Steve Sachs Duke


Wednesday, June 30, 2004


The Eurocentric Left: Earlier this month, an email circulated around Oxford asking students to participate in a "World Rally Against Torture." The email was universal in scope, calling for "a day of popular rallies in every city of every country in the world," in order "to demonstrate our anger and to demand [that] all Nations respect the Geneva Convention." On the website, however, the examples of torture chosen (and translated into three languages) betrayed, shall we say, a certain bias:


After the tortures of the Inquisition during the Middle Ages, Nazi and Stalinist tortures, tortures in Algeria, and now in Afghanistan, Iraq, Guantanamo Bay… The time has come for everyone who believes in Human Dignity to take a stand!

Hmm... What could all of these things have in common? The skin color of the perpetrators, perhaps?

I've written before on the dangers of ignoring oppression when it fails to fit the typical racial/colonial narrative, but this takes the cake. Does any serious person really think that the worst cases of torture in the world right now are going on in Guantanamo Bay? (Or, given that the examples date back to the Middle Ages, that torture only became an issue in Iraq after Saddam fell?) If this really is a demand for protests "in every city of every country in the world," maybe the organizers ought to show a little more concern for those unfortunate enough to be tortured by people who aren't white.


Saturday, June 26, 2004


FIFA, Kenya, and Iraq: Those following the Euro Cup might have missed some developments elsewhere in the soccer world. Early this June, Kenya was suspended from international play by the governing body FIFA. The Kenyan Football Federation (KFF), which oversees Kenyan soccer, had been accused along with its top officials of corruption and financial mismanagement. When the government dissolved the KFF and replaced it with a new interim body, FIFA criticized the "blatant interference in local football affairs" and suspended Kenya indefinitely. FIFA also condemned the arrest of three KFF officials on corruption charges; the officials were later released on bond.

Now, maybe these officials' prosecutions were politically motivated, and maybe FIFA has performed a noble service by protecting the unjustly accused. (Those same officials are now threatening to boycott FIFA's attempts at mediation.) Still, it's odd that the international sporting world would leap to the defense of an allegedly corrupt football federation, amid facts that are very unclear, when it was perfectly satisfied with the well-documented torture and humiliation of players in Saddam's Iraq.

The Iraqi national soccer team recently qualified for the 2004 Olympics, and according to Reuters, FIFA officials have an explanation for that success:

The United States-led invasion of Iraq and its bloody aftermath may even have contributed to those successes, according to a senior FIFA development official.

"Maybe if the Iraqis were not facing these difficult obstacles, they would not have achieved all this success," Paul Mony told Reuters.

"The war gave them reason to try harder and also prompted help from countries like England, Germany, Italy, United States, as well as FIFA. This help would not have been forthcoming had they not been in trouble."

Of course, the athletes themselves offer a different explanation:

Captain Hussam Fawzi said in London that the team, once run by Saddam's feared son Uday, were glad to put the past behind them.

"(The past is) something that's horrible and a dark cloud over all the Iraqi players," Fawzi told a news conference on Tuesday.

"Athletes should not go through this -- they were tortured, they were imprisoned."

Uday, who with his brother Qusay was killed in a battle with American soldiers in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul last July, ran the team, as well as the national Olympic Committee, and was known to physically punish underperforming players.

Let's see what this "physically punish" could mean:

Soccer Players Describe Torture by Hussein's Son
(May 6, 2003)

The New York Times

BAGHDAD, Iraq — It was little surprise that Habib Jaafer, star midfielder of the Iraqi national soccer team for the past 17 years, stiffened as he approached the National Olympic Committee.


His fear is understandable. This building was equipped with torture contraptions that included a sarcophagus, with long nails pointing inward from every surface, including the lid, so victims could be punctured and suffocated.

Another device, witnesses said, was a metal framework designed to clamp over a prisoner's body, with footrests at the bottom, rings at the shoulders and attachment points for power cables, so the victim could be hoisted and subjected to electric shocks.

After the Olympic building burned, reporters visiting the ruins found the sarcophagus with nails abandoned out back, as if dragged there by the looters who emptied the building of its furniture before it burned.


