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Thursday, December 22, 2016

Book Analysis: "The World Without Us", By Alan Weisman, July 2007

 Introduction:

I remember Paul Cibaric, my Advanced Placement European History teacher at Stevens Point Area Senior High School announcing on the first day of class: “The answer to every question in this course will be “Greed”.” This, I believe, epitomizes better than any other single anecdote the primary reason why I have always found the subject of Sociology so baffling and challenging to grasp. As far back as I can remember, I have always seen the world from what theoretical astrophysicist Doctor Neil Degrasse Tyson of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History’s Rose Center for Earth and Space famously refers to as “the cosmic perspective”.
The known recorded history of human civilization dates back only a few millennia, but even the lifespan of a species as relatively new and young as our own can be measured on the scale of tens of thousands of years. And from this perspective, much is not most of what the social science of sociology studies, the majority of which is concerned very nearly to the exclusion of all else with the interrelationships and resulting sociocultural problems of the world as it is today, has the tendency to seem somewhat superficial to say the least. This can be attributed in no small part to the fact that much if not a majority of the science underpinning sociology is, consciously or not, social psychology: the study of not only how people interact with one another but each individual person’s conscious, subconscious and unconscious motivations for interacting with others in the way that they do. This is where the shallowness and superficiality inherent in the study of sociocultural interaction comes from, since as Cibaric said so many years ago, people’s motivations for behaving the way that they do can all to often be succinctly boiled down to one word: “Greed”, by far and away the pettiest of all human impulses. 

Problem:

            Much of the science of sociology, like all social sciences, because it studies human cultures and societies and the interactions between them, has the tendency to be restricted in its focus to the present. However, in the study of global phenomenon such as globalization, it is important to recognize the reality that civilization as we know it is a relatively recent development, and so it is only relatively recently that humanity has become a significant player, as it were, on the scale of global events. It is equally important to recognize, however, that beyond even that, humanity itself is newcomer to the world as well. From this wider perspective, it is most helpful to conceptualize humanity not as the dominant species on the planet, but merely as one generation in the much longer history of life on Earth. Like all such generations, humankind’s had a beginning and will have an ending. From this broader worldview, what is truly most important about a phenomenon such as globalization is not the sociocultural motivations underpinning interactions between cultures and civilizations, as sociology has the tendency to gravitate towards studying, but rather instead what those civilizations, including the modern one in the developed industrialized western first world, will leave behind when they, and on a broader scale humankind, inevitably disappears.
            This is the theme of the 2007 book “The World Without Us” by University of Arizona Professor Alan Weisman and the History Channel documentary series “Life After People” based on Weisman’s book. It is notable that neither Weisman nor any of the History Channel documentaries in the series make any attempt at all whatsoever to explain any way that humans may disappear. As they explain, this is because how the human generation comes to an end is largely irrelevant. Even if mankind is exterminated by a thermonuclear war, for example, the world after humans will still be left with not only nuclear power plants but also undetonated atomic warheads.  As Weisman discusses in Chapter 15, when their casings corrode, their plutonium will be released.
Nor will the motivations that humans had for building the structures that they did last beyond the demise of the human species. The earth after humans will not have international trade, for instance, but if, as the History Channel series posits, every person vanished tomorrow, the physical alteration of the Earth that is the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan’s Financial District would be left behind, and would last for millennia.

Summary:

            In Chapter 2: “Unbuilding Our Home” and Chapter 3: “The City Without Us”, Weisman explains the effect of climate on all types of housing materials. He explains how nature breaks down the materials found in our homes: “In the day after humans disappear, nature takes over and immediately begins cleaning house—our houses, that is. Cleans them right off the face of the Earth.” [Weisman, Page 15] Things will crumble because of water: “Most of all, though, you are beset by what in other contexts is the veritable stuff of life: water. It always wants in. After we’re gone, nature’s revenge for our smug, mechanized superiority arrives waterborne.” [Weisman, Page 16]. Then animals will come in and start chewing and nesting, adding to the destruction. Weisman explains that people in advanced societies are not as motivated to keep their houses up as much as people did in Europe two hundred years ago, and predicts that nature through animals and weather will reduce our homes to rubble in fifty to a hundred years. [Weisman, Page 17]
Chapter Three uses Manhattan as an example. Before the land was settled, Manhattan was 27 square miles of porous swampland covered by pine and oak trees and meadow grasses. Whatever of the 47 inches of annual rainfall the living roots didn’t siphon would drain to lakes, marshes and the oceans via forty streams. [Weisman, Page 23] Central Park us to have hundreds of streams that ran through it. Weisman predicts that if New York were deserted for a hundred years, there would be a couple hundred streams running through the city. According to Weisman, because there is little soil to absorb the rainfall and vegetation to transpire it, if it rains hard, sewers clog with debris and the water, with buildings blocking the sun from evaporating it, will flow down to add to a rising underground river corroding the subway lines. [Weisman, Page 24] Eventually the subway lines will corrode and buckle and become a river. It is essential to constantly pump the thirteen million gallons of water daily uphill and to monitor manmade water management tools such as special dams that hold back the flow of water every time it rains.  After they’re gone, the pumps would fail with no power, the water would crash through and destroy the support pillars, the subway tunnels will flood and cave in within 20 years. [Weisman, Page 26] As the oceans continue to warm and rise, at some point the water will not subside.
            Season 2 Episode 5 of “Life After People”, entitled “Home Wrecked Home” deals with the destruction of suburban homes in Levittown in Hempstead, Long Island, New York and the San Remo, a 27-floor apartment building located at 145 Central Park West in Manhattan opened in 1930. The episode also deals with the fate of Cooperative City in Baychester, the Bronx in Northeastern New York city. According to the documentary, the Hutchinson River would reclaim the former marshland the Bronx and the City was built on within 100 years “after people”.
            In Chapter 15: “Hot Legacy”, Weisman begins writing about Global warming. He then moves on to the subject of the world’s more than 450 thermonuclear power plants. If humankind was to depart, he writes, the plants would run on autopilot until the reactors overheat and after two weeks without us, all of the world’s nuclear reactors would explode. Weisman then explains the effects of a nuclear explosion, which would first cause a wave of radiation that would kill anything that was living within a certain radius. “Whatever the correct measure of human mortality may be, it applies to other life-forms as well and in a world without humans the plants and animals we leave behind will have to deal with many more Chernobyl’s.” Weisman writes. “Little is still known about the extent of genetic harm this disaster unleashed: genetically damaged mutants usually fall to predators before scientists can count them.”  [Weisman, Page 217] In his interview with Scientific American, Weisman predicts that nuclear reactors could burn and melt down as soon as seven days after people as their water-cooling systems fail. The same is true of the basins of cooling water that serve as storage locations for spent fuel rods. When the water evaporates, the temperature in the basins rises.
Then the radiation would form into clouds that would travel around the globe. The radiation radii of the world’s more than 450 nuclear power plants, , such as the 30-kilometers around Chernobyl,  cover such a large area of the world that the damage that this radiation would cause to the Earth’s ozone layer Weisman likens to that of chlorofluorocarbons such as Freon. The holes in the ozone layer created by these radiation clouds would expose whatever remained living on the surface of the planet to even more radiation, since the ozone lessens and even blocks exposure to cosmic rays.
            In Season 2, Episode 2 of the history Channel series “Life After People”, without human intervention, spent nuclear fuel rods spontaneously burst into flame.
           
