Magna Carta

2

June 15th 1215: Magna Carta sealed

On this day in 1215, King John of England put his ‘Great Seal’ on the Magna Carta (‘The Great Charter’) at Runnymede. The charter required the King to respect the liberties of the barons and, crucially, stated that everybody, even the king, is subject to the law. The Magna Carta was the result of political crisis, as the feudal barons had rebelled against the king - even capturing London - and forced him to accept the charter to ensure their privileges and curtail royal power. However, the charter’s declaration of equality before the law and right to a fair trial makes it a vital piece of the history of British democracy.  It was certainly limited, as its famous provisions securing legal rights of ‘free men’ would only have applied to an elite few. The Magna Carta also failed to cease hostilities between King John and the barons, as John’s reluctance to implement the charter led to civil war between the groups. The charter was largely rewritten by various monarchs through the years, though some of the original clauses remain law today, making it a key part of Britain’s uncodified constitution. Despite its limitations, the Magna Carta remains a crucial piece of British history, marking a defence against tyrannical power and assurance of individual liberties.

800 years ago today

The worst global terrorism campaign under way right now is Obama’s global assassination campaign. The drone campaign. Notice that there’s a debate in the United States when he decides to murder Americans like al-Awlaki; is that legitimate or not?

What about the other people? The people that are being murdered are suspects.

Go back 800 years again to Magna Carta. We’re going to commemorate its 800th anniversary next year, probably morn its disappearance. The core concept developed in Magna Carta was what we call presumption of innocence. And what it stated is that a free man cannot be subjected to state punishment without due process, without trial by a jury of peers. Now, free man was a very limited concept in the 13th century. Of course it excluded women, it excluded people who weren’t free, and so on. It gradually expanded over the centuries. So it’s embedded in the constitution, also with limits, the 14th Amendment, other limits. But now it’s being contracted. The drone campaign eliminates presumption of innocence.

The way it works is, Obama and his advisers get together Tuesday morning and decide who they are going to kill that day. The concept ‘guilty’ means Obama decided to murder you. That’s a regression that goes back 800 years. That’s pretty serious.

And what’s more serious is it’s not discussed. The only thing that’s discussed is the killing of Americans. Are Americans a difference species? Who says you can kill other suspects? There is some talk about collateral damage; what about the people who are just standing around and get killed Well yeah, that’s bad, but what about the people you’re aiming at? They are suspects.

You haven’t shown proof of anything about them. Just somebody the government wants to kill.

—  Noam Chomsky | Talks at Google
In a skirmish with one of these advance guards, the Hapsburg troops captured a Mongol officer, who, to the surprise and consternation of the Christians, turned out to be a middle-aged literate Englishman who had made his way through the Holy Land, where he seemed to have developed a talent for learning languages and transcribing them. There is some speculation that with his level of education and his flight from England, he may have been involved in the effort to force King John to sign the Magna Carta in 1215. After fleeing England and facing excommunication from the Roman Catholic Church, he ended up in the service of the more tolerant Mongols. The presence of a European, and a former Christian, among the Mongol army made it clear that the Mongols really were humans and not a horde of demons, but the terrified Christians killed the English apostate before they could get a good accounting of the Mongols’ mysterious mission outside Vienna
—  “The Discovery and Conquest of Europe.” From Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, by J. Weatherford.