War Crimes Are Crimes No Matter Who Does Them

May 19th, 2010 - by admin

War Criminals Watch.org – 2010-05-19 00:25:40


ACTION: Add your name to a forthright statement — Crimes are Crimes No Matter Who Does Them — now appearing in the May 27th issue New York Review of Books, on newstands now.

• Listen to former CIA analyst Ray McGovern discuss the history of US government assasinations and Obama’s order to kill al-Awlaki.

The brutality with which the US government exercises its war of terror is condemned both by the court of international public opinion and by the principles of international law governing human rights. Wars of aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan and the torture of detainees are clearly defined as war crimes by the UN Declaration of Human Rights, the Geneva Conventions, the Convention against Torture and other treaties to which the United States is a signatory. Under the cover of “national security,” other countries in the region are being drawn into the on-going wars.

The Principles of International Law, recognized in the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal and in the Judgment of the Tribunal, provide no defense for war crimes. Similarly, the Convention Against Torture, which defines torture as a war crime, provides that no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.

The prohibition on war crimes is absolute, not relative, meaning that there is no justification for war crimes despite the particular circumstances in their respective countries. US Justice Robert Jackson proclaimed at Nuremberg:
“No grievances or policies will justify resort to aggressive war. It is utterly renounced and condemned as an instrument of policy. The same applies to other war crimes as well. The war crimes of one’s opponents are no justification for one’s own.”

War Criminals Watch exists for one reason: to ensure that prosecutions of high officials of the Bush administration or any subsequent administration who are guilty of war crimes and/or crimes against humanity take place now. Key officials must be held accountable and prosecuted for the crimes they stand accused, in world public opinion, of having committed. Editorialists may demand action.

Even some politicians may call for it. But only an energized and politically active public can make those prosecutions happen. War criminals must be publicly shamed and prevented from occupying powerful or influential positions within our society. As in other cases where authorities have gone beyond US and international law as well as the laws of decency, only a public accounting will restore lawful conduct.

War Criminals Watch calls on people of conscience to publicly scrutinize those whose acts require prosecution. Former Bush officials now have new roles in society: professor, lawyer, corporate manager, etc., etc. Some have moved on into the Obama administration. Students and professors, especially, have an obligation to act, to let the war criminals know that there will be no safe haven on campuses. It is our responsibility to call them out and to demand that legal proceedings take place and in a timely fashion.

It was thought by many that President Obama would put a stop to the madness, to the wars, to the Bush administration’s nightmarish approach to national security. After one year, this is “the change” we have:

* The expansion of the war in Afghanistan with tens of thousands of additional troops as well as an equivalent number of military contractors. The military strategy is under the direction of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, an expert in “counterinsurgency” in Iraq.

* Drone strikes in Pakistan have continued and increased in numbers and intensity killing quickly growing numbers of Afghani and Pakistani civilians, including women and children.

* Several of those who have been accused of Bush-era war crimes have continued into the Obama administration — for example, McChrystal, Gates, Petraeus and Fredman, all of whom have been concerned with “national security” issues militarily and domestically.

* Withdrawal from Iraq is fading into the future. And, when and if the troops do go, the military contractors remain.

* $20.5 billion allocated in the 2009 DoD budget to be spent on recruiting efforts to increase US military forces. Add to this the intangible value of access to high school students provided by the NCLB Act.

* Obama has insisted on “moving forward” by avoiding the recognition of crimes committed by the government, allowing the worst offenders of the Bush years to avoid prosecution. He has both granted amnesty to the CIA agents involved in torture and offered legal defense if anyone else were to prosecute them.

* On February 19, 2010 the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) issued its report on whether John Yoo and Jay Bybee should be held accountable for their actions associated with their role providing legal cover for torture, indefinite incarceration without trial, rendition, massive spying and other practices. DOJ found that they engaged in “intentional professional misconduct” by ignoring legal precedent and providing poor legal advice. But it did not hold them accountable for the crimes committed under the cover of their “legal” memos.

Associate Deputy Attorney General David Margolis, then downgraded the report’s conclusions to “poor judgment.” As a result, two slaps on the wrist are all that have emerged from an investigation into one of the darkest periods of modern US history.

* Obama has proposed “preventive detention”: imprisoning people because the government claims they are likely to engage in violent acts in the future.

* Prisoners are being rendered not only to “black sites” in Afghanistan but possibly to other countries.

* Prisoners are still enduring prolonged isolation, sleep and sensory deprivation and force-feeding. These techniques cause extreme mental anguish and permanent physical damage and they are not permitted under international law. Make no mistake, the US still engages in torture. And we do know that solitary confinement is also taking place on US soil, as in the case of Syed Fahad Hashmi, a Muslim American student held for two and a half years in downtown Manhattan under Special Administrative Measures (SAMS).

