Sunday, June 06, 2004

The bin Ladens and international law debate thread.

My post "bin Laden family to build world's tallest twin towers in Dubai" from May 25th seems to have sparked an active thread.

Rather than have people post comments way back in the archives, I think it's best to start a new thread out here.

dponce80 writes (on his analogy about what would happen were prominent Americans, say the Rockerfellers, suspected of involvement of terrorism on foreign soil, say in Dubai):

>And what I was saying, finally, was that
>even if the FBI knew all along that it's the Rockefellers who did it,
>they wouldn't be too quick to do anything about it, in my opinion. Kind
>of like how Afghanistan reacted when it was told bin laden did it, and
>was asked to kick him out. When it didn't comply, you know what happened.

It's not that simple. A Middle Eastern country (I think it was Jordan or Egypt, but perhaps it was one of three countries that had diplomatic relations with the Taliban) had put out an Interpol Red Alert and requested extradition of bin Laden for a number of years.

The FBI actually had a lot of success with their extradition requests (often made diplomatically and multilaterally in tandem with Middle Eastern countries that also considered him a criminal) in getting bin Laden --- not extradited --- but rather expelled from one country after another. In the end they thought this was a bad idea, because he ended up, finally, in Afghanistan, where he couldn't be reached except by force.

The Taliban are difficult to defend. Even the United Nations didn't consider them legitimate or recognize them, which is saying something. They only had two or three countries that had diplomatic relations with them --- all the rest refused to recognize them, saying they were not the legitimate government of Afghanistan. (Even Saddam didn't recognize them. In hindsight, given their actions ultimately led to his undoing, that was wise.) The Taliban truly were rogue nations, outlaw actors on the world stage.

Following the attack on the U.S.S. Cole, the U.S. tried to step up their diplomatic pressure (through one of the countries that had relations with them) on Afghanistan to get them to comply with the existing Interpol Red Alert on bin Laden.

Despite very strong evidence bin Laden was a terrorist and had many enemies (even in the Arab World), the Taliban refused to comply with the request.

Then 911 happened and America gave on International Law and International Prosecutions of bin Laden, and decided that the FBI way of doing things (International Prosecutions) wasn't working, and the CIA and DoD way of doing things (the nasty way) were the only way that was going to work.

They didn't even bother anymore with another Interpol Red Alert; they just issued Afghanistan with an ultimatum: hand over bin Laden to us now. Afghanistan, in this case, chose not to comply. Had they complied, the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan would probably have been prevented (or at least significantly delayed, which would have given diplomacy another chance). Maybe the Iraq war might have been prevented as well.

International Law (and complex, slow, and expensive processes like International Criminal Prosecutions and International extradition treaties) are designed to prevent wars by providing civil mechanisms for resolving disputes when the evidence is very strong (as it was in bin Laden's case).

When these mechanisms break down, because one country for years hasn't been playing by the rules (as Afghanistan wasn't, even by Middle Eastern standards), then ultimatums and force come into play.

>Now, imagine for a second... (heheheh, I can't help but smile here),
>Dubai contemplating an action such as the one the US took in Afghanistan.
>Hhehehheh... oh wow...

Right, these rules, when they work, are designed to prevent exactly that.

That's why we've got International Criminal Prosecutions, extradition treaties, and Interpol. They would provide a formal mechanism for Dubai to make a demand of Washington (hand over this guy) and present their evidence to American and World public opinion in a polite, diplomatic way without the need for military ultimatums.

When one nation (American in the case of the Iraq war, Afghanistan in the case of bin Laden) decides to ignore these international mechanisms, then war and other nasty things are much more likely to happen.

>They say, He with the Gold makes the rules. I say, He with the Guns makes
>the rules.

In the jungle (and in warfare), yes: I believe a famous Chinese general said "wars are fought with golden bullets."

In civil society, where equitable rule of law prevails, it's not simple: the wealthy guy doesn't always win in a court proceeding (or in the court of public opinion), especially if he's in the wrong.

That's why we need to support these folks at the UN and elsewhere on the international scene to try to turn the world into a more civil place, where international law is more likely to be enforceable.

Sound off --- what do other people think? (The original thread is here).