Tagged: Guantanamo Bay

The Law Is A Ass

Bob Ingersoll: The Law Is A Ass #351: DAREDEVIL ASKS WAKANDA DO ABOUT MOM?

daredevil2014-006-0090lk05I don’t know what Sister Maggie was thinking.

She willingly wrote on a wall, when she had to have known that wouldn’t end well. She’s a nun. The Bible tells us the writing on the wall is an ill omen. As a nun, Maggie believes in the Bible devoutly and wouldn’t want to contradict its Word. When Sister Maggie wrote on the wall, she must have known bad things would happen. But she did it anyway?

Why? Because she thought she was making a political statement. And if she didn’t, Daredevil v4 #6 wouldn’t have had a story.

Margaret Grace was the mother of Matt (Daredevil) Murdock. Because of complications from postpartum depression, she abandoned her family while Matt was a baby, adopted a new name, and became a nun. (Yes, it’s a longer story, but as I don’t want a longer column, we’ll let it go at that.) Recently, she, Sister Barbara, and Sister Leora went to a military base in Riverdale, an affluent section of the Bronx. They had information the base was testing illegal and immoral chemical weapons. Something was up in the Bronx and they wanted to batter it down, so they did something to bring the matter to public attention by spray painting peace slogans on the base’s walls.

They were arrested, brought before a secret military tribunal, and told they were being extradited to Wakanda. In case you forgot, Wakanda is a small west African nation formerly ruled by T’Challa, the Black Panther. When Wakanda kicked T’Challa out, his sister Shuri became its queen. Shuri was a lot harsher than T’Challa.

Why did Wakanda care about a simple act of vandalism? Wakanda had purchased said base from America through some “highly clandestine, highly illegal” and untraceable transactions so it could engineer illegal weapons there “free of U.N. oversight.” The women “brought undue attention” to the base and nearly embarrassed Wakanda. Because the base was owned by Wakanda, it was “Wakandan soil within America’s own borders,” Wakanda claimed its law applied. Wakanda wanted to be sure the women were “suitably punished” so it had them quick-step extradited.

Did I say harsh? Compared to Shuri Mommie Dearest was an enabler.

Of course Shuri’s also stupid. When conducting illegal arms manufacturing on a military base which you own because of a “highly illegal” transaction, you probably want to avoid any attention. Sure the nuns spray painting peace slogans brought some unwanted attention. But snatching them up and extraditing them in an illegal hearing where the women didn’t even have attorneys, isn’t the wisest course of action. Once word of what had happened leaked out – and as we saw in Daredevil v4 #6, word did leak out – the women would become a cause célèbre and that would only attract more unwanted attention.

Wakanda’s wiser course of action would have been to shut down the base – which it did anyway – then not press charges. Sure the women could make public statements, but they had already made public statements and were ignored. With the base no longer in operation, they wouldn’t have been able to prove their accusations. The matter would have blown over. But once the media got word that the women who tried to alert it to the base’s operations and then vandalized the base have disappeared, it would investigate.

So Wakanda didn’t follow its wiser course of action. Ever since Shuri took over, Wakanda has been ruled by its more dickish fringe. Its government is Shuri with the fringe on top.

Pointing out that Wakanda has more dicks than lunch with messrs. Nixon, Cheney, Grayson, and Butkus isn’t my main purpose, here. It’s a fun sideline, but my main purpose was to explore Wakanda’s claim that the military base was Wakandan soil, not American.

There is a common misconception that embassies are foreign soil. They aren’t. The embassies still the soil of, and under the jurisdiction of, the host country. Embassies are afforded special privileges by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which is why the host country can’t enter a foreign embassy without permission of the country represented by the embassy. But the embassy itself is not foreign soil.

If you commit a crime in an embassy, it will be the law of the host country that applies and the host country which prosecutes you, not the country whose embassy you were in. (Please note, I’m using the hypothetical you. I’m not advocating that you actually go out and commit a crime.)

In the same way, American military bases in foreign countries are not generally American soil. America doesn’t own the land on which the bases sit. It still belongs to the host country. America may lease that land, but when the base shuts down, the land reverts to the host country.

