Flashback #1: Reagan Rejected Geneva Conventions For Terrorists
. . . the United States cannot ratify a second agreement on the law of armed conflict negotiated during the same period. I am referring to Protocol I additional to the 1949 Geneva Conventions, which would revise the rules applicable to international armed conflicts. Like all other efforts associated with the International Committee of the Red Cross, this agreement has certain meritorious elements. But Protocol I is fundamentally and irreconcilably flawed. It contains provisions that would undermine humanitarian law and endanger civilians in war. One of its provisions, for example, would automatically treat as an international conflict any so-called “war of national liberation.’’ Whether such wars are international or non-international should turn exclusively on objective reality, not on one’s view of the moral qualities of each conflict. To rest on such subjective distinctions based on a war’s alleged purposes would politicize humanitarian law and eliminate the distinction between international and non-international conflicts. It would give special status to “wars of national liberation,’’ an ill-defined concept expressed in vague, subjective, politicized terminology. Another provision would grant combatant status to irregular forces even if they do not satisfy the traditional requirements to distinguish themselves from the civilian population and otherwise comply with the laws of war. This would endanger civilians among whom terrorists and other irregulars attempt to conceal themselves.
January 29, 1987
Sweetness and Light points out that to this day Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions has not been adopted by the United States.
Flashback #2: Ilyka Damen writes,
The September 24, 2001 New York Times editorial highlighted on Captain’s Quarters and elsewhere is getting a lot of play right now as
proof of the Times’ prior support for Bush smacking terrorists in their wallets, but it turns out that only two days after that piece was published, the NYT’s William Wechsler made the point even more forcefully, if that’s possible.
My favorite part? When he demands Bush get tough on terror-financin’ because it’s what Bill Clinton would have done. Oh, sure, Will.
Anyway, I paid for the damn thing, but no one else should have to–so here it is in full, fresh from the archives. I’m totally stealing from the New York Times, y’all! It’s just how I roll.
Terror’s Money Trail
By WILLIAM F. WECHSLER (NYT) 714 words
Published: September 26, 2001
WESTPORT, Conn. – President Bush has just stepped up efforts against the international financial network that provides the lifeblood for Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda terrorist organization. He is setting up an interagency Foreign Terrorist Asset Tracking Center and has signed an executive order to cut off terrorists and their supporters from the United States economy. These are good first steps, but much more will have to be done.
We should begin by recognizing what we’re dealing with. It is wrong to think of Al Qaeda as being financed primarily by Mr. bin Laden. If there were a single source of financing, the problem would be much easier to solve. More important is Al Qaeda’s global network of financial donors, Muslim charities, legal and illegal businesses, and underground money transfer businesses.
We should also recognize what can’t be accomplished by targeting the financial network alone. Such actions will not, by themselves, strike a death blow to Al Qaeda. Here in the United States, we have been going after organized crime’s financial network ever since we convicted Al Capone for tax evasion. But organized crime still exists. Nonetheless, by disrupting the criminal financial network, we will force Al Qaeda to take time and money to rebuild it — and in the process help obstruct terrorist operations.
In the United States, we have strong anti-money-laundering laws and bank regulations. But virtually none of this exists where Al Qaeda raises and moves most of its money — namely in predominantly Muslim countries where banking systems are underregulated and in the informal hawala banking system that is almost completely unregulated around the globe, including in this country.
The administration should now make broader use of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, the law cited by President Bush in his executive order. That law allows the federal government to threaten to cut off foreign governments and institutions from the American economy if they do not take action against the Al Qaeda financial network or cooperate in giving the United States information on terrorist financing.
This strategy was adopted by the Clinton administration after the terrorist attacks on the American embassies in East Africa in 1998, when President Clinton signed similar executive orders against Al Qaeda and the Taliban government in Afghanistan. In some instances, it worked. The efforts helped ground the Afghan national airline, making it harder for Al Qaeda to move resources back and forth from Afghanistan. But over all, we had only limited success. In some cases, foreign governments lacked political will. In other cases, the governments had little ability to help because they had no system to combat money laundering or to audit fund-raising organizations. In the wake of the recent attacks and greater attention to charities that provide direct fund-raising links between Al Qaeda and societies in the
Middle East, the Bush administration may be more effective in pressuring other governments.
Clamping down on terrorists’ finances will also require Congress to act. In addition to its powers under existing law, the federal government needs the ability to cut off rogue banks without having to prove publicly a direct connection to terrorists. Unfortunately, a bipartisan bill that would have allowed sanctions against countries and banks that operate as money-laundering havens was stopped last year by Senator Phil Gramm. That bill has been reintroduced this year and new hearings are scheduled for today. The legislation is more necessary now than ever.
Congress also needs to make sure that we are fighting all forms of terrorist fund-raising at home by expanding anti-money-laundering regulations to cover securities brokers, casinos and the underground hawala system here at home.
Efforts to take down terrorist groups through military actions will probably take longer than we appreciate. Dismantling terrorism’s financial network could take even more time — which is good reason to start now.
At the NYT, the frisson outweighs everything else.