Why We Must Prosecute Bush and His Administration for War Crimes

During the rush to get the Nuremberg Tribunals underway, the Soviet delegation wanted the tribunal’s historic decisions to have legitimacy only for the Nazis. U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Robert Jackson, serving as the chief prosecutor for the Allies, strong-armed the Soviets until the very beginning of the tribunal before changing their mind.

In his opening statement Jackson very purposely stipulated, “Let me make clear that while this law is first applied against German aggressors, the law includes, and if it is to serve a useful purpose it must condemn aggression by any other nations, including those which sit here now in judgment.”

Can there be a better reason for prosecuting George Bush and his administration for war crimes than those words from the chief prosecutor of the Nazis, a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, with the full support of the U.S. government? Robert Jackson’s words and the values this nation claims to stand for provide sufficient moral basis for putting Bush and Cheney, their underlings who implemented their policies and the perverted legal minds who justified them all in the dock. If those are not sufficient reasons, there is a long list of binding law and treaties — written in black and white in surprisingly plain English.

Bush imagined, and his attorneys advised, that he could simply wave aside these laws with “they don’t apply.” Imagine how a judge would treat even a simple traffic court defendant who brazenly stated the law was only a quaint notion, just “words on paper?”

Masses of people and an embarrassingly small number of their elected representatives in this country read the law for themselves and demanded otherwise, only to be silenced by the Guardians of Reality in the corporate news media.

But it’s all there, where it has been for 220 years, the Constitution’s “supremacy clause,” Article II, section 4, and in the War Crimes Act of 1996 (18USC §2441). They provide the authority to make additional treaties legally binding — no matter how much former White House lawyers David Addington and John Yoo may object.

Those additional treaties include among others, the Geneva Conventions, the Nuremberg rulings, the Laws and Customs of War on Land and UN General Assembly Resolution 3314. To give just a snapshot of how serious these laws are, consider this portion of 18 USC 2441 which defines a war crime as “a grave breach in any of the international conventions signed at Geneva 12 August 1949, or any protocol to such convention to which the United States is a party…” The guilty can be “fined under this title or imprisoned for life or any term of years, or both, and if death results to the victim, shall also be subject to the penalty of death.”

Here, Justice Jackson answers another question about war crimes — who bears the greater responsibility: those who committed barbaric acts in the field or those who created the conditions for barbarism?

The case as presented by the United States will be concerned with the brains and authority back of all the crimes. These defendants were men of a station and rank that does not soil its own hands with blood. They were men who knew how to use lesser folk as tools. We want to reach the planners and designers, the inciters and leaders without whose evil architecture the world would not have been for so long scourged with the violence and lawlessness, and wracked with the agonies and convulsions, of this terrible war.

And yet it is not just because Bush violated the Constitution and federal law that he and his lieutenants must be prosecuted.

At Nuremberg, the foremost crime identified was starting a “war of aggression,” later codified by U.N. Resolution 3314, Art. 5, as “a crime against international peace.” Launching a war of aggression, as Hitler did against Poland, is considered so monstrous that the nation responsible can then be charged with “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity,” spelled out in detail in the Geneva Conventions. As Tom Paine said long before the U.N. formalized the definition of aggression, “He who is the author of a war lets loose the whole contagion of Hell and opens a vein that bleeds a nation to death.

A small sampling of the contagion of Hell let loose by Bush includes illegally invading a sovereign state, using banned weapons such as white phosphorous and napalm, bombing hospitals and civilian infrastructure, withholding aid and medical supplies, terrorizing and knowingly killing civilians, torturing prisoners, killing a million people and displacing four million more in Iraq alone.

Following World War II, humanity resolved that wars do more than spark a series of loathsome, individual crimes. Leaders responsible for a war actually commit crimes against the entirety of humanity. They inflict harm on every human being, something that must be put right before humanity can be restored.

There is a final reason why we must prosecute Bush and Co. It is not what some argue, although they point to a serious danger: that Bush trashed the law and usurped powers, encouraging future presidents to expand where he left off. Such reasons are about George Bush and those who hold the office after him, but in the final analysis this is about us.

We are complicit in the horrors of this administration. We can claim neither ignorance nor innocence. We are complicit by the very fact that we are citizens of the United States, more so because we paid for the war, and even more so for this reason. Listen to a village sheik I met in Iraq describe it better than I ever could.

I met this man in a small farming village one afternoon in early 2004. He described how he and a dozen others were swept up in a raid by the U.S. Army and detained on a bare patch of ground surrounded by concertina wire. They had no shelter and but six blankets. They dug a hole with their hands for a toilet. They had to beg for water until one time it rained for three days straight and they remained on that open ground. He somehow found the graciousness to say he understood there was a difference between the American people and our government. Then through his tears he added, “But you say you live in a democracy. How can this be happening to us?”

Do we? Whether or not we bring our own government officials to justice for their crimes will determine the answer.

