Beyond the Usual Campaign Stupidity


We take it for granted that Presidential candidates say dumb things during campaigns. Sure. That’s a given.
Mitt Romney’s taking it a step farther with a letter to the United Nations he released today.
The part I take for granted is that conservatives running for the Presidency follow two main rules for campaigning on foreign policy issues. First, you’ve gotta hit the bad guys harder than your opponents do, no matter whether or not the attacks make sense. After all, the candidate with the toughest rhetoric is the toughest. The second rule is you always hit the folks who can’t hit back.
Romney’s latest letter follows both rules, but it’s way dumber than the average posturing. Romney first demands that the UN revoke its invitation to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for the upcoming General Assembly. These calls were first made last year and were properly met with guffaws.
Romney also includes in his letter veiled threats at the UN. If you don’t listen to us, he says, we’ll pull your funding and support. It’s standard campaign behavior, but given where the American public is on international institutions and foreign policy, it won’t get him very far in the general election. Either way, it’s a textbook application of rule 2, since the UN has no capacity or mandate to respond. Forget hitting back, it can’t even block.
But Romney really loses his footing when he calls for Ahmadinejad to be indicted under the Genocide Convention. I’m not a laywer, but my understanding of the Convention is that it makes genocidal intent very, very difficult to prove. So the idea is a non-starter already.
It gets more interesting than that, though. John Bolton and others have suggested that Ahmadinejad is guilty of incitement to genocide, but they have never suggested that he be indicted for that crime. That’s mostly because such a move would put imply support for the International Criminal Court — an ideologically untenable position.
I’ll elaborate. The U.S. can’t prosecute anyone for genocide because current U.S. criminal code doesn’t allow for it. The Iranian courts might be able to prosecute the crime, but I hardly believe that Romney wants to indict Ahmadinejad for incitement to genocide here in the U.S. only to send him home to be prosecuted in Iran. A new international tribunal would take years and millions of dollars to set up, and it would be a non-starter with the international community.
The only other option would be prosecution at the International Criminal Court. Neither Iran nor the U.S. is a member of the ICC, but the U.S. could refer the “situation” to the ICC Prosecutor’s office for investigation.
The ICC would never prosecute — first, because there is no case, and second, since Iranian courts likely exceed the requirements for independence under the Rome Statute, the ICC still would have no jurisdiction.
Nevertheless, Governor Romney should give us details. Does he support the ICC? If not, where should Mr. Ahmadinejad be tried?
When we’re done with all that, we can come back to the importance of a universal international dialogue absent of veiled threats between countries and against international institutions. But given what’s coming out of the Romney campaign right now, that seems like way too much to ask.
— Scott Paul
Note: Two relevant details have come out in comments. First, the House passed a resolution calling for Ahmadinejad’s to be charged with violating the Genocide Convention; only Reps. Paul and Kucinich voted against. Also, a reader points out that genocide can also be prosecuted in countries whose laws provide for universal jurisdiction over genocide. However, I’d be similarly surprised to discover that Romney supports this option, since many conservatives are even more troubled by universal jurisdiction than the ICC.


19 comments on “Beyond the Usual Campaign Stupidity

  1. Kathleen says:

    On our favorite topic here, AIPAC’S undue influence on American Policy, Booman Tribune has a good piece: Dems Eating Their Own. I especially like a comment by Priscianus Jr. because I think he’s exactly right about it.


  2. Kathleen says:

    Didn’t Iran “help” us after 9/11 in our attack on Afghanistan? What short and convenient memories we have.
    Getting rid of the Nazis would require getting rid of the inbred mouthbreathing Biblethumping KKKongresscritters. Not likely. There are times when I wish the South had seceeded from the Union.


