On this day, May 7, 2016, UN Special Representative Ján Kubiš said more than 50 mass graves have so far been found in parts of Iraq that were previously controlled by so-called Islamic State (IS). Ján Kubiš is a Slovak diplomat and was formerly Secretary-General of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
“I condemn in the strongest possible terms the continued killings, kidnapping, rape and torture of Iraqis by ISIL (IS), which may constitute crimes against humanity, war crimes, and even genocide.”
Mass graves and ethnic cleansing is not new in Iraq. After the deposing of Saddam Hussein, International Experts found an estimated 300,000 victims in mass graves of Shia Muslims and ethnic Kurds killed for opposing the regime between 1983 and 1991.
In April 2007, a bus in Mosul was hijacked, Muslims and Christians were told to get off, the remaining 23 Yazidi passengers were driven to an eastern Mosul location and murdered.
Then ISIS/ISIL/IS came to town… Hawija, Kirkuk, Mosul… you name it….
…2014, the peak of the Yazidi Genocide. Civilians trapped on Mount Sinjar… hundred of Yazidi women were taken as slaves and over hundreds more men, women, and children were killed, some beheaded or buried alive in the foothills, as part of an effort to instill fear and to supposedly desecrate the mountain the Yazidis consider sacred.
The mass flight and expulsion of ethnic Assyrians from Iraq… beginning before ISIS, back during the Iraq War in 2003, but continues to this day. Leaders of Iraq’s Assyrian community estimate that over two-thirds of the Iraqi Assyrian population has fled or been internally displaced. Reports suggest that whole neighborhoods of Assyrians have cleared out in the cities of Baghdad and Basra; and that Sunni insurgent groups and militias have threatened Assyrian Christians over the years. Following the campaign of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in northern Iraq in August 2014, one-quarter of the remaining Iraqi Assyrians fled, finding refuge to Iraqi Kurdistan, and, ironically in Turkey…
On February 3, 2016, the European Union recognized the persecution of Christians by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant as genocide. The vote was unanimous. The United States followed suit on March 15, 2016, declaring these atrocities as genocide. The vote was unanimous. On April 20, 2016, British Parliament voted unanimously to denounce the actions as genocide. And where are those voices today as the Rohingya are murdered, assaulted, and exiled in Burma?
The ability of the predominantly Christian countries and the mostly Christian members of the US Congress’ to recognize a Christian genocide but not Muslim genocide is almost as self-serving as those perpetrating religious and ethnic violence against civilians around the world. It is a manifestation of the selective indignation, selective application of legal principals, and the inability to see all men and women as sisters and brothers.
If you’ve never read it, read Jeff Stein’s piece from October 17, 2006, in the New York Times. Still, to this day, one of the best and most disturbing journalistic articles. Willie Hulon, chief of the FBI’s national security branch, Congresswoman Jo Ann Davis, Chair of the House intelligence subcommittee charged with overseeing the C.I.A.’s performance in recruiting Islamic spies and analyzing information, Congressman Terry Everett, Vice Chair of the House intelligence subcommittee on technical and tactical intelligence. The very people who voted to invade Iraq. Don’t know the difference between Sunnis and Shi’as. Do we think they know the difference between an Assyrian-Iraqi, a Kurdish-Iraqi, a Yezidi-Iraqi, and an Arab Iraqi?
It’s easy to blame the crimes against humanity on the sectarian violence in Iraq, but those same pointing fingers seem to avoid asking the question of who destabilized the region and who armed Saddam Hussein with all those weapons in the 1980s. Perhaps it’s time to think more about American national responsibility, than labeling other acts of violence as genocide. After all, those Americans who identified the Assyrian Genocide so correctly are woefully silent on asking what happened to the pre-Columbian Native Americans population of the United States or even, if you want to stick to a more recent century, what happened to the Armenians in 1915. The same Administration that labeled the Assyrian, Yazidi crimes against humanity as a genocide, has not called the 1915 massacres by our Turkish allies a genocide… I mean, sure, they call it a genocide on the campaign trail while pandering for votes, but Trump, Obama, Bush, and Clinton all seem to have genocidal amnesia once entering the Oval Office.
