Eric Posner, his leftist allies and kangaroo courts


Posted to on November 1, 2005


As comrades know, I try to keep track of what rightwing social democrats and liberals are saying on the Internet. Sometimes, I feel like I am trudging through the sewer when I look in on red-baiter Leo Casey's mailing list, the "decent left" pro-war blogs, etc. Most days I don't have anything to say about what I find there, because it falls into the category of "dog bites man".


But today, an item written by U. of Chicago lawyer Eric Posner that originated on something called showed up on Casey's list and Marc Cooper's blog that deserves some commentary. Basically it defends the idea that the ends justify the means in the trial of Saddam Hussein. Even though the US invasion of Iraq violated international law, it is okay for it to put Saddam Hussein on trial because his evil is equivalent to Adolph Eichmann's. Posner likens the trial to the Israelis kidnapping the Nazi war criminal. Obviously, Posner, Postel and Cooper don't really get the Nazi analogy right since it is the United States that is launching blitzkriegs based on lies and deception, not a tin-pot dictator like Saddam Hussein. In fact, Saddam Hussein only invaded Iran and Kuwait after getting the green light from Washington.


At first blush, looks like Commondreams or Alternet, but in reality it is quite a few degrees to the right. The execrable Todd Gitlin is on the editorial board, as is Danny Postel who crossposted Posner's article to Casey's list. Postel was briefly involved in Central America solidarity in the 1980s but seems to have found his niche in recent years as a Paul Berman wannabe. But the editor I really get a kick out of is Roger Scruton, the English "philosopher" who got in trouble for receiving kickbacks from the tobacco industry for making the case that smoking won't hurt you. On February 5, 2002, the Independent reported:


PROFESSOR ROGER Scruton, the darling of the intellectual right, was sacked as a commentator for The Wall Street Journal yesterday in an editotial after admitting he took money from the tobacco industry to place stories in the national press.


The philosopher, a professor of aesthetics at Birkbeck College, London University, has been told to "take a holiday" from the prestigious newspaper because he failed to disclose his ties with Japan Tobacco.


An editorial in yesterday's European edition of The Wall Street Journal admitted: "We've come in for criticism lately because one of our contributors, the British conservative writer Roger Scruton, wrote an essay for our European edition while being paid by a Japanese tobacco company.


"Our long-time standard is that such financial ties should be disclosed, so readers can make up their own minds." The move follows his sacking last week by the Financial Times over his tobacco links.


The Wall Street Journal had intervened to defend Professor Scruton over his pounds 4,500-a-month contract with the tobacco giant.


But it said yesterday: "Mr Scruton had an obligation to tell us and his readers about his tobacco financing when he was writing about tobacco issues; he didn't, and so he will be taking a holiday from our pages."


Just the sort of person, in other words, who you would expect to serve on the editorial board of an Internet publication that provides left cover for a United States kangaroo court.


Googling "Eric Posner" will point you to a U. of Chicago lawyer's blog that he participates in. There he makes no effort to disguise its reactionary Alan Dershowitz/Alberto Gonzalez type reasoning with respect to Saddam's trial. An entry titled "Should Saddam Hussein's Trial Be Fair?"makes the case for bending the rules:


"When conventional procedural protections would ensure that highly dangerous people go free under conditions of fragile security, the standard of proof is lowered, independent lawyers are prohibited, access to evidence is reduced, and the other conventional protections are similarly compromised. (A more familiar example is the practice of allowing exceptions to the warrant requirement when the police are in hot pursuit and in similar circumstances.)


"Saddam is not an ordinary criminal defendant, and so there is no reason to think that fairness requires that he enjoy ordinary criminal defense protections."




Posner co-authored something called "The Limits of International Law" with Jack L. Goldsmith that argues that states should engage in international laws and treaties only when it is consistent with their national interests. In other words, the John R. Bolton approach.


An reviewer awarded the book one star (you are evidently prevented from handing out zero stars) and opined, "While claiming to be an academic book, the text reads more like a neconservative, ideological condemnation of international law."


As the United States becomes more and more polarized politically, you will continue to see characters like Postel, Cooper et al lurching more and more to the right. This is an inexorable process as was demonstrated by the tendency of many liberals to beat the drums of anti-Communism during the Cold War. Today, the crusade is against "Islamfascism" but the logic is the same. They have convinced themselves that the USA, despite its flaws, is an agent for progressive change even if it comes at the hands of a President who is not likely to be invited on a Nation Magazine cruise. The human mind is capable of all sorts of self-deception, but in this case we are talking about a feat that can best be described as a pretzel-like contortion.