The U.S. Should Pursue Reconciliation with Cuba

U.S. reconciliation with Cuba is in the U.S. national interest. Cuba poses no threat to the U.S. Reconciliation would help improve the lives of many Cubans now living on the margin. Reconciliation also would advance U.S. economic and other interests.

I will explain why I reach these conclusions. Then I will set forth what I see as the topics to be addressed in the necessary bilateral negotiations to reach the reconciliation goal along with a process to facilitate such negotiations.

Why U.S.-Cuba Reconciliation Is in the U.S. National Interest

First, Cuba poses no threat to the U.S.

Our population of 313.2 million is over 28 times larger than Cuba’s of 11.1 million. Our economy of         $ 14.62 trillion is 254 times as large as Cuba’s of $57.5 billion. Our annual defense expenditures of $593.6 billion is over 270  times larger than Cuba’s of $ 2.2 billion, and Cuba’s military equipment suffers from lack of replacement parts while we all know about U.S. military capabilities’ exceeding the rest of the world combined. And our land mass is over 88 times larger than Cuba’s (9,827,000 sq. km. vs. 111,000 sq. km.). (These comparisons are based on public statistics published by our CIA.) [1]

Yes, Cuba is one of four countries on the U.S. list of “state sponsors of terrorism,” but such designation is not justified.[2] Furthermore, there is absolutely no reason why the stated reasons for the U.S. designation of Cuba as a “state sponsor of terrorism” could not be successfully addressed in a good faith negotiation between the two countries.

Second, Cuba’s regrettable human rights violations are understandable and could be more successfully addressed in direct negotiations between the two countries.

Yes, Cuba has committed violations of human rights, as illustrated by the most recent U.S. State Department Human Rights Report on Cuba.[3] As a human rights advocate, I deplore these violations.

Yet given the long-standing U.S. hostility towards Cuba and the immense U.S. superiority in economies and militaries, it is understandable why Cuba has harshly treated what we call “dissidents.” Remember the U.S. usurpation of Cuba’s war for independence from Spain in the late 19th Century and our making Cuba a de facto U.S. protectorate in the early 20th Century. Remember too the U.S.-supported invasion of Cuba’s Bay of Pigs in 1961, and the Cuban missile crisis of 1963 and the CIA plots to kill Fidel Castro. The U.S. embargo of Cuba has now lasted for nearly 52 years. Most recently the U.S. Government’s Commission on Assistance for a Free Cuba set forth a U.S. blueprint for taking over Cuba.[4] In short, Cuba has many legitimate reasons to be afraid of the U.S.

And we should know from our own history since 9/11 that societies and governments tend to clamp down on civil liberties when they fear outside interference or attacks.

Cuba’s human rights record is often used as another justification for U.S. continued hostility towards Cuba and the maintenance of the embargo. Yet, I submit, this has been a failed strategy, and there is no reason to suspect that continuation of this hostility will bring about a change in Cuban human rights.

Instead, good faith negotiations between the two countries aimed at normalization of relations, I believe, hold more promise for improving human rights in Cuba.

Third, normalizing U.S. relations with Cuba would be in the economic interests of the U.S.

Prior to the recent global financial and economic turmoil, Cuba had the highest economic growth rate in Latin America. This was due in substantial part to increasing world prices for two of its exports, nickel and cobalt. Exploration for oil off the north coast of Cuba is now proceeding. Cuba needs to import many agricultural products. Foreign tourists (mainly Canadians and Europeans) enjoy Cuba’s beautiful beaches and resorts.

The global financial and economic turmoil has had a huge negative impact on the Cuban economy. The Cuban government wants to lay off 500,000 public employees (nearly 10 % of the total labor force), leaving them to try to support themselves as barbers, hairdressers and similar occupations. The government also wants to eliminate the food ration card system that provides limited quantities of basic foods at low, subsidized prices. Such changes increase the economic incentives for Cubans to leave the island and somehow get to the U.S.

Our economic embargo of the island deprives our own businesses and farmers from benefiting from trade with the island. In addition, our embargo provides economic opportunities for other countries, and increasingly China, to fill the void.

Fourth, normalizing relations with Cuba would be in the overall interest of the U.S.

The U.S. has many pressing real problems in the world, and Cuba is not one of them. Normalizing our relations with the island would be seen by most people in the world, especially Latin America, as a sign that the U.S. is a mature, rational country.[5]

Topics for U.S.-Cuba Negotiations

I am not a U.S. government employee and thus am not privy to all of our Government’s issues regarding Cuba. As a concerned and informed U.S. citizen, however, I believe that any U.S.-Cuban negotiations would include at least the following subjects:

1. re-establishment of full diplomatic relations;

2. termination of the United States’ embargo against Cuba;

3. termination of the United States’ restrictions on its citizens’ travel to Cuba;

4. compensation by Cuba for expropriated property of U.S. citizens and businesses;

5. emmigration and immigration of citizens between the two countries;

6. enhancement of human rights of Cuban citizens;