Yes, on this day, May 7, 2016, UN envoy Ján Kubiš condemned the continued killings, kidnapping, rape, and torture of Iraqis which he said might constitute crimes against humanity, war crimes, and even genocide. Would that he was wrong. Would that the ethnic and religious genocides in Iraq and around the world were limited to time and space. Sadly, humanity’s propensity to kill itself, is matched only by our ability to be blind to the blood on our own hands and deny genocide when it’s insignificant. After all, its not 2016 anymore. Its 2018, and genocide has now reared it’s evil in Burma, where are the same clamoring voices speaking out against the Rohingya Genocide now?
That’s all for today’s segment of This Day in Today, and remember,
My name is Tom Keefe, and I’m the Babbling Professor!
On this day, April 29, 1946, The International Military Tribunal for the Far East convened and indicted former Prime Minister of Japan Hideki Tojo, as well as 28 other former Japanese leaders, with war crimes. Tojo was the highest ranking Japanese national charged by the Tribunal. Supreme Allied Commander for the Pacific Theater, General Douglas MacArthur, had decided to give the Imperial Family immunity from prosecution in order to smooth the restructuring of Japan’s government. Thousands of other alleged war criminals were remanded to other countries for national criminal prosecution. Ultimately, seven defendants were later given death sentences and executed; 16 received prison sentences. A shout out to MY home state of Little Rhodey, The chief prosecutor, Joseph B. Keenan, was from Pawtucket, RI, United States.
Sixty-nine years later, on April 29, 2015, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe became the first Prime Minister of Japan to address a joint session of the US Congress and offered his “profound respect” and “eternal condolences” for US soldiers who died in World War II. On December 27, 2016, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also became the first Prime Minister of Japan to visit Pearl Harbor and laid a wreath at the USS Arizona Memorial. Earlier, in May of 2016, US President Barack Obama similarly became the first sitting US President to visit the Peace Memorial Park and Museum in Hiroshima, Japan. Regardless of one’s opinion of the decision to drop the bomb, it is an inescapable fact that the US use of atomic weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed an estimated 220, 000 people combined…
That’s all for today’s segment of This Day in Today, and remember,
The well-known adage goes something like this: “History is written by the victors.” Whether it was Winston Churchill, Walter Benjamin, or some other thinker who uttered this first, the sentiment remains true regardless. As a historian, I believe that another proverb, “To the victors go the spoils,” relates as well, because, after all, recorded history is one of the greatest gifts that victory has to offer. Similarly, victory and history offer another priceless gift, that of clemency. Winners are not victorious in a vacuum… As Macdonald Carey baritone-ly said in the intro to Days of Our Lives, “Like sands through the hourglass, so are the Days of Our Lives.” Our day, our lives, are a product of not only our personal history but the narrative of history that we collective choose to live through. And that history includes collective victory, as well as collective defeat.
History is also an instrument of future policy. Realism views and uses history as a tool of governing and diplomacy. And nothing is more important in realism than the preservation of the state. Bill Bennett’s The Last Best Hope (2006) is a perfect example of using jingoism as a method of history education. Similarly, the Jefferson County School Board debate over the College Board’s Advanced Placement (AP) curriculum too is an example of how history can impact politics and policy.
The problem is that war crime adjudication is a product of policy, and not of justice. Victorious powers rarely hold their own actors accountable. The United States, for example, executed Heinrich Hartmann Wirz for war crimes on November 10, 1865. But Wirz, while an American, had committed those war crimes while fighting for the Confederacy against the United States of America. And while William Laws Calley Jr. was convicted of murdering 22 unarmed South Vietnamese civilians in the My Lai Massacre, Calley was released on a technically after only 3 years by US Judge J. Robert Elliott. How does it look to the international community if the world powers do not hold their own actors (leaders and/or soldiers) accountable?
There is also the lack of international accountability applied to second fiddle belligerents. Secondary belligerents seem to both escape international accountability as well as avoid responsibility for domestic accountability. While the international community notes the difference between major and minor war criminals, the supposition negates itself if those secondary belligerents do not hold their war criminals accountable. The absence of justice may be a result of domestic disinterest, a lack of international pressure, or the collapse of the nation-state and/or its government.