After drawing or losing games, players were punished. A missed penalty or other poor play entailed a ritual head shaving at the Stadium of the People, or being spat on by Uday's bodyguards.

A series of poor passes, carefully counted, could result in a player's being forced to stand before the president's son in the dressing room, hands at his side, while he was punched or slapped in the face an equal number of times.

But those were the lesser miseries. Some players endured long periods in a military prison, beaten on their backs with electric cables until blood flowed. Other punishments included "matches" kicking concrete balls around the prison yard in 130-degree heat, and 12-hour sessions of push-ups, sprints and other fitness drills, wearing heavy military fatigues and boots.

The Paul Mony who made such innocent comments to Reuters is, in fact, the same person who visited Iraq in 1997 to investigate these allegations. After speaking only to players Uday allowed him to speak to, and seeing what Uday allowed him to see, he concluded (surprise, surprise) that there was no torture of soccer players in Iraq. From ESPN, writing in December 2002:

He looked. He saw nothing. He exonerated.

But one of the two FIFA officials who cleared Iraq of allegations that soccer players were tortured in 1997 says he does not doubt the credibility of other Iraqi athletes who are now coming forward with more allegations of abuse.

"I can't say they are lying," said Rustum Baker, a FIFA representative from Qatar. "I just didn't see anything."

Baker and Paul Mony Samuel, a soccer official from Malaysia, spent two days in Baghdad in the service of FIFA, which had responded to reports that some players were punished after Iraq lost a World Cup qualifying game to Kazakhstan in 1997. They talked to Iraqi soccer officials and coaches, and some but not all -- 12 -- of the players. None of them said they were tortured, and the investigators examined them for physical evidence of abuse.

Their findings from the two-day investigation have been ridiculed by Iraqi athletes and other exiles familiar with the consequences for speaking out in the police state.

"Do they think a player inside Iraq has the guts and capability to talk against Uday?" said Entifadh Qanbar, who runs the Washington office of the Iraqi National Congress, a coalition of opposition groups. "They should know better. That's like going to streets of Chicago in the 1930s and asking the shop owners, 'Do you like Al Capone?' "

When asked if he thought players had the ability to tell him the truth, Baker said: "We're supposed to respect all people. We cannot say that they couldn't tell us the truth."

Sharar Haydar, who played for the Iraqi national team at the time, says he missed that game with injury and was not interviewed by FIFA officials. But he says players were, in fact, tortured after that game. He expects more players on that team to come forward if Saddam Hussein is removed from power.

The International Olympic Committee hardly fared better when investigating claims of torture. Here's their response to a complaint filed in 2002:

IOC president Jacques Rogge acknowledged last week that his organization received the complaint and says it is in the hands of the ethics committee. But IOC member Richard Pound says that it is "important to remember these are just allegations, and you have to make sure this is not all tied to the Iraq-U.S. dispute, that we are not being used for propaganda. You just never know."

"That disgusts me that someone would say that," says Haydar, the former soccer star. "I wish they would run their hands over our scars, see the pain in our eyes and float in raw sewage. Then there would be no questions."

"The problem for the IOC is going to be when Saddam is overthrown and people walk into the Olympic headquarters and see the torture chamber and the blood on the floor," Forrest says. "What will they say then?"

Well, it's already happened, but there haven't been too many apologies. An interview with FIFA's Paul Mony in Malaysia, his country of origin, notes his role as an investigator but makes no mention of his indifference to a horrific decade of torture. The gushing Reuters report quoted above notes that Mony is still active in Iraq, protecting his former Baathist pals:

Firm action from Iraqi officials and FIFA, which resisted U.S. pressure to prevent supporters of Saddam's toppled Baath party from standing for IFA elections, has aided the rejuvenation of the beautiful game in Iraq.

The U.S. administration had expressed concern about interim committee president Hussein Saeed, one of the driving forces behind Iraq's recent success.

Before the war, Saeed served as vice president of the IFA under Uday.

