Sunday, November 12, 2006

War Crimes

One of the things that has bugged me since the capture of Saddam Hussein has been some of the charges which he is being tried for. When there is talk of his killing innocent people in reprisal for their complicity in the first gulf war or as a reprisal for an assassination attempt, when there is talk of incarcerating people against their will, torturing them and having them die at the hands of their torturers, I have to wince. Though Saddam is being charged with the coup de gras of all war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and he's not welcome at my barbecues, many of the things I read about in the course of his trial sound eerily familiar.

I had begun to wonder, as Abu Ghraib came out, as the entire reason for our bombing a nation turned out to be null and void, as the death toll in Iraq mounted, if ever there would be a similar trial for Bush and company someday.

Well, Bush and company must have wondered that too as you may know that the Military Commissions Act of 2006 passed last month as a response to the Hamdan Vs. Rumsfeld Supreme Court ruling that “held that military commissions set up by the Bush administration to try detainees at Guantanamo Bay violate both the UCMJ and the four Geneva Conventions”—“effectively declaring that trying Guantanamo Bay detainees under the Guantanamo military commission (known also as Military Tribunal) was illegal under US law and the Geneva Conventions.” Both quotes from Wikipedia
he Military Commission act of 2006 is “a controversial bill that allows the president to designate certain people with the status of enemy combatants thus making them subject to military commissions, where they have fewer civil rights than in regular trials” (Wikipedia). What you may not know about the Military Commission was that it granted officials retroactive immunity from prosecution for war crimes.

Something else that you may not know is that on Tuesday, November 14, a criminal complaint will be filed under the Code of Crimes Against International Law in the International Criminal Court in Germany. The complaint is being filled by the following individuals and organizations along with much new evidence.

The Plaintiffs:

The Center for Constitutional Rights
The International Federation of Human Rights
The Republican Attorneys Association
The International Bureau of Peace (Nobel Prize winner 1910)
The 1980 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Adolfo Perez Esquivel
2002 Nobel Peace Prize winner Martin Almada
The National Lawyers Guild
International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms
Lawyers Against the War
European Democratic lawyers
European Democratic Jurists
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights
Veterans for Peace.

The Defendants:

Former Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld
Former CIA Director George Tenet
Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Dr. Stephen Cambone
Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez
Major General Walter Wojdakowski
Major General Geoffrey Miller
Colonel Thomas Pappas
Former Chief White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales
Former Assistant Attorney Jay Bybee
Former Deputy Assistant attorney General John Yoo
General Counsel of the Department of Defense William James Haynes II
Vice President Chief Counsel David S. Addington

The complaint alleges that high-ranking US officials authorized war crimes in the context of the so-called “War on Terror.” It alleges that the US administration has treated hundreds if not thousands of detainees in a coercive manner and tortured them in violation of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, the 1977 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the 1984 Conventions Against Torture, to all of which the US is a party.

Some of you may recall that this is a retrial of sorts for some of the defendants of the 2004/2005 complaint that was dismissed. The reason for the dismissal was that the judicial body had no reason to believe that America was not carrying out investigations of their own into the allegations of war crimes. However, the backlash of the Military Commission Act of 2006 is that by granting amnesty to high ranking US officials coupled with the fact that American prosecution and investigation into the war crimes at Abu Ghraib only touched the lower ranking officials is allowing the case to be reopened. The CCR has also stated that new defendants have been added, much new evidence of war crimes has surfaced and a former Brigadier General will now provide testimony for the plaintiffs.

Stay tuned.


At 5:36 AM , Blogger O Ceallaigh said...

All this has a chillingly familiar ring. See, of course, Vietnam (My Lai massacre). Also the Confederate Revolutionary War (suspension of habeas corpus in both North and South; arrest and conviction for treason of Clement Vallandigham for violating Ambrose Burnside's draconian martial law terms).

I am very worried that We the People have allowed all this. I am even more worried that We the People will obsess about beating on the perpetrators - much, indeed, as we are beating on Saddam Hussein. Both sets of people have committed heinous acts. Both now run the risk of becoming martyrs, of becoming symbols and rallying points to their supporters.

