War Crimes and the Bush administration

Discussion in 'Archive: The Senate Floor' started by KnightWriter, Dec 13, 2008.

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  1. KnightWriter Administrator Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 6, 2001
    star 8
    Harper's magazine had a cover story this month about prosecuting the Bush administration's key players for war crimes. I have not had a chance to read it, but its publication is just one of many such looks at whether the Bush administration engaged in war crimes, and if those crimes should be investigated and, if necessary, prosecuted.

    I'm of the opinion that a full investigation is necessary, if for no other reason than because the United States as a country and the world in general needs to know what the current administration did with regard to the "war on terror" and the invasion of Iraq. There needs to be an accounting of possible crimes, regardless of whether they are punished. History needs to know. President Ford's pardon of Richard Nixon had the unintended consequence of keeping Nixon's abuses from directly seeing the light of a courtroom, and while the facts are available to those who wish to know them, there was never an impeachment or trial in the Senate. I believe this had the effect of keeping the door open for others down the road, like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.

    We can't afford to let the chance at knowing what happen slip away, no matter what's done or not done with the information.

    If the deeds of the Bush administration are not known, no matter what their justification was, they will happen again someday. It may not be in this country, but it will be somewhere, and the next time it happens, our ability to speak out with a clear conscience may be lost.
  2. DarthBoba Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 29, 2000
    star 9
    A link to the Harper's article would be appreciated, so that we aren't debating personal opinion.
  3. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    This is certainly persistent, if nothing else.
  4. KnightWriter Administrator Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 6, 2001
    star 8
    Unfortunately, when attempting to link to it, I discovered that the article is available to subscribers only.

    This is certainly persistent, if nothing else.


    Should we not seek to find out the full extent of what happened within the administration?
  5. Blithe Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 24, 2003
    star 4
    For the sake of clarity in discussion, how exactly are we defining war crimes -- by what standard?
  6. Darth_Yuthura Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 7, 2007
    star 4
    Here's a way to define 'war crime': given what the Bush administration knew at the time, would such info have been enough to justify a preemptive strike against Iraq?

    There is nothing to prove that the administration did not know before the invasion that Iraq did not have WMD. W's deception was what directly lead to the invasion and all the deaths on both sides were a consequence of their lies.

    They must be put on trial for crimes against life, criminal negligence, treason, murder, and many other crimes that they willingly acted upon. We can't just let this matter go because over 100,000 innocent Iraqis were killed as a result of the invasion... those murders must be answered for.
  7. KnightWriter Administrator Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 6, 2001
    star 8
    Good question.

    In my mind, the Bush administration committed war crimes when it sanctioned and helped carry out torture against various prisoners.

  8. Jediflyer Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 5, 2001
    star 5
    There are three standards I think could apply:

    1. What current and past U.S. administrations have called war crimes.

    2. What political and military leaders across the world have been tried and convicted for.

    3. Actions in contravention to treaties/international law regarding war and war prosecution.

  9. LostOnHoth Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 15, 2000
    star 5
  10. Blithe Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 24, 2003
    star 4
    Oh dear Lord -- by the U.N International Court's standard, we've been committing war crimes easily since World War II. . . [face_worried]
  11. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    The use of torture in the conduct of the war on terror and Iraq war is the one issue that will plague the Bush administration's legacy more than any other, and it is one of the most serious causes of our loss of standing and respectability on the world stage.

    The problem in seeking justice is that a large segment of the American public just doesn't care. A significant percentage of Americans undoubtedly feel that we should have tortured pretty much every terrorist suspect we could get our hands on. A significant percentage probably believes we were too soft on the Guantanamo detainees and the Abu Ghraib inmates, etc.

    Any kind of "truth and reconciliation" investigative process in the aftermath of Bush's war on terror is made even less likely by the current economic climate, which in itself I think will incentivize bipartisanship after Bush leaves office much more than Obama alone would be able to achieve.

    But an investigation into violation of international law on torture by senior officials of the Bush administration would pretty much become an obsession for the entire government and would bring us back to the horrific place we were in during the Clinton impeachment, with the difference of course that it would be about something substantive.

    I think you can also make the argument on the other hand that Obama's promise to turn a leaf on foreign policy and our global credibility isn't going to be possible until we come clean on the torture. And we can't come clean on the torture question without a lengthy investigative process run either by the new administration, congress, or a carefully assembled combination of the two.
  12. DarthKarde Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2002
    star 5
    I for one accept that the war was based on a lie, morally wrong and probably against international law. This however has nothing to do with war crimes.

    Perhaps this would be a better discussion if specific war crimes could be alluded to, preferably backed up by evidence.
  13. Darth_Yuthura Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 7, 2007
    star 4
    We often judge people in history very harshly based on evidence collected since they committed the act. In this situation, we not only have indisputable proof that there were no WMD, but that the Bush administration knew it at or before the time they acted.

