If a citizen decides to kill another person and then acts on his decision this is, correctly of course, considered a crime, and the killer is punished.
So far so good.
Yet if a politician (also a citizen) decides to start an illegal and unjust war (in which he knows that countless innocent people will be killed) and then acts on that decision, this is apparently not considered a crime by the majority and the proxy killer is not brought to justice. Never mind that the deeds of politicians result in death and suffering on a vastly greater scale than even the most rabid of serial killers.
Why is there this glaring difference in accountability? How do the politicians get away with it?
I would like to suggest a few threads of explanation for your consideration.
If we can clarify the ways we avoid the truth of responsibility for the ocean of suffering caused by war, we will be in a better position to join up the dots. We will be closer to seeing the link between the war-dead child and the war-willing politician. We will be closer to realising that the victims are not just a distant mirage of faceless cadavers, incidental and uncounted dead. They are (were) real sensate people just like us; and the survivors mourn the loss of their child, their spouse, those they dearly love, just as we would mourn our dead beloved if they had been brutally killed by an invading army.
Traditionally kings, diverse leaders and politicians have not been held responsible for deaths resulting from their wilful, reckless and irresponsible actions (Henry VIII is not primarily remembered as a serial killer). Exceptions are when the victors put the vanquished on trial as at the end of World War II. Nevertheless, in the matter of war, the Nuremburg Trials laid down some useful ground rules. A set of guidelines were established for determining what constitutes a war crime. These include, as punishable crimes against international law, ‘Crimes against peace’ defined as planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a War of Aggression. A further major step forward in breaking with a decadent tradition took place in June 2010. The International Criminal Court defined the Crime of Aggression as the commission of an act of aggression meaning ‘the use of armed force by a State against the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of another state…’
Very gradually the noose is tightening round the necks of the war mongers. The days of the ‘licence of kill’, if that is what it is, may be numbered.
Responsibility (guilt?) is spread among many
In Britain, when an individual like ex-prime minister Blair decides he wants a war, he has ways of getting other individuals in government and parliament to tag along, regardless of the will of the people.
There are 650 members of the House of Commons. They were called on to vote in September 2010 on whether or not to withdraw British forces from Afghanistan. A mere 14 MPs voted for withdrawal. The government’s failure to withdraw its forces will result in yet more deaths to both our combatants and to combatants and civilians in the land we have invaded. This vote of 14 to 650 (2.2%) did not represent the balance of opinion in our country. A BBC poll in February 2010 found that ‘Sixty-four per cent of British people think the war in Afghanistan is unwinnable…’
By what right did these people vote as they did; contributing to more deaths? The Independent newspaper wrote at the time, ‘The vote, and the manner in which it is undertaken, is broad and convincing evidence that the US and British governments are no longer concerned with public opinion over the occupation.’
Concoction of plausible (?) excuses
When war is decided upon, excuses are concocted which are plausible for some sectors of the media, and presumably some members of the public. These excuses vary depending on developments. Initially the Afghan war was, purportedly, being fought to prevent UK citizens from being slaughtered at home by foreign-trained terrorists. After nine years: deaths in UK by terrorists = 52, deaths of civilians in Afghanistan = tens of thousands. Adjustment of excuses was clearly indicated.
In recent years we have been through a gamut of justifications for the unjust wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; justifications which have become progressively more incredible. Is there anyone apart from politicians and generals who believe that invading a country and killing vast numbers of civilians is a way of ‘winning hearts and minds’! Is this a viable reason for killing people?
Almost as bizarre is the claim that we are not really fighting a war in Afghanistan; what we are doing — we are taking action to make the planet safe. Mr Arbuthnot, the Conservative chairman of the Commons Defence Committee, said it was a mistake to describe the conflict in Afghanistan as a “war”. It should be seen rather as part of a “wider global security mission in the Middle East region as a whole”.
Keep the truth from the kiddies
Trident submarines are not weapons by any sane definition; they are Armageddon machines. Each Trident submarine can incinerate over 40 million human beings (extrapolating from Hiroshima). The British government has threatened to use its nuclear weapons if its ‘vital interests’ (unspecified) are threatened.
Is there any reason why this should not be considered self-granted ‘licence to kill’ on a mega scale?
