Just Above Sunset
March 13, 2005 - America is being Texified?

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The Texas attorney general's office issued a statement Tuesday, March 8 saying, "We respectfully believe" that the president's decision "exceeds constitutional bounds for federal authority."  Say what? 


The nub of the matter?  The Washington Post reports that in a two-paragraph letter dated March 7, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice informed U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan that the United States "hereby withdraws" from the Optional Protocol to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. The United States proposed the protocol in 1963 and ratified it - along with the rest of the Vienna Convention - in 1969.


Yeah, we just unilaterally pulled out another treaty, or from one of the key protocols.


As far as I can tell, the deal was, way back when, we wanted the International Court of Justice to help us when some foreign government jailed one of our citizens.  We wanted the International Court of Justice to force the offending country to allow our ambassador or whomever to be able to meet with the prisoner and work out the facts of the matter.  We used it to sue to get access to the Iran hostages back in 1979 – and I later met one of those hostages when I worked at Hughes out here, and he was glad he could see his US ambassador.  (And that was Joe Wilson at the time, oddly enough – the guy whose wife was “outted” as a CIA agent to get back at Wilson for making Bush look bad about the Nigerian uranium that wasn’t there.) 


But back to the treaty.  Now it seems other countries are suing us, saying we have jailed their citizens and denied them access to their home-country diplomats and sentenced them to death, then executed them.  Happens a lot in Texas.  Mexicans.  Pisses off Vicente Fox and the Mexican government.  So what?  We once agreed such folks should be able to contact their home government.  No more that now.


This is a judgment call.  Is it more important to be able to employ the death penalty when and how we wish than it is to have a guarantee that when a US citizen is jailed abroad he or she has a chance to talk with a representative of the US government?  We will now forgo the latter so we can assure the former.  We have our values.


Rice met with Fox in Mexico City on the 9th and tired to explain.  No word on how that went.


Actually, it’s not THAT bad.  The Bush folks say the will abide by the protocol because we’re nice guys – but we certainly won’t submit to anyone telling us we have to do that.  No one tells us what to do.




Well, when I get back to France again in the fall I will be extra careful.  If, like James Baldwin, I get chucked in jail over there (he says it was a bad way to spend Christmas) now I know I cannot phone the American embassy over on the north side of Place de la Concorde.  Well, they’d probably let me call.  But would anyone talk to me?  It might set a bad precedent.


I guess America is being Texified.  See this -  “In 1997, Alberto Gonzales wrote a memo for then Governor Bush to justify non-compliance with the Vienna Convention. The Vienna Convention, ratified by the Senate in 1969, was "designed to ensure that foreign nationals accused of a crime are given access to legal counsel by a representative from their home country." Gonzales sent a letter to the U.S. State Department in which he argued that the treaty didn't apply to the State of Texas, as Texas was not a signatory to the Vienna Convention. Two days later, Texas executed Mexican citizen Irineo Tristan Montoya, despite Mexico's protestations that Texas had violated Tristan's rights under the Vienna Convention by failing to inform the Mexican consulate at the time of his arrest. (Slate, 6/15/04)”


And Alberto Gonzales is now our Attorney General.


No one tells a Texan what to do.


Here’s the news item -


U.S. Quits Pact Used in Capital Cases
Foes of Death Penalty Cite Access to Envoys

Charles Lane, The Washington Post, Thursday, March 10, 2005; Page A01


And some additional information -


"The International Court of Justice has interpreted the Vienna Consular Convention in ways that we had not anticipated that involved state criminal prosecutions and the death penalty, effectively asking the court to supervise our domestic criminal system," State Department spokeswoman Darla Jordan said yesterday.


Withdrawal from the protocol is a way of "protecting against future International Court of Justice judgments that might similarly interpret the consular convention or disrupt our domestic criminal system in ways we did not anticipate when we joined the convention," Jordan added.


Yeah, leave us alone.






Just Above Sunset columnist Bob Patterson is amused by our government saying it will follow the rules set forth in this protocol, but will walk away from the actual protocol, that scarp of paper.


It's the old "scrap of paper" exclusion clause working again.


At the beginning of WWI, Belgian neutrality was based on a "scrap of paper." 

Later when a British statesman achieved "Peace in our time," some dismissed his efforts as "a scrap of paper." 

Americans have learned that the treatment of prisoners is curious and antiquated because it was consigned to a "scrap of paper" called the Geneva accord.


Bush is in the vanguard of forward thinking (especially for German Chancellors) when he realizes that America should not be hobbled by such inconveniences as provided by yet another "scrap of paper."


As the kids these days say: "Deal with it."


And so it goes.





Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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