    The reason for putting Bush on trial is that there was more than enough evidence available to the president BEFORE the invasion that everything he said had little or no validity. Had the Bush administration simply rushed to war, then anything new that has come up since the invasion would be irrelevant to proving their intentions. As more and more documents are becoming declassified, we are finding that there was no means the administration could have made a mistake or they did not have enough information to know for sure.

    It may be feasible that he used an unreliable source by mistake, but he has been proven to have all the credible sources he needed to disprove his WMD claim and disregarded them all for one that barely qualified as reliable.

    I know that it really would be wasteful and provide no justice, but we MUST write into history that George W Bush KNOWINGLY mislead the state and abused their trust, knowing that what he said would lead to war. The thought that we are not screaming 'bloody murder' sickens me. We, the United States, should not allow such a vile tyrant to escape punishment. It won't bring back those that have died, but we MUST demonstrate to any future criminal that the president is not above the law.

    Bush's continued presence in the White house is a testament that our democracy is crumbling. It should have been stopped in 2000 when W stole the election. He was a worse criminal to the US than Bin Laden and must be tried for what he's done.


    Evidence:

    From the Iraq Survey Group, the final Duelfer Report indicated that Iraq had not resumed its nuclear program since the 90's. There were many Atomic energy commission inspections that verified such statements.

    The Downing street memo was based on an unreliable informant and could not constitute evidence for such a scale as a war. Evidence from the yellowcake uranium scandal effectively showed that various intelligence sources were manipulated into coming to a given conclusion by the administration. The administration not only knew, but covered up the truth.

    On top of that, North Korea and Iran had been building up their nuclear facilities and Bush ignored those true threats. The fact that he ignored threats more valid and dangerous shows the Bush administration deliberately went for Iraq and not because of WMD.
  14. dianethx Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 1, 2002
    star 6
    Could the UN try him? I believe that he is a war criminal, actively encouraging torture and obstructing justice when confronted with the facts about what they were doing to prisoners, plus changing the definition of torture so that the torture used at Gitmo and other places could be called something else (as in 1984 double-speak).
  15. DeathStar1977 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jan 31, 2003
    star 4
    Could the UN try him?

    Good lord I hope not. At worst Bush is still far better than the countless dictators and tyrants who have never been held accountable. Some of them would probably be presiding in judgment if the U.N. were to hold such a trial. Thus, I would never subject an American President to a U.N. trial.

    I do think the Obama administration should do an internal investigation as to our policies and procedures, and if there is substantial evidence of criminal conduct than those responsible should be held accountable. Most importantly, as Jabba suggested, Obama will hopefully turn a new leaf, so to speak.


  16. Darth_Yuthura Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 7, 2007
    star 4
    Not only do I hope they do, they must. He was directly responsible for the murder of over 100,000 Iraqi civilians and must be tried for those deaths. The worst thing is that it would be so difficult to try him that it makes no sense to do it after he is out of office. The democratic party was foolish not to push impeachment when they took congress.
  17. Saintheart Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Dec 16, 2000
    star 6
    More to the point, I highly doubt an "internal investigation" by the succeeding president as to the legitimacy of the actions of the preceding one has no credible legitimacy next to a UN investigation as far as the international community is concerned.

    This is mainly because if Obama really entertained the possibility of war crimes prosecutions against Bush et. al., he would be setting a precedent for every time there was a change of political party in the White House. And no US President has the guts to do that, from St. Obama right down to Richard Nixon. Mainly because: if they investigate their predecessors, even try them, then their successors (who are highly likely to be of an opposite political persuasion) are just as likely to do the same to them.

    Thus even if an investigation is made, the results are unlikely to arrive at the justice many would seek for the works of the neo-cons over the last eight years. Ford pardoned Nixon, right?

    That's a statement on human nature, not US politics in particular. We had something similar here in Australia: about ten years ago a very big brouhaha emerged between the maritime workers' union (the MUA) and the company who employed them. There was a high degree of circumstancial evidence that the Howard (Liberal) government was involved in bringing on the confrontation with the intent of breaking or severely disempowering the MUA. So when Labor under Rudd -- the opposite of the Liberals -- got into power recently, there were some immediate calls from the unions to disclose cabinet documents as to this matter -- to expose what looked a lot like a government conspiracy with a corporation to break a union.

    The result? Labor hid behind the assertion that Cabinet papers are confidential and that it wouldn't disclose what it knew of that crisis from the Cabinet papers of the day. Reason? Never disclosed, but quite possibly because Labor didn't want itself put in a similar situation when it eventually gets turfed from government.

    I might also point out that union membership is actually a human right under the UN's universal declaration of human rights, too - article 40 IIRC.
  18. Espaldapalabras Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 25, 2005
    star 5
    How about this: Bush should be subject to the same treatment by the UN as the UN treated Saddam. I don't mean as a country, but personally. Let him stay in his own country, do whatever he wants, and make backdoor deals with the French and Russians to keep him rich. Oh wait.

    It was a failure of the international community to deal with problems that lead to a situation where Bush made bad decisions to try and fix the problems everyone was content with ignoring. I'm sorry but I just think it hilarious that people would want Bush tried by the ICC, when it was the international community's failure that lead to the situation (in Iraq) in the first place.