* Guantanamo still has not been closed. If it does close, there is talk of moving the remaining prisoners to a jail in Illinois under the same conditions of confinement.

* Prisoners in secret detention centers or “black sites” around the world are not allowed to gain access to courts, lawyers or even to know the charges or evidence against them.

Is this the change we want to see? Is it really okay if Bush policies are carried out by Obama? Have the wars ended? No, they are being expanded. The Obama administration is condoning the Bush war crimes by not prosecuting the Bush officials and by carrying some of them over into the new administration. This makes the Obama officials complicit with the Bush war crimes.

People of conscience must insist on accountability for the actions of US officials, no matter who is president. It is our obligation.

Copyright © 2010 War Criminals Watch. All Rights Reserved.
War Criminals Watch is a project of World Can’t Wait. War Criminals Watch, 305 West Broadway #185, New York, NY 10013, Phone: 866-973-4463

Text of the New York Review of Books Ad

The things that were crimes under Bush are crimes under Obama. Outrages under Bush are outrages under Obama. All this MUST STOP.
And all this MUST BE RESISTED by anyone who claims a shred of conscience or integrity.

Join Cindy Sheehan, Cornel West, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hedges, Daniel Ellsberg, Noam Chomsky, Ray McGovern, Carl Dix, Bill Quigley, William Blum, Joyce Kozloff, Ann Messner, David Swanson, Sunsara Taylor, Stephen Rohde, Fr. Bob Bossie, Peter Phillips, Jed Stone, Tomás Olmos, Peter McLaren, Jodie Evans, Elaine Brower, Matthis Chiroux, Dennis Loo, Larry Everest, Andy Worthington, Blasé Bonpane, William Ayers, Dahr Jamail, Kathy Kelly, Mike Gravel, Rev. Dr. George F. Regas, Donald Freed, Rocky Anderson, Frank Summers, Tom Morello, Ann Wright, Edward Asner, Sarah Kunstler, Emily Kunstler, Michael Ratner, James Cromwell, M. Cherif Bassiouni and by EAW Co-founder Gar Smith….

In the past few weeks, it has become common knowledge that Barack Obama has openly ordered the assassination of an American citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, because he is suspected of participating in plots by Al Qaeda. Al-Awlaki denies these charges. No matter. Without trial or other judicial proceeding, the administration has simply put him on the to-be-killed list.

During this same period, a video leaked by whistleblowers in the military showing US troops firing on an unarmed party of Iraqis in 2007, including two journalists, and then firing on those who attempted to rescue them — including two children — became public. As ugly as this video of the killing of 12 Iraqis was, the chatter recorded from the helicopter cockpit was even more chilling and monstrous. Yet the Pentagon said that there would be no charges against these soldiers; and the media focused on absolving them of blame — “they were under stress,” the story went, “and after all our brave men and women must be supported.” Meanwhile, those who leaked and publicized the video came under government surveillance and are targeted as “national security” threats.

Also during this period, the Pentagon acknowledged, after denials, a massacre near the city of Gardez, Afghanistan, on February 12, 2010, in which 5 people were killed, including two pregnant women, leaving 16 children motherless. The US military first said the two men killed were insurgents, and the women, victims of a family “honor killing.” The Afghan government has accepted the eyewitness reports that US Special Forces killed the men, (a police officer and lawyer) and the women, and then dug their own bullets out of the women’s bodies to destroy evidence. Top US military officials have now admitted that US soldiers killed the family in their house.

Just weeks earlier, a story broken in Harper’s by Scott Horton carried news that three supposed suicides of detainees in Guantánamo in 2006 were not actual suicides, but homicides carried out by American personnel. This passed almost without comment.

In some respects, this is worse than Bush. First, because Obama has claimed the right to assassinate American citizens whom he suspects of “terrorism,” merely on the grounds of his own suspicion or that of the CIA, something Bush never claimed publicly.

Second, Obama says that the government can detain you indefinitely, even if you have been exonerated in a trial, and he has publicly floated the idea of “preventive detention.” Third, the Obama administration, in expanding the use of unmanned drone attacks, argues that the US has the authority under international law to use such lethal force and extrajudicial killing in sovereign countries with which it is not at war.

Such measures by Bush were widely considered by liberals and progressives to be outrages and were roundly, and correctly, protested. But those acts which may have been construed (wishfully or not) as anomalies under the Bush regime, have now been consecrated into “standard operating procedure” by Obama, who claims, as did Bush, executive privilege and state secrecy in defending the crime of aggressive war.

Unsurprisingly, the Obama administration has refused to prosecute any members of the Bush regime who are responsible for war crimes, including some who admitted to waterboarding and other forms of torture, thereby making their actions acceptable for him or any future president, Democrat or Republican.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.