Fake Faith and Epic Crimes
By John Pilger / April 2, 2009
These are extraordinary times. With the United States and Britain on the verge of bankruptcy and committing to an endless colonial war, pressure is building for their crimes to be prosecuted at a tribunal similar to that which tried the Nazis at Nuremberg. This defined rapacious invasion as “the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” International law would be mere farce, said the chief US chief prosecutor at Nuremberg, Supreme Court justice Robert Jackson, “if, in future, we do not apply its principles to ourselves.”
That is now happening. Spain, Germany, Belgium, France and Britain have long had “universal jurisdiction” statutes, which allow their national courts to pursue and prosecute prima facie war criminals. What has changed is an unspoken rule never to use international law against “ourselves,” or “our” allies or clients. In 1998, Spain, supported by France, Switzerland and Belgium, indicted the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, client and executioner of the West, and sought his extradition from Britain, where he happened to be at the time. Had he been sent for trial he almost certainly would have implicated at least one British prime minister and two US presidents in crimes against humanity. Home Secretary Jack Straw let him escape back to Chile.
The Pinochet case was the ignition. On 19 January last, the George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley compared the status of George W. Bush with that of Pinochet. “Outside [the United States] there is not the ambiguity about what to do about a war crime,” he said. “So if you try to travel, most people abroad are going to view you not as ‘former President George Bush’ [but] as a current war criminal.” For this reason, Bush’s former defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who demanded an invasion of Iraq in 2001 and personally approved torture techniques in Iraq and at Guantanamo Bay, no longer travels. Rumsfeld has twice been indicted for war crimes in Germany. On 26 January, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak, said, “We have clear evidence that Mr. Rumsfeld knew what he was doing but nevertheless he ordered torture.”
The Spanish high court is currently investigating a former Israeli defence minister and six other top Israeli officials for their role in the killing of civilians, mostly children, in Gaza. Henry Kissinger, who was largely responsible for bombing to death 600,000 peasants in Cambodia in 1969-73, is wanted for questioning in France, Chile and Argentina. Yet, on 8 February, as if demonstrating the continuity of American power, President Barack Obama’s national security adviser, James Jones, said, “I take my daily orders from Dr. Kissinger.”
Like them, Tony Blair may soon be a fugitive. The International Criminal Court, to which Britain is a signatory, has received a record number of petitions related to Blair’s wars. Spain’s celebrated Judge Baltasar Garzon, who indicted Pinochet and the leaders of the Argentinian military junta, has called for George W. Bush, Blair and former Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar to be prosecuted for the invasion of Iraq — “one of the most sordid and unjustifiable episodes in recent human history: a devastating attack on the rule of law” that had left the UN “in tatters.” He said, “There is enough of an argument in 650,000 deaths for this investigation to start without delay.”
This is not to say Blair is about to be collared and marched to The Hague, where Serbs and Sudanese dictators are far more likely to face a political court set up by the West. However, an international agenda is forming and a process has begun which is as much about legitimacy as the letter of the law, and a reminder from history that the powerful lose wars and empires when legitimacy evaporates. This can happen quickly, as in the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of apartheid South Africa — the latter a spectre for apartheid Israel.
Today, the unreported “good news” is that a worldwide movement is challenging the once sacrosanct notion that imperial politicians can destroy countless lives in the cause of an ancient piracy, often at remove in distance and culture, and retain their respectability and immunity from justice. In his masterly Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde R.L. Stevenson writes in the character of Jekyll: “Men have before hired bravos to transact their crimes, while their own person and reputation sat under shelter … I could thus plod in the public eye with a load of genial respectability, and, in a moment, like a schoolboy, strip off these lendings and spring headlong into the sea of liberty. But for me, in my impenetrable mantle, the safety was complete.”
Blair, too, is safe — but for how long? He and his collaborators face a new determination on the part of tenacious non-government bodies that are amassing “an impressive documentary record as to criminal charges,” according to international law authority Richard Falk, who cites the World Tribunal on Iraq, held in Istanbul in 2005, which heard evidence from 54 witnesses and published rigorous indictments against Blair, Bush and others. Currently, the Brussels War Crimes Tribunal and the newly established Blair War Crimes Foundation are building a case for Blair’s prosecution under the Nuremberg Principle and the 1949 Geneva Convention. In a separate indictment, former Judge of the New Zealand Supreme Court E.W. Thomas wrote: “My pre-disposition was to believe that Mr. Blair was deluded, but sincere in his belief. After considerable reading and much reflection, however, my final conclusion is that Mr. Blair deliberately and repeatedly misled Cabinet, the British Labour Party and the people in a number of respects. It is not possible to hold that he was simply deluded but sincere: a victim of his own self-deception. His deception was deliberate.”
