Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Other Items

A veterans rights group has criticized the military for allowing an Army specialist to stay in Miami-Dade County Jail for nearly two weeks without seeing a judge after his arrest on charges of going AWOL.
Spec. Alex Lotero, an Iraq War veteran whose story about a battle with post-traumatic stress disorder appeared in newspapers across the country, was arrested Feb. 1 after a Miami-Dade officer detained him on a military warrant.
The Army is supposed to pick him up for return to Fort Carson, Colo. Tuesday was his 11th day in jail.
''It's very typical of Fort Carson and very typical of the U.S. Army,'' said Adrienne Willis, a spokeswoman for advocacy group Veterans for America, which has championed Lotero's case. "They don't need you anymore, you're a disposable commodity with no civil liberties or rights as a U.S. citizen.''

The above is from David Ovalle's "Veterans group: AWOL soldier jailed too long" (Miami Herald) and for more on Lotero you can see Ovalle's earlier "Dade soldier deserted, Army says."
Why is he being held? One of the questions that needs answers but that requires coverage and action. Rose Gentle and Beverley Clarke are taking action. From Ian Bell's "The truth Rose Gentle asks us to recognise" (The Herald):

Recently I wrote something that alluded to Tony Blair and war crimes. Apparently, some people thought I was being a bit silly; others that I was naive, impertinent, insulting, or merely provocative. As it happens, there is something to be said for each of those opinions.
Mr Blair will never face any sort of trial over Iraq: that would be the silly part. Such things do not happen to British prime ministers. These days, even impeachment is unthinkable, for better or worse. The western democracies insulate their leaders from such possibilities. There is no accident in that.
Equally, if Mr Blair conducted himself according to the dictates of his conscience throughout the Iraq affair, as he continues to insist, insults and impertinence might sound callow. Errors are not equivalent to bad faith. If the then prime minister also acted from the sincere assumption that edited intelligence reports could always be trusted, the case for his defence could begin to seem credible, morally at least.

The trouble is that none of this has anything to do with war crimes. There is a ton of legal argument on that subject, obviously, but the basic criteria can be put crudely. When is war justified? The first justification is banal: if you are under attack. Secondly, you can fight legally if there is clear, demonstrable evidence that an attack upon you is in preparation. Thirdly, you can wage war if you have received the explicit support of the United Nations. Anything else is unlawful.
Hence, perhaps, the unusual spectacle of fully nine Law Lords gathering to hear the appeal lodged by Rose Gentle and Beverley Clarke. It will take some smart legal thinking to extricate the government, and Mr Blair's reputation, one suspects, from this one. The bereaved pair's lawyers argue that soldiers, given their unique relationship with the state, have a right to know that the cause in which they are ordered to fight is lawful. Mr Blair, they say, did not perform that duty of care.

The e-mail address for this site is