"Hussein Saeed is one of the most popular soccer personalities in Iraq. He did a lot of work after the war to make sure Iraq's top players continued to play in competitive matches," said Mony.

Funny, Saeed also seems remarkably quick to put the past behind him:

Hussein Saeed, assistant secretary-general of Iraq's Olympic Committee, has said athletes should forget the past.

"We put this period behind us and say let bygones be bygones. Let us start a new direction," said Saeed, a former soccer player who was Odai's deputy.

So let's get this straight. Beat your players with electric cables, or imprison them in a sarcophagus full of nails, and FIFA might eventually launch a half-hearted investigation. But arrest an official for allegedly mishandling funds, and FIFA will have your head by morning. Glad to know the sports world hasn't lost its sense of shame.


Friday, June 25, 2004


The Senate 0wnZ j00! One of the things I learned as an intern for the House Judiciary Democrats is that members of Congress can reserve specific numbers for the bills they introduce. (Thus, Dick Armey's 2001 tax reform bill was numbered H.R. 1040.)

A suggestion by Steve Wu led to the following discovery. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) has been described as "one of the most tech-savvy candidates," and was "one of the first 10 employees of Real Networks." Which raises the question: during the 107th Congress, when she introduced this bill, was she consciously seeking to raise a generation of 1337 h4X0rZ?



Wow. I can think of no words appropriate to describe this story:

Moonie leader 'crowned' in Senate

Republicans and Democrats attend cult blessing ceremony

Julian Borger in Washington
Thursday June 24, 2004
The Guardian

The US Senate was used for a bizarre ritual in which the Rev Sun Myung Moon, the head of the Unification church, was "crowned" and declared himself the messiah in the presence of more than a dozen Republican and Democratic members of Congress, it was reported yesterday.

"Emperors, kings and presidents ... have declared to all heaven and Earth that Reverend Sun Myung Moon is none other than humanity's saviour, messiah, returning Lord and true parent," the 85-year-old Korean "Moonie" cult leader told several hundred guests at the meeting in one of the Senate's office buildings on March 23, according to the Washington Post.

He also claimed endorsement from Marx, Lenin, Stalin and Hitler, who had all been reformed and reborn through his church's teachings - an idiosyncratic version of Christianity which rejects the use of the cross as a symbol and denounces homosexuals as "dirty dung-eating dogs".

An account of the ceremony was first published by a Washington investigative journalist, John Gorenfeld.

According to a transcript of the event, Mr Moon declared: "I am God's ambassador, sent to Earth with his full authority. I am sent to accomplish his command to save the world's six billion people, restoring them to Heaven with the original goodness in which they were created."


An Illinois congressman, Danny Davis, wore white gloves and carried a purple cushion bearing a medieval-style "international crown of peace", which was placed on Mr Moon's head, at an event at which 100 Americans from 50 states were also given lesser "national" and "state" peace awards.

The event was an "innocent ceremony," Mr Davis told the Guardian. "It was a banquet to give out awards. I didn't have any way of knowing Reverend Moon would say he was the messiah, or whatever he said."

Mr Davis acknowledged that "three or four individuals directly related to Rev Moon" took part in a fund-raiser for his primary campaign in Illinois earlier this year, but said small sums of money were involved.

Other members of Congress who attended the event said they had been fooled into going by being told only that people from their constituencies would be honoured at the ceremony.

A spokeswoman for a Democratic senator from Minnesota, Mark Dayton, said: "We fell victim to it. We were duped."

It was unclear who gave permission for the Senate office building to be used.


Friday, June 18, 2004


Sentimental Education: I've recently begun reading fiction again. Apart from the odd novel or two over a vacation, it's something I haven't done seriously in years, and I thought that Trinity Term, with exams looming over my head, was the perfect time to start. On the recommendation of a friend, I began with Flaubert's Sentimental Education. As I read the first chapter, I began to laugh out loud, as it reminded me so vividly of my own middle school crushes and adolescent thoughts. It was humbling to find some of the same emotions I had felt in earlier life, which I had naively assumed to be of my own invention, described so accurately in someone else's hundred-year-old novel:

But Frederic soon made his way back to the awning where Madame Arnoux had also returned. She was reading a slim volume in a grey binding. From time to time the corners of her mouth would twitch and her face light up with pleasure. Frederic felt jealous of this man who'd thought up these things which seemed to be interesting her....