  3. arthurdecco says:

    Let’s see if I’ve got this straight…
    If a political leader, unaligned with the United States, calls publicly for the dismantling of a racist, oppressive state, advocating for it’s replacement with a REAL democracy in which all of its citizens are treated equally under the law; that unaligned political leader can be accused and prosecuted for Genocide?!?!?
    …While the country he has criticized for its well-known, decades-long criminal treatment of its own citizens – AND for its illegal and never-ending wars directed against the helpless under its legal guardianship in their “occupied territories” as well as against its neighbours who rightly loathe and fear them for their on-going war mongering and saber-rattling catches a FREE PASS?!?!?
    What makes you think it’s acceptable to discuss these loony accusations against Ahmadinejad as if they’re rational – on any level?
    What kind of an upside down, tipsy topsy, whacked-out-freak world do you American pundits live in? I’m with POA on this one. And with Matthew. Except I’m not so polite.
    Given this perfect opportunity to illustrate the utter depravity of present American foreign policy under the iron-fisted control of the blitzkrieg Jewish lobby, you instead discuss Mitt Romney’s idiotic proposal as if it is rational and not what it actually is – a wake-up call to forcefully exclude this violent idiot and all like him from the politics of your nation.
    …And you guys accuse Kucinich of being flakey? I’ve got news for ya – batshit crazy is much worse than flakey.


  4. bakho says:

    These idiots want to use the US military to solve all disputes instead of diplomacy. They don’t understand the limits of military power or the importance of political success to military success. This deserves more ridicule and discrediting than we can possibly heap on it.
    Our military is fighting a losing cause against an insurgency in Iraq because of the failure our politicians to create enough political allies.


  5. selise says:

    “Hopefully this junk will die in the Senate.”
    well, the good news is that the senate (to my knowledge) has not considered an identical bill to h.con.res.21 yet.
    the bad news is that they voted 97 – 0 on lieberman’s insane anti-iran amendment s.amdt.2073 to the last defense appropriations bill.
    sorry to be bring you more bad news…


  6. Carroll says:

    Oh When the Nazis ..come marching in…when the nazis.. come… marching in…
    Music Scholar Barred From U.S., but No One Will Tell Her Why
    Published: September 17, 2007
    Nalini Ghuman, an up-and-coming musicologist and expert on the British composer Edward Elgar, was stopped at the San Francisco airport in August last year and, without explanation, told that she was no longer allowed to enter the United States.
    Her case has become a cause célèbre among musicologists and the subject of a protest campaign by the American Musicological Society and by academic leaders like Leon Botstein, the president of Bard College at Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y., where Ms. Ghuman was to have participated last month in the Bard Music Festival, showcasing Elgar’s music.
    The mystery of her case shows how difficult, if not impossible, it is to defend against such a decision once the secretive government process has been set in motion.
    After a year of letters and inquiries, Ms. Ghuman and her Mills College lawyer have been unable to find out why her residency visa was suddenly revoked, or whether she was on some security watch list. Nor does she know whether her application for a new visa, pending since last October, is being stymied by the shadow of the same unspecified problem or mistake.
    In a written account of the next eight hours that she prepared for her lawyer, Ms. Ghuman said that officers tore up her H-1B visa, which was valid through May 2008, defaced her British passport, and seemed suspicious of everything from her music cassettes to the fact that she had listed Welsh as a language she speaks. A redacted government report about the episode obtained by her lawyer under the Freedom of Information Act erroneously described her as “Hispanic.”
    Held incommunicado in a room in the airport, she was groped during a body search, she said, and was warned that if she moved, she would be considered to be attacking her armed female searcher. After questioning her for hours, the officers told her that she had been ruled inadmissible, she said, and threatened to transfer her to a detention center in Santa Clara, Calif., unless she left on a flight to London that night.
    Outside, Mr. Flight made frantic calls for help. He said the British Consulate tried to get through to the immigration officials in charge, to no avail. And Ms. Ghuman said her demands to speak to the British consul were rebuffed.
    “They told me I was nobody, I was nowhere and I had no rights,” she said. “For the first time, I understood what the deprivation of liberty means.”
    As Ms. Ghuman tells it, the officers said they did not know why she was being excluded. They suggested that perhaps a jilted lover or envious colleague might have written a poison pen letter about her to immigration authorities, she said, or that Mills College might have terminated her employment without telling her. The notions are unfounded, she said.
    One officer eventually told her that her exclusion was probably a mistake, and advised her to reapply for a visa in London after a 10-day wait. But it took more than eight weeks for her file to be transferred to the United States Embassy in London, in part because of routine anthrax screening at the State Department.
    As for the possibility that she has been deemed a security threat, Ms. Ghuman said: “It’s not only insulting and heartbreaking, but how? In what way? Musicians, dangerous people? Is it my piano playing?
    “I have no indication at all,” she added, “and it has been 13 ½ months.”
    Inquiries by Ms. Ghuman’s representative in Parliament and several members of Congress, including Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, have been to no avail, said Byron Adams, a professor of music at the University of California, Riverside, who said he had known Ms. Ghuman for years and respected her work.
    “All of these people have gotten the runaround from the State Department,” Mr. Adams said.
    In late spring, when hope faded that Ms. Ghuman’s visa nightmare would be resolved quietly, Charles Atkinson, the president of the American Musicological Society, asked its 3,600 members to send letters to the State Department expressing “our profound consternation and anxiety over the treatment of one of our members.”
    The society has invited her to lecture at its conference in November, which, “in a fortunate circumstance,” Mr. Atkinson said, is to be held in Quebec.
    The $500 travel grant they have awarded her will not cover the cost. But at least, he said, she can expect Canada to let her in.
    In another incident last month Israel refused to let US citizens (of thirty years), a family of Palestine heritage fly out of Israel ,even though they flew in that way to visit relatives. The father had to travel 72 hours get to Egypt to get back to the US, then 3 of the seven children were allowed to leave with the mother and the other four children had to remain in Palestine.
    It’s 1939 all right, but the Hitlers aren’t in Iran, they are in Isr’merica.
    Don’t be good Germans people, get rid of the nazis now.