Protected by the fake sinecure of Middle East Envoy for the Quartet (the US, EU, UN and Russia), Blair operates largely from a small fortress in the American Colony Hotel in Jerusalem, where he is an apologist for the US in the Middle East and Israel, a difficult task following the bloodbath in Gaza. To assist his mortgages, he recently received an Israeli “peace prize” worth a million dollars. He, too, is careful where he travels; and it is instructive to watch how he now uses the media. Having concentrated his post-Downing Street apologetics on a BBC series of obsequious interviews with David Aaronovitch, Blair has all but slipped from view in Britain, where polls have long revealed a remarkable loathing for a former prime minister — a sentiment now shared by those in the liberal media elite whose previous promotion of his “project” and crimes is an embarrassment and preferably forgotten.
On 8 February, Andrew Rawnsley, the Observer’s former leading Blair fan, declared that “this shameful period will not be so smoothly and simply buried.” He demanded, “Did Blair never ask what was going on?” This is an excellent question made relevant with a slight word change: “Did the Andrew Rawnsleys never ask what was going on?” In 2001, Rawnsley alerted his readers to Iraq’s “contribution to international terrorism” and Saddam Hussein’s “frightening appetite to possess weapons of mass destruction.” Both assertions were false and echoed official Anglo-American propaganda. In 2003, when the destruction of Iraq was launched, Rawnsley described it as a “point of principle” for Blair who, he later wrote, was “fated to be right.” He lamented, “Yes, too many people died in the war. Too many people always die in war. War is nasty and brutish, but at least this conflict was mercifully short.” In the subsequent six years at least a million people have been killed. According to the Red Cross, Iraq is now a country of widows and orphans. Yes, war is nasty and brutish, but never for the Blairs and the Rawnsleys.
Far from the carping turncoats at home, Blair has lately found a safe media harbour — in Australia, the original murdochracy. His interviewers exude an unction reminiscent of the promoters of the “mystical” Blair in the Guardian of than a decade ago, though they also bring to mind Geoffrey Dawson, editor of The Times during the 1930s, who wrote of his infamous groveling to the Nazis: “I spend my nights taking out anything which will hurt their susceptibilities and dropping in little things which are intended to sooth them.”
With his words as a citation, the finalists for the Geoffrey Dawson Prize for Journalism (Antipodes) are announced. On 8 February, in an interview on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Geraldine Doogue described Blair as “a man who brought religion into power and is now bringing power to religion.” She asked him: “What would the perception be that faith would bring towards a greater stability …[sic]?” A bemused and clearly delighted Blair was allowed to waffle about “values.” Doogue said to him that “it was the bifurcation about right and wrong that what I thought the British found really hard” [sic], to which Blair replied that “in relation to Iraq I tried every other option [to invasion] there was.” It was his classic lie, which passed unchallenged.
However, the clear winner of the Geoffrey Dawson Prize is Ginny Dougary of the Sydney Morning Herald and the Times. Dougary recently accompanied Blair on what she described as his “James Bondish-ish Gulfstream” where she was privy to his “bionic energy levels.” She wrote, “I ask him the childlike question: does he want to save the world?” Blair replied, well, more or less, aw shucks, yes. The murderous assault on Gaza, which was under way during the interview, was mentioned in passing. “That is war, I’m afraid,” said Blair, “and war is horrible.” No counter came that Gaza was not a war but a massacre by any measure. As for the Palestinians, noted Dougary, it was Blair’s task to “prepare them for statehood.” The Palestinians will be surprised to hear that. But enough gravitas; her man “has the glow of the newly-in-love: in love with the world and, for the most part, the feeling is reciprocated.” The evidence she offered for this absurdity was that “women from both sides of politics have confessed to me to having the hots for him.”
These are extraordinary times. Blair, a perpetrator of the epic crime of the 21st century, shares a “prayer breakfast” with President Obama, the yes-we-can-man now launching more war. “We pray,” said Blair, “that in acting we do God’s work and follow God’s will.” To decent people, such pronouncements about Blair’s “faith” represent a contortion of morality and intellect that is a profananation on the basic teachings of Christianity. Those who aided and abetted his great crime and now wish the rest of us to forget their part — or, like Alistair Campbell, his “communications director,” offer their bloody notoriety for the vicarious pleasure of some — might read the first indictment proposed by the Blair War Crimes Foundation: “Deceit and conspiracy for war, and providing false news to incite passions for war, causing in the order of one million deaths, 4 million refugees, countless maiming and traumas.”
These are indeed extraordinary times.
Source / Information Clearing House
I send this to you (Richard) earlier today; see you’ve addressed this same topic in this post.
Here’s the article I sent:
Democrats Duck Bush Torture Probe
By Jason Leopold on Torture
Despite now overwhelming evidence that ex-President George W. Bush and many top aides engaged in a systematic policy of illegal torture, national Democrats appear to be shying away from their recommendation last year for a special prosecutor to investigate these apparent war crimes.