For example, after WWI, Turkish war criminals avoided justice because the Ottoman Empire dissolved, and the new nation-state had no interest in pursuing war criminals. It is almost understandable that the perpetrators of the Armenian Genocide were not held accountable; after all, there was no international apparatus for justice at the time, and the modern Turkish government benefited from the genocide, so there was little domestic interest or pressure.
What confuses me is why Italy and Croatia have avoided international justice and accountability for their participation in war crimes and crimes against humanity.
After WWII, the Allied governments established the Nuremberg Trials to hold major German war criminals accountable. The United States, as sole legal power in Japan, established the Tokyo Trials to hold major Japanese war criminals accountable. The Italians, second fiddles of Fascism to be sure, captured Benito Mussolini and summarily executed by firing squad. His body was then taken to Milan, where it was hung upside down in Piazzale Loreto, Milan. The British and Americans placed more faith in the post-Mussolini Italian leader Pietro Badoglio’s anti-communism, than the belief in justice for war criminals (including Badoglio himself). The denial of Italian war crimes was backed up by the Italian state, academe, and media, re-inventing Italy as only a victim of the German Nazism and the post-war Foibe massacres.
Realism, Jingoism, and Naivety
Hans J. Morgenthau, codified the theory of classical realism into six concise principles: 1) politics follows objective rules rooted in human nature; 2) the linchpin of politics is power; 3) power is an objective quantity; 4) there is tension between politics and morality 5) morality is not universal; and 6) politics operates outside of any other concern, like morality. While these six principles represent the core of Morgenthau’s theory, there is an additional important aspect to realism. Realism holds that nation-states exist in a state of anarchy with a ‘balance of power’ among states.
Classical realists believe the nation-state to be led by a principal, unitary actor who speaks wholly and solely for the nation-state. To paraphrase Article II, Section I of the U.S. Constitution, the mission of the state (and thus its unitary actor) is to preserve, protect and defend the state. Classical realism makes two more major assumptions: that domestic issues are subordinated to foreign issues and that state always acts rationally (Mingst, 65). As an intellectual construct, the theory of classical realism is sound, but if any of the four parts [anarchy/balance of power system, principal-actor/unitary-actor, acts rationally, and the supremacy of foreign affairs/security] of the theory are undermined, then the entire theory is suspect. As it happens, there are several problems with the theory of classical realism. First, as noted, the theory assumes that the state is led by a unitary actor and ignores internal disputes. In the words of Karen Mingst, it assumes “there are no subnational actors trying to overturn the decision of the government or subvert the interests of the state” (Mingst, 66).
Realists believe that any internal squabbling is forgotten in the interests of the nation-state. The theory woefully underestimates internal subnational actors (such as Robert F. Kennedy arguing against the war in Vietnam during the Johnson Administration) and ignores non-state actors (Such as religious leaders, NGOs, etc.).
The History of War Crimes Adjudication
From Napoleon Bonaparte to Enver Pasha, Adolph Hitler and Hideki Tojo something happened to realism’s principal unitary actor. By the time of Slobodan Milošević, limits were put on the power of the leaders of nation-states. What is the balance between the legitimacy of international law and the sovereignty of a nation-state? Traditional realism was best personified by Louis XIV who said “L’etat c’est moi.” From the time of the establishment of the Westphalia System to the Sun King, there was little direct, personal danger as a consequence of one’s conduct of foreign policy. [Indeed, the regicide of Charles II was done at the “be-head-st” of internal struggles, not external conflict.] Look at U.S. President Andrew Jackson. Would the leader of a nation-state today be able to forcibly relocate residents without repercussion in foreign affairs? Jackson’s attitude, which is embodied in the maxim, “To the victors belong the spoils,” is that the president is able to do as he wishes. Even in a constitutionally limited presidency, Jackson thwarted the rule of law (Cherokee v. Georgia) for his own personal desires. The Jacksonian point of view, coupled with Winston Churchill’s worldview (“History is written by the victors”), illustrates a perspective in which there is no higher power to answer to beyond the nation-state.
