War Crimes and the Limits of International Law
Publication Year: 2014
Published by: University of Massachusetts Press
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Title Page, Copyright Page
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Table of Contents
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I acknowledge the financial support of the British Academy, the Lancaster University History Department Research Support Fund, and the Lancaster University Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences for the research in this book.
I acknowledge with gratitude the assistance of Luis M. Acosta, Emily Carr, Frank Alan Herch, Debbie G. Keysor, Megan Lulofs, and Christine Sellers, Law Library of Congress; Jeffrey M. Flannery and Lewis Wyman, Manuscript Division,...
Introduction: The American Exemption
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The history of international humanitarian law in the post–Second World War period is marked by two inconsistent—indeed, diametrically opposed—tendencies: first, the promulgation of universal standards of justice, the creation of institutions where they can be enforced, the advancing application of the principle of universal jurisdiction, and the global reach of the forces on which ...
1. “A Very Simple Provision”: The Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Jurisdictional Gap
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In 1950 President Harry Truman signed into law the Uniform Code of Mili-tary Justice (UCMJ), which took effect the following year.1 Four years later the Supreme Court struck down the provision in the UCMJ that allowed courts-martial to prosecute veterans for crimes they committed while in military service outside the United States. This decision opened up a jurisdictional gap ...
2. “Treaty Law” and “Murdering Wives”: The Widening of the Jurisdictional Gap
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Given that the ratification of the Geneva Conventions underlined the need to close the jurisdictional gap, it is striking that legislators did not raise the issue in their subsequent proposals for laws to fulfill this purpose. Their reticence is explicable by the political controversies surrounding international agreements that impinged on U.S. legal and constitutional matters. In the 1950s an...
3. “A Very Undesirable Situation”: Sam Ervin and the Constitutional Rights Subcommittee
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In January 1961 Sen. Sam Ervin assumed the chairmanship of the Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Although critics of his reasoning and his politics, particularly his defense of racial segregation, have doubted whether his reputation as a defender of the Constitution was entirely deserved, Ervin was known as a leading congressional expert on ...
4. “Uncharted Legal Waters”: The My Lai Massacre and the Jordan Memorandum
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In the spring of 1969 a Vietnam veteran named Ronald Ridenhour acted on some painful knowledge that had been weighing heavily on his conscience: while he was still in Vietnam some of his fellow soldiers had told him of the massacre of a whole village. He was aware of incidents in which villagers had been killed in twos and threes, but this was different. Initially disbelieving, he ...
5. A “Tragedy of Major Proportions”: The Peers Inquiry and the House Subcommittee Report
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The disclosure of the atrocity at My Lai, the widespread publicity attending the publication of the photographs and interviews, and the realization of the effects of the jurisdictional gap spurred Senator Ervin to redouble his efforts to close the gap at the same time the army general counsel was trying to work around it. Meanwhile, in the flurry of political activity accompanying the...
6. “Inexcusable and Terrible”: The Calley Conviction and the Abandonment of the Effort to Try the My Lai Veterans
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The trial of Lt. William Calley was not just a legal process but also a political event. The Nixon administration monitored the progress of the trial and strategized about how to manage its political repercussions. Apart from the potential damage to the reputation of the armed forces and the erosion of public support for the war, an overriding preoccupation of the White House was ...
7. “Why can’t we Just Shoot them All?": MEJA and the First Prosecutions in Federal District Courts
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The government finally closed the jurisdictional gaps arising from Toth, Covert, and their progeny with the passage of the Military extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (MEJA) of 2000 and of an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2006. These two legislative measures take different routes to plug the gaps I have considered. MEJA fulfilled the half-century-old proposal by ...
Conclusion: “The One Significant Holdout”
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Why was MEJA finally passed at the end of the twentieth century after decades of legislative inaction? And how can one square the further closing of the jurisdictional gap through the extension of the UCMJ with the Bush administration's repudiation of international legal standards in its approach to the "war on terror," its use of torture, and its congressionally endorsed resistance ...
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Page Count: 280
Publication Year: 2014
Series Title: Culture, Politics, and the Cold War