Downing Street said that anti-terror laws would be used to punish Britons who fought for Osama bin Laden, but pointedly added that most would die in action.
Apparently, the UK doesn’t require a formal declaration of war to allow trials for treason. I believe that we do, but I am still awaiting word from the lawyers.
Jim Bennett, UPI columnist, informs me via email that
“here’s the short answer — you can prosecute for treason in the UK in peacetime, but to hang ’em, you need to declare war.
Another good reason for declaring war. Actually, there are so many international treaties and war crimes whatnots these days that we really ought to think about a declaration of war to keep our armed forces and policy-makers from being legally harrassed for the rest of their lives. Case in point: the survivers of the Argentine cruiser Belgrano are trying to sue the Brits for sinking them.”
Of course, this doesn’t resolve the issue of the American ability to try for treason. Do we need a declaration of war? My understanding is that we do.
Just what are the pros and cons of a declaration of war?
- It will concentrate our minds even more fully on the task at hand, and make clear in a way unseen in sixty years, just what we are up against.
- It will allow us to exert marginally more propaganda pressure on Taliban/Al Qaeda when they inevitably fail to follow Geneva.
- It will allow us to arrest and try people for treason who express sympathy for Taliban/Al Qaeda.
- It will put more pressure on wavering “allies,” forcing them to either commit to being with us, or take an official neutral position, but not allow them to fence straddle any longer.
- We may have less freedom of action, being more firmly bound by the Geneva Convention (though this is probably only a theoretical disadvantage, as we’ll be much more constrained by politically-correct handwringers on the home front than by Geneva, in any event.)
I can’t think of any other cons, and still have not heard a good explanation of why Congress has not declared war. Is it because they fear giving Bush too much power? Is it because they don’t want to be in the position of being able to prosecute Taliban sympathizers for treason? Or have we simply gotten out of the habit, having sent troops into battle on so many occasions since 1945 without such a declaration, that it is now viewed, like much else in the Constitution, as a quaint old unnecessary procedure, irrelevant to the modern world?
I’ll welcome any corrections or additions to the above listing.