuclear deterrent could not stifle Iranian ambitions. Although we would all be happier and safer in a world with less nuclear armed states, it may be that we have to get used to the idea of a nuclear armed Iran. Undoubtedly, diplomacy has not failed and should be emboldened over the course of the next year, especially with the next president. But Americans should be questioning the assumption that war with Iran is an inevitable or acceptable endgame.


International law or “the law of the jungle?” By Michelle Martínez, A&S „11 recent emergence of the concept of universal jurisdiction has the potential to challenge the way international law has traditionally functioned in terms of its politics and its legal foundations. Broadly applying such a concept without clearly defining what constitutes the “crimes” that would warrant it could possibly lead to unwarranted abuses of power and would be susceptible to highly politicized applications.43 In order to ensure that states won‟t turn the system into an instrument of political warfare or one vastly manipulated by the politics of states, application of universal jurisdiction should not be based on a unilateral engagement but should be limited to the system of mandates the UN Security Council established. This concept of universal jurisdiction is relatively new in the sphere of international politics. Its emergence mirrors the international community‟s growing desire to punish and prevent violations of human rights, war crimes, genocide, and torture. Even though most English-speaking states reject universal jurisdiction as being contrary to international law, they recognize that there are certain criminal acts that threaten the international community as


a whole.44 These instances of war crimes, international terrorism, and piracy allow for the exercise of universal jurisdiction. Legally, offenses against the community of nations are subject to universal jurisdiction as a matter of customary law. However, customary law has yet to show that the concept applies to non-signatory states as well, or that the respect for fundamental human rights is an obligation of international law.45 In addition, the signatories of conventions regarding the extradition of criminals refer to them as “common standards” and a “diplomatic weapon” with no concrete legal standing.46 Therefore, the intent of the signatories proves that at least in its original context, universal jurisdiction was merely a political convention to pressure other states, rather than a legal basis. At this stage, the main legal arguments suggesting states can exercise universal jurisdiction over a certain set of crimes come from the non-binding precedents made by prior cases. The 1999 Pinochet case proves to be of great relevance in proving the politics of the system. Even though the case recognizes the importance of immunity insofar as it protects the sovereignty of states from interference, it sets the


IN/PO 521 Handout, excerpt from Henry Kissinger, Does America Need a Foreign Policy? (New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2001), 3.

Peter Malanczuk, Akehurst's Modern Introduction to International Law, 7th revised ed., (New York: Routledge, 1997), 112. 45 Ibid., 113. 46 Op Cit., Kissinger, 1. 19

precedent of recognizing a “worldwide universal jurisdiction” that provides for no immunity for torturers such as Pinochet under international law.47 Therefore, it sets the precedent of Heads of State being responsible as the actors of torture. However, the politics of the situation overpowered its legal holdings, thus proving how universal jurisdiction can be manipulated by individual states to suit their own political interests. The alliance that existed between Minister Thatcher and Pinochet influenced the way the issue unraveled and ultimately ended in the conclusion that Pinochet was too ill for trial. Additionally, the Nuremberg judgment represents a collective action to try and judge Nazi officials for their war crimes and crimes against humanity. The precedent set by this case differs from that of Pinochet and others, considering the lack of ambiguity in the definition of the crimes as well as the delegation of jurisdiction from the states‟ affected to the Tribunal. There was no second-guessing and no manipulation regarding the violations of international law that these German officials had engaged in. This case sets the precedent of delineating that there are certain crimes that constitute such enormity and evidence that judicial action should be taken by the international community. It is precisely an application similar to that of the Nuremberg judgment that would be ideal for the current international system‟s dealings with violations of human rights. Politically, universal jurisdiction becomes an impractical idea since its applications and provisions can be manipulated by individual states in order to satisfy their

