Wednesday, February 27, 2013

My Log 343 Feb 27 2013 A six month report on moving to Montreal: something about a big city that gets under your skin, if you accept it on its own terms

English: View of downtown Montreal. Français :...
English: View of downtown Montreal. Français : Vue du centre de Montréal. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 I moved last September from a medium-sized (not to say smallish) city, Ottawa, to Montreal, a large city. I am not quite sure why I made the move, but it was stimulated by a visit from my son who said he found the environment I was living in in Ottawa “rather boring” and suggested I might be happier in the livelier atmosphere of Montreal where I had lived from 1957 until 1975 with some years off in the middle when I was stationed in London, England.

I had told myself over the years I had more friends in Montreal than in Ottawa, although experience should have taught me that that was an unreliable guide to where I should live, since, in modern urban life, friends tend to disappear into the woodwork, as it were, to reappear only every few months.  If you have say four close personal friends, how often does that translate into actual visits, or contacts? If one saw each of them, let’s say on an average every four months, that would make 12 visits a year. Twelve out of 365 days leaves 353 days in a year to be filled with other pursuits than sitting around with one’s friends, grousing about life. So the proximity of friends can hardly be put forth as a major determinant of my decision to move back to Montreal.

I remember many years ago when major decisions were being taken about where Montreal’s second airport should be located, a skilled urban planner told me that Montreal was still an international city because it was the first place of call for visitors, but it would cease to be an international city if the airlines decided not to arrive first in Montreal. Therefore, he said, the choice of location for the new airport, at that time under discussion, would turn out to be a matter of great importance to the future of the city.

The place chosen was north of Montreal, on the edge of the northern hinterland, which, after one has travelled 10 miles or so out of Montreal is but sparely filled by industry and people, except for isolated towns usually based on some mining operation or other. The  choice of Mirabel was a matter of nationalism, rather than commonsense. The commonsense place for the new airport would have been in the south-eastern corner of the province, closer to the US, and to Ottawa, and within striking distance of cities such as Kingston, Syracuse and all the cities around the eastern Great Lakes  like Buffalo and Rochester.

Mirabel airport, as is now well-known, was a white elephant from the start, isolated in its magnificent northernness, deep on the edge of the Montreal hinterland, and it was so because the airlines preferred that in future their main stopping off point would be Toronto, located in the heartland of the north-east. For the first few decades, Mirabel was used by chartered airlines, taking off and landing from visits to, usually, holiday places. I came over a few times from Ottawa myself to take flights to the Caribbean or Mexico, and it was, to be sure, an awkward place to get to, requiring departures at odd and difficult hours, a lack of convenient bus connections, and the need to spend, very often, an additional night in a hotel near the airport so as to be sure of catching an early-morning flight. In general, a real pain-in-the-ass.

So, for geographical and nationalistic reasons, Montreal gradually declined from its international significance into a regional city --- admittedly, an important regional city ---- but nevertheless a city whose links to the outside world were more or less peripheral when one was considering the bigger picture of international movements.  Even the use of Mirabel for chartered flights eventually withered, and now, I believe, it is used only for cargo.

Well, okay, there are always the traditional reasons for liking a big city, that is, the vitality of the life being lived here, the availability of concerts, lectures, films, newspapers, journals of opinion, the sheer zip and energy of the place. I find that is still true: Montreal has dozens of wonderful eating places, bars, places of entertainment. It has put itself out in recent decades to attract people to festivals and major shows of art and performance. But to tell the truth, in one’s ninth decade, one has less energy than one had in one’s thirties and forties to partake of all these attractions.

It may be just me, but although I am enjoying the ambience of Montreal, which has long been one of my favourite cities, when one examines its qualities one by one, one is forced back on to the conclusion that, wherever one goes, it is always oneself who turns up to spoil the fun.   Even Ottawa has a multiplicity of museums, shows, and such, but I seldom found myself patronizing them. Similarly, although there are concerts, lectures and the like available every night in Montreal, I find my education can be just as adequately served by sitting at home watching the many wonderful things that are piped into one’s living room  in these electronic days. Great documentaries arrive from around the world, beautiful movies, inspiring events, available as they are happening, gripping sporting occasions, beautiful matches equal to almost anything one might pick up by going out and hanging around the streets, fighting to get an expensive ticket for some concert or other.

Given all that, I have to confess I still enjoy the sheer buzz of life that arises from a really big city, the expectation that one is as likely to run into a student demo as to come across some street theatre or charming bar or restaurant.

