[News] War Crimes and Commanders-in-Chief
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
By DAVE LINDORFF
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
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
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
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
He can be reached at: <mailto:dlindorff at yahoo.com>dlindorff at yahoo.com
The Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
More information about the News