March 17th, 2012
08:13 AM ET

Opinion: Soldier accused of shooting rampage: Not PTSD alone

Editor's Note: Dr. Harry Croft is a former Army doctor who has evaluated more than 7,000 veterans with PTSD.  He is medical director of the San Antonio Psychiatric Research Center, has been in private practice for 35 years and just released his new book, I Always Sit With My Back to The Wall (written with coauthor, Reverend Dr. Chrys Parker).

By Harry Croft - Special to CNN

The shocking news of an American soldier allegedly going on a shooting rampage and taking the lives of 16 Afghanistan civilians has captivated the world this week. The question everyone is trying to answer: What caused him to snap and commit such a heinous act?

Details are slowly emerging, but as a former Army doctor and someone who has evaluated more than 7,000 veterans with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), I believe a combination of factors pushed the unnamed soldier over the edge.

This soldier was more than likely suffering from PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), but these conditions alone would not have caused him to go on a killing spree. Even in the most severe cases I’ve seen in my 30 years of research and treating patients, I have never seen or heard of anyone with PTSD alone doing such a thing. Yes, PTSD typically brings on symptoms of anger, irritability, and even at times, rage.  It causes a person to feel distant and detached, easily startled or hyper-vigilant. The person might be unsociable and have trouble expressing his or her emotions. But killing 16 people is not a result of combat-related PTSD alone.    FULL POST

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Topics: Afghanistan • Law • Military
March 14th, 2012
02:57 PM ET

Warlords beyond Lubanga and Kony

Editor's Note: Sharanjeet Parmar is the Democratic Republic of the Congo Program Director at the International Center for Transitional Justice.

By Sharanjeet Parmar - Special to CNN

In the past several days, the world's attention has been grabbed by warlords accused of brutal recruitment of child soldiers in Africa. From the campaign focused on Joseph Kony it turned to the first judgment of the International Criminal Court (ICC) against Thomas Lubanga, convicted of the recruitment of child soldiers in the north-eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Lubanga could face life imprisonment after being found guilty of recruiting children under 15 for his Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC), using them actively on the frontline.

However, for the millions of victims of the country’s successive wars, Lubanga is just one of many who are responsible for crimes on an astonishing scale. Congolese authorities must end the widespread impunity enjoyed by those who remain in positions of power in the government and military or violence and instability are likely to continue for years to come. As one of the largest aid donors to the country, the United States is in a strong position to pressure the Congolese government to take more meaningful and effective action to reform its military and ensure war criminals are brought to justice. FULL POST

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Topics: Africa • Law
The Obama Administration and targeted killings: “Trust us”
Attorney General Eric Holder.
March 7th, 2012
01:15 PM ET

The Obama Administration and targeted killings: “Trust us”

Editor's Note: Micah Zenko is a fellow for conflict prevention at the Council on Foreign Relations, where he blogs. You can also follow him on TwitterThe following is reprinted with the permission of

By Micah

Over the past few years, I have been fortunate to speak with a number of dedicated and thoughtful officials in the executive branch about U.S. targeted killing policies. Due to the highly-classified nature of these policies and operations that involve intelligence collection and analysis, these officials are appropriately limited in what they can reveal about the rationale, process, and scope of who the U.S. government can kill.

Nevertheless, over the course of these informal discussions and interviews, two common threads emerged. First, “There are terrorists plotting to kill Americans, and those threats must be dealt with.” Second, “I can’t get into anything operational, but I can assure you that there is a careful and deliberate process by which individuals are deemed to be threats based on strict criteria.” Without a security clearance to corroborate and verify these statements, the defense of U.S. targeted killing policies boils down to “trust me.” FULL POST

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Topics: Covert Operations • Law • President Obama
Evaluating Holder's speech on targeted killing
March 5th, 2012
05:00 PM ET

Evaluating Holder's speech on targeted killing

Editor’s Note: Matthew Waxman is Associate Professor at Columbia Law School, and he is also a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and member of the Hoover Institution Task Force on National Security and Law.

By Matthew Waxman – Special to CNN

On Monday, Attorney General Eric Holder delivered a long-anticipated address providing the Obama Administration’s legal rationale for targeted killings of certain al Qaeda suspects - even U.S. citizens.  Ever since last fall when the it reportedly killed American-born Anwar al-Awlaki - an al Qaeda terrorist plotter and propagandist - with a drone strike in Yemen, the Obama Administration has faced strong pressure to explain its legal basis for such actions.

Holder’s remarks are unlikely to satisfy either the most vocal civil libertarians or security-hawks, but they reflect this administration’s pragmatic approach toward national security law issues.