7. the status of Cuba’s lease of Guantanamo Bay to the United States; [6]

8. the continued U.S. imprisonment of the so-called Cuban Five;[7]

9. the continued Cuban imprisonment of U.S. citizen, Alan Gross;[8]

10. U.S. fugitives in Cuba;[9]

11. exploration and drilling for oil in the Caribbean Sea between the two countries;[10]  and

12. Cuba’s re-entry into the Organization of American States.

Process for U.S.-Cuban Negotiations

Given the long period of hostility between the two countries and the apparent lack of movement toward negotiations, I believe that the assistance of a neutral third-party mediator would be helpful to both countries. Such a mediator, in my opinion, should be someone who is bilingual in English and Spanish with experience as an international mediator, who is in fact and perceived to be neutral and who has the time (and staff?) to make a major commitment to this process.

Such a mediator indeed could step forward and invite representatives of both countries to participate in mediated negotiations, rather than wait on them to agree on such a process. As a private citizen I unsuccessfully have tried to interest two international organizations in doing just that.[11]


As a result of the above analysis, I strongly disagree with the stated position of the Obama Administration. On May 13, 2011, President Obama said (in Miami), “I would welcome real change from the Cuban government … For us to have the kind of normal relations we have with other countries, we’ve got to see significant changes from the Cuban government and we just have not seen that yet.”[12] He and Secretary of State Clinton previously have made similar statements.[13]

The Administration, in my opinion, is wrong on this policy for two reasons.

First, the U.S. should not insist on another country’s making certain internal changes before even talking about a whole range of issues that need to be resolved in a bilateral relationship. Indeed, this is exactly what the U.S. is advocating for Israel and the Palestinians.

Second, the Administration is wrong as a matter of fact about the changes that have been happening in Cuba over the last 18 months or so. The Cuban government has announced major changes in the economic structures–planning to fire 500,000 public employees and allowing greater private enterprise and economic freedom. Some workers are organizing unions. A small farmers group is calling for an end to the state’s food distribution monopoly. The government is cracking down on corruption. Cuba as a result of an agreement that was brokered by the Roman Catholic Bishop of Havana has released most, if not all, of its political prisoners.

[2]  See Post: The Ridiculous  U.S. Designation of Cuba as a “State Sponsor of Terrorism” (May 20, 2011).

[3]  U.S. State Dep’t, 2010 Human Rights Report: Cuba (April 8, 2011),

[4]   U.S. Commission on Assistance for a Free Cuba, The Commission apparently has been abandoned by the Obama Administration because it is not mentioned on the current U.S. State Department website.

[5]   E.g., Thompson & Romero,  Clinton Aims to Improve Ties with Latin America,, N.Y. Times (May 19, 2011),

[6]  From 1903 through 1933, the annual rent for the U.S. lease of Guantanamo was $2,000 (U.S. gold coins), an amount that was initially seen as generous to Cuba. From 1934 through 1971 it was $3,336 as a result of the U.S. going off the gold standard. In 1972 it was adjusted to $3,676 (due to revaluation of the U.S. Dollar to gold). In 1973, another adjustment for the same reason produced an annual rent of $4,085 which is still in effect today. Thus, for many more recent years the rent is seen as nominal. Moreover, starting in 1960 (soon after the Cuban Revolution took over the island), Cuba has refused to cash the annual rent checks. Thus, for over half a century the U.S. has not paid anything for leasing Guantanamo. (Michael Strauss, The leasing of Guantanamo Bay at 126-37 (Westport, Conn.: Praeger Security Int’l 2009); id. at 214-33 (text of the actual lease agreements).)

[7]  The “Cuban Five” are five Cubans in U.S. prisons after convictions for conspiracy to commit murder; conspiracy to commit espionage; conspiracy to commit crimes against the U.S.; use of false identity and documentation; and being unregistered agents of a foreign government. In Cuba, they are regarded as heroic patriots. A future post will discuss their case.

[8]  Gross is a U.S. citizen who was arrested in Havana in December 2009 and later convicted of illegally distributing in Cuba satellite communications equipment as a subcontractor of USAID.

[9]  E.g., Puerto Rican Nationalist: Not Guilty in Bank Heist, N.Y. Times (May 21, 2011), (Puerto Rican nationalist pleads not guilty in 1983 U.S. bank robbery; another suspect in the robbery is believed to be living in Cuba).

[10]  E.g., Howell, Oil Spill Panel’s Chairman Says His Push for Cuba Talks Irked Obama Admin, N.Y. Times (May 17, 2011); Reuters, Cuban Oil Rig Set to Cause Waves in Washington, N.Y. Times (May 17, 2011).

[11]  The two organizations were The Elders, an independent group of eminent global leaders focused on peace building ( and the Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights (

[12]  Reuters, Obama wants “real change” in Cuba before Normal Ties (May 13, 2011).

