As the Bush administration puts the final touches on its plans and preparations for invading and occupying the sovereign nation of Iraq, millions of people are protesting in the streets of cities and towns all over the world. Polls have shown up to seventy or eighty percent of the populations of virtually all Western countries in solid opposition, and of the leading powers, only Prime Minister Tony Blair of the United Kingdom, widely derided and reviled at home as "Bush's poodle," has expressed support for the proposed Blitzkrieg. Indeed, even Blair has called for the United Nations to be asked for its imprimatur before launching the attack.
Yet in the face of this historically unprecedented mass revulsion, the unelected cabal in the White House has expressed its determination to go ahead and invade, and has also let slip plans to use its own WMDs, including chemical, biological and possibly nuclear weapons, in a slaughter that will commence with a rain of 800 cruise missiles on civilians in two days, what war planners, invoking Clausewitz, call a "shock and awe" attack on Baghdad, gleefully predicting results similar to those attendant upon the nuking of Hiroshima.
While caviling over tactical differences regarding the timing of the attack and the best means of securing the nominal support of the Security Council, the United States Congress, which retains the power to declare war under the Constitution, has essentially abdicated its responsibilities, joining the War Party in hoping for a quick and painless (to the US) victory, and agreeing with the terrorist-in-chief that the US has a perfect right to ignore the body of international laws and agreements going back 350 years to the Peace of Westphalia, and to exercise the prerogatives of the "sole superpower" to attack anyone it likes, for whatever pretext it chooses, at any time and with any weapons.
In 1991, Rep. Henry Gonzalez stood as a lone voice of reason to propose the impeachment of Bush I for waging war in defiance of the Constitution, but no one of like stature inhabits the cloakrooms of the Capitol today. Thus the President, or the camerata surrounding him, feels free to ignore not only Congressional prerogatives, but his sworn duty to uphold the Constitution, which makes treaties such as the United Nations Charter and the London Charter, the various Geneva Conventions, and humanitarian law in general into part of "the supreme law of the land," laws binding upon the Chief Executive as well as lesser mortals. Indeed, they are most binding of all upon him, as in his capacity as Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, he has more power to violate these obligations than any other human being. And since only Congress has the power to impeach, the occupant of the Oval Office may sleep untroubled by the prospect of having to answer for his crimes against the Republic and the Constitution.
Of course, as a scion of wealth and privilege, and a tribune of the fascist Right, Bush will never in any case have to stand in the dock; the United States corporate oligarchy holds much too firm a grip on the levers of power to be dislodged by mere popular opinion, especially since the organs of mass distraction, the mainstream media, have become so servile to the requirements of power, and so addicted to the privileges that accompany membership in the Beltway bloviata, that their entire function has now been reduced to the manufacture of consent and the poisoning of the well of information with mindless blather and infotainment.
Nevertheless, I believe it is appropriate to consider convening an international tribunal to focus attention on the crimes of the Bush administration. As a precedent, it is useful to remember the Sarte-Russell War Crimes Tribunal convened in 1967, after the commission of innumerable atrocities in Vietnam. Although widely derided at the time by the ever-pliant US media, the hearings were highly influential in consolidating the anti-Vietnam war feelings in Europe, and created a permanent record of the Nazi-like lengths to which the American war machine was willing to go to achieve its squalid aims in Southeast Asia. The advantage of convening the tribunal before the mass slaughter begins is that it may actually somewhat ameliorate the level of terror by focusing unwelcome publicity on the "collateral damage" intentionally inflicted on the civilians and children of Iraq. After all, the US under Bush has insisted on bilateral treaties forbidding other countries from cooperating with the International Criminal Court in matters concerning US citizens, out of openly expressed concern that its leadership could be subjected to prosecution for crimes against humanity.
Given its historical association with the trials of the Nazi leadership, and its location in the country most associated with European opposition to the upcoming genocidal slaughter in Iraq, Nuremberg would be an ideal location to hold the hearings. A panel of distinguished jurists and well-known and articulate statesmen should be solicited so as to garner positive coverage in the European media.
It may be argued that such a tribunal is premature, inasmuch as the US is not yet committing the crimes it contemplates. There are several reasons that this objection cannot stand. First, the United States already has Special Forces troops on the ground in Iraq, as reported in major news media. In that sense, the invasion is already taking place. In addition, the illegal no-fly zones have served as a pretext for widespread bombing of Iraqi territory, in recent weeks in areas far removed from the areas supposedly being protected. Thus the US and the UK are carrying out unprovoked air attacks against the facilities of a sovereign nation with which they are not officially at war, a clear example of aggression under international law.
Finally, count two of the original Nuremberg indictments, charging the Nazi leadership with waging aggressive war, or "Crimes Against Peace," defined that crime as "the planning, preparation, initiation, and waging of wars of aggression." Thus under the Nuremberg codes, which the chief prosecutor, US Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, was at pains to assure the international community applied universally, to the victorious allies as well as the defeated axis powers, the very act of planning and preparing for the "shock and awe" attack on a city of more than two million people constitutes a crime against the peace as well as a crime against humanity.
Further, the Bush administration has either committed, or constructively cooperated in the commission by its junior allies and subordinates, extensive war crimes during the attack on Afghanistan and its aftermath, crimes which it continues to carry out with impunity amid little or no publicity. A Nuremberg-style tribunal could examine these crimes and expose them to the world, further undermining the imperial hauteur and blind self-righteousness of New Rome.
One other objection that may be raised is that every US President of modern times has ordered and presided over crimes against the peace and against humanity; certainly the ten to fifteen million dead as a result of the machinations of the US military intelligence nexus since the original Nuremberg tribunal was organized - not to mention the hundreds of thousands of German and Japanese civilians incinerated in terror bombing attacks ordered by Churchill and Roosevelt - would be ill served by a focus that implies that other administrations have relatively clean hands.
There is, however, one major difference between previous policies and that of Bush XLIII: all previous aggressions have been cloaked, however transparently, in the rhetoric of self-defense and multilateralism. This is the first administration since that of Woodrow Wilson to openly proclaim its right and intention to attack whomever it chooses as a means of preventing the development of any adversarial powers at even a regional level. The Bush regime fully intends to straddle the globe, to develop the first truly planetary empire. If exposed as a syndicate of Nazi criminals in all but name, the gangsters in the White House may yet stumble in their drive for world domination.
Ron Reed is an unrepentant Sixties activist and avid student of history, presently living in Dillingham, Alaska, and working on getting his secondary teaching certificate. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org