The War Crimes Doctrine

President George W. Bush declared, “Iraq is overcoming decades of a vicious tyranny, where governmental authority stemmed solely from fear, terror, and brutality. We will ensure that one brutal dictator is not replaced by another.” And yet the actions of President Bush and his administration suggest that that is precisely what they intended to do. Bush & Co. have systematically implemented an inherently genocidal policy in Iraq; worse, their repeated endeavors to establish American immunity from the Geneva Conventions and any other form of international law reflect the administration’s treasonous attempts to circumvent humanitarian law in an effort to “legally” commit war crimes in Iraq.


In Nuremberg, U.S. Justice Robert Jackson proclaimed, “No grievances or policies will justify resort to aggressive war. It is utterly renounced and condemned as an instrument of policy.” Yet in 2002, after declaring the war on terror “of uncertain duration,” the Bush Administration enacted the Bush Doctrine of Pre-Emptive Self Defense, which ratified President Bush’s right to launch “pre-emptive strikes” even in the absence of any immediate threat. Perhaps most alarming is the doctrine’s outright dismissal of international laws and institutions, of which it deems to be of little value.


Senator Robert Byrd asserts, “Under this strategy, the President lays claim to an expansive power to use our military to strike other nations first, even if we have not been threatened or provoked.” The ideological ramifications of the Bush Doctrine exemplify the United States’ adherence to policy predicated on institutionalized genocide.


To initiate a war of aggression without facing immediate threat from combatants and civilians is, according to the Nuremberg Tribunal, to commit the “supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”


The Nuremberg Charter defines crimes against humanity as “murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, and other inhumane acts committed against civilian populations, before or during a war; or persecutions on political, racial, or religious grounds in execution of or in connection with any crime within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal, whether or not in violation of the domestic law of the country where perpetrated.”


Granted the perpetration of genocide in Iraq differs in several respects from conventional ideological workings of the term, of which genocide is generally defined in terms of blatant acts of racial extermination, as in the Holocaust, Rwanda, Cambodia, and other cases of the like.  The U.S. has not stated an explicit intent to commit mass genocide against the Iraqi people; however, International Humanitarian Law, especially the Law of Geneva, comprised of the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the 1977 Additional Protocols, defines genocide by its intent.  Article 2 of the 1948 Geneva Convention, “Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide,” defines genocide as the following:  “Genocide means any of the following acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group, as such: (a) Killing members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.” 


Furthermore, the War Crimes Act of 1996 makes violations of the Geneva Conventions serious crimes under American law. The Bush Administration’s explicit approval of and, in many cases, direct mandates and authorizations ordering violations of international law – including, but certainly not limited to, torture and depraved exploitation and mishandling of Iraqi detainees, many of whom are innocent civilians guilty of nothing more than the crime of being an Iraqi national, contracting death squads to engage in unsanctioned killings, and reckless killing of Iraqi civilians – are “not just matters of policy or of competence. Rather, they are crimes that violate both international and national law. They are crimes that have come to be known as war crimes.” 


The War Crimes Act defines a war crime as any conduct (1) 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; (2) prohibited by Article 23, 25, 27, or 28 of the Annex to the Hague Convention IV, Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land, signed 18 October 1907; (3) which constitutes a violation of common Article 3 of the international conventions signed at Geneva, 12 August 1949, or any protocol to such convention to which the United States is a party and which deals with non- international armed conflict; or (4) of a person who, in relation to an armed conflict and contrary to the provisions of the Protocol on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Mines, Booby-Traps and Other Devices as amended at Geneva on 3 May 1996 (Protocol II as amended on 3 May 1996), when the United States is a party to such Protocol, willfully kills or causes serious injury to civilians.  


Acting executive director of the Middle East division at Human Rights Watch, Joe Stork has had occasion to witness Americans’ sense of impunity.  “Soldiers must know that they will be held accountable for the improper use of force…Right now, soldiers feel they can pull the trigger without coming under review.”  


In 2003, International Committee of the Red Cross spokesman Roland Huguenin recalled an “incredible” number of civilian casualties south of Baghdad, including “a truck [that] was delivering dozens of totally dismembered dead bodies of women and children. It was an awful sight.  It was really very difficult to believe this was happening.” 


After serving in Iraq from April 2003 through March 2004, 22-year-old Michael Blake expressed considerable distress and anguish over his experience in Iraq; he admits he witnessed U.S. troops’ routine practice of killing innocent Iraqi civilians indiscriminately.  “When IEDs…would go off by the side of the road, the instructions were – or the practice was – to basically shoot up the landscape, anything that moved. And that kind of thing would happen [frequently]…[many] innocent people were killed.”  Now an activist with Iraq Veterans Against the War, Blake recalls that the turning point for him came when he was asked to detain a group of Iraqi women and children, whose fathers and husbands were facing interrogation by U.S. troops.   “The men were taken away and the women were screaming and crying, and I just remember thinking this was exactly what Saddam used to do – and now we’re doing it.”


Joshua Keys, a US soldier who is currently seeking asylum in Canada, recalled the overarching mentality among US troops during the initial march into Baghdad: he claims military command told him and his fellow soldiers that the international law governing armed combat was merely “a guideline.” Keys described the atmosphere in Iraq as one of “shoot first, ask questions later. Everything’s justified.” 


The 2003 Human Rights Watch Report states that while “the US military…is not deliberately targeting civilians, neither is it doing enough to minimize harm to civilians as required by international law.” And while Iraq is unarguably a hostile environment for US troops, that “does not absolve the [U.S.] military from its obligations to use force in a restrained, proportionate, and discriminate matter, and only when strictly necessary.”


Iraq as a cultural and historic entity faces thorough destruction by the pounding fists of the largest military machine in the world; already this tiny country has suffered 550,000 civilian casualties. Baghdad residents continue to complain of “aggressive and reckless behavior, physical abuse, and theft by US troops.” The U.S. has demonstrated an egregious disregard for human life in the countries it has deemed necessary to obliterate for national self-interest. Unmitigated genocide emerges as the fundamental basis of counter-insurgency warfare. The only means for the United States to achieve victory in Iraq lies in the extermination of the Iraqi population in its entirety, so as to ensure the eradication of all enemy guerillas or so-called “insurgents.” 


President Bush’s war crimes and acts of genocide have failed thus far to spark widespread outrage: the Administration continues to make great efforts to pacify not only the Iraqi people but the American people, as well. The White House has failed miserably at the former and yet has succeeded with relative ease at the latter. Particularly in years following World War II, Americans have seen the United States as the champion of freedom, the defender of democracy on the world stage; the truth of U.S. involvement in Iraq will unarguably be a difficult pill to swallow for most Americans. Horror at the United States’ moral rectitude in its dealings with Iraq is glaringly absent. As a nation, we have not yet reached the point of “What have we done?” 


The issue of U.S. war crimes in Iraq brings a Holocaust-era poem to mind:


First they came for the Socialists, and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Socialist.  Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Trade Unionist.  Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Jew.  Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak up for me.  


“Let it not be said that the people in the United States did nothing when their government declared a war without limit and instituted stark new measures of repression.”


~ by K. Danconia on 06.21.

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