So much better it would be if we simply said "It's broken. Fix it. We shall fix it so that those that broke it will never again have the power to break anything again" (maybe that means appointing an absolute monarch over a people that has demonstrated that it is no longer fit for self-government). "And move on. We have important work to do."

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who has borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan; to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

Abraham Lincoln understood the uselessness of reveng, and the utility of moving forward.

At 5:48 AM , Blogger bazza27 said...

I will of course stay tuned, keep us posted Tom.

At 6:30 AM , Blogger Just Tom said...

OC, I like what your saying, especially as a pacifist, that it would be better not to get into a revenge mindset and further the same mentality.

The difficulty for me is when we find ourselves prosecuting others for similar crimes elsewhere.

So, part of me is saying "fair is fair, boys," and part of me feels like the Lincoln quote. Let's remember about Lincoln, though, that he had to try to knit the North and South back together and live with people who had leadership in the rebellion and their constituency down South. By not prosecuting them he took a lot of edge off getting the North and South to function as a single country again.

I think this may be a different situation. And I think that prosecuting Rummy and the like might send a message to future war mongers. It's hard to say how much tooth this German court will have but a conviction would provide a label and one analyst has said that Rummy could end up unable to travel abroad for fear of gettiog arrested--like Kissinger?-- long shot, but it would leave him free in the US to think about his actions everyday.

So, I don't want any hangings, but I would't mind if it made future Kings worry a bit.

At 8:25 AM , Blogger O Ceallaigh said...

I think that prosecuting Rummy and the like might send a message to future war mongers.

It could. The one that Slobodan Milosevic learned from the Nuremberg trials. Oh? There was genocide anyway? Hmmmm ...

Running water in Baghdad, I think, would send a far more powerful message than any public crucifixion.

At 1:53 PM , Blogger bazza27 said...

I can't help thinking a lot of politicians wish they had come out with OC's last comment, simple but brilliant.

At 5:35 PM , Blogger QuillDancer said...

Revenge is useless, but not so accountability. If these men will not admit their blame, it remains for someone else to bring it to light in no uncertain terms -- AS WELL AS making water flow and binding wounds. Admitting fault does not preclude remediation, it demands it.

At 8:42 PM , Blogger Just Tom said...

OC, but what I don't get about what your saying, and I'm trying real hard here, is how can we sign our names to all of the different international conventions, prosecute others under those laws that we have signed our names to, and then when we break those laws say, "well we gave you running water."

Are you saying that the US is above the law that everyone is being held accountable for?

Respectfully, I don't see that you have an argument, if I understand you, but maybe I'm missing something. Please enlighten.


At 8:44 PM , Blogger Just Tom said...

I agree more with Quilly's statement, we have to make people accountable or all the laws mean nothing. How that is carried out is something I'm not sure about, but we cannot pretend to be the keepers of the flame of freedom, justice and democracy and then say, "but we get to do whatever we want."

At 8:46 PM , Blogger Just Tom said...

And I think Bazz is saying the same thing-- good angle: "let's give them something and get off scott free."

At 5:06 AM , Blogger O Ceallaigh said...

Tom et al. -

I can think of no more constructive, and effective, way to repudiate the policies of the current Administration than to conspicuously return to "doing the right thing". Like, honoring the Geneva conventions, closing Gitmo (give it back to Cuba, we sure make them look like they're noble enough to deserve it), taking the attack Dobermans from our borders, spending money on works instead of war, all that. Rather than mounting a series of "show trials" and (in all probability) carrying on with the selfish national policies and practices that, I firmly believe, got us bombed in the first place.

The logic of revenge would have justified a bloodbath at the end of the Confederate Revolutionary War. After all, the political and military leaders of the Confederacy had openly committed treason. Not for us "malice towards none, charity towards all". Not for us a focus on removing the cause (slavery). That's hardly accountability. We're after the perps. Jeff Davis, Bobby Lee et al. on the scaffold of justice. That's what we want.

