Quackers quaketh "Quack," quackly.

I just finished The Fog of War, which had been recommended to my by Curzon of Coming Anarchy. A brilliant documentary of Robert Strange McNamara which puts Vietnam in the context of his early career. Highly recommended. The parallels in mannerism to Donald Rumsfeld are striking.

Meanwhile, at The Duck of Minerva, Dr. Dan Nexon and I have entered a discussion following his post, “States of exception (part vi)“.

Dr. Nexon argued that

no detainee – even if suspected of war crimes such as the murder of civilians – may be subjected to torture, corporal punishment, or humiliating or degrading treatment

The basis for this appears to be the United Nations Convention Against Torture, which reads (Article II, Section 2):

No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.

However, UNCAT appears to be overridden by the Charter of the United Nations, specifically articles 51 and 103

Article LI, which guarantees the right of self defense

Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defence shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security.

And Article CIII, which asserts the primacy of the Charter over all other treaties:

In the event of a conflict between the obligations of the Members of the United Nations under the present Charter and their obligations under any other international agreement, their obligations under the present Charter shall prevail.

The UN Charter Against Terrorism absolutely forbids torture.
The UN Charter absolutely affirms the right of self defense.
Absolutely forbidding torture is an abandonment of self-defense


The UN Charter absolutely trumps the UN Charter Against Terrorism.

(Long-time tdaxp readers will not I asked Big Cheese a similar question).