Synopses & Reviews
Recent controversies surrounding the war on terror and American intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan have brought rule of law rhetoric to a fevered pitch. While President Obama has repeatedly emphasized his Administration's commitment to transparency and the rule of law, nowhere has this resolve been so quickly and severely tested than with the issue of the possible prosecution of Bush Administration officials. While some worry that without legal consequences there will be no effective deterrence for the repetition of future transgressions of justice committed at the highest levels of government, others echo Obama's seemingly reluctant stance on launching an investigation into allegations of criminal wrongdoing by former President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary Rumsfeld, and members of the Office of Legal Counsel. Indeed, even some of the Bush Administration's harshest critics suggest that we should avoid such confrontations, that the price of political division is too high. Measured or partisan, scholarly or journalistic, clearly the debate about accountability for the alleged crimes of the Bush Administration will continue for some time.
Using this debate as its jumping off point, When Governments Break the Law takes an interdisciplinary approach to the legal challenges posed by the criminal wrongdoing of governments. But this book is not an indictment of the Bush Administration; rather, the contributors take distinct positions for and against the proposition, offering revealing reasons and illuminating alternatives. The contributors do not ask the substantive question of whether any Bush Administration officials, in fact, violated the law, but rather the procedural, legal, political, and cultural questions of what it would mean either to pursue criminal prosecutions or to refuse to do so. By presuming that officials could be prosecuted, these essays address whether they should.
When Governments Break the Law provides a valuable and timely commentary on what is likely to be an ongoing process of understanding the relationship between politics and the rule of law in times of crisis.
Contributors: Claire Finkelstein, Lisa Hajjar, Daniel Herwitz, Stephen Holmes, Paul Horwitz, Nasser Hussain, Austin Sarat, and Stephen I. Vladeck.
"Careful field inquiry was pursued in risky environments."-World Politics,
"Important and profoundly disturbing."-Choice,
"A model of lucid writing, thorough research, and penetrating interpretation, this is one of the best books on Africa in recent years."-Foreign Affairs,
"Outstanding. . . . A fascinating and profound exploration of what Ellis sees as Liberians' deep spiritual anarchy, manifested during the war in extreme brutality, incidents of cannibalism, and the fighters' bizarre sartorial affectations. . . . Ellis's persuasive analysis of Liberian religious ideology and culture does more than make sense of these strange phenomena. It offers rare insight into the way political, physical, and spiritual power can be linked and legitimized in the popular imagination. . . . A model of lucid writing, thorough research, and pentrating interpretation, this is one of the best books on Africa in recent years."-Foreign Affairs,
"Ellis has written a very honest and brave book about a ghastly human experience which has, one learns, much less to do with the primordial past than about the future."-Ecclesiastical History,
"If, as all the authors in this volume concede, Bush Administration violations can be prosecuted for their alleged crimes, shouldn't we, in accordance with the rule of law, proceed with such prosecutions? This, however, is just the jumping off point. This is a great book precisely because the authors clearly succeed in demonstrating the complexity and problems with each seemingly simple solution. Neither solution, prosecuting or not prosecuting, will leave the reader completely satisfied, but this is exactly the point... Using law to legalize something which cannot be legalized raises the question of what, exactly, is the role that law plays in its own subversion. The essays in this volume take a meaningful and helpful step in the direction of answering this question."-Concurring Opinions,
“While we think of the crimes of the Bush-Cheney administration as lying somewhere in the past, the aggressive wars, warrantless spying, lawless imprisonment, and torture continue.
For the last decade Liberia has been one of Africa's most violent trouble spots. In 1990, when thousands of teenage fighters, including young men wearing women's clothing and bizarre objects of decoration, laid siege to the capital, the world took notice. Since then Liberia has been through devastating civil upheaval and the most feared warlord, Charles Taylor, is now president. What began as a civil conflict, has spread to other West African nations.
Western correspondents saw in the Liberian war a primeval, savage Africa-a "heart of darkness." They focused on sensational "primitive" aspects of the conflict, such as the prevalence of traditional healers and soothsayers, and shocked the international community with tales of cannibalism, especially the eating of the body parts of defeated opponents, which was widespread.
Eschewing popular stereotypes and simple explanations, Stephen Ellis traces the history of the civil war that has blighted Liberia in recent years and looks at its political, ethnic and cultural roots. He focuses on the role religion and ritual have played in shaping and intensifying this brutal war.
About the Author
is the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at Amherst College. He is author or editor of more than seventy books, including ,When the State Kills: Capital Punishment and the American Condition
and (with Charles Ogletree) The Road to Abolition? On the Future of Capital Punishment
(NYU Press, 2009).
Nasser Hussain is Associate Professor in the Department of Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought at Amherst College. He is the author of The Jurisprudence of Emergency: Colonialism and the Rule of Law.