And it might still not be safe for any Northern man to go to Georgia without armed guard. The Southern States might still be, as General Scott worried, "... rebellious provinces, which would cost more to garrison than it would be possible to extort from them." Lord knows it was bad enough with Lincoln's charity, Grant's stopping his troops from gloating and feeding the starving Army of Northern Virginia, Chamberlain's salute of honor to the surrendering gray troops (which copped plenty of flak from the vengeful).

At 5:20 AM , Blogger O Ceallaigh said...

This may sound completely non sequitur, but bear with me a second. I was listening to the excellent public-radio program Marketplace last night. They were discussing the plight of America's automakers versus foreign, especially Asian, ones. And they voiced this truth of the market:

No American is ever going to buy a smaller car.

This in the face of all the facts about global warming, the profligate and disproportionate wastage of natural resources by Americans (yes, the rest of the world is watching), even gas prices. American makers just make bigger versions of their sloppy products. While Asians manage to give us what we demand while still providing some gains in resource efficiency.

And meanwhile, I'm sure the Japanese equivalent of the phrase "spoiled brats" escapes their lips periodically.

Rather than mounting a series of "show trials" and ... carrying on with the selfish national policies and practices that, I firmly believe, got us bombed in the first place ...

At 5:31 AM , Blogger Katie McKenna said...

Happy Birthday!

At 5:48 AM , Anonymous jackie said...

Tom, thanks for the information, and for the dialog you start by sharing your thoughts - I always look forward to reading everyone's 'take' on these situations.

And, Tom, HAPPY BIRTHDAY to you,
happy birthday to you, happy birthday, dear Tom, happy birthday to you !
I celebrate your are a wonderful man, and, my favorite son-in-law! Love you.

At 7:07 AM , Blogger QuillDancer said...

Happy Birthday to Tom --and many more.

I am worried about a mindset that appears to say we should not hold people responsible fpr irresponsible actions, but should just forgive them and try to fix the damage they've done.

I'm all for trying to fix the damage they've done -- but if no one is held accountable for their actions, what's to stop the next guy (or gal) from doing worse?

At 7:21 AM , Blogger O Ceallaigh said...

Therefore "If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in doing so, you will heap coals of fire on his head."

Don't be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

- Letter of Paul to the Romans 12: 20-21.

At 7:22 AM , Blogger bazza27 said...

'twas the simplicity of OC's statement that appealed to me. I can't help feeling that given a choice the people of Baghdad would rather have running water than politicians of another country being held to account for their actions. Of course in an ideal world the people of Baghdad would get both. On a more personal note, have a very happy birthday Tom.

At 7:23 AM , Blogger O Ceallaigh said...

And I'm so blind, I missed the birthday notice. Hippo Birdie Two Ewe, Tom!

At 10:18 AM , Anonymous cindra said...

Running water AND and admission of guilt by the powers that be? Not gonna happen, but I agree with you, Bazza (and appreciate OC's statement that you referenced), that in an ideal world, that would be great for the people of Baghdad. "We" can't even run our own government and own accountability for local travesties, which is a crying shame, so I cannot fathom why "we" think we can go and meddle in the affairs of another government with less than honorable intentions and expect any sort of amicable outcome. Our government is only as good as the people in, I'd like to see us own accountability and hear the people whose lives are affected by our choices to "help" them. And give them running water too...

At 10:19 AM , Anonymous cindra said...

Happy Birthday, Shrek! I love you and your big green...uh...tummy!

At 12:25 PM , Blogger Egan said...

Great topic and one that should not be overlooked. I've maintained for quite some time how there are glaring similarities between Mr. Bush and Mr. Hussein.

At 12:30 PM , Blogger Egan said...

OC - aren't Americans currently buying smaller cars? I know I did and I know I'm not alone here in Seattle.

Tom, happy 45th.

At 12:52 PM , Blogger Just Tom said...

Thanks for all your comments on the post and for the happy birthdays as well. It really does make my day!

OC,I just want to paraphrase your main point here so that you can check off that I got it. At this stage I am not repudiating anything you are saying or agreeing, just wanting to get it. Okay:

You're suggesting that in a sense, our administration could throw up some patsies to get a public thrashing and satisfy the critics then continue to go on as business as usual, having publicly paid their debt-- let Rummy take the fall and exonerate Bush/Cheney, for instance, so they can continue empire building.