Intent

`           Weisman published an article in the Sunday February 6, 2005 issue of Discover Magazine entitled “Earth Without People”. In the article, Weisman speculated on what might happen to human civilization’s structures if the humans who built and maintain them vanished. In the article, as in Chapter 3 of “The World Without Us”, Weisman referred to “rising groundwater” as a “problem that already plagues New York”, writing that if New Yorkers disappeared “sewers would clog” and “natural watercourses would appear”.  At the end of his Discover Magazine article, Weisman provides a timeline strikingly similar to that in the History Channel’s “Life After People”, in which he predicts that within twenty years after human vanished from New York “water-soaked steel columns supporting subway tunnels corrode and buckle” and that oaks would re-cover the land with a hundred years.[1] In researching the article, according to an interview published in the July 2007 Scientific American[2], Weisman discovered there was more material, enough for a whole book. So began what became Weisman’s work on his book “The World Without Us”, published in July 2007.  

Reception

            The two-hour pilot the History Channel series “Life After People” aired on Monday January 21, 2008 and had an audience of 5.4 million viewers, the most-watched program ever on the History Channel[3], which launched on January 1 1995.
            Weisman’s book “The World Without Us” reached number one on the San Francisco Chronicle nonfiction bestsellers list on September 23, 2007[4], ranked number one on TIME Magazine’s top ten nonfiction books of 2007[5] and on the same list from Entertainment Weekly[6] and placed number one in the nonfiction category of Amazon’s Best Books of 2007 in Canada.[7] The book placed number four on the same list in the United States [8], peaked at number three on the Globe and Mail’s nonfiction bestseller list on August 11, 2007 on its way to ten weeks on the list. It was number six on the New York Times Best Seller list from August 12 through September 9, 2007 on its way to nine weeks in the top ten.
            In an August 11, 2007 review for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Chauncey Mabe of South Florida’s Sun-Sentinel called Weisman’s book “one of the most satisfying environmental books of recent memory, one devoid of self-righteousness, alarmism or tiresome doom saying”, writing “Weisman’s book transcends gimmickry to attain a kind of brilliance”.[9] On July 23, 2007, Gay Kamiya of Salon called Weisman’s book “brilliantly creative” and “an audacious intellectual adventure”, writing that:
The World Without Us” taps into one of our deepest, if only furtively acknowledged, pleasures…It also appeals to out love of looking the cosmic rearview mirror: Like “A Christmas Carol” or “It’s a Wonderful Life”, it sucks us in with a vision of what is, what has been and what is yet to come…Just a few pages into it and I was as enchanted as I was by the imaginative books I loved as a boy…“The World Without Us” makes saving the world as intimate an act as helping a child.[10]

Time’s Lev Grossman called Weisman’s book “a mesmerizing and grandly entertaining meditation” writing “I don’t think I’ve read a better nonfiction book this year.” In the September 2, 2007 New York Times Book Review, Jennifer Schuessler calls Weisman’s book “a fascinating nonfiction eco-thriller”, writing that “Weisman’s gripping fantasy will make most readers hope that at least some of us can stick around long enough to see how it all turns out.”[11] At the same time “we are taught through the course of this book;” wrote Nicholas Lezard of The Guardian; “to feel good about the disappearance of humanity from the Earth”.[12] Anthony Doerr of the Boston Globe called the book “a beautiful and passionate Jeremiad against deforestation, climate change and pollution”, writing that “Weisman has an extraordinarily farsighted point of view, and he is actually at his best when exploring the past, tracing the world as it was.”[13] Jerry Adler of Newsweek wrote “journalist Alan Weisman has produced, if not a Bible, at least a Book of Revelation.”[14]His research is prodigious and impressive;” wrote Janet Maslin of the New York Times in an overall negative review; “So is his persistence.”[15]