[13] Ariosto, Cuba to free five more prisoners, CNN, Oct. 21, 2010 (Obama said, “I think that any release of political prisoners, any economic liberalization that takes place in Cuba is positive, positive for Cuban people, but we’ve not yet seen the full results of these promises”); Oppenheimer, Obama unwilling to make new gestures to Cuba without action from Havana, Miami Herald (March 23, 2011)(Obama said, “The Cuban government made some gestures about releasing political prisoners and starting some market-based economies with small business opportunities. (But) we haven’t seen as much follow-through as we would like”); Secretary of State Clinton, Remarks at the 41st Washington Conference on the Americas, (May 11, 2011) (Secretary of State Clinton said the U.S. “could do more  [to improve relations with Cuba] if we saw evidence that there was an opportunity to do so coming from the Cuban side because we want to foster these deeper connections and we want to work for the time when Cuba will enjoy its own transition to democracy, when it can look at its neighbors throughout the hemisphere and the people in Cuba will feel that they, too, are having a chance to choose their leaders, choose their professions, create their businesses, and generally take advantage of what has been a tremendous, great sweep of progress everywhere but Cuba.”); Lopez, The “Low Point” in U.S.-Cuba Relations–One Year Later  Havana Note (May 2011).

Two Women “Shakers” Rock Minneapolis Dinner

On May 19th two of Newsweek’s “150 Women Who Shake the World”[1] highlighted the annual fundraising dinner of Minneapolis’ Advocates for Human Rights[2] that was attended by over 600 people.

One was Dr. Shirin Ebadi, Iran’s first women judge and the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate for 2003 for her courageous work supporting democracy and human rights in her country.[3] Her human rights work began with the Islamic Revolution in 1979 when she was dismissed as a judge because she was a woman. In 1992 she began a private law practice in Iran that concentrated on taking child abuse cases and representing political dissidents, members of the minority Bahai faith, journalists and families murdered by the government. In 2009 threats against her and her family forced them to leave Iran. Dr. Ebadi received Advocates’ highest honor, the Don and Arvonne Fraser Human Rights Award.

Dr. Ebadi was introduced to the audience by the other “Shaker,” Cheryl Thomas, Advocates’ own Director of Women’s Human Rights.[4] Newsweek praised Thomas for her work with local partners around the world writing laws that better protect women and girls. For the last two decades, she has improved legal protections for women suffering from domestic abuse and other forms of violence in places as diverse as Central and Eastern Europe, South Asia, the former Soviet Union, and Morocco. Thomas is an attorney and the founder in 1993 of the Women’s Human Rights program at Advocates.  She previously has been honored as a Changemaker by Minnesota Women’s Press and as one of 15 experts from around the world to participate in a United Nations Expert Group Meeting on good practices in legislation on violence against women.

At the dinner Advocates also granted a Special Recognition Award to the Islamic Resource Group that has been a strong and positive voice for Muslims in Minnesota.[5] The Group seeks to eliminate stereotyping of Muslims through educational programs. Its new video “Muslims in Minnesota” was shown. It documents a Muslim presence in Minnesota going back to the 1880s. Now there are an estimated 140,000 Muslims in the State. They are making an ever growing impact on the state and on the nation–from the first Muslim Congressman to the largest Somali Muslim population in the U.S.

Founded in 1983, Advocates helps individuals fully realize their human rights in the United States and around the world. Its innovative programming has touched the lives of refugees and immigrants, women, ethnic and religious minorities, children, and other marginalized communities whose rights are at risk. The Advocates strengthens accountability mechanisms, raises awareness, and fosters tolerance.

[1] Newsweek, 150 Women Who Shake the World (Mar. 14, 2011).

[2]  Advocates for Human Rights,

[3]  Wikipedia, Sharin Ebadi,

[4]  AHR Press Release, The Advocates’ Cheryl Thomas Named One of 150 “Women Who Shake the World” by Newsweek  (Mar/ 9, 2011),

[5] Islamic Resource Group, ( the video mentioned in the text may be purchased from the Group).

The Ridiculous U.S. Designation of Cuba as a “State Sponsor of Terrorism”

The U.S. State Department, pursuant to legislative authority, annually identifies countries that have “repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism” and designates them as “state sponsors of terrorism.”[1] The U.S. currently designates the following four countries as “state sponsors of terrorism:” Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria.[2] Note that Libya and North Korea, which were previously on the list, are no longer present; these are two stories for others to pursue.