It is not a coincidence then that the only criminal trials were imposed by the existing power; no victorious power subordinated itself to any legal authority. After the American Civil War, it was the victorious North who put Southerners on trial for war crimes at the Andersonville Prison. Yes, the leaders of the French Reign of Terror were put on trial, but it was after they had fallen from political power and were tried by the victorious forces of the Thermidorian Reaction. Over the past hundred years, however, the leaders of nation-states have agreed to international rules of war and humanity. Violators of these conventions have been put on trial by foreign countries as well as international courts. Thus, liberal philosophies, such as Common Security, have made in-roads to repudiating the traditional beliefs in traditional realism.
Throughout history, there have been laws of war regulating armed conflict. During the Medieval Ages, these laws of war were thoroughly discussed by Augustine of Hippo and, since then his jus ad bellum etjus in bello (just war and justice in war) has been the basis for European laws of war. The “Just War” theory states that there must be a ‘competent authority’ who decides to go to war. In addition, O’Brien points out that there must be a “just cause” of the war such as:
to protect the innocent from unjust attack
to restore the rights wrongfully denied and
to re-establish a just order
In discussing crimes of war, there are two classifications: “major” war criminals are the leaders of government and high ranking military officials while the enlisted soldiers and low-ranking bureaucrats are referred to as “lesser” war criminals. The most well-known precedents for the treatment of major war criminals are Napoleon Bonaparte’s exile to Elba (1812) and his subsequent imprisonment on St. Helena (1815) as well as Kaiser Wilhelm II’s asylum in the Netherlands (1919) (Willis, 10).
The First World War was responsible for creating precedents in the punishment of lesser war criminals as well as the diplomatic and legal process of designating responsibility for crimes and atrocities. The first of such war crimes convictions was the decision of a French military court to execute three Germans who had pillaged (Willis, 13). Notice, however, that a) it was a national, not international court and b) the prosecution was by the victorious French over the defeated Germans.
In Britain, the Prime Minister’s Cabinet created the Government Committee on the Treatment by the Enemy of British Prisoners to compile a list of war crimes. It is this committee’s work that not only served as a basis for post-war trials, but also for future war crimes tribunals. Notice again that it is a British committee that is used by the victors to prosecute the defeated Germans. On January 18, 1919, the Commission of the Responsibility of the Authors of the War and the Enforcement of the Penalties was established, and it relied heavily on the British committee’s work. The Commission studied, “questions concerning the origins of the war and the culpability for it, offenses against the laws and customs of war in its conduct, and the constitution of a tribunal to try the accused” war criminals (Willis, 68). In the Treaty of Versailles, the victorious Allies gave themselves the right to punish German war criminals but deferred the trials of 854 Germans to Provisional German Government. These proceeding, known as the Leipzig Trials were considered a failure by the Allies because many Germans were freed or received light sentences (Willis, 113). On the other hand, the precedent was created for trying war criminals and the relative failure of national trials gave greater support for international courts in the future.
In another theater of World War I, the Allies had declared their intention to punish Turkish “war criminals” who were responsible for the massacre of Christian Armenians in 1915. For a plethora of reasons, this failed to happen. Most notably, the Ottoman Empire had ceased to exist and there was less demand to punish a new country; similarly, German criminals were left to the Provisional German Government (later the Weimar Republic) that had succeeded the Kaiser’s Imperial Germany. Secondly, the victims of the war crimes were subjects of the Ottoman (and later Turkish) nation-state. Did the international body have the right to punish offending states for the treatment of their own populace? Although unanswered, the question was edging closer to the forefront of international diplomacy.
Woodrow Wilson, the American President who spearheaded the Treaty of Versailles strove to answer this and other questions. In fact, one of Wilson’s Fourteen Points in the treaty called for self-determination, the right of national groups to self-rule (Mingst, 36). But what is the limit to national ambitions? What is the limit to the nation-state’s right to preserve itself in the face of national aspirations by sub-national populations? As has been mentioned, the Treaty of Versailles called for collective security and the triumph of international law over national-sovereignty.
It left the enforcement of the treaty to the League of Nations. The League, while a failure in its attempt to prevent war, raised the profile of international law. It seems that this is a major dividing point in international relations: there are those who support the growing importance, power, and responsibility of international law and on the other hand, there are those who adhere to the traditional theories of realism that are isolationist and unilateral in nature. Senator Henry Cabot Lodge’s blocking of the Treaty of Versailles used much of the same rhetoric that has been recently used against the International Criminal Court. That is, the “unchecked power” and broad jurisdiction is a threat to American sovereignty (American Journal of International Law, 724). Realism had raised its ugly head once more.
