The Prosecution Rests Its Case: Verdict – Guilty


There is a growing awareness among the chattering classes in the United States that President W. Bush may be guilty of war crimes.  Democratic Congressman and ranking minority member of the House Judiciary Committee, John Conyers, introduced resolutions calling for the creation of a panel to investigate Bush and Cheney’s handling of the war.  Although a long way from framing articles of impeachment, it is an important first step.

 

There is overwhelming and irrefutable evidence that President Bush and others in his administration have violated numerous international laws and conventions.  They have violated the Hague Conventions, the Nuremburg principles, the UN charter, the Geneva Conventions, the Convention Against Torture, The Convention on Conventional Weapons and possibly the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.  In addition, they have violated the War Crimes Act, a section of the American criminal code, and Article VI of the constitution

 

The War Crimes Act states that “Whoever…commits a war crime…defined 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” will 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.”  According to the Nuremberg Principles, if war crimes have been committed under this act, President Bush, as head of state, should be held responsible.

 

Article VI of the constitution states that “All treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the land.”  In other words, the Geneva conventions with the exception of the two protocols which have not been signed by the U.S. are part of American law and any violation thereof is a serious offense.

 

President Bush began violating international law the moment the U.S. started bombing Iraq.  According to international law, there are only two criteria for a legal war: self-defense as defined in the United Nations Charter, Chapter VII, Article 51 and authorization of the Security Council.  There is no specific UN resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq in 2003 and none of the former resolutions pertaining to Iraq authorize the use of force.

 

The Bush Administration cannot justify the war under the spurious defence of a preemptive strike because no such term exists in international law.  International law states that an act of war only qualifies as self-defense if there is an “actual or imminent” threat.  Administration legal spinners can’t legitimately demonstrate that Iraq posed such a threat.  The UN charter also states that “Measures taken by members in the exercise of this right of self-defense shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security.” (Chapter VII, Article 51)  By completely bypassing the Security Council, the Bush Administration has forgone any opportunity to claim that the war was legitimate.

 

The military occupation of Iraq violates Chapter I, Article 2, Clause 4 of the United Nations Charter which states that “All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.”

 

President Bush has also violated a number of clauses in the fourth Geneva Convention where it is stated that “In the case of armed conflict…Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of the armed forces who have laid down their arms…shall in all circumstances be treated humanely…[and] the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and at any place: a) Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds; mutilation, cruel treatment and torture; b) Taking of hostages; c)    Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment.” (Part 1, Article 3)  It also states that “The present Convention shall apply from the outset of any conflict or occupation.” (Article 6)

 

Fallujah is a typical example of American forces ignoring the rights of civilians and the protection of non-military targets.  The objective of the November 8/05 assault on Fallujah was to kill all the insurgents who were in the city and to establish a deterrent from further action on the part of all insurgents throughout Iraq.

 

Preceding the attack on Fallujah, American warplanes conducted nightly air strikes on residential buildings, restaurants and mosques.  Before the actual assault began, U.S. warplanes reduced the Nazzal Emergency Hospital in the center of Fallujah to rubble.    American forces then encircled the city with a cordon of more than 10,000 armed troops and were supported by all the American warplanes in the area.   According to a CounterPunch Newsletter, November 17/04, “Women and children were allowed to leave the doomed city, but all males ‘of fighting age’ were turned back if they tried to leave…They were turned back to face the coming attack.”  U.S. marines set up blockades so that ambulances and other vehicles transporting dead or injured residents could not reach a hospital.  (Doug Lorimer, Scoop Independent News, November 18/04)  Fallujah General Hospital was taken over by American marines and “Patients and hospital employees were rushed out of rooms by armed soldiers and ordered to sit or lie on the floor while troops tied their hands behind their backs.” (New York Times embedded reporter, ZNet, False Dawn, November 8, 2004)

 

