One issue raised in my Feb. 19 interview [stream]
the coincidentally named Scott Horton, director
of the International League of Human Rights,
was that certain crimes, particularly war crimes, are subject to prosecution
by any nation. That is, when the people of a criminal state refuse to hold the
individuals in charge accountable when they violate the most basic laws of warfare,
foreign powers – whether part of the original dispute or not – may assume the
authority to prosecute and punish them.
Following this principle, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) on Nov.
30, 2004 petitioned
a German court, on behalf of four Iraqi plaintiffs, to investigate 10 officials
in the U.S. government for the policies
that led to the brutal
torture and murder
of individuals at U.S. prisons from Afghanistan
Bay to Abu
Ghraib, and presumably the extensive network of "Ghost
Prisons" maintained by the U.S. all
over the world.
A German law passed in 2002 ostensibly grants them the authority to do so. On
Feb. 10, the German court ruled
that it is too early to say whether the United States was unwilling to prosecute,
effectively dismissing the case but leaving open the possibility of future action.
Scott Horton had filed a
brief earlier in the week arguing that there would be no domestic prosecutions
of those responsible for
the policies, which, despite recent
calls for an independent investigation, is almost assuredly correct. It
is also clear, as even Richard
Perle admits, that the entire invasion of Iraq was illegal by international
standards. (Never you mind Article
One, Section Eight, Clause Eleven of the Constitution of the United States.)
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was certainly pleased. The court decided
just in time for him to attend a great warmonger
conference that he was going
to have to skip for worries he might be arrested. It might have been fun
to see someone apply the Rumsfeld
standard of evidence to him, but perhaps, as with Chilean dictator Augusto
Pinochet, it shall never be.
So far, our government has prosecuted
a few "rotten
apples," though only
the ones stupid enough to let
themselves be photographed, and they apparently hope that by repeating the
lie that the night shift at Abu Ghraib just happened to be made up of a small
crew of particularly
sadistic Appalachian folk, the American people will forget. As long as we
don't demand accountability, they are safe.
The American media have been of little help on this issue. Remember that 60
Minutes, on official request, withheld
its initial Abu Ghraib story for two weeks until the story was coming out
anyway, and most still won't even call it torture.
If not for the relentless pursuit of the
truth by Seymour Hersh we probably still wouldn't know that Donald Rumsfeld
had created a "Special
Access Program" to violate the most basic human dignity of so
many innocent people – not to mention violating
U.S. federal law as well as the Geneva
When the CCR filed with the German court, they said it was a last resort because
inaction and the fact that the United States had "refused
to join the International Criminal Court." This is not
entirely accurate, but it is clear that the U.S. government would never
allow one of its own current
employees to be taken away by a foreign state.
This is illustrative of a larger problem. The United States has nurtured and
sustained the broadening
and deepening of international law to apply in many ways to every nation
on earth. Any state that doesn't go along (apparently sometimes even
if they do) with the "international community" is deemed a "rogue
state" that must
be assimilated – often by the United States armed forces.
As current victims of U.S. military "stop-loss"
orders are finding out, those who enforce the contract do not have to abide
by it. With the end of the Cold War, the U.S. did not leave NATO, bring its
troops home, and dismantle the central state as
promised. Instead, George Bush the First immediately began searching for
new enemies to fight and "laws" to enforce. Take Manuel Noriega. In
1988 Bush Sr., in the name of enforcing American drug laws on foreign soil,
a highly questionable
legal theory at best, invaded Panama to arrest that former
agent. This "application of the law" resulted in the deaths of
2,500 to 4,000
civilians. The first invasion of Iraq to enforce a UN resolution was principally
an American effort, which, after twelve years of sanctions and continual
bombing of the "no-fly zones," turned
out to provoke our current conflicts, as confirmed
by former CIA analyst Michael Scheuer on my show the week before Horton.
Bill Clinton's many overseas adventures, including the war
against Serbia, based on terrifically
inflated numbers of dead Kosovar Albanians, helped greatly in making America
a violent hypocrite in the eyes of many around the world, and also set further
precedents for international
Since 9/11, people around the world have seen the United States
take all of this to its logical extreme. We will "end
states" that "support terror," whether they had anything
to do with the attack or not. They have seen us bomb wedding
regimes, and attack a nation that was not
involved and threaten
many more. They have seen our military raze
Fallujah to the ground, and they have seen hard
evidence of the most
atrocious crimes against those in U.S. custody. Instead of "world policeman,"
America is now the corrupt
congressman or the drug
To top it off, George
W. Bush and his cronies used the excuse of enforcing international law when
"The conduct of the Iraqi regime is a threat to the authority of the
United Nations and a threat to peace. Iraq has answered a decade of UN demands
with a decade of defiance. All the world now faces a test, and the United Nations
a difficult and defining moment. Are Security Council resolutions to be honored
and enforced, or cast aside without consequence? Will the United Nations serve
the purpose of its founding, or will it be irrelevant? The United States helped
found the United Nations. We want the United Nations to be effective, and respectful
[sic], and successful. We want the resolutions of the world's most important
multilateral body to be enforced."
Why the American people tolerate all of this torture and hypocrisy is open
to debate, but we seem to love
being on the winning team, and would rather believe unbelievable
than take it as our own responsibility to stop criminal actions based on them.
Though seeing Americans one day in foreign courts, deprived of their far
superior (and sorely
of Rights, would be terrible, we must recognize that the current state of
affairs, where the enforcer of world law claims in
those same laws do not apply to itself, cannot continue. The world will not
tolerate being ruled by 6 percent in faraway North America for long. If we keep
this up, and all
indications are that we will, the U.S. may be in danger of attaining official
"rogue state" status itself. With the current administration's record
of pushing all
of our rivals into each other's
arms, and its monumental wasting
of our country's wealth, it is not inconceivable that we could soon be in a
situation where we are no longer protected from the rulings of foreign judges.
Scott Horton says there is a lot more torture evidence
waiting to be released.
It is far
past time to get serious about whether or not we will hold our government
to the laws it enforces. We had better, before
other countries do.