For Bush & Co.? How About
War Crimes Tribunals
28 November, 2006
Bush administration members have made a sport of breaking the law, both
domestically and internationally, their intransigence will come back
to haunt - one way or another.
The Bush Doctrine of taking
"the battle to the enemy," for example, is a direct repudiation
of the United Nations Charter, which prohibits the use of international
force unless in self-defense (after an armed attack across an international
border) or related to a UN Security Council decision. And that explains
why Bush's 2002 National Security Strategy makes a point to "protect
Americans" from "the potential for investigations, inquiry,
or prosecution" by the International Criminal Court "whose
jurisdiction does not extend to Americans and which we do not accept."
The whole idea of the US
being able to preemptively attack other nations was penned by White
House lawyers two weeks after 9/11; former justice department lawyer
John Yoo wrote memos for then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales arguing
that "no limits" stood in the way of Bush's ability to take
military action and that "the president's decisions are for him
alone and are unreviewable."
But giving someone like Bush
"unreviewable" and unlimited military powers is reckless;
the man can barely construct a sentence, let alone articulate a humane
and effective foreign policy.
Besides, a "no limits"
approach to foreign policy can't coexist with rule of law, which explains
why just last week, US Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff
accused the United Nations and other world bodies of using international
law "as a rhetorical weapon against us." Chertoff co-authored
the infamous Patriot Act but is best known for his stunning incompetence
regarding Katrina. If only he had been as eager to protect Americans
from hurricanes as he is to protect them from global treaties...
Chertoff's view of international
law as a threat to the US is supported by Rumsfeld's 2005 National Defense
Strategy, which notes: "Our strength as a nation state will continue
to be challenged by those who employ a strategy of the weak using international
fora, judicial processes and terrorism."
In other words, the Pentagon
links "judicial processes" with "terrorism," and
sees "judicial processes" as weakening the US "nation
state." What kind of nonsense is that?
Now that Rumsfeld has "resigned"
and Bush and Co. face their lame-duck years watching the war on terror
implode, it's worth considering the aftermath of World War II, when
the International Military Tribunal indicted and tried over 20 Nazi
leaders for war crimes ranging from waging a war of aggression, killing
civilians, mistreating prisoners and plundering property. How eerily
familiar those charges seem today.
And how ominous that only
weeks ago, German prosecutors began pursuing a criminal investigation
into the alleged role of Rumsfeld, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales,
former CIA director George Tenet and numerous other administration members
regarding prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo.
Rumsfeld will lose his legal
immunity when he ceases to be Defense Secretary, a fact which must weigh
heavily on Bush and others. Unsurprisingly, the administration has taken
pre-emptive action against future war crimes charges, including pushing
through the scandalous Military Commissions Act, which provides them
retroactive domestic protection from prosecution regarding prisoner
On the world stage, the administration's
primary battleground for immunity has been the International Criminal
Court (ICC), set up in 2002 to investigate and prosecute war crimes,
crimes against humanity and genocide. Roughly 100 countries have ratified
the ICC Statute, and over 40 others have signed it, but the Bush administration
renounced the treaty on grounds it could lead to "frivolous or
politically motivated prosecutions."
The administration has done
everything in its power to enervate the ICC, including setting up bilateral
"Article 98" agreements which arm-twist other countries into
not prosecuting US nationals or foreign nationals working for the US.
Over 100 nations, mainly poor and dependent on foreign aid, have signed
the agreements, but many others have stood firm and lost US aid as a
result, including Brazil, Peru and South Africa.
Yet such bribery will only
go so far. The administration's "no limits" approach to foreign
policy has alienated global allies, and in many parts of the world,
Bush is regarded as a greater danger to world peace than North Korea's
Kim Jong-il or Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Continuing revelations of
US war atrocities, such as the recent bombing of a Pakistani religious
school in which 82 students died, only serve to fuel global outrage.
It's hard to imagine administration members getting much sympathy in
an international trial.
Bottom line, as calls for
impeachment build at home, Bush might heed advice he once gave to Osama
bin Laden: "You can run but you cannot hide."
1. A number of web sites
provide information about human rights abuses linked to the so-called
war on terror:
War Crimes Watch (www.warcrimeswatch.org)
Human Rights First (www.humanrightsfirst.org)
School of the Americas Watch
Cage Prisoners (www.cageprisoners.com)
2. As AfterDowningStreet.org
notes, this year a national coalition of organizations is making December
10th "Human Rights and Impeachment Day." For related information
on everything from Petitions to Dramatic Play Scripts and Yard Signs,
check out the site's event resources.
A linked version of each
article is available at www.heatherwokusch.com
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