Analysis and Discussion

Having taken courses in Anthropology and Archaeology, History; Philosophy, Political Science and Psychology; as well as Sociology, I can now confirm that what my high school AP European History stated was indeed true. Very nearly everything that humans have built since the beginning of the known recorded history of civilization has been motivated in one way or another by some form of greed.              
This is what makes my study of Weisman’s book “The World Without Us” both fascinating and challenging. Like the History Channel series “Life After People”, which I also studied, Weisman makes no attempt at explaining the cause or reason for human disappearance from the surface of the planet Earth. As such, unlike much of sociocultural sociology, his book and the documentary series it inspired look less at Human greed in and of itself than at the monuments, both figurative and literal in nature, to our greed that we as a civilization have erected throughout the few millennia of our history.[16] This applies even to things that the majority of laypeople would never think of as being greed-driven, such as roads and writing.
As early as 8,000 BCE in Mesopotamia between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, accounting was being done with clay tokens in the shapes of different good that were later wrapped up in clay balls. These clay balls were later marked with shapes representing those of the tokens inside, indicating the number of each token contained. By the late fourth millennium BCE, these token had been done away with all together in favor of only the drawn shapes and the clay was flattened into tablets. The shapes were imprinted into the clay with sharpened reeds, lending this writing system its name: “Cuneiform”, meaning “wedge-shaped”.[17]
In so many words: Capitalism invented writing. When people had more wealth than they could physically hold onto, they needed a way to keep track of how many of what things they had. So they invented writing for the purposes of trade…for the purposes of attaining ever more material wealth for themselves. So even writing, as an invention of western civilization, was a product of human greed.
As for roads, which according to both Weisman’s “The World Without Us” and the History Channel’s “Life After People” will be among humankind’s longest-lasting creations. The purpose of roads in trade is obvious, so the construction by different civilizations throughout the Old World of roads was conducive to the accumulation of both the wealth of society as a whole and that of the wealthiest members therein. In the case of the Ancient Roman Empire, the clichéd proverb that “All roads lead to Rome” was literally true in many cases due in no small part to the fact that many of the Empire’s famous roads were patronized either by the Emperor’s themselves or by the Empire’s aristocracy, because they understood that roads benefited not only the treasury of the empire as a whole but their own pocketbooks as well [albeit, more often than not, the two were one and the same]. 

Conclusion

Like Weisman, I possess what Tony Doerr from the Boston Globe called an “extraordinarily farsighted point of view” and what Degrasse-Tyson calls a “cosmic perspective.
The phenomenon of globalization can be succinctly summarized, in a word, as the erasure of the borders and boundaries between the countries of the world and their cultures. The sociological study of globalization has, however, continued to present a challenge for me, since from the dispassionate objective outsider’s perspective that Weisman and I take, the borders and boundaries being erased by the globalization process never existed in reality to begin with in the first place. Good social science, however, like all good science, strives to see all sides of a given phenomenon. Throughout my sociology courses, I have been requested, and expected, on numerous occasions to conceptualize and articulate the negative harms of globalization. Needless to say, it is difficult for me, as it would be for anyone, to come up with any way in which erasing imaginary borders and boundaries that never existed anywhere within the physical universe of perceptible reality outside of our own minds might potentially be a bad thing.
The process of globalization is, in a word, the process of humans around the globe becoming one species in one shared world. What makes imagining potential negative ramifications to this difficult is the fact that a single species on a single planet is what humans are and have always been.
I started off this project with the stated “Problem” of exploring and investigating how globalization has impacted the planet Earth, the problems that it has caused and the threat that it poses. The conclusion that I have come to, however, is very nearly the opposite: that, if indeed any solutions do exist to the problems our planet is experiencing and the threats that we face, then there can be little or no reasonable doubt that whatever solutions exist lie within globalization. The one commonality that all problems and threats facing our planet, from climate change to pollution to thermonuclear war, share amongst them, it is that if, when and where they happen, none of these are any great respecters of arbitrarily drawn imaginary national boundaries. If solutions to these problems and threats exist, therefore, they are not to be found at the state or national level. Both climate change and thermonuclear war pose a danger to the survival of the human species regardless of nationality, and are threats that can only and should only be addressed by the human species, not by nations.  The damage we have done to the planet has not been the sole exclusive responsibility of any one nation, and the legacy that we leave behind won’t be either.