  7. Carroll says:

    Interesting..weird…tales of two spies…one now wears a keffiyeh.
    Embattled Aipac Lobbyists Take Divergent Paths
    Weissman Dons Keffiyeh, Rosen Maintains Stance on Mideast
    Nathan Guttman | Wed. Sep 12, 2007
    Washington – In this city, keffiyehs — the Arab headdresses closely associated with the Palestinian cause — are regular sights at Middle East-related events. But at an event last fall, one keffiyeh in particular drew stares and gasps.
    The checkered scarf in question was wrapped around the neck of Keith Weissman, the man once recognized as a top analyst at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the powerhouse pro-Israel lobby. These days, of course, Weissman is better known as defendant No. 2 in United States v. Rosen and Weissman, a case in which he and another former Aipac analyst have been accused of handing over top-secret American documents to foreign officials and journalists. Both have pleaded not guilty.
    The intertwining tales of powerful lobbyists and backroom Washington meetings have brought worldwide attention to the investigation and indictment. But less has been said about the surprising and very different paths taken by the two, as they adjust to life as unemployed, indicted defendants in the midst of a seemingly endless legal battle.
    The Rosen-Weissman duo is usually mentioned as an inseparable pair, but, while the men remain close friends, people close to them say that they hold different views on many topics — starting with the hot-button issues on which they used to work. And although neither will speak to the press on advice of legal counsel, numerous conversations with friends and sources paint a vivid picture of their divergent paths post-indictment.
    Rosen, the group’s former policy director, continues to take a front-row seat at major foreign policy events and has positioned himself as a continuing presence in the ongoing debates about the Middle East. Weissman, on the other hand, has put a distance between himself and his former identity as a pre-eminent pro-Israel lobbyist.
    Weissman has told friends that, free of the constraints posed by his employment by Aipac, he now sees himself as returning to his roots as a peace activist.
    “I decided not to suppress my political views any longer,” Weissman, age 55, told a friend, according to sources close to the situation.
    In addition to the keffiyeh, this has meant sporting a longer haircut and the earring that his Aipac superiors asked him not to wear. He has also offered to volunteer with Americans for Peace Now and Human Rights Watch — though he was politely turned down, sources say, presumably because of the difficulty in associating with a person under indictment for espionage charges.
    The saga began in August 2004, when the FBI raided Aipac’s offices in Alexandria, Va. The following April, the two were dismissed by Aipac and a few months later they were indicted. The indictment charged both men with one count of conspiracy under the Espionage Act and Rosen with an additional count of passing classified information.
    Lawyers for both Rosen and Weissman — they have separate legal teams — have said the charges are unfounded and that the activities in question are routine elements of the work of many lobbyists.
    For Weissman, the first months of the current ordeal were apparently the worst. The firing and the accusations of breaking the espionage law led him to a personal crisis, friends said, causing an emotional breakdown for which he required psychological treatment.
    Most of his contacts in the American administration, the Israeli government and Aipac itself have cut their ties with Weissman, sources say, and he himself has been careful not to initiate contact, fearing that others might end up in trouble. Many people who previously had contact with Rosen and Weissman told the Forward they were questioned by the FBI.
    Without a job, Weissman now spends his time writing, walking his two golden retrievers and working out at the gym, according to friends. He helped his 17-year-old son study for his driving test and took his family to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