Mike Ferner is National Director of Veterans For Peace and a former member of Toledo City Council. He can be reached at mike@veteransforpeace.org. Read other articles by Mike.

15 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. bozh said on December 16th, 2008 at 12:47pm #

    prosecuting just a few individuals for crimes perped by mns may or may not deter US to wage more wars.
    probably, there may be ab 1mn amers who r more responsible for crimes against weaklings than any other societal tier.
    but aside from indigenes and hobos, 98% of amers think strongly that all US wars r justified.
    and in spite of the fact that there cannot be a justifiable war against any people whose leaders r deemed war criminals or have been accused of standing/hurting US interests.
    US does not permit police to shoot missiles at or go w. tanks into an abode where a felon may be hiding w. his family.
    yet this is oft done by US. a mere suspicion that resistance fighter(s) may be holed up w. his famliy s’mwhere cannot justify shooting missiles at him/them or their families.
    resistance fighters r also morally and legally obligated to fight by all means any occupier.
    US troops r morally and legally obligated to defend their land against any invader.
    prosecuting a mn people is not possible as one needs WMD, stronger or much stronger army than US.
    it is not that difficult to espy that only power matters and not written laws.
    so as long as US remains by far superior than even a bloc of countries, US (or just 1 or 2 mn people) will use it to gain wealth and control.
    this will go on for millennia unles warming finishes us off.
    every weapon ever made had been used; and i venture to say, w. intent t0 use it.
    besides, there r so many war criminals on this planet; possibly a bn; so, what is the use of taking these people to courts?
    courts, selves being as criminal as the rest of them. thnx

  2. joed said on December 16th, 2008 at 1:42pm #

    the only way the bush/cheney gang is going to be served justice is by the people going to the white house and arresting the gang. this article is excellent in that it draws the parallel between evil then and evil now. but bush and cheney etal are heading for retirement and the good life. unless the people get them first. i am not optamistic. the amerikan people don’t seem too concerned about iraqis, afghanis, pakis or any other humans. shit, amerikans don’t even care about their own .

  3. DavidG. said on December 16th, 2008 at 6:00pm #

    That they don’t care, Joed, is because they have been indoctrinated to accept everything and anything their Government does.

    The American people, in the main, are little better than sheep. They are led by the nose by politicians, clergy, corporations, media, etc.

    Never have so many been fooled by so few.

    My blog expands on this idea.

    http://www.dangerouscreation.com

  4. bozh said on December 17th, 2008 at 11:55am #

    david,
    i’d like to say that amers r humans and not suprahumans or anything standing apart or not drinkig water, eating food, sleeping, talking etc.
    the only diff btwn usans and “them” is the fact that US governing class was very busy miseducating kids while the other plutocrats were very busy oppressing own people, waging wars, and battling socialism/communism.
    now even usans r oppressing usans and disseminating lies. world plutos r now also doing it. thnx

  5. rosemarie jackowski said on December 17th, 2008 at 12:09pm #

    Hi Mike from a fellow VFP member. In Vermont there were 2 candidates on the State Attorney General ballot who would have prosecuted Bush. Those 2 candidates received the fewest votes. The people have spoken. The people want to overlook the war crimes. That’s just the way it is. The voters have spoken. USAsians approve of war crimes. We are complicit. Depressing, isn’t it.
    Also – it must be remembered that ONLY the Congress can declare and finance war. How about prosecuting the Congress?

  6. Jason Oberg said on December 17th, 2008 at 2:25pm #

    It is a sad state of affairs, indeed. You know, the biggest myth regarding the American people is the one calling them “brave.” Sheep are not brave. Nor are they intelligent. Land of the Ignorant, Home of the Apathetic. That’s America. How the hell do you change it? By informing the people. The internet has been around for so long now, yet to most it is a wasted tool. There are so many websites, like this one, to gather uncensored information and share ideas. Yet how many Americans know about these sites? How many Amricans know other sources of textual information, like The Nation, which has been in print for 150 years? The people in this country who have a clue, who are the minority, need to start leading all those sheeple to another pasture. Wake people up. I think now more than ever Americans would be receptive to that. As they become more and more disillusioned with Obama (and in time, they will), and after having endured eight horrific years of the Bush/Cheney regime, people may just finally start looking for answers. People like those on this website need to be there to provide those answers. We can blog to each other until our hands fall off, but we already know the score. We need to wake people up. If that means drawing up a poster that says, “Find Out the Truth About Obama and the System—Visit DISSIDENTVOICE.ORG!, making a hundred copies, and tacking up one to the outside of every damn grocery store, Wal-Mart, drug store, etc. in town, then do it! We just gotta spread the word. The sheeple have relied on being informed by un-free media sources for way, way too long now. They have to start being able to read, and inform themselves. The sheeple must stop taking the Obamas of the world at their word, and realize why they must stop taking them at their word. For too long now, the Americans have been the victims of a never-ending indoctrination that the U.S. are the good guys; that we must police the world, because, Christ, somebody has to; that we live in the freest nation on Earth, and so on. That’s why most Americans look at Bush and merely see a bad but personally likable–even humorous– President, rather than an elitist monster who did his damnedest to take their rights and futures away. Only by informing the sheeple and hopefully awakening them can we possibly hope to spread the seeds of dissent. The solution certainly isn’t going to come from “Guiding and pressuring Obama in the right direction,” an absolutely asinine suggestion that I’ve read too much on this website and others. The only change is going to come from those who are suffering in this damn country, not from those who are causing that suffering. We must take back the one right that we did indeed lose utterly long ago: The right to be informed.

