The chilling effect of lawfare

The attempts to elevate the Gitmo prisoners to full US citizenship status, after elevating them to Geneva Convention official POW status, are one front of many in the use – or misuse – of law to fight an ideological battle. Mark Steyn described another in
The vanishing jihad exposés.

So why would the Cambridge University Press, one of the most respected publishers on the planet, absolve Khalid bin Mahfouz, his family, his businesses and his charities to a degree that neither (to pluck at random) the U.S., French, Albanian, Swiss and Pakistani governments would be prepared to do?

Because English libel law overwhelmingly favors the plaintiff. And like many other big-shot Saudis, Sheikh Mahfouz has become very adept at using foreign courts to silence American authors – in effect, using distant jurisdictions to nullify the First Amendment. He may be a wronged man, but his use of what the British call “libel chill” is designed not to vindicate his good name but to shut down the discussion, which is why Cambridge University Press made no serious attempt to mount a defense.

The target here is censorship of unpleasant ideas. Another target where foreign courts are selected to cast judgment is in the matter of ‘war crimes’ to taint certain politictal and military leaders. The underlying problem in lawfare is that the law is not uniformly certain. A man of good sense cannot predict the way some legal matter will turn out because there is no standard that is uniformly applied. Words only mean what someone wants them to mean in a particular circumstance.

Lawfare is poking and prodding at the fringes of common sense and understood morality and justice in order to trim them back like a fungus attacking a tree. It is death in little steps. It uses the law against itself and the weaknesses of its practitioners to destroy the edifice upon which they base their livelihood. Social structure is only a victim of collateral damage in this war.

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