On the right was a broad plain, on the left grazing land rising gently up towards a hill with vineyards and walnut trees and a mill set amidst greenery; little paths zigzagged up the pale rock to the skyline. How wonderful to walk up there together side by side with his arm round her waist while her skirt swept over the yellow leaves, listening to the sound of her voice, basking in the radiance of her eyes! The boat might stop, they'd only have to go ashore; yet stopping the sun would have been easier.

The passage above is from another translation, since I've already lent my copy away, and it doesn't do justice to the dry, flat, objective, merciless tone Flaubert adopts toward all of his characters. Scenes are sculpted with a scalpel's precision, and all the base elements of the human character are openly put on display. (When Frederic shares some of his poetry with a friend, Flaubert notes that the poems were "admired," but "he did not ask for more.") There are no entirely honorable people in this novel, no one from whom the reader can take inspiration--except, perhaps, for Madame Arnoux herself, which makes me wonder whether Flaubert did not bear an even deeper love for her than did Frederic.

Over the course of the novel, though--and especially in its heartwrenchingly placid final chapter--I noticed echoes of another set of thoughts I had considered my own. The novel explores a powerful conflict between its characters' youthful ideals and the contingencies of human life. Flaubert's characters are overwhelmed by events; not merely the tumults of 1848, the great tides that sweep through all France, but the twists and turns of individual experience. Frederic never controls his fate; he is merely subject to it. Offers, rejections, inheritances, duels, proposals of marriage, pregnancies--all are things that happen to him, and his life is determined by their all-important timing. I've written before on the awfulness of contingency, but Flaubert provides a clear example of its effect on a person's character. Deprived of agency, Frederic weakens. Trapped in a web of conflicting loyalties, he becomes unable to live up to his ideals, or even to convince anyone that he still holds them; and eventually--dishonest to his lovers, indifferent to his child--they are corrupted beyond recognition. The same occurs on a larger scale with the failure of Deslauriers' political dreams, and he ends as cynical and as disillusioned as, perhaps, all of France under Napoleon III.

In fact, by the end of the novel, it is not even clear whether Frederic has indeed been educated. Unlike the many authors who would be tempted to praise youthful idealism, regardless of its effects, Flaubert offers no palliative; the friends' reminiscences of the days of their youth are all the more painful and hollow given what has passed. Once in a long while, we encounter old men whose lives serve as a warning to us, examples we should fear to emulate. Flaubert's novel derives its great power by telling the story of an education every reader would surely wish to avoid.



What Site Logs Will Tell You: SteveSachs -- your front-page Google result for "superogatory sex"! (I wonder whether found whatever he or she was looking for -- or the person at Enterprise Rent-A-Car who was searching for "missouri prostitution laws"...)



Apologies Again: Got back Wednesday from a week in the U.S. Semi-regular posting will now resume.


Tuesday, June 08, 2004


Freedom! From Oxford exams. Some much-delayed posting to follow in the next few days.

UPDATE: Thanks, Josh.


Tuesday, June 01, 2004


Treason, Schmeason: While thinking about the case of Jose Padilla, the U.S. citizen classified as an "enemy combatant" by the Bush administration, I started to examine the limits placed by the U.S. Constitution on the crime of treason. The Article III, sec. 3 definition of treason reads as follows:

c. 1. Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

c. 2. The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.

These provisions were clearly intended to limit the power of the new government to punish political offenses, compared to contemporary abuses in England. But suppose that Congress were to establish a new crime called "schmeason," which consists in exactly the same conduct as treason and carries exactly the same penalties. Thus, schmeason would serve as a perfect substitute for treason from a prosecutor's perspective. Does the Constitution, then, require a confession or the testimony of two witnesses before the defendant's conduct is judged to be schmeasonous? And could forfeiture or Corruption of Blood result from an Attainder of Schmeason?