The Department of Deception is working overtime on this one. The unknowing citizen is told we must keep ‘our independent minimal deterrent’. However, it is not ‘ours’, it is not ‘independent’, it is not minimal, and it is not a ‘deterrent’. It is not ‘ours’ since the majority of the British public have made it clear in polls that they do not want it. It is not ‘independent’ since it uses missiles designed and made in the US, and weapons that are designed in the US and could only be launched using a US satellite system. It is not minimal since each Trident submarine has the firepower to incinerate over 40 million human beings. It is not a ‘deterrent’ since it will not deter the real threats of Global Warming, the population explosion, peak oil and greedy bankers. Would the British citizens tolerate the threat of mega-deaths if they were told the truth about our nuclear arsenal?
What the UK power elite does not want citizens to realise is that it is determined to keep the killing power of its nuclear arsenal at all costs because it feels that it gives it ‘status’.
The power elite knows that the greatest threat to the retention of the nuclear killing machines is the fact that the country cannot afford the overall cost of 97 billion pounds (as estimated by Greenpeace), so evasive actions is indicated. Evasive action No. 1: Postpone the decision until after the election. In a few years there will be other matters on the media agenda – slip final OK through then. Evasive action No. 2: Share with the French – Ha, Ha – crafty. Evasive action No. 3: shift argument from killing to jobs. Everyone supports jobs. 26,000 jobs at stake if we cancel Trident renewal! Nobody will cotton on to the fact that we could hand each of the 26,000 workers 2 million pounds and still have 43 billion pounds left over to spend on housing for the poor and for the desperately needed new schools.
Lying to a court of law is considered a very serious offence. It can result in imprisonment. Lying to the British people or deceiving parliament can be immeasurably more serious yet it has been done with impunity (Weapons of Mass Destruction, Dodgy Dossier, etc.). We have a right to expect at least equivalent standards of moral and legal conduct from politicians that we do from citizens. Double standards are rife on an international scale. Ex-prime minister Blair lied to the British people and took them into a murderous and illegal war yet he struts the world as a ‘Peace Envoy’. There is international outrage amongst politicians regarding alleged Iranian plans for a nuclear weapon (some calling for yet another war) and the same politicians support Israel’s large existing nuclear arsenal. This blatant hypocrisy mystifies many citizens and sickens many others. With the moral fabric of the political world riddled with such holes people become dumbfounded and passive.
When political decisions put the lives of citizens at risk surely the citizens have a right to know. Surely it is the duty of politicians, our elected representatives, to ensure that matters of vital interest to our safety and well being are not kept from us. So why is it that individuals and NGOs have to fight tooth and nail for years to squeeze out of resisting civil ‘servants of the people’ matters which are relevant to our very survival.
A case in point is provided by a recent Guardian newspaper headline ‘MoD’s own experts reveal nuclear arms safety flaws’ (17.l 0.10). We read ‘Dozens of potentially disastrous flaws in the safety regime for nuclear weapons exposed by secret Ministry of Defence reports seen by the Observer’.
‘Potentially disastrous flaws’ means that citizens lives have been put at risk, very possibly in huge numbers. This information only came to light after a three year battle using the Freedom of Information Act. Why weren’t UK citizens told about the results of these reports immediately? Who was preventing their release? Surely such resistance to publication should be made a criminal offence. Prised out of the power elites’ jealously protected files these reports ‘provide an unprecedented insight into the intensely secretive world of Britain’s bomb’ and ‘They reveal a series of problems with safety across the whole nuclear weapons programme’.
We also learn, in the same October newspaper article, that there had been a major fire at the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston. In the explosives department at Aldermaston! Aldermaston is where the British government manufactures its nuclear weapons! Fire brigade logs, not published at the time, showed that 20 fire engines and 95 crew had to fight for almost nine hours to extinguish the blaze. Information like this should be made public immediately and fully. If a firm of engineers, for example, had information that a major bridge was unsafe and kept the information from the public, it would be subject to prosecution and major penalties. Why are politicians and their civil servants not prosecuted in similar manner for withholding life-and-death information from the public?
George Orwell said we must continually repeat the obvious. That need was never more urgent than it is today. It is obvious that killing people is not a way to a peaceful world. It is obvious that war is a totally discredited way of resolving disputes. Countless millions of citizens round the world know this.
This government has the citizens of Britain fighting two vicious and vacuous wars. It has committed us to spending billions of pounds on renewing our Trident Armageddon machines thereby illustrating that, in order to strut their inflated egos on the world stage, our leaders are prepared to put at risk the survival, not only of the people of Britain, but of the human race.
Our task is to find and elect politicians whose focus is peace, not power.