You make your choices in life, not always rationally, and you have to make the most of what those choices set in your path through life. And that’s what I am doing, feeling fortunate to be living my declining years in an atmosphere that is, however difficult it may be to explain why, stimulating and never less than interesting.

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Thursday, February 21, 2013

My Log 343 Feb 21 2013 Rust and Bone, a film of exceptional quality, about a strange alliance between a beautiful woman and a brutal fighter

Français : Jacques Audiard au festival de Cannes
Français : Jacques Audiard au festival de Cannes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Marion Cotillard, actrice française
Marion Cotillard, actrice française (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Of the more than 60 films, TV dramas anddocumentaries I have seen since the beginning of the year (which almost anyone  would say is too many, and evidence of a wasted life) one stands out above all the others: it is a French-Belgian film called in English Rust and Bone, in French De rouille et d'os.

This is a film made from the hard bones of working class life, realistic, yet with a touch of poetry that redeems it from what might seem like a brutal theme. It concerns a man who works part-time as a club bouncer, played with amazing zeal and force by Matthias Schoenaerts in a performance that has had some critics recalling Marlon Brando at his peak. He has a child whom he really doesn’t know what to do with, so he drifts to join his sister and her husband in the south of France, thus loading the welfare of the child on to her. In other words, he is a somewhat irresponsible person, who fills in much of his time taking part in kick-boxing contests in which he is frequently injured.

One night at his club he meets a young woman who has been slightly injured in a fracas, played by Marion Cotillard, and he escorts her home, and leaves her there with his telephone number in case she should need to get back to him. She turns out to be a trainer of whales at an aquatic show, but she is injured in a severe accident, and when she wakes up in hospital she discovers she has lost the lower part of both legs.

One day, in a depressed mood at her terrible condition, she idly phones the bouncer, Ali, who visits her, carries her down to the sea, and begins to reopen her eyes to the world around her. He visits her from time to time, and eventually they fall into having occasional casual sex. Ali describes it as “I am OP”, and when she asks what he means, he says, “I am operational,” meaning, ready for sex at any time she is.

Their relationship continues in this haphazard fashion. She begins to watch him in action at the martial arts, and even to sort of become his  manager for  his performances. She regards him coolly as he makes out with another woman, and then he decides he has to change location, so he disappears from her life. His move is partly motivated by quarrels with his sister and brother-in-law, about the boy, but eventually these quarrels are overcome, and they bring the boy to spend a few days with him. They play around on the surface of a frozen lake, but, momentarily distracted, he becomes vaguely aware that the boy has disappeared and all that is where the boy once stood is a hole in the ice. Frantically, he discovers the boy floating under the ice, and in a fit of panic smashes his way through the ice to pull the child out, ruining his hands in the process and putting into question his recent decision to make a living from his fighting. Reporting to his in-laws about the accident --- his son was unconscious and is recovering slowly in hospital --- Ali is phoned by Stephanie: on the line he realizes his loneliness, breaks down, pleads with her not to leave him --- although he has left her long before --- and admits that he loves her.

These two characters are not your usual movie heroes. Ali is brutish, self-centred, rude, and shows only occasional flashes of humanity; Stephanie, though beautiful and cool, could have become a cardboard victim. Neither actor permits that to happen: both performances are superb, triumphant in fact, as good as anything we will ever see on the screen. Cotillard, as anyone who remembers her in the biography of Piaf will know, is a rare actress with the ability somehow to express thoughts and feelings on her mobile, lovely face that most other actresses could reveal only with a lot of mawkish histrionics.

The screenplay, incidentally, was cobbled together by director Jacques Audiard from two stories in a volume of short stories written by tough-guy Canadian author, Craig Davidson in 2006, the one about the bouncer, the other about a whale-trainer who loses his legs.  Davidson apparently, was delighted to have his work used in this way, and insists the film script is better in every way than his stories. The title of his book of stories was Rust and Bone which probably accounts for the fact I kept wondering what relevance the title had to this particular story. Anyway, Davidson, to judge from what has been written about him, specializes in working-class characters, and people who might otherwise be described as losers, but who, he says, seem to deal nobly with circumstances a lot worse than anything he has had to deal with himself.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

My Log 342 Feb 20 2013 Two Antonioni films, missed years ago, provide memorable experiences after forty years

Decades after its widely panned 1970 release, ...
Decades after its widely panned 1970 release, Zabriskie Point garnered critical praise for its cinematography. Halprin and Frechette can barely be seen in the left of this scene filmed at Zabriskie Point (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 I’ve seen some wonderful films since moving to Montreal in September including two of the three English-language films made by Michelangelo Antonioni, the great Italian film-maker whose best works were made in the 1960s. The most successful of these three films was Blow-Up, about the swinging London of fashionable photographers, models and so on. But I remember I was not particularly impressed by that one.