[1] Weisman, Alan. “Earth Without People”. Discover Magazine. Sunday February 6, 2005: http://discovermagazine.com/2005/feb/earth-without-people
[2] Weisman, Alan. “An Earth Without People”. Scientific American, Volume 297, Issue 1, July 2007, Pages 8-104: http://www.nature.com/scientificamerican/journal/v297/n1/pdf/scientificamerican0707-76.pdf
[3] Tucker, Neely. “Depopulation Boom”. Washington Post. Saturday March 8, 2008: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/03/07/AR2008030703256.html?hpid=artslot
[4]San Francisco Chronicle Best-Sellers”. San Francisco Chronicle. Friday September 21, 2007: http://www.sfgate.com/books/article/San-Francisco-Chronicle-Best-Sellers-2539363.php
[5] Grossman, Lev. “Top 10 Nonfiction Books”. TIME Magazine. Sunday December 9, 2007: http://content.time.com/time/specials/2007/article/0,28804,1686204_1686244_1691768,00.html
[6] Reese, Jennifer. “The Best Books of 2007”. Entertainment Weekly. December 20, 2007: http://www.ew.com/article/2007/12/20/best-books-2007
[7]Editor’s Picks: 2007’s Top 25 Nonfiction”. Amazon. December 20, 2007: https://www.amazon.ca/gp/feature.html?docId=1000175351
[8] Harrison, Kate. “UA Journalism Prof Collect Year-End Kudos For book: Alan Weisman’s “The World Without Us” Continues to Attract Attention from Readers and Critics Alike”. University of Arizona. December 14, 2007: https://uanews.arizona.edu/story/ua-journalism-prof-collecting-year-end-kudos-for-book
[9] Mabe, Chauncey. “Don’t Think About Us When We’re Gone”. Pittsburg Post-Gazette, August 11, 2007: http://www.post-gazette.com/book-reviews/2007/08/11/The-World-Without-Us-by-Alan-Weisman/stories/200708110131
[10] Kamiya, Gary. “What Would the Earth Look Like If Humans Suddenly Disappeared? An Audacious New Book Imagines a People-Free Planet and Restores Our Sense of Awe”. Salon. Monday July 23, 2007: http://www.salon.com/2007/07/23/weisman/
[11] Schuessler, Jennifer. “Starting Over”. New York Times. September 2, 2007: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/02/books/review/Schuessler-t.html?_r=1&oref=slogin
[12] Lezard, Nicholas. “Goodbye To All This”. The Guardian. Friday May 2, 2008: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2008/may/03/society1
[13] Doerr, Anthony. “Alarms, Ideas to Help Save a Damaged World”. Boston Globe. July 15, 2007: http://archive.boston.com/ae/books/articles/2007/07/15/alarms_ideas_to_help_save_a_damaged_world/
[14] Adler, Jerry. “After We Are Gone: If Humans Evacuated, the Earth Would Flourish”. Newsweek. July 23, 2007.
[15] Maslin, Janet. “A World Without Humans? It Falls Apart”. New York Times Sunday Book Review”.  August 13, 2007: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/13/books/13masl.html?_r=2&ref=books&oref=slogin&oref=slogin
[16] For more information on this topic, see the 2001 book “Affluenza: The All-Consuming Academic” by Duke University Professor Thomas Naylor
[17] Heise, John. “Cuneiform Writing System”. Netherland Institute for Space Research. May 4, 1995: https://personal.sron.nl/~jheise/akkadian/cuneiform.html

Policy Memorandum: Constitutional Law

To: The Office of President of the United States Hillary Rodham Clinton,
The West Wing, The White House,
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, District of Columbia.

From: Ian K. Judge-Lord
Office of Legal Counsel, United States Department of Justice
11114 L Street Northwest, Washington D.C.

Memorandum
On the Constitutionality of
War Crimes
[In violation of Chapter VIII Article 50 Paragraph 4 of the Second Geneva Convention; Part VI Section I Article 129 Paragraph 4 of the Third Geneva Convention; and Part IV Section III Chapter I Article 75 and Part V Section II Article 85 of Protocol I Additional to the Geneva Conventions]
And
Torture 
[In violation of Chapter I Article 3 Paragraph 1 Subparagraph 1, Article 12 and Article 51 of the Second Geneva Convention; Part I Article 3 Paragraph 1 Subparagraph 1, Part II Article 12 Paragraph 3 and Article 14 Paragraph 1, Part III Section I Article 17 Paragraph 4 and Section VI Chapter III Article 99 Paragraph 2 and Article 108 Paragraph 1 and Part VI Section I Article 130 of the Third Geneva Convention; and Protocol I Part IV Section III Chapter I Article 75 and Protocol II Part II Article 4 of the Protocols Additional to the Geneva Conventions]

Background:
            In the Tuesday November 8, 2016 Presidential election, 45th President of the United States Hillary Rodham Clinton defeated Republican Party candidate Donald Trump[1] by 2.8 million votes[2], 65.8 million votes to 63 million votes[3], or 48.2% to 46.2%.[4] However, had she lost the election, Trump would have become the next Commander in Chief of the United States Military Armed Forces. The purpose of this memorandum is to explore doubts as to the Constitutionality of the foreign policy proposals of the man who on November 8, 2016 came within a mere two percentage points of becoming the next Head of State of the sole economic and military superpower in the civilized developed industrialized Western first world.
            As a Presidential candidate, first beginning in January 2011 and then officially announcing his campaign on June 16, 2015, Donald Trump and his campaign went to historically unprecedented lengths to be as vague and noncommittal on matters of policy as any candidate for elected office in the 220-year history of American Democracy. As a result, there existed very few policies on which it was possible to discern with any reasonable degree of certainty just what precisely it was that Trump planned to do. This memorandum focuses on the two precise proposals made by Trump during his 2016 Presidential campaign on the subject of what he planned to do if elected President when it came to the foreign and international military policy of the United States.
            First and foremost, on the Fox News Channel show “Fox and Friends” on December 2, 2015, Trump put forth his doctrine for dealing with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or “I.S.I.S”, founded from Al-Qaeda in Iraq by Abu-Al Baghdadi in 2006. “I would hit them so hard like they’ve never been before.” Trump told Fox News Channel host Brian Kilmeade.[5]And the other thing is with the terrorists, you have to take out their families.”  When you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families.” Trump repeated to the shocked and silent “Fox and Friends” co-hosts Kilmeade and Stephen Doocy. “They care about their lives, don’t kid yourself.  When they say they don’t care about their lives, you have to take out their families.”[6]
            Secondly, at the eighth 2016 Republican Primary Debate on February 6, 2016 at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College in Goffstown, New Hampshire, Donald Trump enumerated how he would expand and build on the terrorism tactics of his Republican predecessor, 43rd President of the United States George Walker Bush. “I would bring back waterboarding.” Trump told debate moderators David Muir and Martha Raddatz of ABC News, describing the simulated drowning tactic former Vice President Richard Cheney euphemistically describes as “enhanced interrogation”, but which in Chapter VI of the Report of its 36th Session issued on May 19, 2006, the United Nations committee Against torture identified as constituting a form of “torture”, which it defined as “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of punishment”.[7]I would bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.” Trump continued. The next day, in an interview on “This Week” on ABC News, Trump confirmed to host George Stephanopoulos that “I would absolutely authorize something beyond waterboarding.” “I’ll approve it immediately, but I’ll make it also much worse.” Trump told Republican State Representative Bill Herbkersman of South Carolina in Bluffton, South Carolina on February 17. “We should go much stronger than waterboarding.” Trump reiterated, concluding by telling Herbkersman “You know, half these guys say, “Torture doesn’t work”. Believe me, it works…and don’t tell me it doesn’t work. Torture works.”[8]
Previously, Trump had hedged his proverbial bets by telling a crowd in Columbus, Ohio on November 23, 2015 “Would I approve waterboarding? I would approve more than that. It works”. “And even if it doesn’t work;” Trump then added; “They deserve it anyway.”[9]
We should go for waterboarding;” Trump repeated in the elevenths 2016 Republican Primary Debate in Detroit, Michigan on March 3, 2016; “And we should go tougher than waterboarding.”[10] The closest thing to explaining what he meant by “worse than waterboarding” and “tougher than torture” that Trump would ever get was in an interview with NH1 New Hampshire News on June 30, 2016, when he told Political Director Paul Steinhauser “We’re going to have to do things that are unthinkable”. [11] Trump’s love for torture, and waterboarding in particular, is unmistakable, however, as when he said at a campaign rally in Saint Clairsville, Ohio on June 29, 2016 “I like waterboarding a lot. I don’t think it’s tough enough.”[12]

