The Iran Nuclear Deal Isn’t Just a Good Idea — It’s the Law

English: The United Nations Security Council C...
English: The United Nations Security Council Chamber in New York, also known as the Norwegian Room (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On May 8, President Donald Trump announced US withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, colloquially known as “the Iran nuclear deal.”

While that decision has come under criticism for being both a really bad idea and a severe betrayal of trust, both of which are true, it’s worth noting that the US withdrawal is also a breach of treaty obligations, and that such obligations are, per the US Constitution and co-equal with it, “the Supreme Law of the Land.”

But wait — aren’t defenders of the withdrawal correct in noting that the JCPOA isn’t a treaty at all? Yes, they are, although some err in referring to it as an “executive order.” It isn’t even that. It’s merely a “State Department Political Commitment” which can be wadded up and thrown in the trash any time …

… except that the treaty in question is not the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. It’s the United Nations Charter, delivered to the US Senate by President Harry Truman and duly ratified by that body on July 28, 1945 by a vote of 89-2.

Under Article 25 of the UN Charter, “members of the United Nations agree to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council.”

On July 20, 2015, the members of that body, including the United States, unanimously endorsed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in UN Security Council Resolution 2231.

It seems unlikely that Samantha Power, US ambassador to the UN at the time, didn’t know what she was committing the US government to when she voted for the resolution rather than exercising the US’s veto power on the Security Council. After all, the resolution itself contains text “[u]nderscoring that Member States are obligated under Article 25 of the Charter of the United Nations to accept and carry out the Security Council’s decisions.”

Was the JCPOA a “good deal?” Not especially so for the  Iranians. Even though they apparently had no nuclear weapons program after 2004 at the latest, and even though they were apparently in full compliance with their obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (unlike the US), they made a bunch of concessions to US demagoguery (and demagoguery from Israel, an ACTUAL rogue nuclear state) in order to get some of their own money (seized by the US government) back and get some sanctions (which should never have existed) lifted.

For the US government, it was an excellent deal, a face-saving way of hitting the reset button on nearly 40 years of failed policy vis a vis Iran. By letting Iran rejoin “the civilized world,” the US received the same opportunity — an opportunity that Trump just blew by way of loudly warning the world that the US government can’t be trusted to keep its word. Or honor its treaty obligations.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.


Gina Haspel: Torturers Should be Punished, not Promoted

Water and rack in the torture museum in the Ca...
Water and rack in the torture museum in the Castle of the Counts, Ghent, Belgium: The victim is forced water and then stretched out. Useful knowledge for the CIA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

US president Donald Trump should never have nominated Gina Haspel to head the Central Intelligence Agency.

When Haspel offered to withdraw her name from consideration, as the Washington Post reports she did during a White House meeting in early May, her offer should have been gratefully accepted.

The US Senate should vote against confirming her appointment — ideally, by a margin of 100-0. Each “yes” vote will darken the stain on America’s honor represented by Haspel’s career thus far.

Gina Haspel doesn’t belong at the head of the CIA. She doesn’t belong in the CIA at all. Nor does she belong in any other position of government authority.

Gina Haspel belongs in prison.

As “Chief of Base” at a secret CIA prison in Thailand called “Cat’s Eye,” Haspel oversaw the torture, including “waterboarding,” of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, suspected mastermind of the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole in Yemen.

Later, as Chief of Staff to Jose Rodriquez, head of the CIA’s National Clandestine Service, Haspel drafted a cable ordering destruction of videotapes documenting the torture of al-Nashiri and of another prisoner, Abu Zubaydah.

So far as I can tell, neither of the above claims is disputed by Haspel or by anyone else.

Torture is a crime under both US law and international law. And in the form of “waterboarding,” it is a crime for which the US executed six Japanese generals after World War 2.

United States Code, Title 18 §2340A provides for a fine and up to 20 years imprisonment for torture not resulting in death.

As for the videotapes, US Code 18 §1519 mandates similar punishment for one who “knowingly alters, destroys, mutilates, conceals, covers up, falsifies, or makes a false entry in any record, document, or tangible object with the intent to impede, obstruct, or influence the investigation or proper administration of any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of the United States …”

I can’t seem to find the parts of those code sections where the perpetrator is to be promoted to the top position in the Central Intelligence Agency.

Maybe Haspel was “small fry.” Perhaps she only oversaw torture of one person in one place. Perhaps drafting that cable ordering the evidence destroyed was just a coincidental assignment.

But not having caught the bigger fish yet is no excuse for throwing this one back, let alone promoting her to head the very organization under whose auspices she committed her crimes.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.


CFPB Makes War on the Poor in the name of “Protecting” Them

Hundreds (RGBStock)

Daniel Press of the Competitive Enterprise Institute calls the US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s name “the ultimate misnomer.” He’s right. The “Protection” part only makes sense in the manner of mob racket slang: “Nice loan operation you got there. Be a shame if anything happened to it.”

The CFPB’s latest attack on the poor is a rule putting new restrictions on much-maligned “payday lenders.” Or, to come at it from the other direction, new restrictions on the ability of people to borrow money.

If you’ve ever lived on the low end of the income scale (and yes, I have), chances are you’ve run into unexpected, even emergency, situations where you need cash and need it now. If you’re on that low end of the income scale, you probably don’t have a credit card, or substantial savings, or the ability to take out a bank loan (you may not even have a bank account).

Back when I was in that kind of situation (I distinctly recall once needing to pay for a prescription for a sick toddler, with no health insurance to take the edge off the price) the first-line solution was the local pawn shop. Take something that’s worth a little money — your television, for example — get the money you need, then pay it back ASAP or over time, with interest, and get your TV back. Or, if you can’t manage the payments, it eventually gets sold.

Pawn shops still exist, but I suspect payday lending has cut into their business quite a bit. If you’re employed and get a regular paycheck, a payday lender will advance you some money, which you pay back with interest.

Yes, it’s high interest by comparison to, say, a home mortgage. Yes, some people get dragged down into recurring cycles of borrow and pay. Being poor sucks. Believe me, I know.

But CFPB’s “solution” is far worse than the alleged problem. Their rules just make it harder for you to get a loan, as if some Washington bureaucrat knows your finances and your needs better than you do. You and that bureaucrat have a lot in common: Both of you want to run your life.

People who need money will do what they have to do to get that money. The bottom line of these rules is that CFPB would rather you went to a loan shark, or robbed a liquor store, or sold your children into sex slavery, than paid interest rates they consider too high.

The only worthwhile rule pertaining to payday lending (or any other kind of lending) is to require that lenders be clear and truthful about their terms. Beyond that, the decision to borrow is rightfully yours, not CFPB’s.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.