11 November 2006

It begins

Background Brief On The Case Against Rumsfeld, Gonzales And Others Filed In Germany On November 14, 2006 (PDF)
From Donald Rumsfeld on down, the political and military leaders in charge of ordering, allowing and implementing abusive interrogation techniques in the context of the “War on Terror” since September 11, 2001, must be investigated and held accountable. The complaint alleges that American military and civilian high-ranking officials named as defendants in the case have committed war crimes against detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and in the U.S.-controlled Guant├ínamo Bay prison camp.

The complaint alleges that the defendants “ordered” war crimes, “aided or abetted” war crimes, or “failed, as civilian superiors or military commanders, to prevent their commission by subordinates, or to punish their subordinates,” actions that are explicitly criminalized by German law. The U.S. administration has treated hundreds if not thousands of detainees in a coercive manner, in accordance with “harsh interrogation techniques” ordered by Secretary Rumsfeld himself that legally constitute torture and/or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, in blatant violation of the provisions of the 1949
Geneva Conventions, the 1984 Convention Against Torture and the 1977 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – to all of which the United States is a party. Under international humanitarian treaty and customary law, and as re-stated in German law, these acts of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment constitute war crimes.

I don't seriously expect that Rumsfeld or any other member of this grisly gang will ever find themselves on trial for crimes against humanity or war crimes. I do expect they may find it advisable to drop any travel plans to a nation that recognises universal jurisdiction to punish such crimes. Strangely enough, the recent US legislation to give legal cover to torture may exacerbate the position of potential defendants. Similar immunity laws enacted by the Chilean junta were cited as reason for the House of Lords to grant extradition in the Pinochet case in

9 November 2006

a little more celebration

The US also held elections for many state governors and legislatures. the picture there is the same as the Senate and House elections. All states except Nebraska have a state senate and assembly. (The names of the state assemblies vary from 'House of Delegates' to 'General Court') Nebraska is unicameral, like Queensland.

As of 7 a.m. MT, Democrats control both houses of the legislature in 23 states; Republicans in 15, and nine are split. Final counts aren't available yet for three chambers in two states: the Montana House and Senate and the Pennsylvania House. This adds up to 49 states because Nebraska's legislature is nonpartisan.

Before the election, Republicans controlled 20 state legislatures; Democrats 19, and 10 were split.

I'll round up the governorships and the referendum results some time today.

What a rum result

The first executive casualty has already fallen on his sword. Bush has announced Rumsfeld's resignation and replacement by a former CIA director. I doubt Runsfeld will be the last. I do not see George Bush as a guy with a lot of ticker.

The defence appointment takes away a Democratic nightmare, winning 51 seats out a hundred in the Senate, seeing Liebermann accept the post of secretary of defence, and then seeing the Republican governor of Connecticut (Liebermann's state) appoint a Republican to replace Liebermann in the Senate. The US has no equivalent of the rule in our constitution, Section 15, that senators must be replaced by a senator from the same party.

The US congress has he same structure as the Australian parliament. (No accident. Large slabs of our constitution run word for word with theirs) States get equal numbers of senators and proportionate-to-population numbers of representatives. The Senate is a tad strange. Half the Australian senate face election every 3 years. One third of the US senate face every 2 years, meaning that not all states vote for senator at each election.

The results are now fairly well-known, although I was surprised that their famous voting machines seem, if anything, to produce results at a much slower rate than our paper ballots. It's also strange to an Australian that there's no electoral commission to provide a neutral, uniform, professional electoral service on a nation-wide level. I guess that's another story.

The US media are still treating the Senate results in Virginia and Montana as open, although they're projecting Democratic wins and I suspect Australian election commentators would have already shut up shop and gone home for the night.

Last time I looked Webb, the Democrat was leading by more votes than there are left to count in Virginia. Montana, a very small state, is down to thousands of votes, but Tester, the Democrat has led every stage at the count and the chance for his opponent to overtake him is now vanishingly small. If both win, and I think they will, the numbers will be 51/49 in favour of the Democrats. 50/50 would be a Republican win because Cheney had a casting vote if there's a tie.

Bush will not be able to govern in the same way. He's already invited Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi to the White House for lunch and the Rumsfeld resignation is further evidence. I think more's happened than just the Karl Rove 'revolution' coming to an end.

Rove and Bush thought they'd set up a permanent Republican majority. That prospect is now dead. A couple of fairly startling numbers. 1/3 of white evangelicals, the base of all bases to the Bush administration, voted Democrat. In a wide zone from Maine to Indiana the Republicans were defending 21 marginal seats and lost 21. In the Senate as a whole, the Republicans were defending 13 marginal states and lost 11. The Democrats have not lost a single senator, governor or representative. Democrat representatives and senators have been elected, especially in the West from places that yesterday were counted as solidly Republican. The very small and very Republican state of South Dakota threw out a restrictive abortion law in an initiative referendum. Arizona threw out a referendum to ban gay marriage. Perhaps they felt Mark Foley and Ted Haggert should have the right to marry.

The only significant Republican win of the night was Scharzenegger's re-election as governor of California and it's notable that Schwarzenegger ran on a very unBush platform. This is the kind of election it can take decades to recover from.

I think this means that one or both of Bush and Cheney will face impeachment in the next 2 years. I do not think the Democrats who now control Congress are setting out to impeach. I do think their new investigative powers are going to reveal incompetence, corruption and deception on such a massive scale that impeachment now become unavoidable.

In talking about US politics, it's been a truism for several years that the party of Abraham Lincoln, the Republicans, has become the party of Jefferson Davis, who was the confederate president during the Civil War. Nixon set up the southern strategy, a dog-whistle appeal to southern working class whites to vote Republican. Since 1968 the Solid South has gone from solidly Democratic to solidly Republican.

On the other hand, maybe the country, if not the party, of Lincoln remains the same. You really cannot fool all of the people all of the time.