Read on Security Clearance Blog: Not 'assassination' to target Americans in terror hunt

Holder’s remarks, which also reasserted the administration’s need for flexible discretion to use both military and civilian courts to prosecute some al Qaeda suspects, is the latest in a series of public speeches from senior Obama Administration legal and counterterrorism officials (including Defense Department General Counsel Jeh Johnson, White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, and State Department legal adviser Harold Koh).  A common theme of these presentations is that the United States remains at war with al Qaeda and its allies - a war authorized by Congress in 2001 - but that U.S. war-waging powers such as lethal force, detention, military commissions, and interrogation are bounded by both international and domestic law.  FULL POST

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Topics: Covert Operations • Law • Military
A better world for farmed animals
Caged battery hens in a chicken farm in Catania, Sicily on October 29, 2005. (Getty Images)
February 25th, 2012
03:00 PM ET

A better world for farmed animals

Editor's Note: Jeff Mackey is a staff writer for the PETA Foundation. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) works to promote animal rights and mitigate cruelty toward animals.

By Jeff Mackey - Special to CNN

The announcement by fast-food giant McDonald's that it will require its U.S. pork suppliers to eliminate the use of gestation crates - 2-foot-wide cages designed to virtually immobilize pigs for the entirety of their pregnancies - is but one recent sign of the growing worldwide recognition that farmed animals are not mere machines for food production but living, feeling beings with concerns worthy of our consideration.

Because McDonald's is a leading restaurant chain, its decision to buy only from producers that don't use gestation crates is notable, but the company is in some ways behind the curve on this issue. The European Union (EU) has already banned the use of the crates, as have several U.S. states, and other notable companies, including HormelSmithfield Foods, and Maple Leaf Farms (the largest pork producer in Canada), had already begun the process of phasing them out.


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Topics: Animals • Law
‘We the People’ loses appeal with people around the world
February 6th, 2012
03:34 PM ET

‘We the People’ loses appeal with people around the world

An interesting tidbit from The New York Times:

In 1987, on the Constitution’s bicentennial, Time magazine calculated that “of the 170 countries that exist today, more than 160 have written charters modeled directly or indirectly on the U.S. version.”

A quarter-century later, the picture looks very different. “The U.S. Constitution appears to be losing its appeal as a model for constitutional drafters elsewhere,” according to a new study by David S. Law of Washington University in St. Louis and Mila Versteeg of the University of Virginia. FULL POST

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Topics: Global • Law
Animals cannot be "slaves"
January 31st, 2012
01:59 PM ET

Animals cannot be "slaves"

Editor's Note: Rick Berman is the Executive Director of the Center for Consumer Freedom, a nonprofit coalition supported by restaurants, food companies and consumers to promote personal responsibility and protect consumer choices. This article is written in response to the op-ed Can animals be slaves? published on GPS last week.

By Rick Berman - Special to CNN

When People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) announced that it was suing SeaWorld under the 13th Amendment of the Constitution for “enslaving” killer whales, the reaction was predictable: Derision. After all, it’s PETA - the same people who claim giving a kid a hamburger is child abuse. It’s just another media stunt, right?

In fact, we should be quite concerned about animal rights activism in the courts.

A longtime goal of the animal rights movement is to gain “standing” in court for animals. Under current law, animals are considered property. If you don’t feed your dog for a week, he can’t sue you - though, fortunately, you can be charged with animal cruelty. That’s because animals’ welfare is protected under law, even if animals don’t have the right to sue. FULL POST

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Topics: Animals • Law
Can animals be slaves?
Killer whale 'Tilikum' appears during its performance in its show 'Believe' at SeaWorld on March 30, 2011 in Orlando, Florida. 'Tilikum' is back to public performance March 30, the first time the six-ton whale has performed since killing 40-year-old trainer Dawn Brancheau at the marine park on February 24 2010. (Getty Images)
January 26th, 2012
05:00 PM ET

Can animals be slaves?

Editor's Note: Jennifer O’Connor is a staff writer for the PETA Foundation. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) works to promote animal rights and mitigate cruelty toward animals.

By Jennifer O'Connor – Special to CNN

The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits the condition of slavery. But it does not refer to a "person" or any particular class of victims.

So, can animals be slaves?

In a precedent-setting case, PETA, three marine-mammal experts and two former orca (killer whale) trainers are suing SeaWorld on behalf of five orcas who were taken from their home by force, locked up, put to work and never allowed to leave - the very definition of slavery.

Corky, Kasatka and Ulises went from exploring the vast seas with their families to a sterile tank barely larger than their own bodies at SeaWorld San Diego. Tilikum and Katina float listlessly between performances at SeaWorld Orlando. Now all five orcas will get their day in court.  FULL POST

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Topics: Animals • Human Rights • Law
Can you sue a company for causing global warming?
January 11th, 2012
11:25 AM ET

Can you sue a company for causing global warming?

