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April 11, 2004 - George Bush and Nuremberg (Really)

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George Bush and Nuremberg (Really)



George Paine over at WARBLOGGING had a long post this week in which he argued some points of international law. 

Being a military guy Paine opens covering how our top general in Iraq is now letting everyone know he doesn’t intend to be the fall guy for there not being enough troops in theater right now to hold down the insurrection or whatever it is there now.  He’s been letting it be known that any of his subordinates who ask for more troops will get them – or at least the request will go up the chain. 

Well, that’s one way to end your career.  Everyone knows that.  General Eric Shinseki, the former Army chief of staff, testifying before Congress said that "several hundred thousand soldiers" would likely be needed for the occupation of Iraq.  Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz publicly called Shinseki's estimate of troop requirements "wildly off the mark.” Then Wolfowitz’s boss, Donald Rumsfeld, publicly announced Shinseki's replacement - a year before Shinseki was scheduled to retire.  Surprise, Eric!  Not subtle. 

So we were told last year that right about now we’d only need 30,000 troops in Iraq because they’d love having us there. 

Well, we were told lots of things. 

As Paine notes:


They also said we'd be greeted as liberators.  They also said there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.  They also insinuated that Iraq had attacked the United States on September 11.  They also stated, without reserve, that Iraq was working hand-in-hand with al-Qaeda.  They stated that Iraq had attempted to procure uranium from Africa. 

All of these statements were false.  Patently false.  They were lies, half-truths and (perhaps) self-delusions.  But whatever their root, they all have one thing in common: none of them were true. 

Instead America, the great pillar of democracy, attacked a nation that had done nothing to harm it.  Instead America launched an unprovoked invasion of a sovereign foreign nation roughly halfway around the world.  It did so without the approval of the United Nations, and without an imminent threat to defend against. 


Well, we did.  That’s that. 

But here’s Paine’s point about international law:


As such, America invaded Iraq illegally. 

I have written about the Nuremberg Principles more than once, but I will write about them once more.  The Principles, drawn up primarily by this United States, formed the legal basis for the prosecution of Nazi war criminals in the aftermath of World War II.  The Principles have now become the bedrock of international humanitarian law, having been adopted as law by the U.N.  International Law Commission in 1950. 

Principle VI of the Nuremberg Principles lists three categories of crimes "punishable as crimes under international law".  The first of these categories, "Crimes against peace," is where we shall focus.  The first definition of a crime against peace states that it is a crime against peace to participate in the:

Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances

The term "war of aggression" is very important.  A war of aggression is defined as a war which is not in response to an armed attack or a threatened impending attack (in other words an armed attack that is about to occur).  It has become increasingly obvious — indeed, it was obvious in March of last year and before — that Iraq was never an imminent threat to the United States.  Donald Rumsfeld himself has in fact denied ever even suggesting that Iraq was an imminent threat…. 

Given the fact that Iraq was never an imminent threat to the United States, and clearly did not participate in an armed attack against the United States, there was only one way in which the invasion of Iraq could be considered a non-aggressive war: a request from the United Nations Security Council to the United States asking it to use force to enforce UNSC resolutions. 

No such request was made. 

As such, the invasion of Iraq was "aggressive war", considered a "crime against peace" under the Principles of the Nuremberg Tribunal, which were themselves drafted by the United States of America.  Everyone who participated in the planning, preperation, initiation or waging of the most recent war against Iraq is guilty of a crime against peace. 

They are all guilty.  President Bush, Secretary Rumsfeld, Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz, Dr.  Condi Rice, Vice President Cheney, Deputy Secretary Bolton and even Secretary Powell are all guilty.  Guilty of crimes against peace. 

But that is all academic and political.  A president of the United States will not be tried for crimes against peace in our lifetimes.  Neither will his staff.  What is not academic, however, is the resistance in Iraq. 


Yeah, well, what does this legal stuff matter? 

Paine is right.  No one is going to perp-walk Bush to jail or anything. 

So what do we do now? 



… It would be easy now to call for an immediate withdrawal of all American troops from Iraq.  It would be easy to say that this is an illegal war, an illegal occupation, that our troops are dying and being killed, that morality and law are not on our side.  It would be easy to cut and leave, to leave Iraq behind. 

But just as there was an obligation not to invade and occupy Iraq, there is now an obligation placed upon the United States by international law to remain and finish the job.  There is an obligation to restore order to Iraq, to give the Iraqi people self-determination.  Just as we did in Germany, just as we did in Japan. 

The conflict between these two moral and legal obligations cannot be clearer.  On one hand our occupation is illegal and immoral, on the other hand ending the occupation without Iraqi self-determination and stability is illegal and immoral. 

If it were clear that a majority of Iraqis supported the resistance and wanted Americans to leave immediately the solution would once again be clear — we should leave immediately, as that is the wish of the Iraqi people.  Likewise, if it were clear that a majority of Iraqis wanted us to stick around and "finish the job", the solution would be clear — put down the "rebellion" and get on with the business of building an Iraqi government. 


Yeah, but neither is exactly clear right now, is it? 

More and more it seems many Iraqis want us out.  Do all of them want us out?  A majority?  Hard to tell.  Is what has happened this week the start of a war of resistance, or just an anomaly – the work of some few really bad people? 

Some read it one way; others read it the opposite way. 

And no one can say for certain – there are no hard facts, no statistics, no polling, and no focus groups… just shooting.  So it’s all opinion, muddled by anger and political theory and self-righteousness on either side of the question. 

Whether we violated international laws (stuff we wrote ourselves) is kind of moot now. 

What the locals want is not, however, moot at all, is it? 

But whom do you believe about what Iraqis want - with all the shouting and posturing there, and back here? 

Trust Bush-Wolfowitz-Cheney-Rumsfeld?  We stay and finish the job. 

Trust young al-Sadr?  We leave and let them have their own country the way they want it. 

Trust Ahmed Al Chilabi, the exile we are grooming to run the place – that the guy who cannot step one foot into Jordon or Switzerland given he was convicted of embezzling three hundred million from the Petra Bank he founded in Jordon a few decades ago and sentenced in abstentia to twenty years – the guy who gave us all the false information about weapons of mass destruction (we paid him for it too) and said he was proud he misled us, for the greater good?  Yeah, right. 

If this were a labor dispute someone would step in and call for a “cooling off period.” But it is not a labor dispute.  It seems to be either an illegal and oppressive occupation, or a noble and selfless attempt at liberation.  It sort of depends on your point of view. 

Doesn't matter now.  No one is going to step in.  So we will fight on.  Thanks, George. 


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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