Who could forget leftwing furor over President George W. Bush’s prosecution of the War on Terror? From Code Pink to human rights wonks at the UN, Bush was assailed at every turn. There was a push to haul the US president before the International Court on issues like detainee interrogations, the prison at Guantanamo Bay and rendition.
What a difference the Oval Office makes. Last time I looked, Gitmo was still intact. Furthermore, I'm betting if he'd been given a choice, as soon as he saw those Navy SEALs, Osama bin Laden would've screamed, "Rendition, please?"
Now having rightfully dispatched (via the American military) bin Laden (the international assassin and organizer with no country), President Barack Obama is facing criticism from international rights advocates about a unilateral action that in my opinion was perfectly justified.
Predictably Der Spiegel asked, “Was bin Laden’s killing legal?”
Before too long the United Nations will come calling, probably armed with a copy of the human rights report filed by the U.S. that was another unnecessary apology.
What’s curious about the unilateral act that took bin Laden to his final resting place (wherever in the ocean that may be) is a speech made by Harold Hongju Koh, Obama’s chosen Legal Adviser at the U.S. Department of State.
In a speech given before the American Society of International Law in March, 2010, Koh waxed eloquently, not about unilateralism but multilaterialism:
“But, I would argue—and these are the core of my remarks today-- to say that is to understate the most important difference between this administration and the last: and that is with respect to its approach and attitude toward international law. The difference in that approach to international law I would argue is captured in an Emerging 'Obama-Clinton Doctrine,' which is based on four commitments: to: 1. Principled Engagement; 2. Diplomacy as a Critical Element of Smart Power; 3. Strategic Multilateralism; and 4. the notion that Living Our Values Makes us Stronger and Safer, by Following Rules of Domestic and International Law; and Following Universal Standards, Not Double Standards.”
Read the whole speech and you will then appreciate the difference in political rhetoric and reality.
The US Constitution states, “This constitution, and the Laws of the United States…shall be the supreme Law of the Land.”
It appears Obama learned a valuable lesson by doing something many Americans and numerous other nations approve of. A roundup of commentary from other nations is posted at al Jazeera (English). At the moment, much of the world is not too fired up about bin Laden’s demise. That may change if the situation is domestically prostituted for political gain, however.
Will Koh rap the president's knuckles about trespassing on multilateralism?
Alternatively, someone might want to inform Mr. Koh about US sovereignty and furthermore, offer a colorful suggestion on exactly where he might stick his international law.
He’s got the whole world in his hands, but can Obama do it justice?
The Sydney Morning Herald (Nov. 13, 2008)
Fox News (March 31, 2009)
US Congress asleep at the wheel on UN R2P
The US Report
(Commentary by Kay B. Day/May 3, 2011)
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Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) does the Democrat waffle on the Osama bin Laden affair. Calling her a hypocrite would be too kind. See The Intellectual Dishonesty of Nancy Pelosi at Commentary. Wonder if she's ready to attack the CIA again now?