    But the lack of a job has taken a toll on Weissman, who friends say struggles with not having a schedule — “sometimes he doesn’t even know what day it is,” one noted. In addition, though his wife is a lawyer at a white-shoe law firm, the family is said to be concerned about funding college tuition for the eldest of their three children.
    Rosen, 65, has encountered some similar problems, sources say. The lobbyist, whose Rolodex once included every major player on the Washington foreign policy scene, has suddenly found himself isolated. Last week, at a Washington think tank event, Rosen came across a colleague he had known for three decades. The two didn’t even exchange greetings.
    Rosen — who has three children, the youngest 8 years old — is now doing some part-time consulting work. According to media reports, he also relies financially on help from unnamed supporters, though sources say that some of those mentioned in the reports have since received calls from the FBI.
    Rosen frequently described his job at Aipac as “my life’s work,” in which he invested endless hours and a great deal of personal commitment. Indeed, these days he is still trying to maintain his status as a leading expert on Middle East foreign policy by spending hours surfing the Internet for every tidbit of news and attending various briefings around the city.
    Weissman, on the other hand, is described by people close to him as having always been to the left of Aipac’s political line. As a graduate student at the University of Chicago, he used to drive around with a bumper sticker calling for a “free Palestine.”
    Weissman began working for the lobby shortly after the Oslo agreements were signed in the 1990s, and he focused mainly on issues related to the peace process. As the accord seemed to unravel, he moved on to deal with Iran and oil. Neverthless, within Aipac he was said to have developed a reputation for being critical of Israel’s actions regarding the Palestinians.
    “He was the lobby’s leftist,” an acquaintance said.
    In addition to the political differences between Weissman and Rosen, friends say they have also developed different attitudes toward their trial, which is set to begin in January 2008. Rosen is said to be optimistic and believes that an acquittal is inevitable. Weissman, on the other hand, believes he is innocent but seems less hopeful to friends and observers.
    But both are said to be thinking about life after the trial. Rosen does not rule out going back to his old job at Aipac, if acquitted, though it is not clear how possible that will be. The former policy director, who was a household name in the corridors of power, wishes to return to “doing something big,” as sources close to him have said.
    Rosen is also interested in dealing with another problem he claims surfaced during this case: the strong anti-Israel sentiment among individuals in Americas intelligence community, which he believes is what led to the investigation against him in the first place.
    Weissman has, perhaps predictably, taken a more combative approach to his former employer. Friends say he is in the process of writing a tell-all book about the past few years. Sources say he recently waived an estimated $250,000 in lawyers’ fees from Aipac in order to ensure that he would not be restricted in the future from criticizing the group.
    Patrick Dorton, a spokesman for Aipac, said, “Aipac is fully paying for Keith Weissman’s defense through appeal if necessary.”
    Weissman is also said to have become disenchanted with many on the left, who, driven by their resentment of Aipac, did not take on the free-speech issues raised by the case.
    As for the future, Weissman’s friends say he hopes to do work related to promoting Middle East peace or to focus on issues stemming from his personal encounter with what he sees as the government’s attempts to limit public discourse on policy issues.
    In the interim, the two defendants mark the time since the investigation began by watching their families grow older. Rosen’s daughter started college the year the investigation began, and she is now close to graduation. Weissman’s son started high school at the same time and is currently readying for his senior year. Friends say that the question in the Weissman family is who will graduate first: the father from his lengthy legal ordeal or the son from school. Weissman, who has clearly been pushed into a certain pessimism, is said to believe his son will be first.”


