While Bush administration members have made a sport of breaking the law, both domestically and internationally, their intransigence will come back to haunt - one way or another.
The Bush Doctrine of taking "the battle to the enemy," for example, is a direct repudiation of the United Nations Charter, which prohibits the use of international force unless in self-defense (after an armed attack across an international border) or related to a UN Security Council decision. And that explains why Bush’s 2002 National Security Strategy makes a point to "protect Americans" from "the potential for investigations, inquiry, or prosecution" by the International Criminal Court "whose jurisdiction does not extend to Americans and which we do not accept."
The whole idea of the US being able to preemptively attack other nations was penned by White House lawyers two weeks after 9/11; former justice department lawyer John Yoo wrote memos for then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales arguing that "no limits" stood in the way of Bush’s ability to take military action and that "the president’s decisions are for him alone and are unreviewable."
But giving someone like Bush "unreviewable" and unlimited military powers is reckless; the man can barely construct a sentence, let alone articulate a humane and effective foreign policy.
Besides, a "no limits" approach to foreign policy can’t coexist with rule of law, which explains why just last week, US Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff accused the United Nations and other world bodies of using international law "as a rhetorical weapon against us." Chertoff co-authored the infamous Patriot Act but is best known for his stunning incompetence regarding Katrina. If only he had been as eager to protect Americans from hurricanes as he is to protect them from global treaties...
Chertoff’s view of international law as a threat to the US is supported by Rumsfeld’s 2005 National Defense Strategy, which notes: "Our strength as a nation state will continue to be challenged by those who employ a strategy of the weak using international fora, judicial processes and terrorism."
In other words, the Pentagon links "judicial processes" with "terrorism," and sees "judicial processes" as weakening the US "nation state." What kind of nonsense is that?
Now that Rumsfeld has "resigned" and Bush and Co. face their lame-duck years watching the war on terror implode, it’s worth considering the aftermath of World War II, when the International Military Tribunal indicted and tried over 20 Nazi leaders for war crimes ranging from waging a war of aggression, killing civilians, mistreating prisoners and plundering property. How eerily familiar those charges seem today.
And how ominous that only weeks ago, German prosecutors began pursuing a criminal investigation into the alleged role of Rumsfeld, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, former CIA director George Tenet and numerous other administration members regarding prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo.
Rumsfeld will lose his legal immunity when he ceases to be Defense Secretary, a fact which must weigh heavily on Bush and others. Unsurprisingly, the administration has taken pre-emptive action against future war crimes charges, including pushing through the scandalous Military Commissions Act, which provides them retroactive domestic protection from prosecution regarding prisoner abuse cases.
On the world stage, the administration’s primary battleground for immunity has been the International Criminal Court (ICC), set up in 2002 to investigate and prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. Roughly 100 countries have ratified the ICC Statute, and over 40 others have signed it, but the Bush administration renounced the treaty on grounds it could lead to "frivolous or politically motivated prosecutions."
The administration has done everything in its power to enervate the ICC, including setting up bilateral "Article 98" agreements which arm-twist other countries into not prosecuting US nationals or foreign nationals working for the US. Over 100 nations, mainly poor and dependent on foreign aid, have signed the agreements, but many others have stood firm and lost US aid as a result, including Brazil, Peru and South Africa.
But such bribery will only go so far. The administration’s "no limits" approach to foreign policy has alienated global allies, and in many parts of the world, Bush is regarded as a greater danger to world peace than North Korea’s Kim Jong-il or Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Continuing revelations of US war atrocities, such as the recent bombing of a Pakistani religious school in which 82 students died, only serve to fuel global outrage. It’s hard to imagine administration members getting much sympathy in an international trial.
Bottom line, as calls for impeachment build at home, Bush might heed advice he once gave to Osama bin Laden: "you can run but you cannot hide."
1. A number of web sites provide information about human rights abuses linked to the so-called war on terror: War Crimes Watch , Human Rights First , School of the Americas Watch , Cage Prisoners
2. As After Downing Street notes, this year a national coalition of organizations is making December 10th "Human Rights and Impeachment Day." For related information on everything from Petitions to Dramatic Play Scripts and Yard Signs, check out the site’s event resources Human Rights and Impeachment Day
This article was partially excerpted from The Progressives’ Handbook: Get the Facts and Make a Difference Now (Volume 2) by Heather Wokusch. She can be contacted at www.heatherwokusch.com, where each recent article is accompanied by a 3-minute summary podcast. The Progressives’ Handbook: Get the Facts and Make a Difference Now