Getting Away with Murder: America’s War Criminals and Their Accessories

Kill one person and it’s called murder.
Kill tens of thousands and it’s called foreign policy.

— Ross Laffan, Vermont Progressive Party. October 30, 2007

War is an act of murder.

— Albert Einstein, Lendman, S. Albert Einstein’s Anti-War Agenda. Voices. December 1st, 2015

Politicians who authorize, promote or condone war are surrogate murderers.
And so, too, must be included their accessories.

— Gary Brumback, (Written by the author for this article.)

The Crimes of War

I share the late Albert Einstein’s opinion and have myself written what I think is an airtight argument that war is neither necessary nor just.1  Since murder is universally regarded as a crime it follows that all wars, covert or overt, are crimes and thus unlawful.

According to the Crimes of War Education Project, a collaboration of journalists, lawyers and scholars, “the most comprehensive and accepted list of international humanitarian law offenses is set out in the Rome Statute governing the International Criminal Court (ICC) at the Hague.” The ICC recognizes three basic categories of crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. Whatever the three are called by the cognoscenti they are all crimes against humanity. Within the third category there are nearly 50 variations of how to kill in war. It is a legalese splitting of dead hairs as far as I am concerned.

Lineup of America’s War Criminals and Their Accessories

Let’s limit the line up to the ones still living. Otherwise, the line would stretch back 240 years.

According to Professor Frances Boyle, an authority on international law:

More than 30 top U.S. officials, including presidents G.W. Bush and Obama, are guilty of war crimes or crimes against peace and humanity, legally akin to those perpetrated by the former Nazi regime in Germany.

In the Middle East and Africa U.S. officials involved in an “ongoing criminal conspiracy” either participated in the commission of the crimes under their jurisdiction or failed to take action against them included, Boyles said, “both presidents since 2001 and their vice-presidents, the secretaries of State and Defense, the directors of the CIA and National Intelligence and the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs of Staff and heads of the Central Command, among others.

Besides the presidents, Boyle identified as war criminals Vice Presidents Dick Cheney and Joseph Biden; Secretaries of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Robert Gates and Leon Panetta; Secretaries of State Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice, and Hillary Clinton; National Security Advisors Stephen Hadley, James Jones, and Thomas Donilon; Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte and James Clapper and Central Intelligence Agency(CIA) Directors George Tenet, Leon Panetta, and David Petraeus.

In the Pentagon, war criminals include the members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and some Regional Commanders-in-Chiefs, especially for the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), and more recently, AFRICOM. Besides Chairman General Martin Dempsey, U.S. Army, JCS members include Admiral James Winnefeld Jr.; General Raymond Odierno, Chief of Staff of the Army; General James Amos, Commandant of the Marine Corps; Admiral Jonathan Greenert, Chief of Naval Operations; and General Mark Welsh, Chief of Staff of the Air Force.

Those who have headed the Central Command since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan include Lt. General Martin Dempsey; Admiral William Fallon; General John Abizaid; General Tommy Franks; Lt. General John Allen; and current commander General James Mattis. General Carter Ham of AFRICOM bears like responsibility.2

I would lengthen considerably Professor Boyle’s list. War criminals could not be surrogate murderers without the help of their accessories, people who contribute to or aid in the commission of the murders. Accessories are legion. They include key members of the “shadow” government (i.e., CIA, NSA), Congressional leaders, leaders in the military, leaders in the war industry and on Wall St., including investors in the war industry, and who knows the rest? I would not add combat personnel. While they volunteered for duty they risk their lives solely for the self interests of America’s corpocracy.

Inverted Justice

A line up facing America’s entire law enforcement and criminal justice system ought to keep prosecutors and courts busy and prisons full for years. But that is not how America’s inverted justice system works. America’s war criminals and their accessories get away with surrogate murders while America imprisons children for life and puts away for life petty, recidivist thieves.3 The powerful of America make the laws, interpret the laws, and then break them with impunity. The powerless, the vast majority of ordinary Americans, had better watch their step or else.

As far as I know not one of America’s living war criminals or their accessories have ever been prosecuted in an American court. Symbolic courts such as tribunals have found some of the war criminals guilty in absentia but such tribunals amount to pretend justice.4 Two towns in Vermont, Brattleboro and Marlboro, voted to arrest Bush and Cheney but these two war criminals simply avoid justice by avoiding those towns.5

Neither has the International Criminal Court (ICC) ever hauled America’s war criminals and their accessories into its court. The reason is not because the U.S. has refused to be a signatory to the ICC since any signatory nation harmed by U.S. militarism can file a suit against the U.S. The reason is because this court also practices inverted justice by prosecuting war criminals in weak nations and not also war criminals in powerful nations.6

Total absence of justice domestically and internationally in the course of human affairs would turn those affairs into barbarism. The power elite of America’s corpocracy are slowly heading the U.S. and the world in that direction. It is imperative, therefore, especially in matters of war and peace, that justice is served, and that is why the search for ways to bring America’s war criminals and their accessories to justice must continue. If never held accountable for their crimes, the crimes will continue by some of the same and some new faces.