The second of these three films was The Passenger, that I saw for the first time this week, in a revival at the valued Cinema du Parc, which is right underneath my apartment on Park avenue. And a deeply impressive movie it is. It deals with a burned-out journalist, played by a youthful Jack Nicholson, who decides to quit everything and wanders off to North Africa, where he meets a fellow-Englishman who, unfortunately, dies overnight in his bed. Methodically, the journalist David Locke, substitutes his photo on Robertson’s passport, takes over his clothes, his possessions, and assumes his personality. The word goes out that the intrepid journalist has been found dead in an African hotel, so he is free to resume his life under another identity.

Unfortunately for the fake man, the real Robertson was involved in gun running to guerrillas who were waiting for him to turn up. To get away from them he returns to Europe, but his wife in London, fresh from an affaire of her own, is guilt-stricken and has set out to check for herself whether the stories of his death are true.  She manages to find out that his last contact was with a man called Robertson. In Barcelona the assumed Robertson runs into a young girl student, charmingly and enchantingly played by Maria Schneider, whom he persuades to return to his hotel to pick up his things because he doesn’t want to take the risk of being discovered.

She agrees to accompany him on the rest of his journey: the way Antonioni has handled their relationship is beautiful. A naturalness and affection develops between them, which offsets the rather grim facts of life that otherwise developed around him.

One long shot in particular has become famous from this movie: as the protagonist lies on his bed in an African village, the camera stays on the window of his room, picking up everything that happens in the village square. It is a compendium of the ordinary things people do, whether when just filling out their time, or under stress: we do not know this at the beginning of the shot, but it is the last time we ever see the journalist. This is really a wonderful film, whose silences are vastly more impressive than the music with which film-makers normally accompany the movements of their heroes. It contains the texture of life as it is lived, and leaves an indelible implant on our minds. As someone wrote in the New York Times when the film was revived after many years --- Nicholson owned the film, and kept it to himself for a long time --- “André Gide once wrote a sentence which might be applied with great accuracy to Antonioni’s work: ‘He carries within himself what is needed to disorient and to surprise, that is to say, what is needed to endure.’ ”

The second film I saw, Zabriskie Point, is an altogether different kettle of fish. Antonioni visited the United States late in the 1960s, almost a decade  after he made such a stir with L’avventura, , and was evidently not sympathetic to what he saw. The film opens with a debate between activists of the student movement and the Black Panther party, a harsh debate which disgusts the protagonist of the film, a young student who rebels against their inaction and walks out, leaving behind some friends who say he should get used to meetings if he is interested in bringing about change.

Most of the rest of the movie is devoted to this young man, played by Mark Frechette, a French-Canadian born in Connecticut who had never acted before. He was present at a protest at which a policeman was shot dead: he had a gun in his hand and was pointing it  towards the policeman, but later claimed that someone else beat him to it. Thereafter he took off in a light plane that he stole from a suburban Los Angeles airport, and he flew it out into the countryside, where he   began to buzz an old car being driven by a young woman who was on her way to Phoenix. 

This young woman was a stenographer in a development firm that had a plan to build a major resort for the wealthy, and she was on her way to take part in a meeting about this project.

This was a hippie type, extremely beautiful, nubile, one might say, and her journey was brought to a halt by the antics of the young pilot.  They began a long idyll at Zabriskie Point, part of Death Valley, in a vast concourse of sandhills through and over which they gambolled and made ecstatic love.  This was a rather strange sequence, because occasionally they were joined in their love-making by two and sometimes four others, and eventually all of the hills were dotted with couples  like themselves, symbolically giving vent to the counter-culture mantra, Make Love, Not

When they had had enough sexual games, they painted the little plane with psychedelic colours and designs, and the young man decided he wanted to take the risk of flying back to Los Angeles and returning the plane to its owner.

The young woman continued on her journey to Phoenix where she temporarily joined the party discussing the project.  The last sequences of the film are by now so well-known that I can be betraying nothing when I say that she became disgusted with the process and the project, drove into the countryside, and in her own imagination, blew the house on the hill to pieces, not once, but at least 13 times.