The following is the complete text of the State Department’s rationale for its most recent designation of Cuba:[3]

  • “The Cuban government and official media publicly condemned acts of terrorism by al-Qa’ida and affiliates, while at the same time remaining critical of the U.S. approach to combating international terrorism. Although Cuba no longer supports armed struggle in Latin America and other parts of the world, the Government of Cuba continued to provide physical safe haven and ideological support to members of three terrorist organizations that are designated as Foreign Terrorist Organizations by the United States.”
  • “The Government of Cuba has long assisted members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the National Liberation Army of Colombia (ELN), and Spain’s Basque Homeland and Freedom Organization (ETA), some having arrived in Cuba in connection with peace negotiations with the governments of Colombia and Spain. There was no evidence of direct financial support for terrorist organizations by Cuba in 2009, though it continued to provide safe haven to members of the FARC, ELN, and ETA, providing them with living, logistical, and medical support.”
  • “Cuba cooperated with the United States on a limited number of law enforcement matters. However, the Cuban government continued to permit U.S. fugitives to live legally in Cuba. These U.S. fugitives include convicted murderers as well as numerous hijackers. Cuba permitted one such fugitive, hijacker Luis Armando Peña Soltren, to voluntarily depart Cuba; Peña Soltren was arrested upon his arrival in the United States in October.”
  • “Cuba’s Immigration Department refurbished the passenger inspection area at Jose Marti International Airport and provided new software and biometric readers to its Border Guards.”[4]

One of the factual predicates for the designation of Cuba as a “state sponsor of terrorism” is true: FARC, ELN and ETA have been designated “Foreign Terrorist Organizations” by the State Department, and such designations presumably are well founded. But what has Cuba done with respect to these three organizations? It has provided “physical safe haven and ideological support to [an unspecified number of their] members.” How many members? What were the particulars of the safe haven?  We are not told other than “living, logistical, and medical support.” And some of these members, the State Department concedes, were in Cuba to participate in peace negotiations with the governments of Columbia and Spain. Moreover, by the State Department’s own admission, there “was no evidence of direct financial support [by Cuba] for [these three] . . . organizations in 2009.”

Further qualifications to this basis for the designation were made in the State Department’s prior annual antiterrorism report, which said that “on July 6, 2008, former Cuban President Fidel Castro called on the FARC to release the hostages they were holding [in Colombia] without preconditions.”  Fidel  “also had condemned the FARC’s mistreatment of captives and of their abduction of civilian politicians [in Colombia] who had no role in the armed conflict.”[5]

The other factual predicate for the most recent designation, I submit, is outright insufficient. Cuba, the State Department says, has continued to permit an unspecified number of U.S. fugitives (“convicted murderers and numerous hijackers”) to live legally in Cuba. Even if true, it is difficult to see how this is support of terrorism. Moreover, we are not told how many such fugitives there are and the circumstances of their cases. The State Department does not even call them “terrorists.” Again, the State Department’s prior annual antiterrorism report on Cuba provides details further undermining this charge.  It stated, “The Cuban government continued to permit some U.S. fugitives—including members of U.S. militant groups such as the Boricua Popular, or Macheteros, and the Black Liberation Army to live legally in Cuba. In keeping with its public declaration, the [Cuban] government has not provided safe haven to any new U.S. fugitives wanted for terrorism since 2006.”[6]

The balance of the State Department’s most recent “rationale” is, in fact, complimentary of Cuba. “”The Cuban government and official media publicly condemned acts of terrorism by al-Qa’ida and affiliates.” “Cuba no longer supports armed struggle in Latin America and        other parts of the world.” “Cuba cooperated with the United States on a limited number of law enforcement matters.” “Cuba’s Immigration Department refurbished the passenger inspection area at Jose Marti International Airport and provided new software and biometric readers to its Border Guards.” Another complimentary comment was made in the prior annual report:  there is “no evidence of terrorist-related money laundering or terrorist financing activities in Cuba.”[7]

The designation of Cuba as a “state sponsor of terrorism” has been reviewed by the Congressional Research Service, which said in 2006: Cuba was first designated a state sponsor of terrorism in 1982. Although it has ratified all 12      counterterrorism conventions, it has remained opposed  to the U.S. global war on terrorism. The CIA judged in August 2003 that ‘We have no credible evidence, however, that the Cuban     government has engaged in or directly supported international terrorist operations in the past decade, although our information is insufficient to say beyond a doubt that no collaboration has occurred.'”[8]

Some prior U.S. antiterrorism reports talked about Cuba’s alleged weapons of mass destruction program, but note that there is not any mention of such an alleged program in the most recent report. This canard was also rebutted by the Congressional Research Service: “The Administration’s assertions concerning Cuba’s WMD programs, which some observers dispute, focus on limited biological weapons research and development. Construction at the Juragua nuclear facility (two incomplete Russian nuclear power reactors) was indefinitely postponed in 1997.”[9]

The State Department’s best case for calling Cuba a “state sponsor of terrorism,” upon analysis, is ridiculous. The designation should be rescinded, and the U.S. and Cuba should get down to the real business of engaging in face-to-face, serious negotiations to resolve their many long-accumulated differences.

[1]  Countries determined by the Secretary of State to have repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism are designated pursuant to three laws: section 6(j) of the Export Administration Act, section 40 of the Arms Export Control Act, and section 620A of the Foreign Assistance Act. (U.S. State Dep’t, Country Reports on Terrorism 2009 (Aug. 5, 2010), Such designation results in the following sanctions by the U.S.: (1) a ban on arms-related exports and sales; (2) controls over exports of dual-use items, requiring 30-day Congressional notification for goods or services that could significantly enhance the terrorist-list country’s military capability or ability to support terrorism; (3) prohibitions on economic assistance; and (4) imposition of miscellaneous financial and other restrictions.