What does this have to do with anything?
On this past Wednesday, November 22, 2017, Ratko Mladic was sentenced to life imprisonment on 10 counts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court. This sentence, similar to the March 24, 2016, sentence of Radovan Karadžić, was a consequence of their actions during the Siege of Sarajevo and the Srebrenica Massacre. Both Mladić and the Bosnian-Serb political leader Radovan Karadžić (known as the “Butchers of Bosnia”) and were indicted by the ICTY for war crimes during the 1994 Bosnian War. So, more than twenty years later, we can argue whether the pace of international justice truly discourages other international actors. In fact, Slobodan Milošević avoided sentencing through the passage of time (and possibly Russian doctor-assisted suicide). While Milošević made history as the first sitting Head of State to be indicted when he was charged with crimes against humanity in Kosovo in May 1999. This is exactly Realism’s critique and fear of international law: what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. That is, if a Serbian leader can lose sovereign immunity and be indicted by the international community, then so could an American leader. That is essentially the rationale for US withdrawal from the Rome Statute.
As mentioned, there is also the lack of international accountability applied to second fiddle belligerents. Secondary belligerents seem to both escape international accountability as well as avoid responsibility for domestic accountability. While the international community notes the difference between major and minor war criminals, the supposition negates itself if those secondary belligerents do not hold their war criminals accountable. The absence of justice may be a result of domestic disinterest, a lack of international pressure, or the collapse of the nation-state and/or its government.
The Balkan Wars began Slovenia seceded from the Yugoslav Federation on June 25, 1991. Serbia and Croatia quickly sought, not to reunify Yugoslavia, but to create a Greater Serbia and a Greater Croatia. The primary victim of these landgrabs was the Bosnia-Herzegovina; the Serbs infamously created the Republika Srpska to legitimize their landgrab, but it is lesser well-known that the Croats similarly created the Croatian Republic of Herzeg-Bosnia within the territorial boundaries of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Franjo Tuđman, the President of Croatia, crush Croatian Serbians, supported the Croatian Republic of Herzeg-Bosnia, and on March 25, 1991, Tuđman met with Slobodan Milošević met at Karađorđevo where he may have discussed the partition of Bosnia and Herzegovina between Serbia and Croatia.
In 2011, ICC judges found two former Croatian generals guilty of war crimes and that the regime of the late President Franjo Tudjman planned a campaign of systematic violence to empty south-western Croatia of its Serbian minority in order to resettle the region with ethnic Croats. Generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markač became scape-goats when found guilty of eight of nine counts for commanding operations that included the shelling of civilians, the torching of Serbian homes in south-west Croatia, the murder of hundreds of elderly Serbs and the forced exodus of at least 20,000 from the Serbian minority rooted in the Dalmatian. However, those convictions were overturned by an ICTY Appeals Panel in November 2012.
Tihomir Blaškić, a Croatian general, was indicted on war crimes charges and sentenced to 45 years in prison. In July 2004, ICTY appeal court determined that his command responsibility for most of the charges was non-existent and his sentence was lessened to nine years imprisonment; he was released after four years. Another Croatian general, Ivan Čermak, was acquitted. Still another officer, Mirko Norac, was transferred to Croatia for trial and sentenced to seven years but was released on probation.
In the Kordić and Čerkez, the ICC ruled that by April 1993 Croat leadership had a common design or plan conceived and executed to ethnically cleanse Bosniaks from the Lašva Valley. In fact, on December 27, 1991, there was a meeting in Zagreb between President Franjo Tuđman and the Bosnian Croat leadership to discuss the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina formulate an overall Croatian political strategy. Similar to Bosnian-Serb political leader Radovan Karadžić, Dario Kordić was found to be the man behind the ethnic cleansing as the local political Croat leader. Karadžić was sentenced to life in prison, whereas Kordić was sentenced to 25 years but released in June 2014 after having served two-thirds of his sentence. Other Bosnian Croats were also convicted by the ICTY. Jadranko Prlić, the Prime Minister of the pseudo-Croatian Republic of Herzeg-Bosnia, was sentenced to 25 years in prison. The tribunal also convicted five other wartime leaders of the joint trial: defence minister of Herzeg-Bosnia Bruno Stojić (20 years), military officers Slobodan Praljak (20 years) and Milivoj Petković (20 years), military police commander Valentin Ćorić (20 years), and head of prisoner exchanges and detention facilities Berislav Pušić (16 years). No life sentences.