Look at Guantanamo Bay base in Cuba. Gitmo is on Cuban soil, not American soil. America leases the land on which Gitmo sits through a perpetual lease which dates back to 1903 and is the result of the Spanish-American War. But Gitmo is Cuban soil. That’s the primary reason America put the “military combatants” in the global war on terror in Gitmo’s detention center, because it’s not American soil so American laws, such as the writ of habeas corpus, don’t apply there.

The only difference here is that Wakanda didn’t lease the military base, it owned the base after illegally purchasing it from America. That does make a difference. When America purchased Louisiana and a whole bunch of other land from France in 1803, that land, which was formerly French soil, became American soil; lock, stock and beignets. After the sale, it was subject to American laws. So it is possible that, because Wakanda owned the base, the base was considered Wakandan soil.

I’m not an expert on this sort of law, but I did some quick research. And while I couldn’t find a definitive answer, what I did find indicated the rules of what is foreign soil differ when a military base sits on land that is owned by the country establishing the base as opposed to land that the base leases from the host country. So maybe the base was Wakandan soil.

Or maybe not. Lieutenant N’banta, the Wakandan military attaché, said Wakanda purchased the base through an illegal sale. An illegal sale could not properly convey legal title, so I’m not sure Wakanda actually owned the base. If I buy a stolen watch from a vendor on the corner, the watch is not legally mine. (Note, I’m also using the hypothetical I. I’m not confessing to a crime, either.)

However, even if the base was Wakandan soil and the nuns were subject to Wakandan law, Wakanda didn’t have the legal right to extradite them the way it did. While they were waiting to be extradited, they were jailed in Ryker’s Island. That is US soil. As long as they were on US soil, the nuns were was subject to US laws, including the laws governing extradition.  Under US law, persons being extradited must be afforded due process of law. That includes the right to a public hearing and effective assistance of counsel. It doesn’t include a secret military tribunal before judges whose faces are hidden at which the detainee has no counsel.

The story explains the reason the three women were extradited without any of their constitutional rights was because Wakanda bribed a US General Eaglemore. (Really, General Eaglemore? Was General Patriotact taken?). Eaglemore helped Wakanda implement the illegal proceedings. So, while the extradition was wrong, the story wasn’t wrong. People, including generals, are bribed into doing highly illegal things all the time. A story isn’t wrong, when it shows something that actually happens happening.

Doesn’t really matter, either. In Daredevil v4 #7, Daredevil snuck into Wakanda and through his own bit of diplomacy – which was every bit as questionable as that shown by Wakanda earlier – secured the release of the three women. Then Daredevil and the three sisters all went home, nun the worse for wear.

The Law Is A Ass


Americas-Got-Powers-taps-into-TV-zeitgeist-4919II99-x-largeLet’s just say… I was disappointed.

I have a name for my disappointment and it’s America’s Got Powers #1, the first issue – hey, with the screwy numbering system American Comics use nowadays, one can’t be sure # 1 is actually the first issue – of the new mini-series from Image. Disappointing because it was such a cynical and negative portrayal of America. So let’s proceed that I might give voice to my disappointment.

In the not too distant future, to borrow a line from the Mystery Science Theater 3000 theme – because “borrow” sounds so much nicer than steal – something happened. Which, makes America’s Got Powers better than most mainstream comic books, where super heroes can take four pages just to get their mail – and you only think I’m making that up – so as to stretch out some skimpy story out for the six issues suitable for framing or collecting into a trade paperback.

What happened? A big blue crystal fell from outer space and landed in the middle of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Then, in a real break from mainstream comic books, something else happened. Yes two things happened in the same issue. Every pregnant woman within a five mile radius of the crystal went into labor. (Good thing that crystal didn’t land in Arizona where the new abortion law says pregnancy starts on the first day of a woman’s menstrual cycle. Under that definition, girls who’d never had sex would still be pregnant and might have given spontaneous, virgin births. The theological implications are staggering.)

Now you might think that’s enough for the first issue of a comic book. “But wait!” I say in my best Ron Popeil imitation, “There’s more!” Every one of those babies was born with a super power. And that’s where the fun began.

