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Cheney War Crimes: Just Look at the Statute

President Obama needs to tell Attorney General Eric Holder to indict Dick Cheney, right now, for war crimes.

Just look at the statute, Title 18 of the U.S. Criminal Code, Section 2441. It says that someone is guilty of a war crime if he or she commits a "grave breach of common Article 3" of the Geneva Conventions. And then it defines what a grave breach would be.

One such breach is torture, or the conspiracy to commit torture, which Cheney was clearly in on, as when he repeatedly defended waterboarding and talked about the need to go to the "dark side" Here's the language from the statute: "The act of a person who commits, or conspires to commit, an act specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering . . . upon another person within his custody or physical control for the purpose of obtaining information or a confession, punishment, intimidation, coercion, or any reason based on discrimination of any kind."

Another grave breach is "cruel or inhuman treatment," or the conspiracy to inflict such treatment. Again, Cheney was supervising such treatment in the White House, which would qualify as committing this crime. One time, it got so ghoulish that Attorney General John Ashcroft asked the other principals, "Why are we talking about this in the White House? History will not judge this kindly."

Here's the language on "cruel or inhuman treatment": "The act of a person who commits, or conspires or attempts to commit, an act intended to inflict severe or serious physical or mental pain or suffering . . . including serious physical abuse, upon another within his custody or control."

An additional breach is "mutilation or maiming." Since some detainees say they no longer have the complete functioning of arms or limbs, Cheney may be on the hook here, too. "The act of a person who intentionally injures, or conspires or attempts to injure, or injures whether intentionally or unintentionally in the course of committing any other offense under this subsection, one or more persons . . . by disfiguring the person or persons by any mutilation thereof or by permanently disabling any member, limb or organ of his body, without any legitimate medical or dental purpose."

"Intentionally causing serious bodily harm" is yet another grave breach. The statute defines this as: "The act of a person who intentionally causes, or conspires or attempts to cause, serious bodily injury to one or more persons, including lawful combatants, in violation of the law of war."

For each of these offenses, Cheney could receive life in prison, according to the statute.

That is where he belongs.

And it's time for Obama to stop pussyfooting around. He should indict, arrest, and prosecute Cheney.

"There is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes," said Major General Antonio Taguba, USA (Ret.), in the preface to the Physicians for Human Rights report, "Broken Laws, Broken Lives". "The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account."

That question is now firmly on Obama's desk.

And if he continues to dodge it, he'll make a sick joke of the pious claim that we are a nation of laws, not men.

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Matthew Rothschild

Matthew Rothschild

Matthew Rothschild is senior editor of The Progressive magazine.

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