Presidential Accountability in Wartime
President Bush, the Treatment of Detainees, and the Laws of War
Examines the difficulties of holding US presidents accountable for war crimes
A free online version is forthcoming
When the United States violates the laws of war, who should bear the responsibility? The US has historically relied on the checks and balances of Congress and the Supreme Court to constrain executive power, and yet these boundaries are challenged by presidential war power. While other scholars have focused on presidents starting military conflicts abroad or infringing on civil liberties at home, Stuart Streichler integrates international humanitarian law into an analysis of the repercussions of presidential war powers for human rights.
Presidential Accountability in Wartime starts by outlining the history of the development of the laws of war, including the Geneva Conventions and Nuremberg Trials. Then, using President George W. Bush’s authorization of interrogating detainees of the CIA and US armed forces during a national security crisis as a case study, Streichler examines how the checks and balances of Congress and the Supreme Court failed to hold anyone personally responsible. He uses originally classified documents to unravel the decision-making process of the White House and how it fits into the wider context. The book closes with an insightful interpretation of the torture debate that highlights the hazards of relying on the body politic to hold wartime presidents accountable and the repercussions for basic human rights in times of war. In doing so, it raises profound questions about the character of the presidency, the unreliability of checks and balances, and the American constitutional system of government.
Stuart Streichler has taught law and politics at the University of Washington, the University of California Santa Barbara, the University of Miami, and as a Fulbright scholar at Tohoku University in Japan. He is the author of Justice Curtis in the Civil War Era: At the Crossroads of American Constitutionalism.
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