Sunday, December 3, 2017
By Margaret Drew, UMass Law School
Signs indicate that two powerful forces are escalating simultaneously.
The periodic threat to fire Secretary of State Tillerson will inevitably lead to actual firing, particularly now that a potential successor has been named. Replacement was inevitable following Tillerson's public acknowledgement that he called the President a moron. The speculated replacement is Mike Pompeo, CIA director. Pompeo disdains negotiation with those known not to support the US. Iran, for example, is a country Pompeo says he would not negotiate with. As the President increases his noises around North Korea, the more war with North Korea seems inevitable.
At the same time, Special Prosecutor Mueller's investigation is accelerating. A deal has been struck with Michael Flynn in exchange for his ongoing cooperation with Mueller's investigation. Reportedly Jared Kushner is one of those against whom evidence is mounting. The closer Mueller probes Trump family members, the more likely we will see aggresssive and destructive backlash.
War with North Korea can be manipulated in several ways. War can be the distraction Trump seeks from the Mueller investigation. Historically, the country has been reluctant to change leaders during war time. If Trump perceives that he will be forced out of office, he may leave the White House after doing the most harm as possible. Nuclear exchanges with North Korea would be one way to inflict serious damage.
But there is an alternative. Rather than firing the special prosecutor, Mueller could be given the option of indicting the President or Trump family members, or stopping the investigation and avoiding the consequences of war. Will it be Mueller's choice?
Thursday, June 16, 2016
The Senate passed a bill requiring females who turn 18 to register for the draft . This requirement would apply to those girls who turn 18 in 2018 or later. The supporting argument is that since women can serve in all military positions open to men, they should have the same obligations. The bill now moves to the House, where conservative members are opposed to registration expansion. The bill raises interesting questions around women and safety.
Will the military take any steps to ensure that women are safe from sexual assault and harassment while serving their country? Men are killing individuals and in mass numbers, at the same time that cultural shifts have resulted in more acceptance of diverse sexual identities, increased racial activism and the increasing power of women. What are female recruits going to face as they are forced into one of the most change resistant and oppressive institutions for women? Yes- many women have risen to impressive ranks of military service, but many more have been sexually assaulted.
The long term benefits of women serving in the military could be significant. In the very long term, we might have a military where decision making is balanced by the inclusion of both feminine and masculine perspectives. Those veterans who promote male privilege will lose their edge. Jobs giving veterans preference due to their status would now be open to the missing half of the population. Often ignored, PTSD in females might be recognized and treated more seriously.
But in the short term - which could be decades- women risk assault in every way by their male peers and superiors. As assault victims, females soldiers who report are more likely to be discharged without compensation or other redress while male perpetrators are unpunished. The privileged among us who promote war rely on no-active-draft status to save their sons from forced service. The class equity that draft brings will be less likely as the privileged resist implementation of a draft that results in their daughters' deployment.
Now that military women have access to all positions open to men, will we assume that we are post- misogyny in the armed services? Or is this move nothing less than backlash? Backlash against women has a long history. The attempt to universalize the successes of a few woman historically created a backlash for women. Here are a few:
"No-Fault" divorce discouraged women from addressing the truth of their abusive relationships.
When job discrimination became illegal and women were beginning to make employment inroads, family court judges denied or limited alimony telling women who had not worked in decades to return to the workforce.
Women on the job have been punished for being female. Namely, motherhood more often results in their losing jobs or status within the workplace, as well as decreased pay. Mothers are expected to take care of sick children, aging parents but are not compensated when they do so.
Now that sexual assaults in the military are being exposed, the military has changed its definition of assault to make it more difficult for victims to qualify for redress.
What does this mean for women soldiers who might make up half the force? The first few generations of female soldiers continue to suffer from male dominance and abuse. The culture may change, eventually, but change in the military does not come quickly.
Does the registration bill promote equity or punish it? Will President Obama sign the bill if passed? Malia will not be required to register but Sasha will.
Monday, May 9, 2016
Within Immigration Customs Enforcement is a unit that investigates war criminal and other human rights abusers from entering or remaining in the United States.
According to its website, the Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center has four missions:
- To prevent the admission of foreign war crimes suspects, persecutors and human rights abusers into the United States.
- To identify and prosecute individuals who have been involved and/or responsible for the commission of human rights abuses across the globe.
- To remove, whenever possible, those offenders who are located in the United States.
- To oversee the development of programs in response to President Obama’s Presidential Study Directive-10, the prevention of mass atrocities.
Last Monday, ICE deported Halil Dacaj who is suspected of organizing war crimes against Serbian collaborators by beating them during interrogations and by turning those detained over to the Kosovo Liberation Army for further torture. In 1999, Dacaj entered the US on a fraudulent passport and visa. He was ordered removed in 2003 by an immigration judge but he was not arrested until last August. Last week Dacaj was deported and surrendered to authorities in Kosovo.
Thursday, March 19, 2015
As law professors, we often repeat the same strategies again and again in our efforts to promote human rights dialogue and education: we write law review articles, blogs, op eds, amicus briefs, textbooks and sign-on letters; we organize and attend conferences; we raise issues in our teaching.
Professor Michael Meltsner of Northeastern Law School, however, did something different. In 2011, he wrote a play: In Our Name: A Play of the Torture Years. As described by the author, the play "depicts how and why the nation found itself brutally treating the men it detained—some with good reason, some with stunning caprice—after 9/11. The play confronts the government rationalizations, the bizarre military hearings, and the willful blindness of the public to what was happening behind barbed wire."
After successful productions in Boston and New York, Professor Meltsner's work will be performed once again at 4 p.m., March 19, 2015, at Northeastern's Blackman Auditorium. A panel discussion of the ethics of torture will follow the performance.
As an alternative to professors' "business as usual," theatre has much to recommend it. "New Tactics for Human Rights," a program of the Center for Victims of Torture, reports that "by working through theatre, both performers and spectators can engage difficult questions in a safe space. Theatre is also an ideal instrument to give witness to human rights violations. It is also an excellent tool for education and awareness raising. Lastly, these insights can be used to advocate for policy and legislative changes."
Such creative efforts to perpetuate the dialogue about human rights and torture are particularly important given the continued detentions at Guantanamo and media blackout on conditions there. Recent reports indicate that the requests of Juan Mendez, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, to interview detainees have been denied. And the U.S. government has discontinued reporting on hunger strikes and forced feedings at the facility. Without new "news," there's a danger that indefinite detentions and the abuses that go along with them, will become simply part of everyday background noise.
In Our Name has sparked, well yes, more law review articles. But more importantly, by employing an unexpected strategy, it breathes new life into the movement to end these abuses.