Last June, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers and 55 other congressional Democrats signed a letter to then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey demanding a special prosecutor to investigate the growing body of evidence that Bush administration officials had sanctioned torture, which had been documented by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Not unexpectedly, Mukasey — a staunch defender of Bush’s theories about expansive presidential powers — ignored the letter. Now, however, despite even more evidence of torture and a Democratic administration in place, the calls for a special prosecutor have grown muted.
Aides to several Democratic lawmakers who signed the June 2008 letter told me that the focus has shifted to the economy and that pressure for a special prosecutor to bring criminal charges over the Bush administration’s past actions could become a distraction to that focus.
They added that the most that now can be expected is either a “blue ribbon” investigative panel such as Conyers proposed earlier this year or a similar “truth and reconciliation commission” as advocated by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy. Not a single signer of last year’s letter has stepped forward to renew the demand for a special prosecutor to the Obama administration and Attorney General Eric Holder.
The loss of Democratic interest in a special prosecutor suggests that the signers made the recommendation last year knowing that Mukasey would ignore it but thinking that the letter would appease the Democratic “base,” which was calling for accountability on Bush’s war crimes.
This readiness of Democrats to put the pursuit of bi-partisanship over the pursuit of justice — after a victorious election – parallels their actions 16 years ago when President Bill Clinton and a Democratic-controlled Congress swept under the rug investigations of the Reagan-Bush-41 era, such as the Iran-Contra scandal and Iraqgate support for Saddam Hussein. [See Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege.]
However, this time, Bush-43’s apparent violations of international laws prohibiting torture are forcing global demands for action, if the United States fails to live up to its obligations to enforce its own commitment to anti-torture laws and treaties.
Torture is a war crime that carries universal enforcement, which means that prosecutors of other nations can bring charges if the nation directly implicated doesn’t act. In that regard, Spanish investigative judge Baltasar Garzon took the initial steps last week to investigate whether six high-level Bush officials, including key lawyers John Yoo and Jay Bybee, violated laws against torture.
Also, over the weekend, the Washington Post reported that the water-boarding — or simulated drowning — of “war on terror” suspect Abu Zabaida induced him to provide a host of new leads about al-Qaeda plots, but that his torture-induced claims turned out to be time-consuming dead-ends.
“Not a single significant plot was foiled as a result of Abu Zubaida’s tortured confessions, according to former senior government officials who closely followed the interrogations,” the Post reported.
“Nearly all of the leads attained through the harsh measures quickly evaporated, while most of the useful information from Abu Zubaida — chiefly names of al-Qaeda members and associates — was obtained before waterboarding was introduced, they said.” [Washington Post, March 29, 2009]
Two weeks ago, other evidence about Bush’s torture policy surfaced when journalist Mark Danner published chilling details from a report by the International Committee of the Red Cross that concluded that the abuse of 14 “high-value” detainees at CIA secret prisons “constituted torture.”
“In addition, many other elements of the ill treatment, either singly or in combination, constituted cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment,” according to the ICRC report cited by Danner. Since the ICRC’s responsibilities involve ensuring compliance with the Geneva Conventions and supervising the treatment of prisoners of war, the organization’s findings have legal consequence.
The June 2008 letter from Conyers apparently was prompted by the same or similar ICRC findings, citing “several instances of acts of torture against detainees, including soaking a prisoner’s hand in alcohol and lighting it on fire, subjecting a prisoner to sexual abuse and forcing a prisoner to eat a baseball.”
Conyers and the other Democrats told Mukasey then that the ICRC findings alone warranted action but were buttressed by other information that senior Bush administration officials met in the White House to approve the use of water-boarding and other “enhanced techniques” and that “President Bush was aware of, and approved of the meetings taking place.”
The letter added: “This information indicates that the Bush administration may have systematically implemented, from the top down, detainee interrogation policies that constitute torture or otherwise violate the law.
“We believe that these serious and significant revelations warrant an immediate investigation to determine whether actions taken by the President, his Cabinet, and other Administration officials are in violation of the War Crimes Act, the Anti-Torture Act, and other U.S. And international laws.
“Despite the seriousness of the evidence, the Justice Department has brought prosecution against only one civilian for an interrogation-related crime. Given that record, we believe it is necessary to appoint a special counsel in order to ensure that a thorough and impartial investigation occurs.”
Nearly nine months have passed since Conyers and the other Democratic lawmakers sent the letter to Mukasey. Since then, more evidence has piled up implicating at least a dozen senior Bush administration officials in sanctioning a policy of torture.
For instance, in January, Susan Crawford, the retired judge who heads military commissions at Guantanamo, became the highest ranking U.S. official who said the interrogation of at least one detainee at Guantanamo met the legal definition of torture and as a result she would not allow a war crimes tribunal against him to proceed.