[2]  Id.

[3]  Cuba is the oldest member of the list; it has been on this list since January 1, 1982. Id.

[4]  Id.

[5]  U.S. Dep’t of State, Country Reports on Terrorism 2008, ch. 3 (April 30, 2009),

6]  Id.

[7]  Id.

[8] CRS, Globalizing Cooperative Threat Reduction: A Survey of Options (Oct. 5, 2006), See also CRS, Cuba and the State Sponsors of Terrorism List (May 13, 2005),

[9]  Id.

Dr. Rev. Anna Carter Florence’s “Changing Your Mind”

At the Homiletics Festival on May 17th,[1] Dr. Rev. Anna Carter Florence presented a lecture on why people of faith change their mind.

She said she has been doing a lot of thinking on this topic. Here are some of the emerging answers to that question. An individual feels the call of the spirit. An individual recognizes himself or herself in a story of the Bible. An individual commits his or her life to a life in the sacred text. An individual decides that he or she has a script from the sacred text.

When someone is called by God to do a difficult thing, he or she usually balks. But then a sacred script comes to mind, and the individual changes his or her mind.

An individual of faith has to become a witness and give testimony.  Being a witness is not easy. You have to give your account of what happened and your belief as to what it means. There are often conflicting stories or testimonies. Some witnesses are discredited. An individual has to come to a verdict on which version to believe. The person has to stand and say what he or she believes about God.

Such testimony is contrary to the world’s “mean” script. Power. Might makes right. Do not share what you have. Be successful, beautiful, strong.[2]

The emphasis on witnessing and testimony prompt me to make comments drawn from my lawyering days. Being a witness in a U.S. judicial proceeding is not easy. A witness first has to be sworn: “I promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. So help me God.” [3] This oath, in my opinion, should also be kept in mind when a person witnesses to matters of faith. Our law has a well established principle to ensure that a witness is competent to provide testimony on a particular subject. Our law provides for cross-examination to test the validity of a witness’ testimony. Our law also has principles to help a jury or a judge evaluate often conflicting testimony. In a religious context, testimony should be subject to similar procedures. One such procedure is the tradition of discernment in honest discussion with fellow Christians.

[1] The Festival seeks to bring together a wide variety of outstanding preachers and professors of homiletics; to inspire a discourse about preaching, worship, and culture; to engage issues related to church in the 21st century; to engage theologically the practices of preaching and worship; to invite individual preachers to consider various styles and methodologies of preaching; and to inspire preachers in their roles of proclaiming the gospel. Festival of Homiletics (May 16-20, 2011), See Post: Dr. Rev. Anna Carter Florence’s “Skinny-Dip Sermon” (May 19, 2011).

[2]  The discussion of testimony and witnessing is drawn from Florence’s  book Preaching as Testimony. See Post: Dr. Rev. Anna Carter Florence’s “Preaching as Testimony” (April 6, 2011).

[3] Alternatively a witness may affirm to tell the truth without reference to God.

Dr. Rev. Anna Carter Florence’s “Skinny-Dip Sermon”

The Biblical text for this unusually titled sermon by Dr. Rev. Anna Carter Florence[1] was John 21:1-19.[2]

For Christians this is the familiar story of the unsuccessful post-crucifixion fishing trip by Peter and six other disciples. When they returned to shore, a man on the beach told them to go out again and put their net on the other side of the boat. They did and caught a lot of fish. Then one of the disciples recognized the man on the beach as Jesus and said, “It is the Lord.” Peter, who was naked presumably to avoid catching his clothes on the fishing gear, immediately put on his clothes and jumped in the lake. When they all were back on the beach, Jesus had started a charcoal fire to cook fish for breakfast and to warm Peter. After breakfast, Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him. Three times Peter said, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” After each response, Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Finally Jesus said to Peter, “Follow me!”

Florence said this was another example of Peter as the lone ranger, as the one who always changes the subject from Jesus to himself, as the one who forces Jesus to intervene, as the one who always wants to be the best at everything. Peter is always making “I” statements. We all are like this Peter.

Peter’s immediately putting on his clothes and jumping in the lake, at first glance, is strange behavior. If you want to swim, you do not put on clothes. But it is like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden after eating the forbidden fruit and needing to clothe themselves when God cries out for them.[3] No one wants to be naked before God and exposing all of his sins. It is really difficult to be forced to look at your own shortcomings.

And Peter did have shortcomings he did not want exposed. Jesus’ asking Peter three times if he loved Jesus while Peter was warming himself by the fire on the beach was telling Peter that Jesus knew that after his arrest, Peter had denied knowing Jesus three times in response to direct questions, all while Peter was warming himself by a fire in a courtyard.[4]

Yet Jesus said to Peter, “Follow me.” Jesus chose Peter to start the church. And Peter chose to accept this call. It is another example of God’s choosing a flawed human being to do something new and of that human being’s choosing to accept the call of God.