So to recap: The Bosnian Serb pollical leader was sentenced to life in prison. The Bosnia Serb military leader was sentenced to life in prison. The Serbian leader died while on trial for his role in the Bosnian Wars (as well as the Kosovo Wars). Conversely, the Bosnian Croat political leader was sentenced to only 25 years, and released in June 2014 after having served two-thirds of his sentence. The Bosnia Croats military leaders were sentenced to 20 years. The Croatian leader was never indicted; Tuđman was re-elected president in 1997 and remained in power until his death in 1999. Interestingly the Croatian government passed a law on cooperation with the ICTY, but since 1997 (Tuđman’s reelection) relations between ICTY and Croatia have worsened. In 1999, Tuđman publicly criticized the work of ICTY and the ICTY Chief Prosecutor Louise Arbour expressed her dissatisfaction with Croatia’s cooperation with the Tribunal.
The Split Agreement (a mutual defense agreement between Croatia, the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina), as well as Tuđman’s personal relationship with German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher, led the international community to back-off of possible transgressions by Croatia. On December 19, 1991, Iceland and Germany recognized Croatia’s sovereignty and the Split Agreement called on the Croatian Army to intervene militarily on behalf of Bosnia and Herzegovina to relieve the Siege of Bihać. The Split Agreement became a turning point in the Bosnian War, and the international community was primarily interested in ending the regional conflict and, particularly Serbian aggression. As a result, Croatia has benefited the gift of victor’s spoils and entrusted to self-responsibility for war crimes adjudication. No international pressure. Limited international trials for major war criminals. Alleged domestic trials for minor war criminals. Like Turks and Italians before them, the Croats rode the coattails of victory to unaccountability in the interest of international peace and future European Union and NATO partnerships.
Mingst, Karen A. (2004). Essentials of International Relations. New York: W.W. Norton.
O’Brien, William V. “Just War Theory” in The Conduct of Just and Limited War. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1981.
Willis, James F. Prologue to Nuremberg. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1982.
A few thoughts about the July 15, 2016, attempted coup d’état in the Republic of Turkey. It matters. It matters for the E.U. and the migrant refugee crisis. It matters for the Syrian Civil War. It matters for N.A.T.O. and the treaty obligations that the United States and its allies have with Turkey. It matters in the on-going war against the Islamic State (ISIL, or ISIS). It matters for the future of the West’s relationship with the Muslim world. It matters in terms of free speech and freedom of the press. And it matters in terms of legitimacy and the possible establishment of further international legal precedent. It matters in terms of how the coup may have impacted the genocide of Yazidis and Christians in the region as well as how the history of the Armenian Genocide is taught in Turkey. Finally, the coup may also affect the ongoing conflict between the Turks and Kurds. It matters.
Turkey, straddling two continents on each side of the Bosporus, also straddles the Western world and the Muslim world. The secular Turkish republic has been an example that Islam and the West can co-exist and, after Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s election in 2002, Turkey has also held the promise that democracy and Islam can co-exist as well. Note the past tense in those two previous statements. Previous Turkish governments have been comprised of secular Muslim leadership and intervening military juntas. In contrast, Erdogan’s party espouses Islamic philosophies and his tenure as Prime Minister and later President of Turkey has been scrutinized for more than a decade. That initial promise of an Islamic democracy has been eroded over the years, but perhaps it is not his Islamic inclinations, but his autocratic nature that is to blame.
If the military coup of July 15, 2016, had closed one chapter of Turkish history and begun another, then the world no longer has to wonder if Erdogan would surrender power peacefully. [Verily, democracies are not measured by elections, but by the peaceful transfer of power between political rivals.] So, would the coup have saved Turkish democracy and/or made Erdogan into a tragic hero? We will never know. Erdogan was democratically elected. Isn’t that what the West has supposedly advocated? Democracy? Didn’t US President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair promise their actions in the region would promote democracy in the region? But elections have consequences. It is hard to proclaim the sanctity of democratic elections if the results of those elections are not respected by those same voices, à la Iran 1953, Guatemala 1954, Egypt 2013, and possibly now Turkey 2016.
