Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Who Do You Speak For?

Douglas Farrah, who gave expert testimony in the recent civil suit against the government of Sudan for its role in the attack on the USS Cole, explains why it the case is important.

This case is important because, rather than simply isolating an individual act of terrorism, these cases attempt to go to the broader Islamist structure that underpins these attacks and makes them possible. The same is true for the 9/11 victims’ lawsuit mired down in the legal system in New York. ...

The ability to inflict monetary damages on state sponsors of terror is significant, if very difficult to achieve because the states are usually able to move most of their assets beyond the reach of the law. But what is more significant is to hold these states (and non-state groups) publicly accountable, to use the discovery process to better understand the systems they so desperately try to obscure, and to build an clearer understanding of the scope of the Islamist groups that want to kill us.


MSNBC reports that U.S. District Judge Robert G. Doumar said that "There is substantial evidence in this case presented by the expert testimony that the government of Sudan induced the particular bombing of the Cole by virtue of prior actions of the government of Sudan." Apparently the judge agrees that Sudan as a state is liable for its actions. This should remove the inevitable accusation that the West is imposing "collective punishment" on Muslims for the actions of a few. But as some commentators on the Middle East have suggested, the state structure is only one of three institutional frameworks that matter. The other two are the Tribe and Islam itself. Ironically, many countries in the region have customary law which allow a tribe to assume responsibility for actions carried out by one of its members. And this type of collective responsibility (to use the proscribed word) is apparently useful in maintaining order in those societies.

Political scientist Bassam Tibi notes that "unlike the imperial and the territorial dynastic states that were familiar in Middle Eastern history, the externally imposed new pattern of the nation-state is defined as a national , not as a communal, polity....In varying degrees, all states of the Middle East lack this infrastructure....In most of the states of the Middle East, sovereignty is nominal. The tribal-ethnic and sectarian conflicts that the colonial powers exacerbated did not end with the attainment of independence. The newly established nation-states have failed to cope with the social and economic problems created by rapid development because they cannot provide the proper institutions to alleviate these problems. Because the nominal nation-state has not met the challenge, society has resorted to its pre-national ties as a solution, thereby preserving the framework of the patron- client relationship."

In the USS Cole case, the victim's families are using the Western institution of the nation-state to assign responsibility. But that things have come this far is interesting nevertheless.


Blogger RWE said...

It is difficult to view these sorts of legal actions seriously. That a government willing to engage in such acts would care that it was being sued sounds basically absurd. As if FDR had added a fifth freedom to his famous list - the right to sue - and had warned Hitler of the legal consequences of aggression.

I rather think that this represents the "lawsuit as therapy" approach that has come into vogue.

But - on the other hand - the only justice delivered to O.J. Simpson came from a civil lawsuit - as useless as that action proved to be.

We have encumbered ourselves enormously with these recreational legal proceedings. So why not unleash the horrid power of our toys on someone else?

3/14/2007 04:36:00 PM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...


I agree that the lawyers have turned things into a circus. But I am also struck by the way many of the West's enemies love to vacation, shop and be treated -- in the West. Franz Fanon died in Bethesda, Maryland after treatment for his leukemia in Russia failed. Suha Arafat lives in Paris. Jose Maria Sison, the Philippine Communist, lives in Europe. Robert Mugabe spend 207,000 pounds in hotel bills while pleading for aid for his starving country. There's a reason why the UN clings to its headquarters in Turtle Bay. Why is Greenpeace headquartered in London? One of the most amazing things about the Third World Communists I have personally met is how many of them have Green Cards.

If all that the lawyers could do would be to force these guys to live in their Worker's Paradises it would be worth it. Maybe it will never happen. But I can dream, can't I?

3/14/2007 05:00:00 PM  
Blogger John Foster said...

In response to rwe, you can actually hassle Sudan quite a bit, and simply.
This case is in federal court in Virginia. Once judgment is entered for, e.g., $50 million, the judgment is then registered in the federal court in Manhattan.
Many (most?) international transactions involving dollars are routed at some point through correspondent banks in NY. With the judgment in hand, you serve garnishment papers on the dozen or so NY banks, e.g., Citibank, that handle these Electronic Fund Transfers. When the bank then receives an EFT involving Sudan, it blocks the transfer. Sudan will then challenge the garnishment on several grounds, e.g., Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, and maybe it wins and maybe it doesn't. But if you shut off their ability to route money through New York, that is a major pain.
There are so-called "vulture funds," e.g., Kensington International Ltd. that specialize in buying, at heavy discount, judgments against foreign countries. While mostly used with respect to defaulted bonds, e.g., Argentina, there is no reason, in principle, why they would not buy a large "personal injury" judgment against Sudan. If the price were right.

3/14/2007 05:20:00 PM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...

Tigerhawk notices a clumsy Reuters headline "Mohammed says responsible for 9/11 attacks". It actually refers to Pakistani national Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

3/14/2007 05:49:00 PM  
Blogger Mad Fiddler said...

Some unkind persons have suggested that a fitting response to Islamic terrorism is to release some 10 million syphilitic goats in the known countries supporting Islamic terrorism.

3/14/2007 08:59:00 PM  
Blogger allen said...

mad fiddler,

The use of WMD is prohibited by international law, unless the perpetrator is one of a growing list of Muslim tyrants so armed. (Not with goats, per se, but you get the drift?)

3/14/2007 09:55:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

I believe it was in 2001 that a lawsuit was filed in US Federal District Court in Washington, DC, suing the United States on behalf of those emprisoned in Autherlitz for failing to bomb the rail lines leading to the place.

Aside from the fact that bombing the rail lines to that concentration camp was a physical impossibility for us until too late in the war to do any good, this lawsuit opens the concept of being sued for what you did not do in a case in which you were not involved. It is as if Ron Goldman's family sued myself and Wretchard for not stopping that attack on the basis that we could have if we had wanted to.

Some even argue that we should have bombed the camp itself to the ground, thereby provding blessed relief to those imprisoned there (Austerlitz was a work camp) as well as killing the guards and destroying the means of killing the inmates. This stretches still further the absurdity.

But it appears no lawsuits are being filed to attack the America Firsters of 1941, who would have cheerfully stood by as the Nazis executed every Jewish person in the world - nor is Bill Clinton being sued on the basis that people died because of the nonexistant hundred thousand mass graves in Kosovo which inspired our air assault there in 1999.

3/15/2007 05:45:00 AM  

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