Editor's Note: This is an edited version of an article from the ‘Oxford Analytica Daily Brief’. Oxford Analytica is a global analysis and advisory firm that draws on a worldwide network of experts to advise its clients on their strategy and performance.

A community of about 400 Inuit people living on a narrow, low-lying strip in north-westAlaskahas reopened its lawsuit against over 20 of the world's largest oil and gas companies, including ExxonMobil, BP and Shell. Kivalina villagers are seeking damages for property loss, which they say were caused by the companies' contributions to global warming. This case has again raised the potential for climate change liability in private and public law. FULL POST

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Topics: Climate • Law
January 6th, 2012
09:49 AM ET

Abrams: Don't kill Mubarak

Editor's NoteElliott Abrams is former senior director for the Near East and deputy national security adviser handling Middle East affairs in the George W. Bush administration. He is now a senior fellow for Middle East studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, where he writes the blog Pressure Points.

By Elliott

Among the many problems Egypt faces today, what to do about former president Hosni Mubarak may not seem high on the list. Writing a new constitution, electing a president, protecting non-Muslim groups like the Copts, and salvaging the economy might seem far more consequential. But I doubt they are.

Prosecutors are demanding the death sentence for Mubarak, Reuters reports:

Egyptian prosecutors have demanded the death sentence for former president Hosni Mubarak and other defendants including his two sons and the former interior minister for their role in the killing of protesters in the uprising that swept him from power.

What is the argument for the death penalty? Reuters continues:

Many Egyptians hope the trial will heal some of the scars of Mubarak’s autocratic rule and help the country find stability after nearly a year of political turmoil under the military generals who replaced him in power.

But executing Mubarak will not heal any scars —still less would executing his family; it will create new ones and leave Egypt farther from stability.It would be an act of vengeance, not of justice, but even if some Egyptians think it just (because there were certainly myriad human rights abuses during Mubarak’s reign of thirty years, including killings) it would leave Egypt far worse off. It would have the “new” Egypt begin its political life with vengeance, with one of the first important official acts of the new regime being executions. FULL POST

Topics: Egypt • Law
Why Obama can't close Guantánamo
(Getty Images)
December 15th, 2011
01:30 PM ET

Why Obama can't close Guantánamo

Editor's Note: Carol Rosenberg is a reporter for The Miami Herald who covers the U.S. Navy base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

By Carol Rosenberg, Foreign Affairs

The last two prisoners to leave the U.S. detention center at Guantánamo Bay were dead. On February 1, Awal Gul, a 48-year-old Afghan, collapsed in the shower and died of an apparent heart attack after working out on an exercise machine. Then, at dawn one morning in May, Haji Nassim, a 37-year-old man also from Afghanistan, was found hanging from bed linen in a prison camp recreation yard.

In both cases, the Pentagon conducted swift autopsies and the U.S. military sent the bodies back to Afghanistan for traditional Muslim burials. These voyages were something the Pentagon had not planned for either man: each was an "indefinite detainee," categorized by the Obama administration's 2009 Guantánamo Review Task Force as someone against whom the United States had no evidence to convict of a war crime but had concluded was too dangerous to let go. Today, this category of detainees makes up 46 of the last 171 captives held at Guantánamo. The only guaranteed route out of Guantánamo these days for a detainee, it seems, is in a body bag. FULL POST

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Topics: Law • President Obama • Terrorism
Debate: Immunity or prosecution for rogue leaders?
Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
November 25th, 2011
12:45 PM ET

Debate: Immunity or prosecution for rogue leaders?

Editor's Note: Alastair Smith is a professor of politics at NYU, and is co-author of The Dictator's Handbook: Why Bad Behavior is Almost Always Good Politics. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Alastair Smith.

By Alastair Smith – Special to CNN

Despite its good intentions, the International Criminal Court and other venues for prosecution of former leaders inhibits political reform. After 33 years in power, President Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen finally stepped down. His resignation follows ten months of protest, his severe injury in a mortar attack on the Presidential Palace in June and three abortive attempts to have him resign. The difference this time was that he was granted immunity from prosecution.

One of the major arguments for harsh punishments is their deterrent value. Unfortunately, in the international arena the threat of punishment has precisely the opposite effect. As long as they stay in power, leaders are immune from prosecution. The international community typically turns a blind eye to their actions under the guise of sovereignty. And even when they register their protest, there is little they can do against a sitting incumbent. Yet once deposed, the ire of domestic and international audiences is heaped upon former leaders. Given these incentives, it is small wonder that leaders take any and every gamble to stay in power. This might not be everyone’s idea of justice but there are undoubtedly numerous widows and orphans in Yemen who wish immunity had been granted 10 months ago.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of Alastair Smith.

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Topics: Law • Yemen
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