For those committed to an "original intent" view of constitutional interpretation, it would seem that Congress can't evade the intent of the founders simply by changing the name of the crime. It's a purely linguistic change, which can't expand the power of Congress beyond what the Constitution offers. For example, in the Bill of Rights, could Congress escape the Fifth Amendment prohibition of double jeopardy by creating a dozen identical offenses to cover each fact pattern (so that no one would be accused of "the same offense" twice)? Or could it make an end run around the Third Amendment protections against quartering soldiers in peacetime by creating a new category of non-soldier "civil defense personnel"? Surely Congress should not be able to amend the Constitution simply by choosing its language with care. And surely whatever purpose the founders might have had in restricting the penalties and procedures of a treason conviction would be entirely vitiated by a law against schmeason.

Yet consider what the result would be if the new crime had instead been called "enemy-combatant-ness." The case of Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen arrested on U.S. soil and held by the military as an enemy combatant, makes this question no longer academic. The constitutional description of treason is exactly what Padilla is accused of doing -- levying war against the United States, or adhering to its enemies, giving them aid and comfort. In fact, this conduct seems to be the very definition of an enemy combatant. How, then, could it be constitutional to try or imprison Padilla without the testimony of two witnesses, or a confession in open court?

When I raised this issue with Josh Chafetz last Friday night (a discussion far less exciting, perhaps, than our earlier musings on pornography, prostitution, and asset valuation), he argued that Congress could create a separate crime of schmeason, and that other crimes--say, espionage--might cover similar fact patterns but lack treason's protections. Under the English common law, treason was an extraordinary crime, with connotations far beyond those of a run-of-the-mill felony. That's the reason why the penalty clause prohibits the use of "Corruption of Blood" or forfeiture of the family's possessions. Thus, the framers might have had reason to limit the applicability of this terrible crime, without necessarily intending to prevent Congress from punishing similar acts by other means.

I don't necessarily subscribe to an original intent interpretation, nor am I an expert on the treason clause. But the two strands of argument seem to be in tension to me, and given that most supporters of original intent tend to be more conservative (and thus generally more likely to support a Republican administration's policies), I'd be interested in learning if anyone has addressed the conflict head on.

(One further issue -- the Article III definition includes "adhering to their Enemies," where "their" refers to the enemies of the United States. This raises a further question, which as far as I know has not been tested: what's an enemy? What if I give aid and comfort to friends of the U.S. -- say, agents of the government of Pakistan, which (albeit repressive) has been designated a "major non-NATO ally"? I might still be guilty of other crimes, such as espionage, but presumably I wouldn't be guilty of treason. It seems, then, that a reasonable person may not be able to determine whether a given country is an enemy of the U.S. -- especially if, for example, our government is secretly attempting to undermine a government with which it publicly claims good relations. Does the specification of "Enemies" here carry any legal meaning? And if it does, and a reasonable person cannot tell whether certain conduct would fit the definition, can a crime explicitly defined by the Constitution turn out to be unconstitutionally vague?)



Tyson vs. Ayer: Just came across an old TNR piece by Simon Blackburn, reviewing a biography of philosopher A. J. Ayer. I don't know if it's true, but I thought the following anecdote was at least worth remembering:

At yet another party he had befriended Sanchez [Fernando Sanchez, a fashionable designer famous for women's underclothes]. Ayer was now standing near the entrance to the great white living-room of Sanchez's West 57th Street apartment, chatting to a group of young models and designers, when a woman rushed in saying that a friend was being assaulted in a bedroom. Ayer went to investigate and found Mike Tyson forcing himself on a young south London model called Naomi Campbell, then just beginning her career. Ayer warned Tyson to desist. Tyson: "Do you know who the f--- I am? I'm the heavyweight champion of the world." Ayer stood his ground. "And I am the former Wykeham Professor of Logic. We are both pre-eminent in our field; I suggest that we talk about this like rational men." Ayer and Tyson began to talk. Naomi Campbell slipped out.




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