Origins of Constitutional Conflict
The day after the January 20, 2009 inauguration of his first term President Clinton’s predecessor, Barack Obama, signed Executive Order 13491: “Ensuring Lawful Interrogations”, saying that prisoners “Shall in all circumstances be treated humanely and shall not be subjected to violence to life and person [including murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture], nor to outrages upon personal dignity [including humiliating and degrading treatment].”[13] At the White House Press Conference marking his hundredth day in office as President on April 29, 2009, Obama explained, “I believe that waterboarding was torture and whatever rationales were used, it was a mistake.” Six years later, on April 13, 2015, Republican Congressman William Thornberry of Texas introduced into the United States House of Representatives a bill to turn President Obama’s Executive Order into law[14], House Resolution 1735: the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 [H.R. 1735: NDAA F.Y. 2016]. The bill passed the United States Senate on June 16, 2016[15] and passed the House of Representatives on November 5, 2015. President Obama signed the bill into law on November 25, 2015.
The wording of President Obama’s Executive Order closely mirrors that of Article 3 of the First, Second and Third Geneva Conventions as well as Part IV Section III Chapter I Article 75 and Part V Section II Article 85 of Protocol I and Part II Article 4 of Protocol II Additional to the Geneva Conventions, all of which prohibit “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment”.[16]
Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 of the constitution of the United States of America enumerates the power of the President of the United States “to make treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur”. The Geneva Conventions were signed by 33rd President of the United States Harry Truman’s Ambassador to Switzerland John Vincent on August 12, 1949 and ratified by the United States Senate by a unanimous vote of 77-0 on July 6, 1955. 34th President Dwight Eisenhower signed the Ratification on July 14, 1955.

Constitutionality Question
            Though the United States Supreme Court has explored the question of whether or not the President of the United States is empowered to unilaterally nullify a treaty in the case of Barry Goldwater v. James Carter on December 13, 1979, the court has yet to provide a ruling which answers the question, with the District of Columbian Circuit Court of Appeals writing on December November 30, 1979 that:
The Constitutional institution of advice and consent of the Senate, provided two-thirds of the senators concur, is a special and extraordinary condition of the exercise by the President of certain specified powers under Article II. It is not lightly to be extended in instances not set forth in the Constitution. Such an extension by implication is not proper unless that implication is unmistakably clear.”[17]
With the Supreme Court neglecting to produce a ruling that of the Appellate Court stands. However, that is by no means to say that the Supreme court as a whole refrained completely from handing down their opinion, with Supreme Court Associate Justice William Brennan writing, in his dissenting opinion that “Our cases firmly establish that the Constitution commits to the President alone the power to recognize and withdraw recognition from foreign regimes.”[18]  