It was a dramatic ending to the film, leaving nothing to the audience’s imagination as to Antonioni’s message in relation to the United States. He  abhorred the place and all its works.

There is a final, sad commentary on this film in the fate of young Frechette. He was, in real life, a counter-cultural devotee who joined a cult, persuaded his co-star, Daria Halpern (an exceptionally beautiful, glowing and vital presence in the film representing it seemed, all that the film-maker wanted to show of America’s virtues) to join along with him. After a while she left the cult, but he hung on until one day he and two other members robbed a bank, were apprehended, and he was sentenced to six to fifteen years of imprisonment. He was 23 when he worked on the film, 27 when he died in a bizarre accident in the prison gym, being crushed under a huge weight that dropped across his throat.

Zabriskie Point was a complete failure when first released, raising only $900,000 of the $7,000,000 it cost to make. Later, years later,. it was reissued and has since become something of a cult classic

It is a remarkable film in its way, bizarre, but the skill with which Antonioni shows his distaste for the civilization that had grown up around Los Angeles betrayed the hand of a master, as much as do all his other films.
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Monday, February 18, 2013

My Log 342 Feb 18 2013 A small historian’s study of a report on which two memorable films were based reminds us of the inhumanity we are capable of

 “These were not the barbarian hordes of some primitive people, pouring across the frontiers and slaughtering all who lay in their path,” I read. “Here was the distinguished ambience of an elegant villa, in a cultivated suburb. In one of Europe’s most sophisticated capitals, here were fifteen educated, civilized bureaucrats, from an educated, civilized society, observing all due decorum. And here was genocide, going through on the nod.
The dining room of the Wannsee villa, where th...
The dining room of the Wannsee villa, where the Wannsee conference took place. The 15 men seated at the table on January 20, 1942 to discuss the "final solution of the Jewish question" , were considered the best and the brightest in the Reich. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
“How could they have gone along with this? Did they believe in what they were doing? Or were they driven by secondary motives --- competition for power, perhaps, or blind obedience to duty? Or were they merely weakly complying with a process over which they had no control?”
Furthermore, I thought, as I read on, it all happened within my lifetime. No wonder we continue to be fascinated by it, wondering how it could have happened where it happened, and when? I had picked up the book as I left  our local cinema, Cinema du Parc, a slim volume of not much more than 100 pages, written in 2002 by a young British historian, Mark Roseman, on the subject of Wannsee and the Final Solution (published by Allen Lane, The Penguin Press, pps 152).
I had remembered seeing, maybe quarter of a century ago, a chilling German film on the subject of the Wannsee conference at which a group of 15 Nazi bureaucrats had gathered on Jan 20, 1942 to lay out the parameters for the final solution to what the Nazis thought of as their Jewish problem. I had been mightily impressed by that film, which was shot in the very same conference hall that the original conference had been held in, and which lasted exactly 85 minutes, the time that the conference itself actually occupied. Later, in 2002 I had seen an English language version covering the same subject-matter, in which Kenneth Branagh played a terrifyingly polite, sinister Reinhard Heydrich,  Chief of the Nazi security services, an ambitious  man spoken of  as a possible successor to Hitler, who orchestrated the discussion, steered it through “problems” like the mischlinge (mixed-race Jews), deportations,  a Jewish work force, towards “evacuation”, which seemed to be a euphemism for extermination and mass killing. He steered it past the objections of some of the assembled civil servants, men responsible for the Nuremberg laws already in force and governing the lives of Jews, who claimed that everything was working as it should, and the proposals for change were unnecessary.   I remember in this second film, brief whiffs of normalcy were introduced as a couple of these civil servants expressed anxious disagreements, only to be silenced after a hurried, personal conference with Heydrich. I don’t remember any such  disagreements being expressed in the more rigorous, less dramatic German film.
Perhaps when I picked up the little book I was hoping to read the script of the movie, or at least the transcript of the 85-minute discussion at Wannsee on that 1942 January day. But it did not contain that, because no such transcript ever existed. All that was recorded were notes taken by a stenographer, and written up into a protocol, as it was called, a report, of which 40 copies were made and distributed around the Nazi ministries, and of which only one copy was discovered in the files of the German  Foreign Office in 1947.