  8. Matthew says:

    Kevin: You do make an important distinction on “incitement.” If the Iranian president was actively leading a “let’s kill all the Jews” tour of the Middle East, he would be guilty of a crime. As I stated, just calling for “regime change” is not a crime, particularly if that regime is conspiring to attack your nation. The irony of this issue is the “incitement” is primarily coming from Israel.
    Of course, you New Zealanders have a little more perspective on the Orwellian nature of American discourse, watching, with amazement as Bush wages war for peace, no?


  9. Kathleen says:

    Scott, thanks for the comic relief.
    Is there any Republiklan candidate who does support the UN?
    Incidentally, the UN does have it’s little ways of striking back. After the 2000 Coup de Court, they refused to elect the USA to a seat on the UN Commission for Human Rights, for the first time in history. True, the USA chose not to run, but only after it was clear, they would LOSE.
    In 1987 when I represented Hopi Indians at the UNCHR in Geneva, during Bush 1’s reign, the US had created a horrendous budget crisis by our refusal to pay our dues. Everyone was so furious with the USA, they supported our cause and appointed two human rights experts to come to Washington, D.C. for the first time in US-UN history, to report on the issue of the forced relocation of Hopi-Navajo. It stopped the relocation, much to John McCain’s dismay. The opposition to the US was so complete, the US had to vote in favor of the decision to send human rights experts to the D.C. so they wouldn’t be the ONLY country not voting YES. I loved every minute of it.
    The US just lost in their opposition to the passage of the Declaration of Indigenous Rights, Sept. 14th. So, it can be done, if you don’t buy into US “superiority” and can outfox them.


  10. Scott Paul says:

    Thanks for the comments, folks.
    Kevin Jon Heller: Yes, it is incitement under the Genocide Convention that Romney wants Ahmadinejad indicted for. That’s the Bolton/Dershowitz/Wiesel case, as they articulated it. Also, you make a good point about universal jurisdiction, though it would be just as surprising to discover Romney supports that principle as it would to find out he supports the ICC. I’ll put up a note on this post so this is clear.
    As for whether or not there’s a case to be made, there isn’t. Calling for regime change in another sovereign country is not incitement to genocide (though it may in the future become a component of the crime of aggression, we’ll see). Genocide requires intent to destroy a people “in whole or in part,” not a country. If I understand it right (and again, I am NOT a lawyer), that means calling for the end of the Zionist regime is not incitement to genocide, though calling for the extermination of all Israeli Jews could very well be. Even if Iran’s 20,000 or so Jews were left untouched and unharmed – just as some populations of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire were not bothered – incitement to genocide could still take place.
    Anyways, it’s all moot. Ahmadinejad has done no such thing.
    Selise, thanks for the heads up on h. con. res. 21, which I had not seen. It is sad that only Messrs. Paul and Kucinich had the spine to vote against. Hopefully this junk will die in the Senate.


