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War Crimes are War Crimes

Published: April 25, 2009, Author: MHirch

After reading and listening to columnists and television and radio commentators twist and turn their words to argue against holding US officials accountable for torturing of detainees under the control of the CIA and the US Defense department I now understand how it was possible for Germans to turn their attention away from the genocidal policies of the Adolph Hitler government during the 1930s and 40s. The US government put in place laws against torture and signed international agreements (authored by US representatives) after World War II.  I was born just after the end of World War II. I grew up learning that the decisions at the Nuremberg trials holding German officials high and low accountable for war crimes and crimes against humanity was the moral and judicious thing to do. A government’s policy that authorizes war crimes and crimes against humanity is not protection, and must not be a protection, against prosecution and punishment.  The German people know this now. The Japanese people who also saw the US commit to trial and punishment violators of war crimes laws and crimes against humanity understand this concept too.

Now, for eight years, the United States government policy was to authorize the commission of a crime–violate US laws and international laws which are required to be made a part of the “Law of the Land.” The law is the law and must be administered by the chief law enforcement officer in the United States. There is no political decision to be made here.  Acts of torture were committed against individuals in violation of US law. No one who authorized, authored, directed or directly committed the acts of torture must be relieved of their responsibility.  If the “law” means anything then it must be enforced.

Uygurs from East Turkistan (northwest China) have been held in Guantanomo prison for no crime they committed.  Other indigenous peoples are being killed and tortured for no crime they committed acts against indigenous peoples are crimes against humanity.  US policy has sanctioned such acts.

Americans have a strange notion of their “exceptional” position above all other peoples. Not only is this an ignorant assertion it is dangerous.  With such an attitude Americans allow themselves to behave in bestial ways while seeking to condemn and punish others for bestial acts. Stalin’s Russia behaved the same way and Americans condemned Russians and Stalin for acts of torture, gulogs, mass killings and population removals. Countless other horrific actions have been taken by other governments containing individuals who were “following policy” — said another way: “following orders.”

Nuremberg established the rule that “following orders” in the commission of a crime is no defense. Individuals are supposed to make a judgment about the moral good and the immoral. Individuals are suppose to be able to decide good and evil unless they are judged “crazy.”

Stop with the apologies, rationalizations suggesting that “we just move on!” Stop with the suggestion that “the world is in crisis, we don’t need a distraction.” I am sorry, but a crime or crimes have been committed. If the US is to be civilized and exist as a state that acts in accord to laws and not from human emotion, then the laws must be enforced.

As European jurists have already announced, and the authorities in the United Nations responsible for dealing with torture and war crimes suggest…if the US government does not fulfill its legal obligations under domestic and international law to put to trial and convict those deemed responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity then others must take direct action to seek prosecution of US officials.

That is a determination the US government made long ago when the international torture agreements were made.  The US must live by the laws all humanity now subscribes to and seeks to enforce. President Barak Obama does not have a political choice.  He should step aside and let the US Justice Department perform its duty as prescribed by the US Constitution.

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