This sermon on May 17th was part of the Festival of Homiletics to bring together a wide variety of outstanding preachers and professors of homiletics; to inspire a discourse about preaching, worship, and culture; to engage issues related to church in the 21st century; to engage theologically the practices of preaching and worship; to invite individual preachers to consider various styles and methodologies of preaching; and to inspire preachers in their roles of proclaiming the gospel.[5]

[1]  See Post: Dr. Rev. Anna Carter Florence’s “Preaching as Testimony” (April 6, 2011).

[2]  Bible, John 21: 1-19.

[3]  Bible, Genesis 3: 10-11.

[4]  Bible, Matthew 26: 69-74; Mark 14: 66-71; Luke 22: 54-60; John 18: 15-18, 25-27.

[5]  Festival of Homiletics (May 16-20, 2011),

Dinner at an Oxford High Table

Worcester College Hall

In the late 1990’s I was a guest for dinner at High Table at Oxford University’s Worcester College. My host was the Provost, Richard Smethurst.

Each of Oxford’s colleges has a High Table in its dining hall. It is a table on a raised platform at the far end of the hall that is reserved for the college’s dons and their guests. The rest of the hall has tables for the students on the floor of the hall. Many English novels set in Oxford or Cambridge have High Table scenes.

On the evening of the dinner I reported to one of Worcester’s Senior Common Rooms, which are rooms exclusively reserved for the dons’ communal gatherings. I was given an academic gown for the evening to wear over my business suit, shirt and tie.

We then marched to the dining hall, and upon our entry all of the students rose. We then proceeded to the High Table and our assigned seats. One of the students said grace (in Latin). Then everyone sat down, and service of the meal began.

The food that evening was excellent, and I said to the Provost that the food was much better than what we had when we sat at the other tables as students. Richard agreed, but said that the students’ food that night also was excellent. He explained that after Worcester had become a coeducational college (long after Richard and I were students), the father of the one of the female students was her dinner guest and was appalled at the poor quality of the food. The next day he made a special gift to Worcester to finance better food for the students once a month. (Once again I wish that I had kept a journal so that I could faithfully report exactly what was served for dinner that night.)

Once the meal was finished, everyone at the High Table rose and marched out of the dining hall while the students stood in homage. We repaired to another Senior Common Room. There snuff was passed around. I did not take any. We also were served port or sauterne wine. I imbibed the port.

The evening was not over. Another Senior Common Room was the next destination. Now it was coffee, brandy and cigars. I did not smoke, but had coffee and brandy.

It was a very pleasant to experience dinner at High Table after so many meals as a student for two years at Worcester seated at the other tables. (Again, if only I had a journal, I could decorate this essay with the details of the witty conversations that evening.)[1]

[1]  See Post: Oxford in New York City (May 27, 2011) (retirement dinner for Richard Smethurst.)

The International Criminal Court: Investigation of Gang-Rape in Libya

The ICC Prosecutor is investigating allegations that the Gaddafi regime is systematically engaged in gang-raping of women with rebel flags.  Men in the regime’s security forces allegedly are using sexual enhancement drugs as a “machete” for these rapes, some of which allegedly occurred in police barracks.[1]

This investigation is part of the Prosecutor’s investigation of possible crimes against humanity and war crimes in Libya since February 15, 2011. This situation was referred to the ICC by the U.N. Security Council.[2]

[1]  CNN, ICC to investigate institutionalized gang-rape of women in Libya, (May 17, 2011),; Mackey, Libyan Woman Describes Rape by Qaddafi Forces, (May 16, 2011),; Fahim, Claims of Wartime Rapes Unsettle and Divide Libyans, N.Y. Times (June 19, 2011).

[2]  See Post: The International Criminal Court: Introduction (April 28, 2011); Post: The International Criminal Court: Investigations and Prosecutions (April 28, 2011); Post: The International Criminal Court: Libya Investigation Status (May 8, 2011); Post: The International Criminal Court and the Obama Administration (May 13, 2011); Post: The International Criminal Court: Three Libyan Arrest Warrants Sought (May 16, 2011).

Oxford in New York City

Richard Smethurst

Two months ago I attended a dinner in New York City in honor of Richard Smethurst, [1] the retiring Provost of Oxford University’s Worcester College.[2]

Richard and I were students together at Worcester, 1961-63, and studied together (or revised together, as they say at Oxford) for the final examinations (or Schools in Oxford parlance) in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE). Richard recalled that our economics tutor told us and the other PPE students at the College that when he “took Schools” he had answered the first four questions on the examination paper to show the examiners that he knew everything. Richards also remembered that I thought our tutor’s suggestion was stupid or silly and instead said we should select the four questions out of the 12 to 15 on the paper for which we were best prepared.

Richard and I then embarked on our own revision together in the spring of 1963. In that effort I prepared the answer to a possible question on Public Finance that luckily turned up on the actual examination. Richard and I both answered that question, and we both received Firsts (the highest mark).

In New York I recounted this story in after-dinner comments to the group and joked that I was responsible for Richard’s receiving a First.

