Brunch with Marjorie Cohn, or, How Drones Pass on a Poisoned Chalice to Future Generations

The above video is from a different event, but gives much of the same info as I have below

This weekend former National Lawyers Guild President Marjorie Cohn was here in Sacramento for a panel discussion about drones during the California Democratic convention at the California Democratic Party Progressive Caucus meeting on Saturday. I didn’t make it downtown for the panel discussion, but she graciously accepted an invitation to a Sunday morning potluck brunch discussion on drones. I made a point to get myself to this.

I’m not a professional writer or anything, and I write slower than I type 😉 and I missed some things while taking my notes, so hopefully I won’t misrepresent anything that was said, too badly.

I got there a little late, so it was fortunate that they hadn’t started yet. I filled up a plate, and sat down with a group of people I didn’t know, except for Jeanne Keltner who was on my right. We had a pretty good general discussion at our table about Syria and R2P (responsibility to protect), and the overall policy toward the Middle East, and war in general. On my left was a gentleman, whom I didn’t recognize, and his wife. They were getting into some pretty good detail, and I thought to myself, “hey, I like how these two think,” everyone at the table actually. The conversation pretty much revolved around the same issues that are spoken of here at FDL. Foreign policy, to domestic policy, to monetary policy.

So after about twenty minutes a woman got up in front of the room and started the introduction, about the founding and history of the NLG, and Marjorie Cohn. After about two or three minutes I began to wonder when Marjorie came into the room. And, slow as I am, it took another thirty seconds or so to figure out that she was the smart woman to my left.

This isn’t a dictation, so I’m only going to hit on the high points that I was able to catch. Go ahead and correct me if I’m wrong about any of the details and fill in the holes. All mistakes are mine, not hers

She talked about how the Obama (maybe Bush too?) Administration have tried to use the AUMF as a justification for the use of drones. But if you read the AUMF it’s not that open ended. The Bush Administration tried to insert language into — I forget the law — to extend the authorization to these type of actions, which was rejected.

She talked about how there’s precedent for holding lawyers accountable for giving advice on what turns out to be crimes against humanity, or something similar, can‘t remember her exact words. Coincidently, she talked about how if you take John Yoo’s class at UC Berkeley, you have to agree to non-disclosure about any controversial discussions in his class.

And how the US Gov is bound to international agreements through the Supremacy Clause, such as the ICCPR. She talked about Terror Tuesday’s, and Obama’s choosing who lives, and who dies. And, the Disposition Matrix and targeted killings

She talked a little about Bradley Manning, and that even Nixon didn’t go after whistleblowers the way Obama has. She didn’t mention this, but, Obama has prosecuted more people under The Espionage Act than all other presidents combined since it became law, ninety or so years ago.

She talked about how in the rest of the world there’s a real, genuine thing called The Mobilization of Shame where policy is actually changed because of the movements of the people against government policy.

She mentioned an op-ed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu where he excoriates Americans for raising an uproar against domestic drone use, while lacking the empathy for people the US has killed in the rest of the world.

She mentioned how Winston Churchill wanted to execute Nazi war criminals immediately, and how Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson argued that that would set a precedent, and would pass a poisoned chalice to future generations

To pass these defendants a poisoned chalice is to put it to our own lips as well

Nuremberg Prosecutor and Supreme Court Justice, Robert Jackson

There was a Q and A at the end, and a gentleman made an excellent point when he mentioned that he felt that the increasing use of drones would lead to perpetual war.

Again, any specific facts that are wrong are mistakes made by me. I was very impressed with her, her husband, and all who attended, for their deep knowledge of this subject, and the many other subjects discussed

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