Actually change business as usual to something that upholds something akin to the Geneva Convention standards and not worry about some fall guy that serves only as a symbolic victory for justice.

Let me know if that is a more lay summation for us lesser beings.

At 2:16 PM , Blogger O Ceallaigh said...

Tom -

I desire the latter, and hope that We the People will insist on it.

I fear the former, and that We the People will allow it.

And re: "lesser beings". May I suggest that you know better. I'm the lesser being for not making things clear. I plead the excuse that I was up all night writing a grant proposal, so my flux of the keyboard is even worse than usual.

egan - I don't have stats before me. It was the opinion of the Marketplace folk that American purchases of smaller cars is not happening.

The Marketplace transcript

Link to the poll to which they refer.

At 3:39 PM , Blogger Just Tom said...

OC, I certainly agree that a paradigm shift in foreign (and for that matter domestic) policy would be great. My path to peace post at Sar's suggested just that and didn't call for a witch hunt.

I just don't see why it's either/or.

Maybe you're suggesting that it would be easier to facilitate real change without alientating the old guard and if we get into a pissing match over blame it will hinder that path to a "truer" nation.

"Truer nation" could be widely interpreted, I realize. As I mentioned to you in another commentary, I am reading an excellent biography of Ben Franklin (hence the riddle) and I can't believe the fairness of mind he brought to defining the mission of America-- sure, there were discrepancies between what he spouted and what he did. He went the route of Clinton in terms of womanizing-- however he really did try to find poltical and ideological fairness as best as one could do in a time when slavery was legal, both in terms of the "negro" slave trade and the indentured servitude of the Europeans, and where classicism still existed. I think a case could be made that Franklin's vision of America was the truest one (he later in life excoriated slavery). Proof of this for me is that the Declaration of independence, the Bill of Rights and the subsequent Constitution were documents written somewhat headier than the signers might well of liked-- These documents have been used time and time again to bring down the ruling class in favor of the working class.

Perhaps a good examination of our roots might create a solid platform to promote change.

I haven't finished the book yet so may feel differently when my research is done-- my current theme is sort of, "in search of America."

At 3:58 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday, Tom.

At 4:50 PM , Blogger Logophile said...

I have been given permission to have my way with your ass.
Give you some birthday swats.
Bend over, baby, its your special day.
And don't get any snot on me either!
And many happy returns.

At 4:56 PM , Blogger QuillDancer said...

OC -- I can tell you for a fact that in this city of flash and glitter the cars only seem to get bigger and bigger. I actually got rid of my small car and went to mid-sized because a huge SUV casually parked on my compact while I was driving it. I am lucky to be a live and I wanted a little more protection around me.

At 5:19 PM , Anonymous Goof for Me said...

Happy Bday Tom!

At 5:20 PM , Anonymous Good for Me said...

woops - good not goof

At 5:30 PM , Blogger Just Tom said...

Logo and goofy (I like "goof for me"-- it's what guys do when they try to win over a girl), thanks for the birthday wishes.

Logo, I had to wonder why if I bent over and you swatted my butt that you might get snot on you, then I remembered that I told the world that I had this terrible cold over at C Jos.

OC and Quilly, I wonder if things will go the way of the 70s and get small again should we see the rise in oil prices return. I also know that hybrids are going like gangbusters-- how does that figure into the equation?

At 5:33 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think seeing a big full sized Hummer driving down my suburban street illustrates O'C's point perfectly. I die laughing everytime I see one, but I guess the war IS in my backyard.

At 6:53 PM , Blogger QuillDancer said...

Tom, I'd love to go back to a small car and zip-zip wherever I want to go -- and a hybrid would be grand, but not as long as they're smaller than the hubcaps on every other car in town. They'd run over me and not even feel the bump.

At 7:24 PM , Blogger Egan said...

Quilldancer - the upsizing of your car because you're afraid of larger SUVs kind of confuses me. Smaller cars have are a lot more agile and much less likely to roll when making abrupt turns. I feel just as safe in our MINI Cooper (six airbags) than I do in our Subaru wagon. Bigger doesn't always translate into safer.