  7. rosemarie jackowski said on December 17th, 2008 at 3:21pm #

    Jason…you can lead a US citizen to a book, but you can’t make him read.

  8. kalidas said on December 17th, 2008 at 7:53pm #

    “A society of cheaters and the cheated.”

  9. bozh said on December 18th, 2008 at 8:12am #

    on the US plutocratic farm only pigs r raised. so, it makes no diff whether pig1, pig2, pig3…. is selected for prez.
    so, if one wants to bash al-bushi, one shld also bash every prez.
    or even better, stop bashing and start making. thnx

  10. Garrett said on December 18th, 2008 at 12:38pm #

    “The only change is going to come from those who are suffering in this damn country…”

    With the help of privileged folks who are aware of what the plutocratic American Empire is all about (and disgusted by it). Personally, I’m comfortable. Not wealthy, but solidly middle class. Those who are suffering don’t often have the necessary information or the time for action. People like me need to do a much, much better job of self-educating, educating others and taking action at the local level.

  11. mike said on December 18th, 2008 at 12:54pm #

    rosemarie’s got some fight in her!
    i like what she’s got to say here:

    “I think now more than ever Americans would be receptive to that. As they become more and more disillusioned with Obama (and in time, they will), and after having endured eight horrific years of the Bush/Cheney regime, people may just finally start looking for answers. People like those on this website need to be there to provide those answers. We can blog to each other until our hands fall off, but we already know the score. We need to wake people up. If that means drawing up a poster that says, “Find Out the Truth About Obama and the System—Visit DISSIDENTVOICE.ORG!, making a hundred copies, and tacking up one to the outside of every damn grocery store, Wal-Mart, drug store, etc. in town, then do it! We just gotta spread the word. The sheeple have relied on being informed by un-free media sources for way, way too long now. They have to start being able to read, and inform themselves.”

    get out there. do something. most importantly, continue to work with those stout souls who identify themselves as comrades in the fight. (although i don’t think many of them would like being called “sheeple.”)

    we’re all leaving this mortal plane some day. some sooner than we think. question is: will we leave it on our feet or on our knees?

    mike

  12. giorgio said on December 18th, 2008 at 2:56pm #

    You will be as lucky to make Bush face trial and have him convicted for war crimes as that Iraqi was to hit Bush spot on his face with a shoe…
    The odds are even slimmer…
    I have a better idea. Why not start a campaign to inform the American GIs in Iraq that war is evil and senseless killing is what these GIs are doing in Iraq. Tell them that this carnage, though initiated by GW Bush and his cabal of warmongers, is being perpetrated by these very same GIs themselves. It’s up to the military out there to shout out loud and clear: “BASTA NO MAS!” We won’t have anymore of this! WE COMING HOME!
    In war, both sides are MURDERERS, and by perpetuating war knowing full well that it’s based on a FRAUDULENT LIE, one becomes a SERIAL KILLER!

    Not far from where I live there is a charming Portuguese village with a little street thru it, called:
    Rua dos Bravos ( STREET of the BRAVE)
    Then this caption under its name, which translated, is:
    Don’t do Evil to Anyone.
    Pay/Return EVIL with GOODNESS.
    Thus you’ll do a Good Deed!

    Now, how’s this for REAL BRAVERY?
    It puts to shame all your tinsel Purple Hearts!

  13. Grant said on December 19th, 2008 at 9:27pm #

    Is the consensus _still_ that Barrack won’t prosecute war criminals, even after the NY Times editorial, the article in the WSJ and Carl Levin’s interview on Rachel Maddow???? I’m somewhere in between cynicism and optimism for Barrack…sure he won’t touch it unless it’s politically expedicient…but you know what…???? Its becoming more and more politically expedient all the time. Lets make it mainstream people…lets get rethuglicans behind it. Then we’ll see what happens

  14. Jason Oberg said on December 20th, 2008 at 9:59pm #

    Um, Mike…I appreciate your comments in response to Rosemarie’s words. Thank you.

  15. kahar said on December 21st, 2008 at 4:50pm #

    Grant, you have optimism for Obama?? maybe I need more of these???????????