A “Crime Against Peace”
The Fourth Geneva Convention is subtitled “Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War” and defines civilians as individuals who “do not belong to the armed forces” and “take no part in the hostilities”.[19]  This definition is mirrored in other regulations at the national level around the globe. The Russian Federation’s Regulations on the Application of International Humanitarian Law states that a “civilian is any person present in the area of combat operations, who is not a member of armed forces and refrains from any act of hostility”.[20] France’s Law of Armed Conflict defines civilians as “those persons who do not belong to the armed forces or who do not participate in hostilities”.[21] Israel’s Law of War Booklet defines a “civilian” as “any individual who is not a member of an organized army of a State, and who is not involved in hostilities.”[22] Canada’s Law of Armed Conflict Manual states, “A civilian is any person who is not a combatant.”[23] Australia’s Defense Force Manual defines a “civilian” as “any person not belonging to the armed forces”.[24] The United Kingdom Law of Armed Conflict Manual states “Civilians are persons who are not members of the armed forces.”[25] The Fourth Geneva Convention states that civilian must be “treated humanely at all times and protected against acts or threats of violence” and states that no civilian “may be punished for an offense he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.”[26]
So not only would Trump’s proposed policy of “taking out the families” of the Islamic State be in violation of the Geneva Conventions, to which the United States of America is a signatory, but it is also illegal under very nearly each and every other legal regime in the civilized developed first western world. This, in turn, raises another international diplomatic hazard with the Republican’s foreign policy: namely, the alienation of America’s allies. In November 2011, a war crimes tribunal in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia found former 43rd Republican President of United States George W. Bush guilty[27] in absentia of “Crimes Against Peace”, which the 1950 Nuremburg Tribunal[28], submitted to the United Nations General Assembly[29], defined as “Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements, or assurances”. The Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission followed this up in May 2012 by convicting former President Bush, Vice President Richard Cheney, Secretary of the Department of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and Attorney General of the Department of Justice Alberto Gonzales in absentia of “conspiracy to commit war crimes”.[30] [Former Assistant Secretary of State for Politico-Military Affairs and National Security Council National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection and Counterterrorism Richard Clarke later confirmed that former President Bush and Vice President Cheney were in fact guilty of war crimes.[31]] Malaysia became a signatory to the Geneva Conventions on August 24, 1962.
As has been shown, the American military’s treatment of noncombatant civilians under the foreign policy proposed by the Republican Nominee would violate the laws of nations from North America [Canada] to Western Europe [France, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and the Russian Federation] to the Near East [Israel] to East Asia [Australia]. All of these nations are allies of the United States, but all of them are also signatories to the First Second, Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions. Australia signed the Geneva Conventions on January 4, 1950 and ratified them on October 14, 1958. Canada and France, Israel, the Russian Federation and Great Britain, like the United States, were one of the original signatories on December 12, 1949. France ratified the Geneva Conventions on June 28, 1951, Israel on July 6, 1951, Russia on May 10, 1954, the United Kingdom on September 23, 1957 and Canada on May 15, 1965. All signatories to the Geneva Conventions are pledged to enforce all of the articles therein, in addition to whatever national laws each may have. If these nations, whose legal regimes on War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity so closely mirror that of the Geneva Conventions, were to ever choose to do what Malaysia did and convict the President of the United States [in absentia, necessarily] of violating not only international law but their own national laws as well, it would make it extraordinarily difficult if not effectively practically all but impossible for that President to full their sworn Constitutional duties and responsibilities as Head of State. Travel to countries wherein a President has been found guilty and convicted of war crimes under international law would risk arrest and detention if any warrants outstanding were to exist in those countries. Without being able to safely travel abroad and overseas, the conduction of diplomacy with said nations would be hampered or even become impossible. In the case of the United Kingdom of Great Britain, the closest ally of the United States for centuries, all of American foreign policy would be affected and in the case of the Russian Federation, the largest and one of the most powerful nations on Earth, the very safety and security of the world could be placed in serious jeopardy by a breakdown in diplomatic relations.
Granted, the United Kingdom is unlikely to try a President of the United States for Crimes Against Humanity, as it was former Prime Minister of Great Britain Anthony Blair who was convicted of War Crimes alongside former President Bush by the Kuala Lumpur Tribunal in 2011.[32] Had President Clinton lost the November 8, 2016 Presidential election to Donald Trump, it would have also been improbable that the Russian Federation would have brought any charges against him[33], considering the considerable resources that Russian President Vladimir Putin is known to have dedicated toward defeating President Clinton[34] and placing Trump in the Oval Office.[35]
France, however, makes clear in no uncertain terms precisely how and why Trump’s proposed policy of “taking out families” would constitute a war crime. It’s Law of Armed Conflict Manual requires the armed forces “to distinguish between military objectives, which may be attacked and civilian objects and persons, which must not be made the subject of deliberate attack.”
The argument that was made by the Bush-Cheney regime, by Rumsfeld, among others, was that people who matched the demographic profile [gender, age, height, religion, geographic location, etc.] of armed combatants could be considered as such and were therefore subject to attack by American armed forces. Canada’s Law of Armed Conflict Manual, however, dispels with that fallacy by stating “The presence within the civilian population of individuals who do not come within the definition of civilians does not deprive the population of its civilian character.” Another argument for the deaths of civilians used by Rumsfeld and others during the Bush regime was what Vice President Cheney once famously referred to as the “One Percent Doctrine”: That is to say, if someone meets the demographic profile of a combatant and it is not known whether they are a combatant or not, if there exists even much as a 1/100 chance that they might turn out to be a combatant, their status as a combatant was to be taken as an absolute certainty.[36] Australia’s Law of Armed Conflict Manual tells us that the standard in international law is precisely the opposite: “In cases of doubt about civilian status, the benefit of the doubt is given to the person concerned.” The Russian Federation’s Regulations on the Application of International Humanitarian Law concurs: “In case of doubt whether a person is a civilian, that person shall be considered a civilian.”
Cheney, Rumsfeld and others used a similarly fallacious line of reasoning in their rationalization of “enhanced interrogation” such as waterboarding: that it could not be known whether someone was a combatant or not until after they had been interrogated.

Inhumane and “Unusual”
Even when not engaging in torture, however, the Bush-Cheney regime engaged in the practice of indefinite detention without charge, indictment, representation, trial or conviction, most notoriously at United States Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. People assumed by the Cheney-Rumsfeld regime to maybe perhaps be combatants were kept in Cuba, in part, because prisoners within the contiguous continental United States are entitled to the Rights enumerated in the Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Amendments of the Bill of Rights to the Constitution to “equal protection under the law” [V], “a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury” to confront witnesses and to counsel [VI] and “trial by jury” [VII], and also, not coincidentally, that of the eight Amendment—against “cruel and unusual punishment”.  In addition to the American citizen, Yaser Esam Hamdi, detained indefinitely at Guantanamo Bay, the detainees also include nine citizens of the United Kingdom of Great Britain, seven citizens of France and nine citizens of the Russian Federation.[37] Even failing the indefinite detention without charge or trial notwithstanding, the conditions under which detainees at Guantanamo Bay are known to be held are, by the legal regimes of most if not all of these nations, in violation of the requirement of the Fourth Geneva convention that those presumed to be noncombatant civilians until and unless proven otherwise be treated humanely at all times.