I'm not trying to bust your chops, but I hear this argument all the time when it comes to SUVs.

Tom, hybrids will be the final nail in the coffin for the slow adopting US car manufacturers if they aren't careful. Hybrids are here to stay.

At 8:55 PM , Blogger Just Tom said...

Egan, you bring up a good point. We are often slow to adjust because we think we know our market.

Look up a good bio on this guy and you'll find out why we've been playing catch up to the Japanese for over three decades:

Dr. William Edwards Deming

This man was solely responsible for the Japanese car industry because he made the discovery that quality mattered during the era of American planned obsolesence. he created the Deming Management system that had people on the line giving feedback to the suits and dialogue between workers at every level.

Damn, there goes this weeks challenge! Better think of something else.

At 9:06 PM , Blogger QuillDancer said...

Egan, it may not be logical, but I feel safer. Not to mention, that I've decreased the likelihood of again hearing the words, "I didn't even see it!" Aside from that, that little tiny car broke in half. The cage around me was solid, obviously, but the rest of it was a soda can.

At 11:54 PM , Blogger Chana said...

Happy Birthday to Tom
Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday, he's 46
Happy Birthday to you!

Whhooo-hooo i just read 46 wonderful things about you. You are one nice man. Hope your day was full of love and family.
God Bless..

At 3:08 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom: I knew about Deming without Googling him, too. And why are you ignoring me? I'm getting a complex. (I'm having a snit fit today.)

At 5:47 AM , Blogger Just Tom said...

Oh hey there, Nibby, so sorry. I guess I thought your comment was just throwing support at OCs idea that we just buy bigger.

The SUV market is shameful for a couple of reasons: 1) they are a bunch of over-sized vehicles that use way too much gas and 2) they are in an industry vehicle loophole in that they are not a car and not a truck (light truck category) so do not have to fit certain fuel effeciency criteria that passenger vehicles do. This category was originally created to help rural folk who needed light trucks for their farming based lives and represented about 20% of the auto indusstry. Today, about half of vehicles sold are in this category and the EPA has found that the testing of MPG by the industry is also flawed in the favor of the manufacturer and the SUVs get even worse gas mileage than advertised.

At 6:46 AM , Anonymous Renee Hubka said...

Happy birthday too - even if i am late. i was so happy to find your blog and copied all to my computer to read at home as we, the little people in Liberia, do not have internet in our homes. Please come here Tom - we need you in the Arts. Love, your sis Renee

At 3:26 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom: I'm sorry I was snotty this morning. Thanks for responding even so.

At 1:42 AM , Blogger The Grunt said...

Happy 45th, Tom. I really enjoyed the topic of this post. I have always been fascinated by the cult of personality and feel that this is what has enabled Bush to get away with so much. It's as if this big, "down home", average Joe kind of figure is endearing to so many that they cannot grasp the totality of his heinous acts, and they just let it go. Hell, they rally around him. People wonder how dictators get into power and stay there. Well, it is because of people. No one man is that powerful or influential to do it alone. He/she needs a group, then a mass, then the masses. It is just refreshing to know that our country has a way of managing these types of leaders better than most of the world.

At 8:53 AM , Anonymous cindra said...

Nessa-you get a snit fit whenever you want...Tom lives with a couple of females, so he's okay with that...just kinda smirks behind his coffee cup...

Grunty-I like how you put that "cult of personality". Dubya is that big dummy in highschool who is popular for no apparent reason other than his name, and all the other dudes egg him on and give him ideas...while they root for their football team to was the WHO?

At 10:49 AM , Blogger Just Tom said...

Chana, thanks so much for your kind words.

Nessa, any snittiness doesn't phase me-- see Cindra's remark. I've also been sick and on a massive deadline this week so only pop in randomly and throw out what hits me.

Grunty-- Ahoy, mate. Yeah, people did get him there (in power) but with elections like we have had (Florida, Ohio issues) even that's questionable. Would we put it past these guys to rig and election if it got them what they wanted?

Still, there were plenty of supporters.

Renee-- thanks for the birthday wishes and I probably won't be going to Liberia any time soon, but thanks for the offer.


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