Tags: obama | harold | koh

Obama Appointee Could Place Int'l Law Over Constitution

Thursday, 21 May 2009 10:34 AM

By Kenneth R. Timmerman

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Conservative leaders are set to oppose President Barack Obama’s State Department nomination of Harold Koh, an outspoken advocate for allowing international law to trump U.S. interests. The secretary of state legal counselor position would give Koh power to negotiate new international treaties that could dramatically change the way Americans live.

The treaties that Koh will be instrumental in shaping could include ultra-liberal abortion laws nation-wide and prosecution of U.S. military personnel and former U.S. government officials in foreign courts for “crimes” committed while they were serving their government.

Moreover, he could change the way the U.S. builds automobiles, outlaw private gun ownership — even prevent parents from taking their children to church.

“I fear that Mr. Koh’s positions could undermine American sovereignty and the unique role the United States plays in the world,” South Carolina Republican, Sen. Jim DeMint, said earlier this month.

Koh recently resigned as dean of Yale Law School in order to take up his new administration posting as the State Department’s chief legal adviser.

While not a position that normally grabs headlines, the legal counselor’s job includes the power to “negotiate, draft, and interpret international agreements involving . . . peace initiatives, arms control discussions . . . and private law conventions,” a State Department information sheet says.

His nomination was approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on a 12-5 vote on May 12 and is currently awaiting a vote by the full Senate. Several senators have placed a hold on the vote, congressional insiders told Newsmax.

Koh’s outspoken views as a transnationalist “fall far outside the norm and represent a radical shift from the positions taken by past administrations, both Democratic and Republican,” a coalition of conservative organizations wrote in a recent letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

In a letter sent to senators this week, some congressmen warned that Koh has publicly stated that the United States should “ratify several treaties that threaten American sovereignty.”

These are some of the treaties under discussion that Koh says he will support:

  • The Rome statute on the International Criminal Court (ICC), which even the Clinton administration declined to join. “The Rome statute is being used as a vehicle for transnationalists to bring nations such as the U.S. and Israel before the ICC for what they believe are violations of human rights,” the congressmen state.

  • The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), a U.N. accord that already has been used to force liberal abortion laws on unwilling U.N. member states such as Ireland.

  • The U.N.-based Law of the Sea Treaty, that would set up a vast new international organization to monitor and control undersea mining and any industrial activity impacting on coastal waterways.

  • SIFTA, the Spanish-language acronym for an inter-American treaty to strictly regulate gun ownership in the Americas that was first negotiated by Bill Clinton but considered so radical he never submitted it to the U.S. Senate.

    Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., told Newsmax that he and his colleagues had crafted the letter to the Senate because America’s sovereignty is “not just a Senate issue.”

    Koh has “a clear and consistent record of putting the interests and law of outside organizations and countries over those of the United States,” Lamborn told Newsmax in an exclusive interview on Tuesday.

    Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., was so concerned about Koh’s views on the primacy of transnational law that he sent him several questions asking him to define his views.

    “The transnationalists view domestic courts as having a critical role to play in domesticating international law into U.S. law, while nationalists argue instead that only the political branch can internalize international law,” Koh wrote in a law journal article in 2006.

    DeMint asked Koh to which camp he belonged. While declining to be pigeonholed, Koh stated his belief that the transnationalist view was “more persuasive.”

    Rep. Thaddeus McCotter, one of the lead signatories of the House letter, scoffed at Koh’s internationalist beliefs. “The government was established to protect our rights, certainly not to infringe upon them. When you start to talk about incorporating international law, you’re actually diminishing the power of the people,” he told Newsmax.

    “That’s a fundamental inversion of the constitutional concept. We pledged to uphold the constitution, not to vitiate it . . . If you think it’s hard fighting city hall, good luck fighting Turtle Bay,” he added in an allusion to the New York headquarters of the United Nations.

    Koh has called the March 2003 invasion of Iraq a “violation of international law,” because the Bush administration action was not sanctioned by the United Nations Security council.

    And yet, Koh has been an outspoken supporter of the Clinton administration’s 1999 bombing campaign in Serbia, even though the Clinton White House never sought U.N. approval.

    “Koh’s position is hypocritical,” said Steve Groves, a Heritage Foundation fellow. “When it’s a Republican administration using armed force without authorization, he calls it a violation of international law, but when it’s a Democrat administration doing the same thing, it’s OK.”

    Former Reagan administration official Frank Gaffney, who heads the Center for Security Policy, is spearheading the coalition of conservative groups who wrote to the Senate Foreign Relations committee last month to oppose the Koh nomination.

    “We may well see Koh defeated in the Senate,” Gaffney said at a conference on legal warfare hosted by the Middle East Forum on Tuesday. “At the very least, we’ll see much more debate on this whole issue of sovereignty.”

    Harvard Law school legal scholar Alan Dershowitz said he agreed with Gaffney that Koh “goes too far on the international side,” in particular in championing criminal “jurisdiction placed in U.N. bodies, which is utterly unacceptable.”

    Even though he considered Koh to be “a friend and colleague, I won’t be supporting him,” Dershowitz added.

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