Twice now I’ve mentioned “war crimes” and the Bush administration in the same sentence, acts of deliberate provocation that sure tied the righties’ panties in a knot. But contrary to the screaming headlines of the all-knowing Orb, I have never explicitly called Donald Rumsfeld a war criminal — and out-of-work radio host Brian Maloney doesn’t do his job prospects any good with his incoherent and (and fictional) assertion that I have twice called for administration officials to be executed.
Gimme a break.
But given the recent show trial of Saddam Hussein and his top aides, and their subsequent “fumbled” executions (I suppose Bush was referring to the moment Barzan Ibrahim’s severed head hit the ground,) I think it quite an appropriate time to stop and consider the very notion of “war crimes,” especially considering the inherently violent and unforgiving nature of war itself. As Americans, we are quick to examine Saddam’s murderous life and discard him as a monstrous dictator undeserving of mercy… and that very well may be true. But at the same time, President Bush — our Commander in Chief — has himself been directly responsible for the death and dismemberment of tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians, not to mention the destabilization of Iraq into a bloody civil war that claims hundreds more lives every day.
Perhaps such “collateral damage” is an unavoidable and thus acceptable consequence of war, and perhaps our unprovoked “preemptive” invasion of Iraq is both morally and legally justified.
But… even if one disagrees with the notion that our own government is guilty of war crimes itself, it should at the very least be possible to empathize with the hundreds of millions of Muslims who may view the administration’s actions less charitably. We invaded Iraq, allegedly in pursuit of weapons of mass destruction that were not there, and possibly with high government officials fully cognizant that the publicly touted intelligence was false and/or deliberately misleading. We tortured, humiliated and perhaps murdered defenseless Iraqi prisoners. President Bush’s decisions have undoubtedly resulted in death, destruction and untold human misery.
I’m not saying that Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld committed war crimes, or that they should be brought before an international tribunal. But I certainly believe it to be a proper subject of debate, for moral introspection — even self-recrimination — is a worthy and absolutely necessary exercise within a functioning democracy. So for those of you who would attempt to silence this debate, who would denounce any mention of the subject as an act of treason or terrorism, well… I strongly suggest you stay away from the Citizens’ Hearing on the Legality of U.S. Actions in Iraq being held this weekend in Tacoma:
The Citizens’ Hearing on the Legality of U.S. Actions in Iraq will be held on January 20-21, 2007, in Tacoma, Washington, two weeks before the Feb. 5 court martial of Lieutenant Ehren Watada at Fort Lewis.. The Citizens’ Hearing will function as a tribunal to put the Iraq War on trial, in response to the Army putting Lt. Watada on trial as the first U.S. military officer to refuse deployment to Iraq.
[…] The hearing will present the case that Lt. Watada would, if allowed, make at his court martial. His defense attorneys maintain that the war on Iraq is illegal under international treaties and under Article Six of the U.S. Constitution. Further, Lt. Watada’s defense argues that the Nuremberg Principles and U.S. military regulations require soldiers to follow only “lawful orders.” In Lt. Watada’s view, deployment to Iraq would have made him party to the crimes that permeate the structure and conduct of military operations there.
The format of the Citizens’ Hearing will resemble that of a congressional committee, employing a dignified approach to gathering information. Testimony will be offered by Iraq War veterans, experts in international law and war crimes, and human rights advocates. Your gift of funds (or frequent flyer miles) will enable more of these clear voices to be heard by people around the country and the world. Among the figures that have committed to testify are:
- Daniel Ellsberg, military analyst who released the Pentagon Papers in the Vietnam War;
- Denis Halliday, Former UN Assistant Secretary General, coordinated Iraq humanitarian aid;
- Richard Falk, Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University;
- Stacy Bannerman Military Families Speak Out; author of “When the War Came Home”
- Harvey Tharp, former U.S. Navy Lieutenant and JAG stationed in Iraq;
- Antonia Juhasz, policy-analyst and author on U.S. economic policies in Iraq;
- John Burroughs, Lawyers’ Committee on Nuclear Policy executive director;
- Benjamin G. Davis, Assoc. Law Prof., Univ. of Toledo; expert on law of war;
- Eman Khammas, Iraqi human rights advocate (via video).
- Geoffrey Millard, 8 years in NY Army National Guard; stationed in Ground Zero, Kuwait, Iraq.
- Ann Wright, Retired Army Colonel and State Department official
- Darrell Anderson, Army 1st Armored Division in Baghdad & Najaf; awarded Purple Heart
- Dennis Kyne, 15 years as Army medic & drill sergeant; trained in NBC warfare; Gulf War I.
- Francis Boyle, Professor of International Law at University of Illinois (video testimony)
- Chanan Suarez-Diaz, Former Navy hospital corpsman; awarded Purple Heart & Commendation with Valor.
A panel of citizens will hear the testimony, examine witnesses, and issue a fact-finding report. The panel will be comprised of veterans, members of military families, high school students, union members, and representatives of local governments, academia, and religious organizations. David Krieger, Director of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Former Army 2nd Lieutenant stationed in Hawaii during the Vietnam War, and a member of the Jury of Conscience at the 2005 World Tribunal on Iraq (in Istanbul) will serve as panel chair.
Panelists’ questioning will focus on the legality of the war and whether or not the invasion of Iraq in 2003 constituted a “crime against the peace,” whether the military occupation and economic constriction of Iraq constitutes a “crime against humanity,” and whether individual soldiers have an obligation or duty to refuse unlawful orders. We expect that this hearing will focus attention on the role of the U.S. government–rather than that of individual soldiers–in perpetrating the crimes of the Iraq War.
If you find the very notion of such a mock war tribunal offensive, then absolutely don’t attend Friday Jan 20 and Saturday Jan 21 at Evergreen State College’s Tacoma Campus, 1210 6th AVE. And absolutely don’t tune in to my show on 710-KIRO Saturday night at 8PM, when I’ll have Daniel Ellsberg on to discuss the Watada case and the conduct of our war in Iraq.