War crimes and their perpetrators are as ancient as war itself. War criminals have typically received punishment because responsible moral people have responded appropriately to the reprehensible actions of a few. Not all tribunals, official or otherwise, receive press attention, especially in a media controlled environment. Tribunals are convened against individuals who violate International Laws which encompass the Geneva Conventions, the United Nations Charter, the Nuremburg Charter and the Hague Convention of 1907. The United States signed each of these treaties and are morally bound by them. Then there is our own War Crimes Act of 1996 which prohibits Americans, including officials, from committing war crimes known as “grave breaches” of the Geneva Conventions. [i]
Considering our own War Crimes Act of 1996 and the International Treaties how can we justify our questionable invasion and alleged occupation actions? In an internal White House memo dated 25 January 2002 Alberto R. Gonzales, currently our Attorney General, warned Bush that members of his administration could possibly be prosecuted for war crimes as a result of the innovative techniques used in the war on terror. The Bush administration was also warned by a group of attorneys before the Iraqi invasion. [ii] Therefore, given that the punishments for violations of the Geneva Conventions could include the death penalty, Gonzales urged Bush to “declare the war in Afghanistan, including the detention of Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters, exempt from the provisions of the Geneva Convention.”
Gonzales stated that it would be difficult to determine how future Department of Justice prosecutors would apply the War Crimes Act of 1996. He also reminded the president that he, Bush, had already assumed the Constitutional authority to “make the determination you made on 18 January 2002 that the GPW (Geneva Convention III on the Treatment of Prisoners of War) does not apply to al Qaeda and the Taliban.” “Your determination would create a reasonable basis in law that (the War Crimes Act) does not apply which would provide a solid defense to any future prosecution.” Gonzales wrote. [iii] He further stated in his memo: “As I discussed with you, the grounds for such a determination may include: A determination that Afghanistan was a failed state because the Taliban did not exercise full control over the territory and people, was not recognized by the international community, and was not capable of fulfilling its international obligations. A determination that the Taliban and its forces were, in fact, not a government, but a militant, terrorist-like group.” [iv]
I don’t recall any expressions in the Constitution that give the executive branch of government the authority to arbitrarily determine the status of foreign leaders or the internal affairs of another country based on some self-serving agenda. Nor does it promote exemption from benevolent moral behavior. This is powerful commentary on presidential presumption of power which places every citizen, not just foreigners, in jeopardy. Anyone may easily, for expediency, be labeled as enemy combatants, terrorists, communists, liberals, leftists, useless eaters, insurgents, fetuses or unresponsive brain damaged defenseless people. And the penalty ascribed is open to the interpretation of a trained conditioned practitioner, foreign or native born, and there are no injunctions against torture or worse and total disregard for humanitarian treatment. Unfortunately, because of presidential privilege, though immoral, precedents have been established! Special operations are in place and regularly followed but denied if questioned by congress (like Dick Durbin), the alternative press or others. [v]
On 10 November 2005, a War Crimes Tribunal was held at the De Anza College in Cupertino, California. The tribunal’s aims were to investigate the complicity of Colin Powell who served as U.S. Secretary of State from 2001 to 2005. As a four star General he served as the Senior Military Assistant to U.S. Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger. Then under Presidents Reagan and George H. W. Bush he was the National Security Advisor. He served as the Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff from 1989 to 1993 during which the United States invaded Panama and Iraq.
Even though he claimed not to embrace the blatant neo conservative globalist views of others in the Bush administration, Powell gave an apparently convincing presentation to the United Nations Security Council on 5 February 2003. It included purported satellite photos and audio taped intercepted telephone conversations supposedly illustrating Iraqi guilt. His Bush Administration backed goal was to persuade the Council of the validity of unilaterally invading Iraq and deposing Saddam Hussein. His sincerity and seemingly honest reputation gave credence to the alleged claims that the uncooperative Iraq had prohibited arms systems as well as nuclear, chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction and that Hussein was complicit with Osama bin Laden. His testimony was enough to persuade the Americans to support the Iraqi invasion despite the findings of the Security Council and their inspectors. [vi] (Hussein previously had WMD’s. We armed Iraq with weapons of mass destruction illegally from 1985-89 to use against Iran and other neighbors.)