Also at the dinner was Bill Bradley, the former basketball player and U.S. Senator, who was a Rhodes Scholar and PPE student at Worcester, 1965-68, and who had Smethurst as his economics tutor. [3] Bradley told the group that while he was in the Senate, Smethust spoke at a dinner in Washington, D.C. and said that Bradley was the best economics student he had ever had . . . who became a U.S. Senator. Left unsaid at the earlier dinner, Bradley told us in New York, was the fact that he was Smethurst’s only economics student who had become a U.S. Senator.

At my dinner table were Bill Sachs, who was the brother of Daniel M. Sachs, and Dan’s widow, Joan Sachs Shaw. Dan was an all-Ivy League football player at Princeton University and a Rhodes Scholar at Worcester, 1960-63. Dan played for the Oxford University rugby team, but in 1961 was”aced” out of playing against the Cambridge University team for the all important “Oxford Blue” honor when the Oxford captain prevailed upon Pete Dawkins to return to the team for the Cambridge match. (Dawkins was a running back for Army who in 1958 won the Heisman Trophy for the best football player in the U.S. and who was a Rhodes Scholar PPE student at another Oxford college, 1958-62.[4])

Dan Sachs was a friend of mine during those Oxford days, and In June 1963 he was my best man when Mary Alyce and I were married in Oxford.

After Dan’s untimely death in 1967, friends established in his honor a Sachs Scholarship for a Princeton graduate to attend Worcester College.[5] The most famous Sachs Scholar so far is Elena Kagan, now U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice.[6]

[1]  Wikipedia, Richard Smethurst,

[2]  Worcester College, University of Oxford,

[3]  Wikipedia, Bill Bradley,

[4]  Pete Dawkins,

[5]  Princeton University, Daniel M. Sachs Class of 1960 Scholarship,

[6]  Wikipedia, Elena Kagan,

The International Criminal Court: Three Libyan Arrest Warrants Sought

Today the ICC’s Prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, announced that his Office had applied to the Pre-Trial Chamber of the Court for the issuance of arrest warrants against Col. Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam, and intelligence chief Abdullah al-Sanussi.[1]

The charges are crimes against humanity by murder and persecution against civilians in Libya since February 15, 2011. They are a result of the Prosecutor’s investigations into this situation, pursuant to the U.N. Security Council’s referral of the matter to the ICC.[2]

The Prosecutor said that his office had evidence showing that Col Gaddafi had “personally, ordered attacks on unarmed Libyan civilians.” The evidence also shows, the Prosecutor said, that Gaddafi’s forces “attacked Libyan civilians in their homes and in the public space, repressed demonstrations with live ammunition, used heavy artilleryagainst participants in funeral processions, and placed snipers to kill those leaving mosques after the prayers.”

The evidence also shows, according to the Prosecutor, that such persecution is ongoing and that Gaddafi forces ” prepare lists with names of alleged dissidents,” who “are being arrested, put into prisons in Tripoli, tortured and made to disappear.”

These crimes, added the Prosecutor, had been, and were being, committed with the goal of preserving Gaddafi’s “absolute authority” under “a systematic policy of suppressing any challenge to his authority.” The evidence also shows that Gaddafi himself gave the orders, that his son organized the recruitment of mercenaries to carry out the orders and that Sanussi participated in the attacks against demonstrators.

We now await the decision of the Pre-Trial Chamber on the application for these arrest warrants.

[1]  BBC News, ICC prosecutor seeks warrant for Gaddafi (May 16, 2011),; Simons, International Court Prosecutor Seeks Warrants for Qaddafi, N.Y. Times (May 16, 2011),; Borger, Gaddafis named as war crimes suspects by international criminal court, Guardian (May 16, 2011),; ICC, Statement: ICC Prosecutor Press Conference on Libya (May 16, 2011),; Human Rights Watch, Libya: ICC Prosecutor Names First Suspects (May 16, 2011),

[2]  See Post: The International Criminal Court: Introduction (April 28, 2011); Post: The International Criminal Court: Investigations and Prosecutions (April 28, 2011); Post: The International Criminal Court: Libya Investigation Status (May 8, 2011); Post: The International Criminal Court and the Obama Administration (May 13, 2011).

The International Criminal Court: The Crime of Aggression

As previously mentioned, the Rome Statute granted the ICC jurisdiction over the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.[1]

In addition, the Rome Statute also assigned “the crime of aggression” to the ICC. But the diplomats at the Rome Conference that drafted the Statute could not agree on a definition of this crime. As a result, the Statute’s Article 5(2) provided that the Court could exercise jurisdiction over this crime only after there was an amendment to the Statute “defining the crime and setting out the conditions under which the Court shall exercise jurisdiction.”

In June 2010 the Review Conference of the States Parties adopted an amendment to the Rome Statute to add a definition of the crime of aggression.[2]  Amazingly the U.S. news media had virtually no coverage of this important Conference or its adoption of the amendment for the crime of aggression.