own ambitions or arbitrarily used to increase their own power. The main concern at hand tends to be that it would interfere in states‟ sovereignty and their domestic affairs, but it‟s crucial to note who is pursuing universal jurisdiction. If it is agreed that states can act onesidedly to prosecute the relevant crimes, it can easily turn to pursuing political enemies rather than a universal justice.48 To illustrate the potential for politically and ideologically motivated abuses of the concept, consider the following hypothetical example. If it was to be concluded that universal jurisdiction is permissible under international law, enemy states of the United States who are signatories to the ICC, such as Afghanistan, could initiate an investigation. This becomes even more possible considering the vagueness of the relevant crimes, which makes them highly susceptible to politicized application.49 Therefore, were these concepts to be accepted internationally, the United States would run the risk of having some of its civilians extradited, possibly even ad hoc, to other countries. In an ideal world, universal jurisdiction would work, but in a world influenced by the reality of states pursuing their own interests, states are bound to manipulate it in order to meet these interests. As long as the procedures to deal with these crimes are institutionalized on an international basis and are dealt with by means of a collective security or an international tribunal, the concept of universal jurisdiction is a good idea. It is crucial to have standards as to the limits of states‟ and its diplomats‟ immunity from external prosecution, in order to

IN/PO 521 Casebook, 78.


Op Cit., Kissinger, 2. Ibid.,3. 20

protect “inherent dignity and inalienable rights.” As a community, the effects of “power politics” can slightly be curtailed, though as usual the opinion and judgment of the “larger powers” will tend to prevail. As previously mentioned, the United States would still have to worry about prosecution if the concept were to be generally accepted. Given the horizontal nature of the international legal system, any and all states would have the ability to invoke universal jurisdiction. However, given the authority of the United States in the global balance of power, it is highly unlikely that US policymakers would be subject to stateinitiated prosecutions. Most states, especially allies and those that rely on the US for support, would probably fear the political repercussions of targeting such a power. Therefore, even the legal application of universal jurisdiction would be determined and limited by the politics of states. It might be unlikely, but it is still possible that the US policymakers would be susceptible to prosecutions. Especially when considering the Bush Administration‟s evident use of torture, it becomes even more of a possibility. President Bush‟s assertion that the “war on terrorism” was outside the Geneva Convention‟s rubric could potentially allow for US soldiers to be prosecuted for crimes and even for the President to be accused of a “grave breach” by other countries.50 Though the risk is not imminent, the possibility of future prosecution in a constant worry. 51

IN/PO521 handout, excerpt from Jane Mayer, “Outsourcing Torture,” The New Yorker 81, no.1 (Feb.14, 2005), 7. 51 IN/PO521 handout, excerpt from Scott Shane, “Nominee‟s Stand May Avoid

Taking a domestic legal position on the subject of torture is strongly affected by the politics of the US. This particular case showcases the interaction that exists between the political and legal aspects of international law. Given the political incentive to provide legal protection to its government officials, the US Congress has taken measures to offer legal protection to those acting under government authorization. This attempts to protect against the precedent set by the Nuremberg judgment regarding the culpability of those carrying out the government‟s orders. Were there to be a legal obligation to apprehend and try suspected torturers, the United States should definitely be worried. Just a few weeks ago, the British government might put CIA officers on trial over allegations of torture on a British resident. Binyam Mohamed, who was rendered by Americans and subject to abuses in Morocco and Afghanistan, alleges that MI5 agents knew of the plans of transferring him in order to subject him to torture. This resembles the 1989 Soering case insofar as it relates to the knowledge of the British government of the possible subjection to torture, would constitute an example of “aiding and abetting” the act itself. Though not an example of universal jurisdiction, this case proves the consequences of having legal obligations regarding torture. Having such obligations can have unprecedented consequences that have the potential to be highly detrimental to the prestige of the United States. Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, for instance, has already been targeted by individual states over his Tangle of Torture Cases,” New York Times, sec., November 1, 2007. 21

responsibility for torture. Universal jurisdiction would allow for Rumsfeld to be extradited for his involvement with the war on terror, which can be construed by certain states as being an infringement on the conventions regarding humane treatment of individuals. The ambiguity and vagueness of the definitions of what warrants universal jurisdiction allows for the political manipulation of the device on behalf of states. As John Radsan, former CIA lawyer, states: “It‟s the law of the jungle.” As of now, his statement couldn‟t be truer. The influence of politics in the way states act and their involvement in the international community overpowers the law. Therefore, the applications of law tend to be politicized and arbitrary when left to individual states. This poses a danger when contemplating universal jurisdiction, which makes it crucial that the application of such a concept be limited to the system of mandates established by the UN Security Council for the international tribunals covering war crimes. If not, the international law system would become a “jungle” in itself, thus challenging the regulation of state behavior that international law sets to instill.


