U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq

March 16, 2008 - 0:0

Part 2

Further, Section 7 states: “The official position of defendants, whether as Heads of State or responsible officials in government departments, shall not be considered as freeing them from responsibility or mitigating punishment.” Moreover, Section 8 states: “The fact that the defendant acted pursuant to order of his government or of a superior shall not free him from responsibility . . . .” The Tribunal also prohibited tu quoque (so did you) defenses—no surprise, inasmuch as this whole proceeding amounted to “victor’s justice,” and the prosecuting powers themselves scarcely wished to acknowledge that during the war they too had taken many actions that would not bear scrutiny.
At a series of trials at Nuremberg from 1945 to 1949, more than a hundred defendants were tried. At the most important trial, which placed before the bar of justice the top surviving leaders of Hitler’s government, twenty-two men were indicted on one or more of the counts listed above; nineteen were convicted on one or more counts; and three were found not guilty. Of those found guilty, twelve were sentenced to death by hanging; three were sentenced to life in prison; and four were sentenced to prison for terms that varied from ten to twenty years. No appeals were permitted.
American political analysts Robert Higgs believes if today the U.S. government were to put itself on trial, on the same basis it employed to try the Nazis at Nuremberg, for actions taken in Afghanistan and Iraq in recent years, it might have to convict itself—if only for the sake of consistency. Justice is no respecter of person. Can anyone sincerely maintain that what was a crime for Hermann Goering and Alfred Jodl is not equally a crime for Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney?
Evidently, leaders of the Bush administration have given serious consideration to the possibility that their actions might lead to an indictment for war crimes, and they have taken legal measures to minimize their exposure to such prosecution.
Considering how the U.S. government planned its military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq and how it has conducted—and continues to conduct—those actions, one encounters time and again prima facie evidence that U.S. leaders and their armed forces in the field have committed crimes against peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity as defined by the Charter of the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg in 1945.
First, in the light of voluminous evidence now available to everybody, it seems clear that leaders and advisers of the Bush administration engaged in “planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression.” After all, Iraq posed no threat to the United States. Its government had neither the means nor the intention of waging war against this country; nor did it issue any threat to harm the United States. The fact that high officials of the U.S. government and their supporters in the news media and elsewhere openly made many false statements to justify the invasion and occupation of Iraq surely exonerates nobody; if anything, those statements cast the guilty parties in an even starker light.
Second, in the light of voluminous evidence now available to everybody, it seems clear that Bush administration leaders and military personnel acting in obedience to those leaders have committed “violations of the laws or customs of war,” including “murder . . . of civilian population of or in occupied territory, murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war . . . plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity.” The perpetrators’ baseless pleas of military necessity, of course, cannot absolve them for their actual crimes as defined above.
Similar U.S. war crimes have been going on in Afghanistan for several years and in Iraq ever since the U.S. invasion began in March 2003. Anybody can easily fill a cabinet with such news reports filed by journalists from many different countries. As the Human Rights Watch concluded in a report, U.S. actions “reveal a pattern of over-aggressive tactics, excessive shooting in residential areas and hasty reliance on lethal force.”
According to Higgs, anyone can guess, of course, how the perpetrators of these crimes might seek to excuse their actions—worse yet, to take public credit for them and to seek reelection to public office on the basis of having taken them proudly and enthusiastically while swathed magnificently in the Stars and Stripes (exception being made for the now-globally-publicized “abuse” of prisoners, of course, those actions having been officially designated as “un-American”).
Instead of being marched off to face war crimes tribunals the warmongers are forgiven their trespasses and rewarded generously.
In the U.S. with the primaries going full blast, John McCain is anointed as the noble savior, the man who promises to crush all those aliens out there who are plotting to kill the U.S. of A. McCain is a man who uses his terrible experiences in Vietnam to justify all future wars he wants his country to wage.
Bill and Hillary both actively and tacitly supported the invasion of Iraq and never once defended the UN route. These candidates are “liberals”, we are told. Only in America! None of the above are exactly in the habit of mentioning the caged of Guantanamo or the anguish of Iraqis. Obama did fleetingly touch on these ugly American transgressions, but not for long, and not with intense moral purpose. At least the guy tried, and had the guts to vote against the invasion. The others still seem to believe fervently that the attacks on 9/11 outweigh all other acts of political violence.
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown of the Independent says if the alliance, its leaders and brass bands were imperiously arrogant when they went into Iraq, they are even more so today. Failure has given them no humility at all and completes the cycle of villainy. They lied and broke international law and appear to have no duty of care towards the innocent inhabitants of that blighted land.
Iraqi deaths are now calculated at around one million. According to international organizations monitoring migrations, Iraq is going through one of the largest and most serious humanitarian crises in the world, with population displacement within and from Iraq. Last November, cholera figures were the worst for 40 years, says an Iraqi health minister. Childhood diseases are rampant. There are relentless bombardments across the country, for reasons not given, on people unseen and labeled al-Qaeda.
The real shame and scandal is that air attacks on Iraq go on and on and get hardly any serious coverage in Western media. In 2006, there were 229 such raids; in 2007 there were 1,447 raids (dead uncounted and unidentified). The ghastly, ruthless General David Petraeus says they have now reached a “sustainable level of violence”. That is, at least, a truthful assessment and one that explains why we went into Iraq. If the allies allow Iraqi Sunnis, Shias and Kurds to carry on murdering each other day after day, not so many that it turns into a full-blown civil war, we can steal their oil and control the place.
""If Blair is elected President of the EU and either Clinton or McCain get the U.S. presidency, the final insults will be added to the endless injury suffered by the Iraqis. They will know conclusively that there is no justice in the world. And some of them will turn to terrorism. And the peace we hope for will never come,"" concludes Yasmin Alibhai-Brown in her recent article in ""The Independent.""