After all those super babies were born, the country endured the Power Riots, whatever those were, which “destabilized the entire country.” In order to calm the public, the US government rounded up the children who got super powers from a crystal, or “Stoners” as they were called, then put them in camps and a training school. The government conducted research on the interred Stoners and trained them how to use their powers, all, ostensibly, in an effort to “re-integrate them” into society. The government funded this facility with the TV series America’s Got Powers.

What’s America’s Got Powers? It was the country’s newest mega-hit reality TV show. The show’s premise was simple. Imagine a reality show which took the best parts of American Idol and American Gladiators, tossed them out, and presented a mash-up of the rest. In other words, in America’s Got Powers, Stoners fought both mechanical adversaries and each other in televised combat all in an effort to be the last one standing. America’s Got Powers was kind of like The Hunger Games but with less food. The winners got to join the world’s only super-hero team,“Power Generation,” while the losers who survived went “back to the camps.”

As the story opened, America’s Got Powers was about to start its seventeenth season. Each of the shows’s first sixteen seasons had become increasingly brutal. With its seventeenth season, the producers decided to reduce all the safety protocols in the combat arena to the minimum settings and to handicap the Stoners with secret treatments or devices that slowed them down. The result was the Stoners couldn’t fight their robotic opponents effectively and were pounded on until they looked like Wile E. Coyote on a particularly bad day.

Now, you might have noticed that I used the word “ostensibly” when I said the purpose of the government’s program was to re-integrate the Stoners into normal society. We’re dealing with an agency of the United States government in a comic book. In today’s comic books, any government agency that doesn’t have a secret agenda is underachieving. America’s Got Powers’ evil secret agenda was confirmed by the producers of the show; an Army general, a United States Senator, and a corporate CEO. We’re not quite sure what the secret agenda was, but we’re pretty sure it was up to no good. After all, what fun is a secret government agenda that’s up to good?

(One point about this trio of producers: Creators, when you set up a government agency with an evil secret agenda, you risk both having your political motivations questioned and having subtlety points deducted from your score by drawing the politician to be a dead ringer for Sarah Palin.)

“But, Bob,” you ask in one of those marvelous imaginary conversations between reader and columnist which I pretend can happen as a way of making a transition, “why fret about the subtlety of political caricatures when this story postulated that the US government was rounding up differently-abled minors, putting them into camps and training them to become involuntary soldiers or some such? We have the Emancipation Proclamation and the 14th Amendment. And child endangerment laws. And child labor laws. Those sorts of things can’t happen, can they?”

Of course not. Those things can’t happen. That’s why colleges and high schools all over this country televise football games. Games in which young men get injured, seriously injured, catastrophically injured, and even fatally injured. And that’s just college and high school. Imagine if a government with a secret agenda got involved. Because that sort of thing can’t happen.

Of course not. Those things can’t happen. That’s why this country never had a Selective Service Commission or a draft and it never conscripted minors who couldn’t even vote yet into the armed forces to fight wars in North America, Europe, Africa, western Asia, southeast Asia., central Asia, and anywhere else where those conscripted minors ended up in the path of enemy bullets and fragmentation grenades. Because that sort of thing can’t happen.

Of course not. Those things can’t happen. That’s why the PATRIOT Act doesn’t exist and has never been used to abolish the Writ of habeas corpus or to justify rounding up people and confining them in Guantanamo Bay indefinitely without trial. Because that sort of thing… Oh you get the idea.

And before you argue that Gitmo is used to house – or warehouse – foreign nationals and such confinement can’t happen to United States citizens, I remind you of the Japanese Internment Camps of World War II. You know, the program where thousands of people who happened to have Japanese ancestry but who were born in this country and were unquestionably United States citizens, were removed from their homes, deprived of their property, and placed in indefinite confinement in internment camps without ever having been charged with a crime. Without, in fact, ever even having committed a crime.

And I guess that’s why I was so disappointed with America’s Got Powers and its cynical and negative portrayal of America. Given what we know about what truly happens in this country, I don’t think America’s Got Powers was anywhere near cynical or negative enough.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: From time to time I have been running columns I wrote years ago which, for one reason or another, have not been widely published. This is another one of them. This is, in fact, the last such column I have in my files. So I guess I’d better get busy writing the next new column, because I don’t have any more old ones with which to buy myself some time.