How “universal” are human rights? By Julianna Morall, A&S „09 our increasingly interconnected world, cultures from all over interact and communicate with each other on a daily basis. With this hitherto unknown level of exchange, new problems have emerged which are surrounded by passionate debate and fiery rhetoric. One such debate stems from the notion of human rights as a universal concept, which many interpret to mean that the Western world‟s conception of human rights should be imposed on all cultures. A universal standard for human rights has the potential to be an extremely powerful force in the twenty first century; however, there are many obstacles currently standing in the way of this notion becoming anything close to a reality. One roadblock that has developed in the minds of people around the world is the belief that creating a universal standard for human rights impinges on culture; many people, largely from Asia, the Middle East, and other Muslim countries, foresee a universal standard as unreasonable because it would likely entail outlawing traditional practices. Thus, the idea of universal human rights is seen by many as little more than an imperialistic movement of the Western world which would force one cultures conception of individual rights onto all. This belief has some merits, however it fails to take into account the fact that culture is not and never has been a static concept. On every continent, cultures have abandoned past practices and evolved with time; therefore, while human rights are rightfully culture-bound, that does not mean that certain inhumane, yet traditional practices should be allowed to continue.


In a world as interconnected as ours, vastly different conceptions of human rights cannot coexist alongside each other for much longer. When it comes to practices which cause unwanted physical or mental pain on the victim, no length of tradition can be used as a legitimate defense. In the United States, slavery once held an integral role in the functioning of Southern society. Slavery was deeply imbedded in the culture of the South and when this practice was threatened, the region went to war to protect its culture. The world now knows that this war was fought in vain and that slavery, a cruel and disgusting practice, was doomed for illegality. Nevertheless, if one were to go back in time and tell this to a young man whose father owned a tobacco or cotton plantation, he would most likely have yelled a great deal, run you off his property, or even shot you. Clearly, it is hard to part with habits that seem irrevocably tied to your lifestyle, but that does not mean such habits are necessarily right. Slavery in the American South is just one example of cultural practices which have been abandoned as a result of the realization that they are inhumane. In Europe, the death penalty has been outlawed; this undoubtedly would have been unthinkable to a French or Englishman two hundred years ago. Resisting changes in one‟s culture may be a natural condition of human nature, but it is one that our civilization can no longer afford to adhere to. It is not only in the realm of human rights that resisting cultural change can be damaging, but because human rights deal with life or death actions, resisting cultural 23

evolution in this area takes on much higher stakes. Human society is unique and beautiful because variations between cultures lend a striking degree of vibrancy and richness to our civilization. Globalization has sparked a fear in people the world over that regional cultures are going to fade away as the process of “McDonald‟s-ization” spreads to the remotest corners of our globe. This fear is not entirely irrational, however those who get consumed by it overestimate the forces of homogenization that are at work. It is true that freedom fighters in Iraq wear shirts with the Nike logo on it and that popular American music can be heard blasting out of speakers from nearly anywhere in the planet, but these are just surface similarities. The true essence of culture, whatever culture it may be, will not disappear unless those who practice that culture allow it to. That being said, there are certain cultural practices which have run their course and must now be abandoned. Any practice which is forced upon a person, such as female genital mutilation, no longer has a place in our world. The economic interconnectedness of the entire planet is forcing a healthy degree of global, political, and social integration which will be gravely threatened if some sort of standard towards the treatment of human life is not developed. Hence, genital mutilation cannot be protected under the auspices of a cultural practice, just as slavery could not be. This claim becomes more problematic when one considers the fact that some young girls may want to undergo genital mutilation as a result of their culture being so deeply ingrained in them. To that point one must say that there were some slaves who lived a comfortable enough life that the uncertainty and instability that would come with freedom was not something they actively fought for. In other words, humans can be conditioned to accept all manners of horrible