Despite Powell’s rank, he was a mere minion manipulated by the governing elite and certainly should not be judged alone; nor should the American populace escape complete culpability by professing ignorance or naivety. We have a responsibility to examine questionable activities perpetrated in our name.
There have been other tribunals – none that you are ever going to hear about on the elite owned Fox or CNN. Lacking a responsible international organization (including the United States taxpayer funded morally inept U.N.) that would try America for war crimes, one was held in Tokyo, Japan under the auspices of the International Criminal Tribunal for Afghanistan (ICTA). It was convened 15 December 2002 and concluded in March 2004 with the indictment of George W. Bush for war crimes. The tribunal included four hundred participants.
During the opening session “Ito Narihiko, Professor Emeritus at Chuo University, said that September 11 was a consequence of America’s global military and economic strategy. He noted that the Bush administration used military means to accomplish two objects that it was unable to accomplish diplomatically: the overthrow of the Taliban and construction of an oil pipeline through Afghanistan.” [vii] This tribunal included the evidence of photo journalists who covered the blood and horror of this inhumane war – an invasion that was somehow supposed to capture Osama bin Laden. How can the weakly attempted capture of a single individual justify the massive bombing of a country? In addition to the deadly destructive indiscriminate “bunker busters,” “daisy cutters” and “cluster bombs,” about 600 tons of depleted uranium rounds were fired.
There was another tribunal held in Kyoto, Japan on 17 July and 18 July 2004 convened by The International Criminal Tribunal for Iraq. This was a mock trial as the accused: United States President George W. Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and countless U.S. mega-corporate criminals were not present. However, the three men had been formally summoned. Although they were not present, lawyers were appointed to represent their views. “The evidence offered and testimony given at the two-day Kyoto tribunal on Iraq focused on five main areas: the US-led attack on Iraq; the occupation of Iraq; the torture of Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib prison and elsewhere; the US massacre of civilians in the town of Fallujah; and the crimes of Japanese prime minister Koizumi, who is accused of “aiding and abetting” the US and UK in Iraq.” [viii]
Some of the most profound testimony came from three Iraqi refugees. As with any invasion and occupation those who can conceivably escape flee to other countries. At least we understand the influx of Iraqis in other countries. Their testimony, the other side of the story, is compelling.
“First, there is no justification in international law for the US-British attack on Afghanistan. It cannot be explained as the right to self-defense. The UN Charter provides no grounds to justify it. There has been no Security Council resolution to approve the US-British invasion. The US claims that its actions are justified by Al Qaeda’s criminal acts, but it hasn’t offered a single piece of evidence.” [ix] There were atrocious crimes against humanity and against every treaty that this Christian nation of America has signed. The specific violations “include aggression, attacks against civilians and nonmilitary facilities and the torturing and execution of prisoners.” [x]
There was also an unpublicized tribunal in Istanbul from the 23rd through the 27th of June 2005. Their very comprehensive findings and charges can be viewed in English and should be essential reading for every single freedom-loving American. [xi] Their evidence includes many issues of enormous importance that we hear nothing about except in uncensored foreign newspapers or on the Internet. Hopefully, these conduits of truth will remain accessible and not be prohibited by the stealthy inclusion in some piece of legislation ostensibly designed to protect us.
What exactly is the essence of the alleged war crimes? What is a cluster bomb? “A cluster bomb is a 14-foot weapon that weighs about 1,000 pounds. When it explodes it sprays hundreds of smaller bomblets over an area the size of two or three football fields. The bomblets are bright yellow and look like soda cans. And because they look like playthings, thousands of children have been killed by dormant bomblets in Afghanistan, Kuwait and Iraq. Each bomblet sprays flying shards of metal that can tear through a quarter inch of steel.”