Furthermore, according to Roseman, even the cold-blooded, pathological Heydrich had been careful in the conference not to mention openly that they were really talking about the extermination of millions of people. Although Roseman does say that such policies were implied by their euphemistic way of talking about what had already happened, and was planned to happen in future, to the Jewish people of Europe. Following discovery of the Wannsee Protocol, and its use in the Nuremberg and Eichmann trials, which threw some light on why the conference was held when it was, Wannsee became not so much the place where the Final Solution was decided upon (since the Protocol never specifically supports that conclusion), as the symbol for the full force of the Final Solution, which swung into action after Wannsee.
Indeed, the Protocol --- a mere 10 pages of rough notes ---- said that in spite of many difficulties the Jewish problem had been proceeding apace, with some 537,000 Jews already “sent out of the country” by October 31, 1941.
The report noted with satisfaction that the Jewish people or their organizations had themselves financed their emigration by way of an emigration tax used to finance the movement of poor Jews, at a cost of some $9,500,000.
Yet much remained to be done. Emigration had now been forbidden, so a new method had to be provided, as some 11 million Jews were left in 34 European countries or territories, and the report left little doubt as to the thinking that had emerged from the Conference.
“In the course of the Final Solution,” they wrote, “and under appropriate leadership, the Jews should be put to work in the east. In large, single-sex labour columns, Jews fit to work will work their way eastwards constructing roads. Doubtless the large majority will be eliminated by natural causes. Any remnant that survives will doubtless consist of the most resistant elements. They will have to be dealt with appropriately, because otherwise they would form the germ cell of a new Jewish revival. (See the experience of history.)”
Obviously the film-makers must have combed every reference they could find in archives to enable them to create the conversations that went on during the conference. The German version appears to have been more faithful than the British to the reality of the conference, the only diversions from the grim central purposes of the meeting that they allowed being one of the participant’s reference to his dog outside, and various other topics of ordinary conversation, interspersed between the matters of grim reality by which they were confronted.
A review written by a man called Manavendra K. Thakur, apparently of Rutgers  University, after seeing the German version of the film, gives a better account of the impact it made than anything I could write, after all these years.
“Ultimately….what is most striking about the film and the events it portrays is how casually it all happens. One man came to the conference from a shopping trip. Another man leaves the conference to see why his dog is barking outside, while the others inside continue to sip cognac and brandy. And when a railway official complains that seat repair costs have been rising, it all seems no different from any corporate board meeting -- until you realize that the official is annoyed because the frozen bodies of Jews stuck to their train seats in the cold cannot be removed without damaging the seats.
“It seems odd that a film as muted in style as this one could evoke strong reactions. As I left the theater, I wanted to scream in anger and disbelief. How could these men, these people, these ‘humans’ possibly talk about Jewish people as though they were tools to be used for maximizing efficiency ratings? How could they sit through such a morbid discussion? Didn't even one person have doubts or glimmer of conscience? I just couldn't believe that the most controversial issue they discussed was whether to kill half-Jews or merely to sterilize them.”
Roseman is obviously one of an active group of German, British, American and other historians who have tried to plumb the Nazi regime and its thinking, or, alternatively, who have set themselves to uncovering the detailed truth of the Holocaust. In that his book revealed the rather flimsy basis on which the two films were based, it was slightly disappointing. But as a reminder of one of the most horrendous events that have taken place in my lifetime, it has played a salutary role for me than I must not become too extravagant in my hopes for the human race.
We seem to be a species capable of the worst things that can be imagined.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

My Log 341 Feb 13 2013 Five excellent articles that demolish Obama’s plea that targeted assassination without legal oversight, is perfectly okay

English: President George W. Bush and Presiden...
English: President George W. Bush and President-elect Barack Obama meet in the Oval Office of the White House Monday, November 10, 2008. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 Many people, even those who are disappointed by the behaviour of Barack Obama as president, nevertheless acknowledge that he has done some things in a more moderate way than did George W. Bush whose policies he is so often accused of continuing. For example, he is said to have defied the advice of his military chiefs who wanted him to intervene in the civil war in Syria, thus saving the U.S. from engaging in yet another indefensible, and probably unending war in the Middle East.
Nevertheless, without wanting to join the chorus of disappointed lefties who are damning the man holus-bolus, I am struck --- I should rather say appalled --- by the evidence that has mounted in recent days as to the total indefensibility of his administration’s pretence that their use of drones to deliver indiscriminate assassinations, even of American citizens is done according to a credible legal doctrine.