Last week, Vijay Padmanabhan, the State Department’s chief counsel on Guantanamo litigation, told the Associated Press that the Bush administration overreacted after 9/11 and set up a policy of torture at the facility.
“I think Guantanamo was one of the worst overreactions of the Bush administration,” Padmanabhan told the AP. He criticized other “overreactions” such as extraordinary renditions, waterboarding at secret CIA prisons and “other enhanced interrogation techniques that would constitute torture.”
Meanwhile, other Bush administration veterans, including Vice President Dick Cheney, have spoken openly about their support for and approval of waterboarding and other brutal interrogation methods, although they continued to insist that the tactics did not constitute torture.
During a speech at the University of Texas at Austin recently, former Attorney General John Ashcroft said, “there are things that you can call waterboarding that I am thoroughly convinced are not torture. There are things that you can call waterboarding that might be torture. …
“The point that ought to be understood is that throwing a term around recklessly for its emotional content doesn’t really get you anywhere.”
In waterboarding, a person is strapped to a board with his head tilted downward and a cloth covering his face. Water is then poured over the cloth forcing the panicked gag reflex associated with drowning. It has been condemned as torture since the days of the Spanish Inquisition and its use has resulted in past criminal prosecutions under U.S. law.
Before leaving office, Vice President Cheney said he approved waterboarding on at least three “high value” detainees and the “enhanced interrogation” of 33 other prisoners. President Bush made a somewhat vaguer acknowledgement of authorizing these techniques.
Admissions of Crimes
Civil rights groups said Bush and Cheney’s comments amounted to an admission of war crimes. The ACLU called on Attorney General Holder two weeks ago to appoint a special prosecutor to launch a probe into the Bush administration’s torture practices.
“The fact that such crimes have been committed can no longer be doubted or debated, nor can the need for an independent prosecutor be ignored by a new Justice Department committed to restoring the rule of law,” ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero said.
“Given the increasing evidence of deliberate and widespread use of torture and abuse, and that such conduct was the predictable result of policy changes made at the highest levels of government, an independent prosecutor is clearly in the public interest,” Romero said.
Holder has not responded to the ACLU’s request. Over the next several weeks, however, the evidence of torture should continue to mount.
The Senate Armed Services Committee is expected to release a voluminous report on the treatment of alleged terrorist detainees held in U.S. custody and the brutal interrogation techniques they were subjected to, according to Defense Department and intelligence sources.
The declassified version of the report is 200 pages, contains 2,000 footnotes, and will reveal a wealth of new information about the genesis of the Bush administration’s interrogation policies, according to these sources. The investigation relied upon the testimony of 70 people, generated 38,000 pages of documents, and took 18 months to complete.
The Justice Department also is expected to release a declassified version of a critical report prepared by its Office of Professional Responsibility, which investigated legal work by former attorneys at the Office of Legal Counsel, which advises the White House on the limits of presidential authority.
The report concluded that three key attorneys — John Yoo, Jay Bybee and Steven Bradbury — blurred the lines between an attorney charged with providing independent legal advice to the White House and a policy advocate who was working to advance the administration’s goals, which included a legal justification for torture, said the sources who spoke on condition of anonymity because the contents of the report are still classified.
On April 2, the Justice Department also is expected to release three still-classified legal opinions that Bradbury wrote in May 2005, reaffirming Bush’s claimed authority to subject “war on terror” prisoners to harsh interrogations.
just a reminder:
The Nuremberg Principles (from Wiki)
Any person who commits an act which constitutes a crime under international law is responsible therefor and liable to punishment.
The fact that internal law does not impose a penalty for an act which constitutes a crime under international law does not relieve the person who committed the act from responsibility under international law.
The fact that a person who committed an act which constitutes a crime under international law acted as Head of State or responsible government official does not relieve him from responsibility under international law.
The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him.
See also: Nuremberg Defense and Superior Orders
For Pre-Nuremberg history of “I was just following orders”, see Superior Orders.
Any person charged with a crime under international law has the right to a fair trial on the facts and law.
The crimes hereinafter set out are punishable as crimes under international law:
(a) Crimes against peace:
(i) Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances;
(ii) Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under (i).
(b) War Crimes:
Violations of the laws or customs of war which include, but are not limited to, murder, ill-treatment or deportation of slave labor or for any other purpose of the civilian population of or in occupied territory; murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war or persons on the Seas, killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity.
(c) Crimes against humanity:
Murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation and other inhumane acts done against any civilian population, or persecutions on political, racial, or religious grounds, when such acts are done or such persecutions are carried on in execution of or in connection with any crime against peace or any war crime.
Complicity in the commission of a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity as set forth in Principle VI is a crime under international law.
Any of those look familiar?