When War Crimes Are Impossible


s President Bush guilty of war crimes? To
even ask the question is to go far beyond the boundaries of mainstream
U.S. media. A few weeks ago when a class of seniors at Parsippany
High School in New Jersey prepared for a mock trial to assess whether
Bush has committed war crimes, a media tempest ensued. Typical was
the response from MSNBC host Tucker Carlson, who found the very
idea of such accusations against Bush to be unfathomable. The classroom
exercise “implies people are accusing him of a crime against
humanity,” Carlson said. “It’s ludicrous.”

In Tennessee, the

Chattanooga Times Free Press

in an editorial: “That some American ‘educators’
would have students ‘try’ our American president for ‘war
crimes’ during time of war tells us that our problems are not
only with terrorists abroad.”

The standard way for the media to refer to Bush and war crimes in
the same breath is along the lines of this lead-in to a late March
report on CNN’s “American Morning”: “The Supreme
Court’s about to consider a landmark case and one that could
have far-reaching implications. At issue are President Bush’s
powers to create war crimes tribunals for Guantanamo prisoners.”
In medialand when the subject is war crimes, the president points
the finger at others.

But a few journalists outside the corporate media structures are
probing Bush’s culpability for war crimes. One of them is Robert
Parry. During the 1980s, Parry covered U.S. foreign policy for the
Associated Press and


. In the process he broke many
stories on the Iran-Contra scandal. Now he’s the editor of
Consortiumnews. com, a website he founded that has little use for
the narrow mainstream journalistic path. “In a world where
might did not make right,” Parry wrote in a recent piece, “George
W. Bush, Tony Blair, and their key enablers would be in shackles
before a war crimes tribunal at The Hague, rather than sitting in
the White House, 10 Downing Street, or some other comfortable environs
in Washington and London.”

Over the top? I don’t think so. In fact, Parry’s evidence
and analysis seem much more cogent—and relevant to our true
situation—than the prodigious output of countless liberal-minded
pundits who won’t go beyond complaining about Bush’s deceptions,
miscalculations, and tactical errors in connection with the Iraq

Is Congress ready to consider the possibility that the commander
in chief has committed war crimes? Of course not. But the role of
journalists shouldn’t be to snuggle within the mental confines
of Capitol Hill. We need the news media to fearlessly address matters
of truth, not cravenly adhere to limits of expediency.

We haven’t yet seen the Washington press corps raise the matter
of war crimes by the president. Very few dare to come near the terrain
that Parry explored in his March 28 article “Time to Talk War
Crimes.” That article cites key statements by the U.S. representative
to the Nuremberg Tribunal immediately after the Second World War.
“Our position,” declared Robert Jackson, a U.S. Supreme
Court justice, “is that whatever grievances a nation may have,
however objectionable it finds the status quo, aggressive warfare
is an illegal means for settling those grievances or for altering
those conditions.”

During a March 26 appearance on the NBC program “Meet the Press,”
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice tried to justify the invasion
of Iraq this way: “We faced the outcome of an ideology of hatred
throughout the Middle East that had to be dealt with. Saddam Hussein
was a part of that old Middle East. The new Iraq will be a part
of the new Middle East, and we will all be safer.”

But in an essay on April 3, Parry pointed out that “this doctrine—that
the Bush administration has the right to invade other nations for
reasons as vague as social engineering—represents a repudiation
of the Nuremberg Principles and the United Nations Charter’s
ban on aggressive war, both formulated largely by American leaders
six decades ago.”

Parry flags the core of the administration’s maneuver: “Gradually,
Rice, and other senior Bush aides shifted their rationale from Hussein’s
WMD to a strategic justification, that is, politically transforming
the Middle East.” He concludes that, “Implicit in the
U.S. news media’s non-coverage of Rice’s new rationale
for war is that there is nothing objectionable or alarming about
the Bush administration turning its back on principles of civilized
behavior promulgated by U.S. statesmen at the Nuremberg Tribunal
six decades ago.”

Solomon’s latest book is

War Made Easy:
How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.

For information:
www.WarMade Easy.com.