More International Attitude

So let me get this straight...

Faced with the prospect of a Supreme Court judgment likely ordering the United States to live up to its agreed-upon obligations to allow foreign death-row inmates access to their consulates, the Bush regime decides, one, to withdraw from the treaty, and, two, to grant the original filers of the suit new trials.

I’ll give ’em points for craftiness, if not humanity.

By granting the new trials, they forestall the Supreme Court case. But now, since we’re no longer obligated by the Vienna Consular Convention’s “Optional Protocol” — which we originally proposed back in 1963 — we do not have to give them consular access (or, technically, we get to decide whther or not they received proper access, with no opportunity for outside International Court of Justice review). We can just try ’em and fry ’em (pretty much a foregone conclusion in Texas, where being suspected of a crime is effectively a capital offense).

Now, I’m going to deviate from Democratic orthodoxy for a moment here. The United States is perfectly within its rights to accept or reject any international treaty. Participation in international institutions is voluntary. I will argue ’til I’m blue in the face that the Unites States’s refusal to join in the Kyoto accords, or the International Criminal Court, are shameful acts and bad policy, but there is no legal requirement — or, really, an overwhelming moral one — that we do so.

But — particularly in the case of the International Criminal Court — by refusing to participate, we lose all legal or moral authority to enforce international criminal activity. We, as a nation, cannot have it both ways. By withdrawing from the Optional Protocol, we lose all authority to demand that our citizens have access to our diplomats when accused of a crime.

Just because we can do something, it does not follow that we should. But, then again, this regime has demonstrated that it has utterly zero capacity for “diplomacy.” The very concept is alien to them. Not to sound too clichéd, but the only language these people understand is force of arms. Might makes right — absolutely.

Prepare for the backlash.


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