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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

War Crimes

I saw this headline today - Rumsfeld faces renewed war crimes claims - in the Guardian. Here's a little of it ...

A US-based civil rights group today asked German prosecutors to take legal action against the former US secretary of defence Donald Rumsfeld for war crimes. The Centre for Constitutional Rights (CCR) lodged a complaint with the German federal prosecutor urging investigations of Mr Rumsfeld, who resigned last week, and other former US officials over alleged abuses in Iraq and at Guantánamo Bay. Under a law enacted by Germany when the international criminal court was created in 2002, the federal prosecutor can investigate and prosecute war crimes regardless of where they are committed or of the nationality of the perpetrators ...

I don't really understand about international law but my feeling is that if we (the United States) want to have the right to judge others guilty of war crimes, we should be willing to take responcibility for the war crimes we ourselves commit. I seriously doubt that will occur, at least not where Rumsfeld is concerned.

This makes me think of an episdoe of The West Wing - War Crimes. Below is part of the dialogue between Leo McGarry, White House Chief of Staff, and General Alan Adamely, the man who was his commander when he served in Vietnam. They are talking about the creation of an international war crimes tribunal. Leo is for it, the general is against it. Leo begins the conversation by summing up the seriousness of a crime against humanity ...

Leo - A crime so immense as to exceed the jurisdiction of any single court or government. Alan, systematic extermination of civilians, enslavement, torture, rape, forced pregnancy, terrorism-doesn't the world need a permanent standing body...?

The general - National sovereignty is at stake. Americans are answerable to no one but their own government and their own laws.


Leo - 139 countries have signed. 35 have ratified. Once 60 ratify, that's the ball game. You want to be left out?

The general - Absolutely. And I'll tell you what else. This is gonna raise nineteen kinds of hell in Congress .... There're already extreme Republicans who are attaching amendments to bills cutting off military aid to any NATO member that signs the treaty... and committing the U.S. to forcibly rescue any American soldier held and tried in such a court. Leo, this commits the United States to a scenario...where we'd be invading Holland!

Leo - How much of this is about hedging our bets?

The general - It's not about...

Leo - Look, we set up Nuremberg! We set up the Tokyo War Crimes Trial. And that was fine until we realized the Cold War threat was gonna take precedence. So when the German rocket scientists came here to help us get into space... we looked the other way, while SS officers followed right behind, protected by American intelligence services, 'cause they were gonna help us with the Communists. Oh, please, Alan...So how much of this is hedging our bets?

The general - Remember Operation Rolling Thunder?

Leo - Yeah. I think I do, yeah.

The general - September 1966?

Leo - Yeah.

The general - You were piloting an F-105 Fighter Chief. This was our first unit, 355th Tactical Fighter Wing out of Thailand.

Leo - Yeah.

The general - I was Forward Air Commander. I gave you your directions. "From I.P., heading 273 for 10.5 miles. Your target is north-south running bridge over river, one kilometer to the tree line running east-west."

Leo - Yeah? ... It was a military target.

The general - It was a civilian target. It was a dam. There were eleven civilian casualties.

Leo - Why did you tell me that?

The general - Because you could be charged and tried for a war crime.

Leo - Why did you tell me that?!

The general - All wars are crimes.


All wars are indeed crimes ... I suppose some think it pointless to make judgements about degrees of badness in our actions, when all relevant acts are bad ... but until war has ceased to be a reality, it's better than doing nothing at all.

What constitutes a war crime?

Read about The International Criminal Court established in 2002 as a permanent tribunal to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, crimes of aggression, and war crimes, as defined by several international agreements, most prominently the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.


Blogger Deacon Denny said...

Thank you for this post, Crystal.

I just spent about 45 minutes reading over the various links connected with this subject. It's remarkable the history that you never learn in school. It's even more remarkable the current events that don't make the headlines. I could not help having a heavy heart after reading some of those stories -- that our world is so violent, and our own country is so violent. Of course I knew both of those already, and was not surprised; and yet it still upsets me.

That clip from the West Wing was very familiar -- and the last comment, very true.


8:17 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Denny.,

I feel like you - I seem to have grown up with the idea that America was a country with a foundation of idealism. All it took ws a few episodes of the X-Files to disabuse me of that illusion :-). I'm kidding, of sourse - but it does seem to be that when we take the time to dig below the political surface, what's found isn't pretty.

11:43 PM  

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