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August 29, 2006

Bush Goes Retro to Avoid Prosecution


by Paul Craig Roberts

When I was a kid, John Wayne war movies gave us the message that America was the good guy, the white hat that fought the villain. Alas, today the U.S. and its last remaining non-coerced ally, Israel, are almost universally regarded as the bad guys over whom John Wayne would triumph. Today, the U.S. and Israel are seen throughout the world as war-criminal states.

On Aug. 23, the BBC reported that Amnesty International has brought war crimes charges against Israel for deliberately targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure as an "integral part" of Israel's strategy in its recent invasion of Lebanon.

Israel claims that its aggression was "self-defense" to dislodge Hezbollah from southern Lebanon. Yet, Israel bombed residential communities all over Lebanon, even Christian communities in the north in which no Hezbollah could possibly have been present.

United Nations spokesman Jean Fabre reported that Israel's attack on civilian infrastructure annihilated Lebanon's development: "Fifteen years of work have been wiped out in a month."

Israel maintains that this massive destruction was unintended "collateral damage."

President Bush maintains that Israel has "a right to protect itself" by destroying Lebanon.

Bush blocked the attempt to stop Israel's aggression and is, thereby, equally responsible for the war crimes. Indeed, a number of reports claim that Bush instigated the Israeli aggression against Lebanon.

Bush has other war crime problems. Benjamin Ferencz, a chief prosecutor of Nazi war crimes at Nuremberg, recently said that President Bush should be tried as a war criminal side-by-side with Saddam Hussein for starting aggressive wars, Hussein for his 1990 invasion of Kuwait and Bush for his 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Under the Nuremberg standard, Bush is definitely a war criminal. The U.S. Supreme Court also exposed Bush to war crimes charges under both the U.S. War Crimes Act of 1996 and the Geneva Conventions when the Court ruled in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld against the Bush administration's military tribunals and inhumane treatment of detainees.

President Bush and his attorney general agree that under existing laws and treaties Bush is a war criminal together with many members of his government. To make his war crimes legal after the fact, Bush has instructed the Justice (sic) Department to draft changes to the War Crimes Act and to U.S. treaty obligations under the Geneva Conventions.

One of Bush's changes would deny protection of the Geneva Conventions to anyone in any American court.

Bush's other change would protect from prosecution any U.S. government official or military personnel guilty of violating Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. Article 3 prohibits "at any time and in any place whatsoever outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment." As civil libertarian Nat Hentoff observes, this change would also undo Sen. John McCain's amendment against torture.

Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice, says that Bush's changes "immunize past crimes."

Under the U.S. Constitution and U.S. legal tradition, retroactive law is impermissible. What do Americans think of their president's attempts to immunize himself, his government, CIA operatives, military personnel, and civilian contractors from war crimes?

Apparently, the self-righteous, morally superior American "Christian" public could care less. The Republican-controlled House and Senate, which long ago traded integrity for power, are working to pass Bush's changes prior to the midterm elections in the event the Republicans fail to steal three elections in a row and Democrats win control of the House or Senate.

Meanwhile, the illegal war in Iraq, based entirely on Bush administration lies, grinds on, murdering and maiming ever more people. According to the latest administration estimate, the pointless killing will go on for another 10-15 years.

Trouble is, there are no U.S. troops to carry on the war. The lack of cannon fodder forces the Bush administration to resort to ever more desperate measures. The latest is the involuntary recall of thousands of Marines from the inactive reserves to active duty. Many attentive people regard this desperate measure as a sign that the military draft will be reinstated.

According to President Bush, the U.S. will lose the "war on terror" unless the U.S. succeeds in defeating "the Iraqi terrorists" by establishing "democracy in Iraq." Of course, insurgents resisting occupation are not terrorists, and there were no insurgents or terrorists in Iraq until Bush invaded.

Bush's unjustified invasion of Iraq and his support for Israeli aggression have done more to create terrorism in the Muslim world than Osama bin Laden could hope for. The longer Bush occupies Iraq and the more he tries to extend U.S./Israeli hegemony in the Middle East, the more terrorism the world will suffer.

Bush and the neocon ideology that holds him captive are the greatest 21st-century threats to peace and stability. The neoconized Bush regime invented the war on terror, lost it, and now is bringing terror home to the American people.


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    Paul Craig Roberts wrote the Kemp-Roth bill and was assistant secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was associate editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and contributing editor of National Review. He is author or co-author of eight books, including The Supply-Side Revolution (Harvard University Press). He has held numerous academic appointments, including the William E. Simon chair in political economy, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Georgetown University, and senior research fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He has contributed to numerous scholarly journals and testified before Congress on 30 occasions. He has been awarded the U.S. Treasury's Meritorious Service Award and the French Legion of Honor. He was a reviewer for the Journal of Political Economy under editor Robert Mundell.

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