In Search of Justice: A Roadmap to Prosecution

Citizens’ Arrests

A former Los Angeles county prosecutor, Vincent Bugliosi, has argued that “no Federal, state or local statute says there is any person who can’t be prosecuted for murder.”7 Such a legal opinion opens the door to the use of citizen arrests of America’s war criminals and their accessories. At least two peace and antiwar organizations, War is a Crime, and Code Pink, promote this approach and provide tips on how to proceed. A Code Pink member attempted a citizen’s arrest of Karl Rove, who helped mastermind the propagandized build-up to the Iraq War in the Bush administration.8 In another failed attempt to arrest Mr. Rove the citizen attempting it was taken to court for trespassing. When asked by the judge what the charge was, the defendant’s answer was that she was attempting to arrest Mr. Rove, to which the judge replied, “It’s about time.”9 If only a real case against the war criminals could be brought before him!

At first blush Citizens’ arrests may seem like cul de sacs to avoid since they are unlikely to lead to any arrests, let alone prosecution and conviction, and that was my initial thinking. On second thought, though, the approach does offer a modicum of “stage one” accountability in that targeted persons probably experience some embarrassment, carefully choose when and where to appear in public, learn to look over their shoulders, and hire body guards.

Search for Bold District Attorneys

Mr. Bugliosi said that, of the 2,700 district and county attorneys having the power to prosecute, “There should be one prosecutor bold enough to say ‘No man is above the law’. I am looking for that courageous prosecutor and I am not going to be satisfied until I see George W. Bush in an American courtroom prosecuted for murder.”10 He was quoted in 2008. I see no record of his having found any and learned at the same time that his search had ended. He died in 2015.

Our roadmap needs to pick up where he left off by continuing the search in communities like Brattleboro and Marlboro to find prosecutors willing to locate and represent some war inflicted cases (e.g., PTS cases, suicide cases) that would give them standing in court, and then file a barrage of lawsuits to convince judges to have the charged war criminals hauled into court.

Beseech the President-Elect

I mailed to Barack Obama a speech I proposed that he deliver for his first inaugural address promising a peaceful America. I never got a response.11 I will try again with President-elect Donald Trump since some knowledgeable observers think his foreign policy will be less militaristic and imperialistic.12 A legion of Americans doing the same might eventually give the world a more peaceful president.

Seek International Justice

It may be fanciful to expect the power elite of America’s corpocracy to ever allow members of their own kind, the war criminals and their accessories, to be brought to justice. The Court of Last Resort may have to be the ICC. Despite its history of fecklessness in the face of transgressions by powerful nations there is cause for some optimism. The ICC’s prosecutor has said recently that she had a “reasonable basis to believe” that American soldiers committed war crimes in Afghanistan, including torture, and that a full investigation was likely.13

I have signed a petition asking the ICC to prosecute U.S. war crimes. I encourage readers to do the same. Thousands if not millions of signatures would probably be needed to persuade the undecided prosecutor.

On the Road

We know who America’s war criminals and their accessories are. We know what crimes they have committed. We know what must be done to prosecute them. What we do not know is whether there will be enough Americans on the cyberspace road to the ICC to convince it to carry out its responsibility to serve justice for all aggrieved people of the world regardless of how powerful or powerless their nations are.

  1. Brumback, GB.  America’s Oldest Professions: Warring and Spying. Create Space Independent Publishing Platform, 2015, 253-259. []
  2. Ross, S. More than 30 Top U.S. Officials Guilty of War Crimes, Boyle Says. Opednews.com, December 11, 2012. []
  3. See Giroux, HA. “The United States’ War on Youth: From Schools to Debtors’ Prisons”. Truthout, October 21, 2016; and also, Marks, A. “The Impact of ‘3 Strikes’ Laws a Decade Later.” The Christian Science Monitor, March 10, 2004. []
  4. See Duffett, J. Against the Crime of Silence: Proceedings of the Russell International War Crimes Tribunal. O’hare Books, 1968; also, Ridley, Y. “Bush Convicted of War Crimes in Absentia”. Foreign Policy Journal, May 12, 2012. []
  5. Sullivan, A. “Vermont Towns Vote to Arrest Bush and Cheney”. Reuters, March 5, 2008. []
  6. Roberts, PC. “Little War Criminals Get Punished, Big Ones Don’t”. Opednews.com, July 16, 2008. []
  7. Ross, S. Conference on War Crimes Yields 20 Recommendations, Including Impeachment. Daily Impeachment News, September 18, 2008. []
  8. Mail Foreign Service. “Code Pink Protester Attempts a Citizen’s Arrest on Karl Rove at Book Signing.” Daily Mail, May 12, 2010. []
  9. Armbruster, B. Judge on Rove’s Citizen Arrest: ‘It’s About Time.’ Think Progress, August 1, 2008. []
  10. Ross. Op. Cit. 2008. []
  11. Brumback. Op. Cit. 188-189. []
  12. William Blum’s Anti-Empire Report #147, “What Can Go Wrong?” November 30, 2016. []
  13. Sengupia, S. & Simonsnov, M. U.S. Forces May Have Committed War Crimes in Afghanistan, Prosecutor Says. New York Times, November 14, 2016. []

Gary Brumback, PhD is a retired psychologist and Fellow of both the American Psychological Association and the Association for Psychological Science. He is the author of The Devil’s Marriage: Break Up the Corpocracy or Leave Democracy in the Lurch; and America’s Oldest Professions: Warring and Spying. His most recent book is Corporate Reckoning Ahead. Gary can be reached at: democracypower@bellsouth.net. Read other articles by Gary, or visit Gary's website.