treatment, but once again, that does not make those practices right. Essentially, there must be sacrifices made, in terms of abandoning certain backwards practices, in order for the age of global interconnectedness to continue relatively peacefully, even if this is perceived by some to mean a loss of culture. Even though there is still a great deal of resistance to the idea of universal human rights, an irrefutable consensus has formed around the idea that certain crimes are universally wrong and harmful to the entire state system, and contrary to widespread belief, it is not only “the East” which violates these rights. Embodied in agreements such as the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the Torture Convention of 1984, states around the globe have recognized that there are certain actions which are universally criminal and detrimental to the international balance of peace and justice and have agreed to abandon such practices. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a document that was issued by the United Nations (UN) sixty years ago, provides the most obvious embodiment of the universal condemnation of certain actions, including slavery, torture, cruel or degrading treatment, and arbitrary arrest and detention.52 With 192 member states in the UN, the importance and weight of this document cannot be easily dismissed. On top of this document, the UN Convention Against Torture explicitly designates torture as unacceptable, stating “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of


“Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” IN/PO521 Casebook, p. 97. 24

torture.”53 The Geneva Conventions further affirm the illegality of torture. The Bush administration engaged in practices, such as rendition (the outsourcing of prisoners with the true goal of coercing information out of them), that directly contradict its broader renunciation of torture and its claim to be a defender of human rights.54 With incredibly flimsy legal reasoning behind the U.S.‟s actions, it is clear that these policies toward torture are the first step down a very slippery slope of disregard toward international standards of human rights. Thus, while standards have been developed and upheld by states with vastly different cultural backgrounds, these standards are also still being broken, not just in China and Myanmar, but also in the United States. At the dawn of a potentially new and different era in politics in the U.S., one of the most pressing responsibilities of the government is to bring its behavior in line with its lofty moral rhetoric. There is a long way to go before human civilization can claim to truly have a universal guideline for human rights, but the current movement in international law is pushing us rightfully in that direction. Human rights are currently quite culturebound, but as demonstrated above, there is nothing fundamentally new or threatening about cultures evolving. Therefore, a universal standard for human rights can be set without abolishing the connection between human rights and culture, as long as societies around the world can take the lessons of the past to heart and let go of their more damaging traditions.

“United Nations Convention on Torture, and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment,” Article 2, wikipedia.org (November 12, 2007). 54 IN/PO521 Handout, excerpt from Jane Mayer, “Outsourcing Torture,” The New Yorker 81, no. 1 (Feb. 14, 2005), p. 6-10. 25

Can be a matter of simple conversation. By Ben Mayer, A&S „12

“The great thing about democracy
is that it gives every voter the chance to do something stupid.” Although this quote by Art Spander is a cynical view of democracy, there is some justification for it. Since its inception, democracy has been plagued with voter ignorance and indifference. From the ancient polis to the modern polling place, there is a recurring pattern in elections. People enter a ballot box with very little political knowledge or even interest and select candidates based simply on their names or on their party. The problem with this is obvious; people are making bad political decisions. They act impulsively and with very little knowledge of what they are voting for. The potential repercussions of this are devastating. This has been shown throughout history as terrible leaders such as Robespierre and Hitler were democratically elected. As I went campaigning during the Louisiana primary, I often experienced a phenomenon that alluded to this behavior. At the majority of the houses that I visited I received a similar set of responses: “Just give me a flyer,” “What party is he in?” “I‟m not interested” or, with an annoyed look “”I‟ve already voted.” Only once during a whole day of campaigning was I asked about the merits of the candidate I was supporting. From this experience it became evident to me that many of those who were voting were largely ignorant of what exactly they were voting for. Additionally, I came to realize how easily history can repeat itself. Democracy remains in the hands of

voters who have the potential to do “stupid” things and often their lack of knowledge facilitates these bad decisions. For this reason it is crucial to alter this detrimental pattern. But how can one get people to stray away from this? How can someone get them to reject perfunctory party line voting? What can an individual do to broaden the political knowledge of others? Despite the fact that this is an ancient problem, there has been very little progress in finding its solution. Although some forms of political activism have been successful on other fronts, they have been largely unable to solve this seeming curse of democracy. Putting a bumper sticker on your car or going door to door for a political candidate does not seem have a great impact on political ignorance. The inherent problem with these forms of activism is that they seldom get people to truly care about a cause. Although they provide information, they do not spur people to seek out political knowledge for themselves. The reason for this is that these forms of activism are too distant to the average citizen, too easy to ignore. As I found, anyone can overlook a random campaigner‟s opinion. It is less credible than that of an acquaintance and therefore is less likely to inspire political awareness. People generally become most impassioned when inspired on a personal level, by people they already know and respect. This law of human nature is easily applicable to advancement of political interest and awareness. In this way, the problem of voter ignorance is best combated on a grassroots level, 26