The coup, to the degree, that its believed to have been a genuine attempt to overthrow the government, may have made a heavy-handed autocrat into a somewhat sympathetic figure. So, are coup d’états to be accepted or not? After all, the American Experiment began as a coup in 1776. No matter what you learned in Civics class, there is no line in the Magna Carta nor Coronation Act of 1688 that legitimizes the overthrow of the government, regardless of how well Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson’s mesmerizing prose is a logical conceit, not an established legal president. After all, Americans have criticized the Burmese military for years for ignoring the 2010 elections results that had favored Aung San Suu Kyi. It is hard to credibly argue to have it both ways. Thomas Howard, the Duke of Norfolk who knew first hand from the court of Henry VIII how fickle the whims of leaders could be, said famously to Thomas Cromwell, “a man cannot have his cake and eat his cake.”
Many have argued Erdogan is no longer qualified to serve as head of state. After all, the detractors insist, he lost his legitimacy when he began attacking journalists and academics, yet that self-justifying logic is a slippery slope. Politicians must be removed by the rule of law, to do otherwise undermines the very rule of law Erdogan’s enemies purports to defend. It is also quite selective to question the legitimacy of Erdogan when Duarte dines at the White House, journalists mysteriously die in Putin’s Russia, Trump calls the media enemies of the state, and Orbán wins another election.
The Turkish military has had a tradition of intervening to “protect the republic,” specifically in 1960, 1971, and 1980. Let us hope the military does so again. Do not let your dislike of Erdogan cloud your judgment. If it is acceptable for the Turkish military to remove democratically elected civilians from power, what other militaries, in what other countries may now think to do the same? The 2016 attempted coup d’état in the Republic of Turkey certainly matters. It matters to the war against Islamic terrorism and the civilian casualties of the Syrian civil war. Perhaps equally important is what the coup says about the future of democracy in the Muslim world. But what happens next is anyone’s guess.
Alexander Pope, in his Essay on Man, captures our potential as a human race as well as our reliance on God.
This morning I woke and checked the news. I came across two articles written by conservative commentators: Matt Lewis and RedState’s Leon Wolf. Please take time to read the articles.
It should not be necessary to repeat this again, but there are hundreds of thousands of good law enforcement officers across the country, yet there are also reckless officers as well. The Blue Wall of Silence has been no friend to good law enforcement. Just like any other profession, priests, teachers, doctors, lawyers, you name it. There are those who have a passion for their vocation, and there are those who hide behind their badges, degrees, collars, and unions.
There is a Facebook post by Steven Hildreth Jr, an African-American pulled over by the Tuscon police in 2015, that went viral then and has recirculated. In the post, Hildreth makes the point that if you treat law enforcement with respect, you will receive respect. Well, with all due respect to Hildreth the onus of respect is always on those in power.
These two pieces by Lewis and Wolf give me hope. Hope that we as a nation of Blacks and Whites, Asians and Latinos, Republicans and Democrats, Men and women, Homosexuals and Heterosexuals…that we will realize that violence by law enforcement is a cancer on all of society, especially on good law enforcement officers, and has been disproportionately inflicted upon Americans of African descent.
We all expect bad politicians to be held accountable. We all, whether Catholic or not, are angry at the lack of accountability by the Catholic Church for the abuse of our children. We mock professional sports for not holding rapists, drug users and weapons violators accountable. We demand accountability when teachers attack their students sexually. All of us seem to have pet peeve professions which we demand more from or expect more accountability by. Perhaps it is time to remove the partisan and racial lens from our view of law enforcement.
I have many friends and former students in law enforcement and I know how heavy their hearts are, when a fellow officer falls in the line of duty as well as when a fellow officer betrays the oath that they all take to serve and protect:
“On my honor, I will never betray my badge, my integrity, my character, or the public trust. I will always have the courage to hold myself and others accountable for our actions. I will always uphold the Constitution, my community and the agency I serve.”
