As part of the backdrop for the Republican National Convention, hundreds from around the country and the world assembled August 26th in Martin Luther King auditorium, adjacent to New York City's Lincoln Center, to witness a People's Iraq War Crimes Tribunal concerning George Bush, Dick Cheney and others of their administration. The event began with numerous afternoon workshops on such issues as the impact of imperialism in various regions of the world, the illegal 37-year Israeli occupation of Palestine, and the current administration's threats to our nation's Constitution.
The four-hour evening session consisted of a reading of a 19-charge indictment on war crimes and crimes against humanity, presentation of testimony and evidence, a summation by former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, and a vote by the many who had assembled for the trial. Many other such "people’s tribunals" are being held throughout the world.
The Nuremberg tribunal in the aftermath of World War II, presided over by American Prosecutor Robert Jackson and Judge Francis Biddle, held that any war of aggression be, henceforth, considered a violation of international law. The first, irrefutable charge of which George W. Bush stands guilty is that, like Adolph Hitler, he planned and carried out a war of aggression against Iraq - this being the supreme violation of international law.
Wrote Jackson of Hitler's devastation of Europe and of the Holocaust, "The wrongs which we seek to condemn and punish have been so calculated, so malignant, and so devastating that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored because it cannot survive their being repeated."
While there is solid evidence the US lured Saddam Hussein's into his1990 decision to invade Kuwait and, in hindsight US motives and interests in the 2001 US invasion of Afghanistan are far from transparent, both those wars may arguably fall outside prohibitions forming international law. Not so in the case of Iraq. No one can argue that Iraq posed any sort of threat, either to the US or to its neighbors, which is the only legal justification for going to war. The fabrications of danger were seen before the war to be false and were proved so as the conflict unfolded.
Explored in the testimony were details of both the Iraq war and other actions of the Bush administration, such as conducting the recent coup d'etat in Haiti. The first Bush and Clinton presidencies came more broadly under censure for their choices of battlefield weapons and for employment of the most severe, clearly genocidal, sanctions ever imposed on a country.
Horrific photographs were projected showing the effects of fragmentation cluster bombs and, particularly, the long-term impact of depleted uranium in causing cancer in the Iraqi children and among US servicepeople and their offspring.
The role of sanctions was shown to cause destruction of the Iraqi infrastructure, just as the US military's "shock and awe" selectively destroyed Baghdad's communications, electricity, and water supplies while sparing the Ministry of Oil. The administration’s war, it was charged, allowed destruction of Iraq’s national library and its rich cultural history. UN Oil for Food Program official Denis Halliday described the effects of the sanctions, continued by three administrations, as genocide.
Jo Wilding testified that the ambulance she was driving was fired upon by US troops in Falluja, a violation of international law. She also testified she saw a US marine cut the throat of a wounded Iraqi man.
His voice breaking with emotion, Fernando Suarez noted absence of evidence of weapons of mass destruction, the stated reason for the war, and also detailed how the US military had lied to him about the cause of death of his son Jesus in Iraq. Stepping away from the podium, Suarez bitterly and tearfully lamented, "Bush lied and my son died."
Dennis Brutus, a long-time associate of Nelson Mandela said the appropriate place for convening of a war crimes tribunal is Baghdad. He called for "global resistance to global lawlessness." In his testimony he described the US as, "The principal agent of terrorism in the world."
Brenda Stokely, an organizer for the upcoming October 17 Million Worker March in Washington, further defined the charges and the impact of imperialism and war spending, in terms of unemployment and homelessness. As Congressman Dennis Kucinich frequently put it during his presidential campaign, "Poverty is a weapon of mass destruction; homelessness is a weapon of mass destruction."
Numerous veterans of both Gulf Wars joined in the testimony against Bush.
"We must make clear to the Germans that the wrong for which their fallen leaders are on trial is not that they lost the war, but that they started it," said Chief Prosecutor and US Supreme Court Justice Robert L. Jackson at Nuremberg. "We must not allow ourselves to be drawn into a trial of the causes of the war, for our position is that no grievances or policies will justify resort to aggressive war. It is utterly renounced and condemned as an instrument of policy."
When Ramsey Clark had completed his summation of the charges, a vote was taken. Only red cards were raised in the auditorium. The vote and verdict on George W. Bush and the others was "guilty as charged."
Other Articles by Carl Doerner