After blasting Fallujah with tanks, U.S. marines traveled from house to house throwing hand grenades into each room before determining whether any persons were there.  A quarter of its homes were completely destroyed and most of the remaining homes were severely damaged. (Michael Schwartz, ZNet, January 14/05) Erik Eckolm of the New York Times described the city as “a desolate world of skeletal buildings, tank-blasted homes, weeping power lines and severed palm trees.” (Michael Schwartz, ZNet, January 14, 2005)

 

According to Michael Schwartz, “When the first medical teams arrived in January they collected more than 700 unburied and rotting bodies (reputedly including those of 550 women and children) in only one-third of the city; and these obviously didn’t include the dead already buried during the battle or hidden under the debris.”

 

 Many of the 200,000 refugees who were forced to abandon their homes brought nothing with them and ended up in refugee camps without any facilities or help from the American or the Interim Iraqi Government.

 

Even one death in an illegal war would have constituted a war crime.  In Fallujah, innocent people were killed, buildings were destroyed, and refugees ignored, all of which violated clauses of the Geneva and Hague Conventions.

 

Alberto Gonzales, former White House Counsel, declared that provisions of the Geneva Conventions are obsolete and therefore, the U.S. can opt out of them.   International law was not created as a set of guidelines under which nations could pick and choose which laws they will honor.  If the United States Government believed that certain clauses in the Geneva Conventions should no longer be operative, the legitimate course of action would have been to convince the signatories to the Conventions to discuss changes in the proper forum.  As well, the White House lawyers should read Article VI, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution which declares that “All treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land.”   In other words, the UN Charter and Geneva Conventions are a part of American law and violating either of them is tantamount to violating American law.

 

Torture has become standard treatment for prisoners who have been either captured by American troops or by others and handed over to American troops under dubious circumstances including the refusal to grant them the rights guaranteed to them in American law and international law.   Interviews with prisoners, translators or other army personnel present during torture sessions offers definitive proof of the frequency and cruelty of the torture inflicted on American prisoners.  It has recently been revealed that suspects around the world have been arrested, drugged and bound before being flown to secret prisons in Europe including Poland and Rumania.  These acts violate the Geneva and Hague Conventions and the Convention Against Torture.

 

Furthermore, American forces have used white phosphorous and depleted uranium weapons both of which have been banned by the Convention On Conventional Weapons.  Depleted uranium weapons are particularly cruel given the extremely long half-life of the isotopes which will be responsible for severe health defects in Iraq for hundreds of thousands of years.

 

If the House Judiciary Committee ever formulates articles of impeachment, to focus on the less substantive issues such as lying to Congress or lying about WMD etc., will further weaken the United Nations and the international regime of laws which criminalize wars of aggression and civilize war to the furthest extent possible.  By only charging Bush with lying implies that the war would have been legitimate if WMD had been found.

 

Even mere presence of WMD in Iraq does not qualify as an actual or imminent threat.  One of the most basic issues in a claim of self-defense is whether Iraq had the delivery capability for its WMD to reach American soil.  The inspection teams, UNSCOM and UNMOVIC, and the International Atomic Energy Agency found no evidence of WMD and no delivery capability.   According to Hans Blix, Executive Chairman of UNMOVIC “Iraq on the whole has cooperated…access has been provided to all sites.”

 

Ignoring the war crimes of the President also diminishes the role of the United Nations as the only instrument for resolving disputes and authorizing war.  Congressional approval for a war does not override the United Nations Charter which has become part of American law.  If the United States and other nations decide not to relinquish some of their sovereignty over foreign and defense policy to a world body such as the UN, the hope for a world without war may be overtaken by the proliferation of sophisticated weapons and, in particular of nuclear weapons and the propensity of people to resolve their disputes by violent means.

 

President Bush is guilty of lying to the American people and violating international law.  Both are serious offenses but to ignore the latter is a disservice to the United Nations, to American soldiers who have sacrificed their lives and to the people of Iraq who have died or suffered at the hands of this war criminal.

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