I expect this accountability from my law enforcement. And I expect their service to be respected. No one, regardless of profession, race, or political affiliation, should be assassinated anywhere in the world, but especially in our United States of America.
Dallas shooter Micah Xavier Johnson, anti-government militiaman Bill Keebler, the Boston Bombing Tsarnaev brothers and so many more. They are domestic terrorists. African-American or Caucasian, Christian or Muslim. It doesn’t matter. They are all domestic terrorists and should be repudiated by all Americans. And all Americans should expect law enforcement to protect and defend all Americans, regardless of race, nationality, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, or country of origin.
Yes, all lives matter, but what Lewis and Wolf have written about is that its time to acknowledge that some lives are more prone to being lost than others. Let’s end both police violence and violence against law enforcement.
Regarding Patrick Clark’s letter, “To quick to judge those who fight abroad” ProJo 7/1/6, I’d like to turn the title on its head. The problem is many people are too quick to protect their compadres. Yes, America’s legal system is based on the presumption of innocence, but we also have an independent grand jury system that identifies possible culpability. Whether they are policemen, priests or soldiers, there are certain professions which carry with them a certain amount of blind trust. [It is important to point out that there are many good men and women that have earned and deserve our trust.] However, many people seem to put blinders on when it comes even to the ‘bad apples.’
Whether its NYPD’s Justin Volpe who beat Abner Louima, RI’s own Dan Azzarone, Jr., or the convicted prison guards at Abu Ghraib, there are bad apples out there. When a grand jury, or the military equivalent, recommends a trial, it behooves the intelligent public to –not presume guilt- but trust in the system and allow for the fact that the persons MAY be guilty.
The knee-jerk defenses of accused soldiers, simply because they’re soldiers, are jingoistic and anti-intellectual. Instead of wrapping accused soldiers with the American flag, perhaps we should wrap their wrists in handcuffs and let the justice system do its job? The honorable soldiers, past and present, that I know separate themselves from these opportunistic criminals who don’t defend our country, but soil its reputation abroad.
I am writing in regards to Sean O’Keefe’s letter (“Accepting Terrorists Propaganda” 6/20/06 and copied at the bottom here). In spite of O’Keefe’s allegation, it seems to me that the reports of mass murder at Haditha are still under investigation. The Providence Journal reported weeks ago that the military has already found evidence that some marines lied to investigators about Haditha http://www.projo.com/sharedcontent/iraq/topstories/060106ccjccwNatHaditha.42bc7074.html).
In addition, The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Peter Pace (who is a Marine), Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and President George W. Bush are all on record calling an investigation necessary and ordering renewed emphasis on “ethical training as a result of Haditha” and yet Mr. O’Keefe is convinced already that Haditha is a “scam” and that “No massacre happened.”
And now on June 21, seven Marines and a Navy corpsman have been charged with murder, kidnapping, conspiracy, larceny and making false official statements arising from war crimes in Hamdania. Is this propaganda as well? Has the US Pentagon been hoodwinked into falling for “terrorist propaganda”?
In response to this letter:
Accepting terrorists’ propaganda
01:00 AM EDT on
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
This is in response to Douglas Gamage’s June 12 letter, “Less proud to be an American today.”Can the writer tell me why he has seen fit to be judge and jury to the Marines caught up in the Haditha scam? No massacre happened. It’s what is called propaganda. What you are reading is what the enemy wants us to believe and what the mainstream media will put in print without any investigating on their own. There was no cover-up; the witnesses’ names keep changing, and what they saw changes.The local reporter who has information on the story has been arrested several times by coalition and Iraqi forces for terrorist links. A pastor whose son is in the unit was in Iraq with his son when they were in Haditha, and all the Marines talked about was Fallujah, and losing friends in that battle. Nothing about Haditha, and nothing about a massacre.I seriously suggest you start researching what’s really going on, instead of just taking the propaganda from the terrorists. I would also suggest that you not serve on any juries. And until you start realizing that there are people, countries, and media organizations that want to make the United States look as bad as possible, maybe you should stop condemning my fellow Marines publicly and helping the terrorists.Unlike Vietnam, this war won’t be lost because of a media bias. There are too many Americans who know how and why Vietnam was lost, and we won’t let it happen again.I suggest you get it together and start pulling for the home team. Semper Fi.
The writer is a Marine