The amendment states that “aggression” means “the planning, preparation, initiation or execution, by a person in a position effectively to exercise control over or to direct the political or military action of a State, of an act of aggression which, by its character, gravity and scale, constitutes a manifest violation of the Charter of the United Nations.” This makes clear that the crime applies only to a country’s highest officials.

The term “act of aggression” too is defined in the amendment as “the use of armed force by a State against the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of another State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Charter of the United Nations . . . [including]

  • (a) The invasion or attack by the armed forces of a State of the territory of another State, or any military occupation, however temporary, resulting from such invasion or attack, or any annexation by the use of force of the territory of another State or part thereof;
  • (b)  Bombardment by the armed forces of a State against the territory of another  State or the use of any weapons by a State against the territory of another State;
  • (c)  The blockade of the ports or coasts of a State by the armed forces of another State;
  • (d)  An attack by the armed forces of a State on the land, sea or air forces, or marine and air fleets of another State;
  • (e)  The use of armed forces of one State which are within the territory of another State with the agreement of the receiving State, in contravention of the conditions provided for in the agreement or any extension of their presence in such territory beyond the termination of the agreement;
  • (f)  The action of a State in allowing its territory, which it has placed at the disposal of another State, to be used by that other State for perpetrating an act of aggression against a third State;
  • (g)  The sending by or on behalf of a State of armed bands, groups, irregulars or mercenaries, which carry out acts of armed force against another State of such gravity as to amount to the acts listed above, or its substantial involvement therein.”

The amendment also has “statements of understandings” of the scope of these provisions. One of them provides that “in establishing whether an act of aggression constitutes a manifest violation of the Charter of the United Nations, the three components of character, gravity and scale must be sufficient to justify a “manifest” determination. No one component can be significant enough to satisfy the manifest standard by itself.”

This amendment, however, will not take effect unless and until 30 States Parties have ratified or accepted the amendment.  In addition, the Court cannot exercise such jurisdiction unless and until there has been an affirmative vote of two-thirds of the Assembly of States Parties to approve the amendment after January 1, 2017. As a result, the amendment will not be circulated for ratification unless and until there is such an affirmative vote after January 1, 2017.

Moreover, the amendment will only apply to crimes of aggression that were committed one year after the ratification or acceptance of the amendment by 30 States Parties. In addition, there are the following other conditions or limitations on the ICC for this crime:

  • ICC States Parties that ratify the amendment have the option of filing a declaration with the ICC that they do not accept aggression jurisdiction.
  • Another provision will prevent the Court from exercising jurisdiction over nationals of non-States Parties or persons for alleged aggression on their territories.
  • Also, once jurisdiction is activated, non-Security Council situations will need to be approved by the entire Pre-Trial Division of the Court.

The amendment also included a mandatory review of the provision seven years after coming into effect in order to examine the performance of the Court with respect to the crime and to make any necessary changes to the provision.

Many of these conditions or limitations on jurisdiction over the crime of aggression were the result of lobbying at the Review Conference by the U.S. observers.

As a result of these conditions or limitations as well as the crime’s definition itself, most believe that U.S. officials could never be prosecuted for the crime of aggression because the U.S. is not a party to the Rome Statute and even if it became a party it could declare that it did not accept the aggression jurisdiction.  Indeed, immediately after the Review Conference, U.S. State Department Legal Advisor, Harold Koh, stated that the U.S. successfully had pressed at the Conference for the addition of safeguards that “ensure total protection for our Armed Forces and other U.S. nationals” with respect to this crime.[3]

Finally, there are many who believe it is highly unlikely that the ICC ever will prosecute anyone for this crime for similar reasons.[4]

[1] Post: The international Criminal Court: Introduction (April 28, 2011).

[2] ICC Review Conference, Rome Statute Amendment on the Crime of Aggression (RC/Res.6 June 11, 2010),; AMICC, Report on the Review Conference of the International Criminal Court (June 25, 2010),;; Oosterveld, Assessing the ICC conference, (June 13, 2010),; Van Schaack, Understanding Aggression (June 24, 2010),; Van Schaack, Understanding Aggression II (June 26, 2010),; Van Schaack, Question on the ICC aggression filter (July 24, 2010),; Van Schaack, The Aggression Negotiations (Sept. 2, 2010),  (As previously mentioned, under Article 5(1) (d) of the Rome Statute, the ICC has had jurisdiction over the “crime of aggression.” However, it could not exercise such jurisdiction because the states that were negotiating the Statute could not agree on the definition of that crime. Instead, under Article 5(2), a future definition of that crime was to be developed that is “consistent with the relevant provisions of the [U.N.] Charter,” and especially its Chapter VII regarding the Security Council.)

[3] U.S. Dep’t of State, U.S. Engagement with The International Criminal Court and The Outcome of The Recently Concluded Review Conference (June 15, 2010),

[4]  Murphy, Gulliver No Longer Quivers: U.S. Views on and the Future of the International Criminal Court, 44 Int’l Lawyer 1123, 1127-32 (2010).