Monday, February 4, 2008

An Embarrassment of Riches, but 1 True Gem

Some thoughts to add to the enriching political discourse consistently available on on IntLawGrrls...
There is no doubt that the Democratic contenders for this year's presidential race are poised to address the acute challenge of rehabilitating the United States' reputation within the world community.
As our colleague and foundrix Diane Marie Amann has posted here and elsewhere, as our colleague Jaya Ramji-Nogales posted here, and as our new colleague Judith Weingarten has cogently argued here, both leading contenders for the Democratic nomination have promised to make the revitalization of the United States' reputation and influence in the world a top priority of their administrations. Whichever Democratic candidate wins (touch wood), s/he will have to undertake immediate and bold moves to signal the United States' commitment to re-engage with the international community on multilateral terms and to unequivocally reject the isolationist, unilateralist, exceptionalist, and unitary executivist policies of the past.
Three obvious steps that should be implemented immediately:
1. The next President should re-sign the ICC Statute, which was signed by President Clinton in the waning days of his administration and then immediately "unsigned" by President Bush at the dawn of his administration. At this point, there is no need to even submit the treaty to the Senate for ratification if the U.S. is not ready to make the full commitment to the Court, whose Assembly of State Parties is pictured below. Just signing the treaty will send a message to the rest of the world that we respect multilateral institutions and promote the promise of legal accountability for breaches of international law.

2. The next President should also take the necessary steps to immediately close Guantanamo (below), notwithstanding the many legal and logistical challenges this presents (most notably the need to find states willing to take responsibility - in keeping with international expectations of due process - for detainees who are potentially indelibly broken, radicalized, and acutely dangerous). The next President must immediately sponsor legislation to enable our courts to continue doing what they have been doing since 1789: determining whether a detention is lawful in keeping with our Constitutional tradition of habeas corpus and our international commitments.


3. The next President should also immediately launch a credible and searching inquiry into detainee abuses whereever they have been alleged and encourage the appropriate authorities to launch genuine investigations and prosecutions of responsible individuals, whatever their position in the chain of command. Promoting a genuine accountability for the mistreatment of detainees (regardless of whether this mistreatment rises to the level of torture) will re-confirm that the United States does not consider itself to be above the law (domestic or international).
So, which Democratic candidate is best positioned to achieve this internationalist rennaissance?
The habeas lawyers have spoken:
Only Senator Obama has the collective endorsement of over 90 lawyers (the list is still growing) litigating the Guantanamo habeas cases. In an open letter published, among other places, here, these lawyers endorse Obama as the person who will best bring a prompt end the legal, policy, and moral travesty that is Guantanamo. Some highlights from their letter:

Some politicians are all talk and no action. But we know from first-hand experience that Senator Obama has demonstrated extraordinary leadership on this critical and controversial issue. When others stood back, Senator Obama helped lead the fight in the Senate against the Administration's efforts in the Fall of 2006 to strip the courts of jurisdiction, and when we were walking the halls of the Capitol trying to win over enough Senators to beat back the Administration's bill, Senator Obama made his key staffers and even his offices available to help us. Senator Obama worked with us to count the votes, and he personally lobbied colleagues who worried about the political ramifications of voting to preserve habeas corpus for the men held at Guantanamo. He has understood that our strength as a nation stems from our commitment to our core values, and that we are strong enough to protect both our security and those values. Senator Obama demonstrated real leadership then and since, continuing to raise Guantanamo and habeas corpus in his speeches and in the debates.

The writ of habeas corpus dates to the Magna Carta, and was enshrined by the Founders in our Constitution. The Administration's attack on habeas corpus rights is dangerous and wrong. America needs a President who will not triangulate this issue. We need a President who will restore the rule of law, demonstrate our commitment to human rights, and repair our reputation in the world community. Based on our work with him, we are convinced that Senator Obama can do this because he truly feels these issues "in his bones."

So has Hollywood:
The video posted below is a must see, even for those supporting other candidates, because it captures what is at stake - and what is possible to achieve - in this election. By my estimation, no other candidate in this presidential race could have inspired such a moving tribute.
The makers of the video are not, apparently, connected to the campaign. Here is a short explanation on the video's origins:

Celebrity-filled music videos have been used to support many social movements, from famine relief for Africa, to support for American farmers, to opposition to apartheid in South Africa. But rarely have celebrities and musicians banded together to create new music in the heat of a presidential campaign. The Black Eyed Peas' frontman, songwriter and producer known as will.i.am, along with director and filmmaker Jesse Dylan, son of another socially active musician, Bob Dylan, released a new song Friday that attempts to do just that.

The music video "Yes We Can" premiered on ABCNewsNow's "What's the Buzz" on Friday. It was inspired, will.i.am told ABC's Alisha Davis, by Sen. Barack Obama's Presidential campaign and in particular by the speech he has gave after the New Hampshire primary. "It made me reflect on the freedoms I have, going to school here I went to school, and the people that came before Obama like Martin Luther King, Presidents like Abraham Lincoln that paved the way for me to be sitting here on ABCNews and making a song from Obama's speech," will.i.am said. "The speech was inspiring about making change in America and I believe what it says and I hope everybody votes," Dylan said.

The music video includes excerpts from the Obama speech and appearances from a range of celebrities including: Scarlett Johansson, John Legend, Herbie Hancock, Kate Walsh, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Adam Rodriquez, Kelly Hu, Adam Rodriquez, Amber Valetta and Nick Cannon. When word got out about the song, will.i.am and Dylan said people were eager to participate. "I'm blown away by how many people wanted to come and be a part of it in a short amount of time. It was all out of love and hope for change and really representing America and looking at the world," will.i.am said. Dylan and will.i.am say they did not coordinate the production or release of this video with the Obama campaign and the filmmakers say they don't even know if Obama is aware of the video. "We didn't talk to anybody there... We just came together because it was an inspirational song about change coming out of his speech,"
Dylan said. ...

Don't forget to vote!

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