Conclusion
As the conviction of Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld for Crimes Against Humanity at the Kuala Lumpur Tribunal demonstrates, nations such as Britain, Canada, France, Israel and Russia already have what many legal regimes, national and international, would regard as a case against any Presidential Administration that continues, as the previous two Democrat and Republican alike have, the offshore indefinite detention without charge or trial of citizens of America and its allies. If, however, Trump had defeated President Clinton in the election, as he came within a mere two percentage points of doing, and reversed President Obama’s Executive Order in order to institute his proposed policy of “tougher than torture” and “worse than waterboarding”, then violations of the laws of American allies would be the least of his Constitutional worries. If he were to further institute his proposed policy of “taking out the families” of the Islamic State, he would be in violation of the pledge that President Eisenhower took upon signing the ratification of the First, Second, Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions to enforce all articles therein contained, and only a ruling on whether or not the President of the United States is or is not Constitutionally empowered to nullify [or “un-sign”] international treaties, which the United States Supreme Court has thus far neglected to provide, could save his foreign policy from a Kuala Lumpur-like conviction except on a much wider worldwide scale, resulting in either impeachment or else an Article II, Section II v. Article I Section VIII Constitutional crisis unlike any in the more than 220-year-long history of American Democracy.
This Memorandum is not intended and should not be interpreted as advocacy, but rather cautionary. Until and unless the United States Supreme Court issues a ruling on whether a President can nullify a treaty signed by a previous President, it must be presumed that the Articles of the First, Second, Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions against inhumane torture and the targeted attacking of civilians are to serve as the binding manual, as it were, for the conduct of the military armed forces, as one of the original 1949 signatories, and in turn of their Commander in Chief. 

This Memorandum is Classified Embargoed from Public Release and Publication by the Office of the Attorney general of the United States [Secretary of the United States Department of Justice] until at least no earlier than January 20, 2017