    Lefties are out for blood, but it would be foolish of them to try and get it. And the Bush administration should know better than try and travel to Europe.

    Too often people mistake incompetence for malice. And since the problems we are dealing with are largely systemic, I find it silly to try and punish a few actors.

    Perhaps if Europe put more effort into catching the war criminals in Afganistan and Russia instead of limiting the number and uses of forces in the first and not ignoring the invasion of an actually peaceful country in the second I might have more respect for international institutions judging my elected leaders.

    Torture is a tricky thing. It isn't something we ever want to do, but it is a way to sometimes get information. The mistake made by Bush was not realize that in exchange for that potential information you lose the right to have justice. If the information is that important, perhaps you do go ahead and torture, you just have to realize that by so doing you lose the control the rule of law had over that person. In the legal system I think if you do torture someone, you have to let them go. Is this something that you want to be the official policy of the United States? Absolutely not. It is something so extreme that I think you would have to admit what you had done afterword and accept the consequences as a patriot. We give our President the power to destroy the world at the touch of a button and we would prevent him from torturing one person to save it? That doesn't make sense to me. The thing I would have done would to make it done with full disclosure, and make it clear to the people involved. Our armed forces take bullets to protect us all the time, the legal ramifications of torturing someone could be viewed as just another bullet.
  19. KnightWriter Administrator Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 6, 2001
    star 8
    Torture leads to bad information (i.e. no information, really) and jeopardizes the lives of Americans around the world. It's not a useful interrogation tactic.

    My main concern, aside from punishment, and even more so overall, is shining a light on everything to make sure that it never happens again here. I want future generations of Americans to know what happened, to understand it and to make certain to take a different path in the future.
  20. LostOnHoth Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 15, 2000
    star 5
    I don't think the ICC has jurisdiction. The jurisdiction and functioning of the ICC are governed by the Rome Statute which is basically a treaty. There are 108 countries who have agreed to become parties to the treaty. The United States of America is not one of them. Neither is China or Israel. Take what you want from that.
  21. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    Besides that though, the authority of the ICC is subordinate to the national authority of the specific state. What that means is that the ICC has no power to step into a functioning government, no matter what it does. That would fall to the UNSC.

    What it means is that the German Chancellor could show up in Afghanistan and gun down an entire village, but the ICC specifically wouldn't invoke authority because Germany has a working government that would claim sovereignty. In that case though, Germany might be in trouble with the UNSC, as it doesn't have veto power.

    For example, the ICC has an ongoing case in the DR Congo, but that's only because the government there is under dispute. Somalia has no recognized central government either, so the ICC could probably step in.
  22. LostOnHoth Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 15, 2000
    star 5
    My understanding is that a party to ICC treaty can still willingly accept the jurisdiction of the ICC, regardless of whether the party has a functioning government or not. It is a matter for the 'accused'. In your example, Germany could still have the matter heard by the ICC as party to the treaty if it didn't want the matter to be dealt with internally.
  23. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    Yeah, that's true I guess. I suppose any country can willingly submit to anything, although I wouldn't think you'd find very many takers. (among functioning governments)
  24. SuperWatto Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Sep 19, 2000
    star 5
    Now that doesn't make any sense. The US Senate failed as badly as the international community... Are you saying they shouldn't have a say in this, either? Moreover - the international community was intentionally misled, taken by the nose. People make mistakes. Does that mean they shouldn't try to fix it? If we followed your logic, the Nuremberg trials would never have been held.

    So, that's not a good reason not to bring Bush to justice before the UN. What would be a better reason is that, like Hoth said, the U.S. doesn't recognize the UN's war tribunal. That they've actually left an option open to come and free The Hague detainees by force. And who saw to it that this is the case? George W. Bush.

    Maybe Obama should look into that, first.
  25. Jediflyer Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 5, 2001
    star 5
    I think some people are confused here: the ICC is not a component of the United Nations. It is a separate entity established outside of the United Nations bureaucracy. The only relationship the two have is that the UN Security Council can refer cases to the ICC.

    As far as jurisdiction:

    The Court can generally exercise jurisdiction only in cases where the accused is a national of a state party, the alleged crime took place on the territory of a state party, or a situation is referred to the Court by the United Nations Security Council.[9] The Court is designed to complement existing national judicial systems: it can exercise its jurisdiction only when national courts are unwilling or unable to investigate or prosecute such crimes.[10][11] Primary responsibility to investigate and punish crimes is therefore left to individual states.[12]


    *Edit*

    Also, I hate it when people talk about the 'international community' or the United Nations as if they are some kind of monolithic entity. Its like people complaining about that the 'government', when they are really complaining about a certain politician, a policy, or maybe just the clerk at the local DMV. In the same way, the international community are made up of many individual actors with their own interests and the United Nations was designed to be a place where the community could discuss those differing interests and perhaps resolve them. Put the blame where it belongs; it most surely doesn't belong on a mythical monolithic International Community.
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