“Before the invasion of Iraq, Human Rights Watch called for a moratorium on the use of cluster bombs. Human Rights director Steve Close predicted that ‘Iraqi civilians will be paying the price with their lives and limbs for many years.’ A U.N. weapons commission described cluster bombs as ‘weapons of indiscriminate effects.’ In defiance of U.N. reports, Air Force studies, and repeated warnings from Human Rights Watch, Rumsfeld reauthorized the expanded use of cluster bombs with full knowledge of their indiscriminate and treacherous results.” [xii] They are considered criminal weapons by the Geneva Conventions because of their wanton unpredictable indiscriminate killing – that collateral damage we occasionally hear about. Collateral damage is the deceptively benign doublespeak for the maiming or death of non military targets: women and children. Tired overworked Iraqi doctors dig shrapnel out of the maimed bodies of once-playful beautiful dark eyed innocent children.
In addition to cluster bombs and depleted uranium our country used white phosphorous in the city of Falluja, “a place name that has become a symbol of unconscionable brutality.” [xiii] White phosphorous, upon contact with the skin, can burn/melt the flesh right off of the bones without destroying the clothes. Like cluster bombs, it is indiscriminate and irreversible. If inhaled, it burns from the inside out. Its use is illegal and immoral. The United States has consistently denied using it except for “illumination purposes.” However, there are videos which clearly show the use of white phosphorous on the civilians of Falluja. [xiv] Click on the appropriate footnote to view.
The attack on Falluja was on 8 November 2004. It was preceded by eight weeks of aerial bombardment which destroyed the city’s water, power and food supplies which is against the Geneva Conventions. “Two-thirds of the city's 300,000 residents fled, many to squatters' camps without basic facilities.” [xv]
“As the siege tightened, the Red Cross, Red Crescent and the media were kept out, while males between the ages of 15 and 55 were kept in. US sources claimed between 600 and 6,000 insurgents were holed up inside the city - which means that the vast majority of the remaining 100,000 inhabitants were non-combatants.” [xvi]
“The US also deployed incendiary weapons, including white phosphorous. ‘Usually we keep the gloves on,’ Captain Erik Krivda said, but ‘for this operation, we took the gloves off.’ By the end of operations, the city lay in ruins. Falluja's compensation commissioner has reported that 36,000 of the city's 50,000 homes were destroyed, along with 60 schools and 65 mosques and shrines.” [xvii] The hospitals were the first buildings to be attacked where the doctors were arrested. [xviii]
The homes, the schools, the shrines, the hospitals lay in ruins. What about the Iraqi deaths? “We were told that the Iraqis don't count. Before the invasion began, the head of US central command, General Thomas Franks, boasted that ‘we don't do body counts’. His claim was repeated by Donald Rumsfeld in November 2003 (‘We don't do body counts on other people.’) and the Pentagon last January (‘The only thing we keep track of is casualties for US troops and civilians’). [xix] Well, the so-called insignificant Iraqi people of Falluja have responded in a heartfelt must read plea.
“The Iraqi health ministry, reports that twice as many Iraqis - and most of them civilians - are being killed by US and UK forces as by insurgents. When the Pentagon claims that it has just killed 50 or 70 or 100 rebel fighters, we have no means of knowing who those people really were. Everyone it blows to pieces becomes a terrorist. In July Jack Keane, the former vice chief of staff of the US army, claimed that coalition troops had killed or captured more than 50,000 ‘insurgents’ since the start of the rebellion.” [xx]
It is not unpatriotic or un-American to question. This appears to be an absolute reign of blood and horror. I don’t belong to the “blame America first crowd” but when there is wanton destruction of life, liberty and property, the things that Americans value – I am not going to remain mute. I am proud to be an American but I feel shame and deep sorrow over the loss of any life because I am a Christian first and foremost.
War Crimes Act of 1996
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