[1] Kentish, Ben. “Donald Trump Has Lost Popular Vote By Greater Margin Than Any US President”. The Independent. Tuesday December 13, 2016: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-elections/donald-trump-lost-popular-vote-hillary-clinton-us-election-president-history-a7470116.html  
[2] Kentish, Ben. “Hillary Clinton’s Lad Over Donald Trump in the Popular Vote Rises to 2.8 Million”. The Independent. December 15, 2016: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-elections/hillary-clinton-popular-vote-lead-donald-trump-us-election-president-elect-millions-a7476926.html
[3] Subramanian, Courtney. “Clinton Has Won More Votes Than Any Other White US Presidential Candidate in History”. BBC News. December 12, 2016: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-38254946
[4] Drum, Kevin. “Hillary Clinton’s Popular Vote Lead Is Now Up To 2 Percent”. Mother Jones Magazine. December 7, 2016: http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/12/hillary-clintons-popular-vote-lead-now-2  
[5] Howard, Adam. “Trump on ISIS: “You Have to Take Out Their Families”. MSNBC. December 2, 2015: http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/trump-isis-you-have-take-out-their-families
[6] Lobianco, Tom. “Donald Trump on Terrorists: “Take Out Their Families”. CNN. December 3, 2015: http://www.cnn.com/2015/12/02/politics/donald-trump-terrorists-families/ 
[7]Report of the Committee Against Torture: Thirty-Sixth Session”. United Nations. May 19, 2006: http://repository.un.org/bitstream/handle/11176/165895/A_61_44-EN.pdf?sequence=3&isAllowed=y
[8] Johnson, Jenna. “Donald Trump on Waterboarding: “Torture Works”. Washington Post. February 17, 2016: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2016/02/17/donald-trump-on-waterboarding-torture-works/?utm_term=.12a7b7376684
[9] Jacobs, Ben. “Donald Trump on Waterboarding: “Even if it doesn’t work, they deserve it”. The Guardian. Monday November 23, 2015: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/nov/24/donald-trump-on-waterboarding-even-if-it-doesnt-work-they-deserve-it
[10] Berenson, Tessa. “Donald Trump Defends Torture At Republican Debate”. TIME Magazine. March 3, 2016: http://time.com/4247397/donald-trump-waterboarding-torture/
[11] Visser, Nick. “Trump Amps Up His Call for Torture: “We’re Going to Have to Do Things That Are Unthinkable.” The Huffington Post. July 1, 2016: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/trump-torture-waterboarding_us_5775d740e4b04164640f6597
[12]US. Election: “I Like Waterboarding A Lot”, Says Donald Trump”. BBC News. June 29, 2016: http://www.bbc.com/news/election-us-2016-36664752
[13] Holan, Angie. “Obama Signs Executive Order On Torture”. Tampa Bay Times. Tuesday January 27, 2009: http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/promises/obameter/promise/175/end-the-use-of-torture/
[14] Huetteman, Emmarie. “Senate Votes to Turn Presidential Ban on Torture Into Law”. The New York Times. June 16, 2015: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/17/world/senate-votes-to-turn-presidential-ban-on-torture-into-law.html?_r=0
[15] Lewis, Paul. “Senate Passes Torture Ban Despite Republican Opposition”. The Guardian. Tuesday June 16, 2015: https://www.theguardian.com/law/2015/jun/16/senate-passes-torture-ban-republicans
[16]Protocols Additional to the Geneva Conventions”. International Committee of the Red Cross. May 2010: https://www.icrc.org/eng/assets/files/other/icrc_002_0321.pdf
[17] Wright, et al. “Senator Barry Goldwater v. James Earl Carter, President of the United States”. United States District Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit. December 13, 1979: https://law.resource.org/pub/us/case/reporter/F2/617/617.F2d.697.79-2246.html  
[18] Scott, David. “Presidential Power to “Un-Sign” Treaties”. University of Chicago Law Review, Volume 69, Issue 3, June 1, 2002, Article 26, pages 1447-1477: http://chicagounbound.uchicago.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=5206&context=uclrev
[19]The Geneva Conventions and the Red Cross”. British Red Cross. August 13, 2010. Page 19: http://www.ppu.org.uk/learn/texts/doc_geneva_con.html
[20]Nastavlenie po mezhdunarodnomu gumanitarnomu pravu dlya Vooruzhennyh Sil Rossiiskoi Federatsii  [“Regulations on the Application of International Humanitarian Law by the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation”]. Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation. August 8, 2001.  
[21]Fiche De Synthese Sur Les Regles Applicables Dans Les Conflits Armes” [“Summary Sheet on the Rules Applicable in Armed Conflicts”.] Direction des Affaires Juridiques Sous-Direction Du Droit International Humanitaire Et Du Droit Europeen [Directorate of Legal Affairs Sub-Directorate of International Humanitarian Law and European Law]. January 4, 2000. Page 4.
[22]Conduct in the Battlefield in Accordance with the Law of War”. Israel Defense Forces. 1986. Chapter 1.
[23]The Law of Armed Conflict at the Operational and Tactical Levels” Office of the Judge Advocate General. August 13, 2001. Chapter 4, Section 6, Page 46: http://tamilnation.co/armed_conflict/canadian_manual.pdf
[24] Baker, J.S. “Law of Armed Conflict”. Australian Defense Force Publication, Operations Series, First Edition. August 1996. Chapter 9, Page 81: http://www.navedu.navy.mi.th/stg/databasestory/data/laukniyom/workjob/bigcountry-workjob/Australia/ADDP06.4LOAC.pdf 
[25]The Joint Service Manual of the Law of Armed Conflict”. Ministry of Defense Joint Doctrine and Concepts Center. 2004. Chapter 5, Page 53: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/27874/JSP3832004Edition.pdf
[26]Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War”. August 12, 1949. Article 33, Page 18: https://ihl-databases.icrc.org/applic/ihl/ihl.nsf/9861b8c2f0e83ed3c1256403003fb8c5/72728b6de56c7a68c12563cd0051bc40
[27] Falk, Richard. “Kuala Lumpur Tribunal: Bush and Blair Guilty: A War Crimes Tribunal in Malaysia Offers a Devastating Critique of International Criminal Law Institutions Today”. Al Jazeera. November 28, 2011: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2011/11/20111128105712109215.html
[28]Nuremberg Trial Proceedings, Volume 1: Charter of the International Military Tribunal”. Section II, Article 6: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/imt/imtconst.asp
[29]Principles of International Law Recognized in the Charter of the Nurnberg Tribunal and in the Judgment of the Tribunal”. Yearbook of the International Law Commission. Volume II, 1950. Principle VI, Page 2: http://legal.un.org/ilc/texts/instruments/english/draft_articles/7_1_1950.pdf
[30] Ridley, Yvonne. “Bush Convicted of War Crimes In Absentia”. Foreign Policy Journal. May 12, 2012; Boyle, Francis. “Bush Administration Convicted of war Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity”. Center for Research on Globalization. May 30, 2013.
[31] Ashtari, Shadee. “Former Counterterrorism Czar Richard Clarke: Bush, Cheney Committed War Crimes”. The Huffington Post. May 29, 2014: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/29/richard-clarke-george-bush-war-crimes_n_5410619.html  
[32] Ramakrishan, Mahi. “War Crimes Tribunal finds Bush and Blair Guilty”. Center for Research on globalization. November 24, 2011: http://www.globalresearch.ca/war-crimes-tribunal-finds-bush-and-blair-guilty/5478367 
[33] Treisman, Daniel. “Putin: Trump’s Most Dangerous Best Friend”. CNN. Sunday December 11, 2016: http://www.cnn.com/2016/12/11/opinions/troubling-relationship-russia-america-treisman/index.html
[34] Chambers, Francesca and Spargo, Chris. “Putin Personally Ordered the Election Hack as Part of a Vendetta Against Hillary Clinton: Putin is Reported to Have Done This in Revenge Against Clinton for Publicly Questioning the Integrity of Russian Parliamentary elections Back in 2011”. Daily Mail. December 14, 2016; Tennent, James. “Former US Ambassabdor to Russia Says Putin Wanted “Revenge” on Clinton: McFaul Claims Putin Believes Clinton Interfered in a Russian Parliamentary Election in 2011”. International Business Times. December 12, 2016: http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/former-us-ambassador-russia-says-putin-wanted-revenge-clinton-1595970 
[35] Entonous, A. et al. “Secret CIA Assessment Says Russia Was Trying to Help Trump Win White House”. Washington Post. December 9, 2016: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/obama-orders-review-of-russian-hacking-during-presidential-campaign/2016/12/09/31d6b300-be2a-11e6-94ac-3d324840106c_story.html?utm_term=.9058fcfef1f1
[37]The Guantanamo Docket”. The New York Times. December 5, 2016: http://projects.nytimes.com/guantanamo