[News] War Crimes and Commanders-in-Chief

Anti-Imperialist News News at freedomarchives.org
Fri Feb 10 12:18:04 EST 2006

February 9, 2006

War Crimes and Commanders-in-Chief


George Bush and Tomoyuki Yamashita


I t's pretty easy to trace the war crime of torture in Iraq, 
Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay back to the Oval Office. The memos are 
all there.

But George Bush is guilty of worse war crimes than torture, bad as 
torture may be. He is also guilty of violating another Geneva 
Convention involving the protection of non-combatants.

The U.S. military has violated a number of basic international rules 
of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, not even counting the biggest 
one--starting an unprovoked war of aggression.

For starters, there was the much-touted "Shock&Awe" campaign of 
aerial bombardment of Baghdad, which targeted markets, targeted sites 
located in residential districts, and which used weapons in an urban 
setting--depleted uranium shells, anti-personnel bombs, incendiary 
bombs, etc.--which were guaranteed to kill many civilians, and which 
in many cases are banned, or banned in such situations.

In Fallujah, we had another war crime--an act of massive retribution 
against a civilian population for an action by enemy fighters. Recall 
that it was allegedly enemy fighters in Fallujah who killed and then 
mutilated the bodies of four mercenary soldiers working for the 
Americans. It was that incident that led Washington to decide on 
crushing Fallujah as punishment. A first attempt to invade the city 
failed and was called off as casualties mounted to what the White 
House considered politically unacceptable levels. A new bigger attack 
was planned, with the aim of leveling the city of 300,000, but it was 
held off until after the 2004 election for fear high US casualties 
might hurt Bush's chances. The invasion of Fallujah was clearly a 
political act, with heavy involvement by the White House.

Retribution against civilian populations for the actions of enemy 
fighters is expressly forbidden and is a serious war crime under the 
Geneva Conventions.

After US troops had Fallujah surrounded, refugees were still 
streaming out of the city. The New York Times' Dexter Filkins 
reported that US troops were turning back into the city all males "of 
combat age," which the US in Iraq has been interpreting generally to 
mean over 12. All those sent back into the deathtrap of Fallujah were 
subject to bombardment by napalm, depleted uranium shells, phosphorus 
bombs (a weapon that is illegal if used against people, but which the 
military admits was so used in Fallujah). Under the geneva 
Conventions, civilians must be allowed to flee the scene of a battle.

But why would all these war crimes make George Bush a war criminal? 
He wasn't making the orders was he?

Well, ask Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita-a man who died the same month Bush 
was born, in a February 60 years ago. Actually you can't ask the 
general, who commanded Japanese forces in the Phillippines and later 
all across the Pacific, because he's dead. He was executed after the 
war by America following a military tribunal that accused and tried 
him for allegedly being responsibile for the war crimes committed by 
his troops.

Evidence linking Gen. Yamashita directly to those many crimes was 
lacking at the trial, but the decision was that by not maintaining 
control over his soldiers, and not stopping them from committing war 
crimes, Yamashita was responsible for those crimes himself, and 
deserved to die.

Ordinarily, one might say that a president is not that involved in 
running the military, and that the responsibility for soldiers' 
behavior should rest with the top generals, or maybe the Secretary of 
Defense. But this president insists at every opportunity that he is 
not a president, but rather a commander-in-chief. It's his 
justification for breaking the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, 
for saying he will authorize torture if he feels like it, for 
refusing to provide information to Congress, for eliminating habeas 
corpus, for ruling that captured fighters in Afghanistan and 
elsewhere aren't POWs. The list goes on and on.

Basically, Bush, in his own view, is a Commander-in-Chief first, and 
a President second.

Fine, if that's how he wants it, he should have to take the good with 
the bad. How was it with Spiderman? "With great power comes great 

That includes responsibility for the crimes being committed by the 
U.S. military under his command.

If it was right for Gen. Yamashita to be executed for his soldiers' 
misdeeds, it is certainly right for Commander-in-Chief Bush to be 
impeached for the misdeeds of soldiers under him--and then to be 
charged as a war criminal himself.

Dave Lindorff is the author of 
Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. 
His new book of CounterPunch columns titled 
This Can't be Happening!" is published by Common Courage Press. 
Information about both books and other work by Lindorff can be found 
at <http://www.thiscantbehappening.net/>www.thiscantbehappening.net.

He can be reached at: <mailto:dlindorff at yahoo.com>dlindorff at yahoo.com

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