from person to person. But what, then, is the most effective channel to enact this movement? The answer to this is simple conversation. Engaging politically apathetic acquaintances in political discussion will spur them to seek more political knowledge than most campaigners ever will. The best way for an individual to create political interest is to step outside frivolous small talk. Instead of the typical, “Nice weather we‟re having,” ask them how they feel about a candidate or issue. An individual must step outside the bounds of normal political correctness and discuss complicated political issues with others. Only by this means will thoughts be stirred in the minds of the politically inactive. This is also an effective system because it plays on another constant in human behavior. The best way to get people interested in something is to get them angry. While avoiding becoming obnoxious, a person should express a political view that will inflame the sentiments of others. No other means is more effective in eliciting a political response. Not only will they respond to the statement, they might even be so enraged that they might pick up a newspaper and research their argument. They in turn might discuss the issue with another, who will go through a similar process of discovery. Political awareness is a contagious trait if those who have it choose to interact with those who do not. It is only through this spread of knowledge that democracy can remain a viable system of government. Voters must be able to make intelligent political decisions based on researched information. For this

reason, the spread of political knowledge is critical to democracy. Conversing with those who are normally politically apathetic or unaware is a simple form of activism that will effectively galvanize the democratic system.


What really happened at Abu Ghraib? Review by Allison Broderick, A&S „09 Torture and Truth: America, Abu Ghraib, and the War on Terror Mark Danner, 2004. 580 pp. Paperback, $19.95

As soon as those horrific pictures
of abuse at American detention facilities were released to the mainstream media they became iconic images of the War on Terror. Released almost five years ago in 2004, these photographs still confer gross images of human suffering and torture. Naked men piled on top of one another to form a human pyramid. Detainees chained to leashes like dogs, forced to crawl on bloody knees. American soldiers offering a thumbs-up with detainees on ice in body bags in the background. These pictures are only part of author Mark Danner‟s larger study of America‟s War on Terror in his book Torture and Truth. Danner presents a comprehensive study of government memos and reports chronicling the Bush administrations decisions, one by one, on how to treat detainees and what rights they should be afforded through an extensive paper trail of documents, as well as his own articles written during his time reporting from Iraq in the fall of 2003. The weight of Danner‟s study is focused on two essential questions which outline the second section of his book: “Who is Protected? The Debate Over POWS” and “What is Torture? The Debate Over Interrogation.” As Danner makes clear, several new legal interpretations informed the Bush administration‟s decisions regarding Abu Ghraib and the treatment of prisoners. As a memo issued on

February 7, 2002, and featured in Torture and Truth reveals, President Bush stated "I accept the legal conclusion of the Department of Justice and determine that none of the provisions of Geneva apply to our conflict with al Qaeda in Afghanistan or elsewhere throughout the world." Instead, the Department of Defense and the Department of Justice reasoned that Taliban detainees should be termed “unlawful combatants” instead of “prisoners of war,” rendering Geneva nonbinding in all cases regarding al Qaeda. The depositions offered by prisoners and The Red Cross Report are also revealing in Danner‟s book. Asad Hamza Hanfosh, Detainee # 152529, recalls when a guard assaulted him, “he grabbed my head and hit it against the wall and then tied my hand to the bed until noon the next day.” Ameen Sa‟eed Al-Sheikh, another detainee at Abu Ghraib, stated “they come every single night to ask me the same questions accompanied with soldiers having weapons and they point a weapon to my head and threaten that they will kill me, sometime with dogs and they hang me to the door allowing the dogs to bite me.” As Danner offers in his introduction, “The scandal is not about uncovering what is hidden, it is about seeing what is already there – and acting on it. It is not about information; it is about politics.” This book is required, yet arduous, reading for anyone interested in 28

understanding the backdrop behind those notorious photographs from Saddam Hussein‟s former prison and the use of the Bush Doctrine to inform and set new legal and foreign policy precedents.