  11. Carroll says:

    Hey Mitty, you idiot…….
    20:49 17/09/2007
    U.S. court dismisses suit over bulldozing of Palestinian homes
    By The Associated Press
    Saying its role was not to criticize U.S. policy towards Israel, an American federal appeals court dismissed a lawsuit on Monday charging that Caterpillar bulldozers aided killing and torture in the Palestinian territories.
    Relatives of 16 Palestinians and one American killed or injured by Israeli demolitions sued the heavy construction machine manufacturer. They alleged that by selling bulldozers used to demolish Palestinian homes, Caterpillar was responsible for war crimes, cruel and inhumane punishment and other violations.
    The U.S. government paid for the bulldozers, which were transferred to the Israel Defense Forces. The IDF sometimes uses engineering vehicles in operations aimed at curbing Palestinian militant activity.
    A lower court dismissed the suit and the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals backed that decision, saying that to render a judgment on the matter would interfere with American foreign policy.
    “It is not the role of the courts to indirectly indict Israel for violating international law with military equipment the United States government provided and continues to provide,” Circuit Judge Kim Wardlaw wrote for a three-judge panel ”
    De judge just said that:
    1)Israel violates international law.
    2) That it is US policy to help Israel violate international law.
    3)The US paid for the equipment Israel uses to violate international law.
    I posted the text of the 1948 War conventions on here some time ago. If anyone should be going to the ICC it should be Isr’merica…does “thy shall not move civilians into occupied or siezed terrority” ring a bell?…does “thy shall not carry out collective punishment” ring a bell?
    All our politicans need to face an audience that will call them on their bullshit and throw it back in their faces.


  12. Carroll says:

    Actually I am glad Scott pointed this out. It just goes to show what pathetic craven crap we have in politics these days. I assume Mitt was speaking code to the far right of the Israeli crowd with this bit of nonsense.
    Meanwhile McCain says and their 3 million supporters should be deported for their ad on General Betray-Us.
    How did we get all these idiots? Did politics make them idiots or does politics just attract all the idiots? If we are going to start deporting people we should start with congress.


  13. JK says:

    POA, I don’t think Scott is “advocating bullshit.” I think he’s using sarcasm to demonstrate how ridiculous and predictable GOP propaganda can be. Maybe the post is a little light, but I don’t think it warrants such a vehement attack.


  14. Daniel CAZ Greenberg says:

    You’re giving this too discerning an inspection, Scott. This is simple.
    Romney says what the people he’s trying to court want to hear. In this specific instance, it’s:
    -I will stand up to big, mean, evildoers.
    -I share your disdain for the United Nations.
    -Israel will be safe under my watch.
    There are GOP candidates I like this time around. Romney is the absolute lowest on my list. A phony of the highest caliber.


  15. Joe Klein's conscience says:

    Romney wants Ahmadinejad tried for genocide? And what does he suggest the International courts do with Bush, Darth Vader, Rummy, Condi and the rest?


  16. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “First, you’ve gotta hit the bad guys harder than your opponents do, no matter whether or not the attacks make sense.”
    I didn’t think much of your opinions up to this point, but you had done nothing to cause me to lose respect for you. That just changed. There is far too much rhetoric issuing forth from Washington that doesn’t make sense. You’re on my shitlist if you advocate bullshit, which you seem to be doing. You’re part of the problem, not part of the solution. Have you considered the proffession of selling used cars?
    But regardless, its interesting that when Romney was lyin’ his ass off during the first debate about why the UN inspection teams weren’t in Iraq in the months leading up to the invasion, you didn’t say squat.


  17. Pernicious Pavlovian says:

    That Mitt the snit is one funny guy. First off, the snit wouldn’t know a genocide from a Mountain Meadow Massacre if it walked up behind him and kicked him in his profane fanny. Mitt the snit likes to pander. Mitt the snit likes to bully. Mitt the snit is an accomplished professional when it comes to those two categories. Any and everything else, Mitt the snit is a comprehensive dumb-ass. Check with the girls that manned the 2002 winter Olympics office under old Mitt the snit. They’ll tell you an earful.


  18. Matthew says:

    Scott: I am a lawyer. In order to convict someone of genocide, you need a genocide. Since Iran has not committed a genocide, its president cannot be indicted for a crime he has not committed. And if asking for the Zionist Entity to disappear is genocide, then every Western opponent of the Soviet Union who wished that system to evaporate would be guilty of “genocide.”
    Just because the Likudites routinely burp out stupidity, which is seconded by a second rate American politicians, is no reason for you to repeat it.


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