For once, even the mainstream press, or parts of it, have found that more than they can swallow, and two excellent articles have appeared in the New Yorker and in the New York Review of Books whose writes, point by inexorable point, have demolished the pretensions of this recently released document. Of course, the actual reasoning of the legal document has not been released, but merely something that is called a White Paper that purports to explain the legal basis for the targeted assassination program that has become the President’s favourite form of war.

(He is so fond of it he even joked about it in a recent speech when, having mentioned his daughters, he told any young men who might have designs on them to remember two words, Predator Drones. Whether this was found to be so funny by the parents of the many innocent children among the 2900 people believed to have been killed by the drones, he did not mention.)

Normally I find the mainstream press empty when it comes to revealing the true purposes of the US administration, but they have been fairly prominent in the revelations about the actual legal situation concerning unprovoked drone attacks in foreign countries with the intention of carrying out designated assassinations. (Just to write it down makes me nervous).

First, the information about the administration’s reasoning was revealed by NBC News, which prompted the government to issue a White Paper outlining their thinking. Since then a number of excellent articles have crossed my computer screen, with three killer articles on Feb 6 in

the New Yorker by Amy Davidson, (Whom Can the President Kill?) ;
 the New York Review of Books,  by David Cole (How We Made Killing Easy);
Juan Cole, a professor at the University of Michigan who is well-known as a liberal-minded blogger, in his blog Informed Comment (Top Five Objections to the White House’s Drone Killing Memo); 
The Guardian on Feb 8 by Morris Fish, a former prosecutor in the Guantanamo Bay trials,  (The law of War Does Not Shield the CIA and John Brennan's Drone Kill List), and ending with a similarly revealing article in
The Guardian by Glen Greenwald  on Feb 11 (DOJ Kill List Memo Forces Many Dems out of the closet as Overtly Unprincipled Hacks ) in which he shows how many Democrats have brazenly admitted they are prepared to accept things that Obama has done that they protested against when done by his predecessor, George W. Bush.


Of these articles, the most devastating in its argument, I thought, was that by Juan Cole, who took the five top objections to Obama’s thinking on the issue and showed --- at least to my satisfaction --- that each of them directly contravenes the US Constitution, and could not be supported by any honest court of judges.

All of these articles are worth reading, and I recommend them to anyone who has come across this article --- not many of you, I know, but every little bit of knowledge about how the standards governing decision-makers have deteriorated since Bush ludicrously declared his War on Terror.

Morris Fish, incidentally, used the prosecution of Omar Khadr in Guantanamo Bay as providing ammunition for the argument that Obama is not thinking straight. He writes:

“The deliberate killing of another person is generally murder unless it is excused by some valid legal justification, like the law of war's combatant immunity. For example, the United States charged Omar Khadr with committing murder in violation of the law of war for throwing a grenade and killing a US service member during a battle in Afghanistan.
At his military commission trial at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, the military judge explained to Khadr that the law says a "killing is unlawful when done without legal justification or excuse" and that "the phrase 'in violation of the law of war' means a person … acting as a combatant [who] did not meet the requirements for being a lawful combatant." Khadr pled guilty to the charge and is now in prison in Canada serving a sentence for war crimes.

He adds that the CIA under whose drone attacks the targeted assassinations are performed, is a civilian agency with civilian employees and civilian contractors. It is not part of the US armed forces and its drone program is not immune from liability by the law of war principles that might apply to the military drone program. Remember, this man was a prosecutor at the military commissions in Guantanamo Bay, and he concludes with an observation from the orthodox legal mind that nevertheless convicts Obama of incorrect application of law:

“Under what authority is the CIA legally excused for deliberately killing?
“The United States has never made – nor should it – the argument that the CIA is part of the US armed forces and governed by the law of war. The fact that the two entities are separate and operate under distinct rules is clear…..
“Jack Goldsmith, former assistant attorney general in the George W Bush administration and now a professor at Harvard Law School, argues the past decade shows that the United States needs a new statutory framework governing how it conducts secret warfare. Perhaps that would be a positive step, but a new domestic statutory scheme would not make a civilian working for a civilian agency a lawful combatant entitled to immunity under the law of war for acts committed outside the United States.
“Neither Congress nor the president has the power to create a legal justification for killing in violation of the law of war.”

What the US President has claimed  is that it is perfectly legal for him to assassinate any person, in any place, whom he believes might be planning some form of action, or even thinking about it, against the United States. This with no form of oversight, no form of regulation, no form of control: just arbitrary decisions made without any reference to customary procedures governing murder and assassination.

If this doesn’t stink to High Heaven, as they say, then what would?

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