Regarding the Dec. 15 Editorial "Iraqi Justice: Out of a Hole": The idea of a "neutral" forum for punishing individuals for war crimes is relatively new. In the past, war as a contest between rival parties would result in the victors imposing penalties upon the losers, or "victor's justice."
In order to prevent the horrors of war on a global scale from occurring again, there was an increasing political will to preserve the rights of even small and weak states, and prevent the law of the jungle from ruling in the international arena.
This vision was promoted after World War II by the United States as its vision of an international community. Despite being criticized in some quarters for being too soft on prosecuting war criminals and in others for being too skewed toward punishing the vanquished, the post-World War II Nuremberg and Tokyo trials are perhaps the world's first attempt to try perpetrators of war crimes in a comparatively objective manner. Those trials serve as important precedents as well as blueprints for future war-crimes trials.
The capture of Saddam Hussein is a good opportunity for multilateralism. It may be important for the trial of Hussein to have international and multicultural dimensions, perspectives, and representatives. Apart from the coalition forces, having the United Nations, Iraqi, or even antiwar states participating in this trial may generate greater legitimacy. Having Iraqi judges or representatives further broadens the understanding of Iraqi or Muslim legal and philosophical traditions for the trial, including justice and cultural sensitivity.
The ultimate symbol of UN involvement will give new life to multilateralism and augment the international body as a stronger safeguard against future crimes against humanity.
Tai Wei Lim
PhD candidate, Cornell University
It's true that there's a close relationship between law and morals, as affirmed by Alan Charles Raul in his Dec. 9 Opinion piece "How legalizing gay marriage undermines society's morals," but Mr. Raul seems to miss the nature of that link, especially when considering gay marriage.
Often, morals change and laws respond. Martin Luther King Jr.'s movement preceded changes in segregation law by several years. Is it possible that the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decision reflects prior changes in the underlying morals of society?
Raul overlooks the very possibility.
He should study his own examples in animal rights, protection of endangered species, and environmental protection for insight into the priority of ethics and values over law. In a democracy, archaic laws will give way to the influence of morality.
I wonder if the argument posited by Alan Charles Raul wasn't, in fact, originally used in defense of laws against interracial marriage. It strikes me as contradictory that the people who berate gays for their perceived promiscuity are the same people who would deny people in gay relationships the legal and societal recognitions and protections that help bind heterosexual relationships during difficult times.
The question for me concerns what "private morality" is. My feeling is that people who live in a democracy should have the freedom to live by their own principles as long as their actions don't infringe on the rights of others. How would gay marriage infringe on anyone else? I don't think it would.
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