Rumsfeld, Bush and the Supreme War Crime

Joyce Battle at the National Security Archive has used the Freedom of Information Act to spring classified documents from 2001 about the Bush administration’s sneaky plans for getting up an aggressive war on Iraq.

Document 8 [pdf] contains notes of then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld prepared for a meeting with CENTCOM commander Gen. Tommy Franks in Tampa, Fl., on November 27, 2001. It shows a plan to pull a lot of troops out of Afghanistan and put them into Iraq and to ‘decapitate’ the Iraqi leadership. (In other words, Rumsfeld planned to abandon some poor GIs fighting al-Qaeda and the Taliban to their fates while putting the money and equipment elsewhere– which got GIs killed).

After all that, the memo sets out points under the heading ‘how start?’, which clearly detail various schemes to start a war under false pretenses, including baiting Saddam into an attack on the Kurds in the north, or breathlessly announcing from the White House that a firm connection had been found between Saddam and Usama Bin Laden. That several such possibilities were listed showed that Rumsfeld did not really care how the war was started, he just wanted that war. And it shows he was entirely willing to manufacture the pretense once it was decided on.

The memo clearly was developed in close consultation with deputy secretary of defense Paul Wolfowitz and his subordinate Douglas Feith, both of them part of the Israel Lobby in the Bush administration, whose obsession with Iraq derived from their right-Zionist commitments.

Rumsfeld’s memo certainly violates the charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal on war crimes:

(a) Crimes against peace:

(i) Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances;

(ii) Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under (i).

The Nuremberg Tribunal declared that “To initiate a war of aggression . . . is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

That the United States has failed to come to terms with its war crimes in Iraq only sets us up for a repeat performance. For a nation that lives by laws and the esteem of allies to act like an outlaw will ultimately undermine its own foundation. It is like playing golf in a bathroom– you’re going to end up with a lot of self-inflicted bruises.

27 Responses

  1. Juan, 2nd page under “Declaratory Policy”, 2nd item “…uses CW or BW…”
    They knew all along, and this helps, I think to show that the whole “Nuclear threat” was BS. Not that that really is news or anything.

    Regards,

    David Trimmell

  2. Juan Cole, Thanks for this. Many Americans have watched the USA’s retreat from concern with the RULE OF LAW in international affairs (and even at home) with outrage, sadness, and fear. The 43-year ignoring and effective trashing (by USA and Israel) of the Fourth Geneva Convention is a case (and an important case) in point. The USA (that is, most of its “leaders” and the money-men behind those often puppet-like “leaders”) believes itself “too big to fail” meaning, among other things, immune from prosecutions (as to itself, its leaders, armed forces, etc.) under international law. So far those who believe this have nothing to complain of.

    We Americans are to our national body politic like cells in a human body corrupted (elsewhere) by cancer. We are not ourselves sick, nor are we ourselves a cause of the decline of the body of which we are a part, but the cancer is spreading and we will ultimately suffer for it.

  3. This isn’t so much new news, as there were formal committees within the NSC of the Bush administration working on regime change in Iraq before 911.

    As to Nuremburg, a number of high officials in the Roosevelt administration, as well as Bombs-Away LeMay, have been quoted saying if they had been on the losing end, they would have been the ones facing the hangman for war crimes. The “shock and awe” in Iraq was the very definition of terrorism, but, as Dubya noted on another topic, “the US does NOT torture”.

    The ultimate stake is indeed the “rule of law,”. I rather think the reality is such traits of civilization and progress only serve to clothe the underlying beast, and are a “preferred” way of operating when it comes to the Big Picture. After all, as Lindsay Graham said in as many words, “911 left the US was on its knees……” People are inherently weak, and when confronted with something for which they are unprepared and ignorant (and the more conservative are always the most complacent and vulnerable), they understandably panic, better thinking being beyond these reactionary souls. This is all about national IN-security.

    • Travis, thanks for saying what I think. “Rule of law” any more is just a bit of the dead myths that once kind of held citizens here together. Not that the idealized notion ever actually existed, and in truth it probably can’t because as nations under strict Code Law have learned, just like our constitutional, common-law structure, there has to be a certain amount of “slack” in The System or it grinds to a halt. How much slack is tolerable? That’s a big question. When the slack swallows the culture, and that’s all there is, all you have is Hobbes’ state of nature.

      • That quaint notion of ‘Rule of Law’ is all that holds civilisation together …just because you can’t reach that lofty ideal ( its not really) or impinges on your ability to wage war the way you might like – doesn’t mean its outdated or wrong.
        In fact that is the evidence that it is very much needed – what is lacking is the will and ability to strive to enforce it – equally and consistantly.

      • “Rule of Law” is whatever the PTB say it is. It was never meant to limit the elite, only us “piss willys.”

    • Of course, you’re right. And not to get drawn into too much ultimately ineffectual naval gazing, but in alot of ways the US put Japan in a corner. Walter LaFaber made a point in his history of noting how the events that made Japan do what they did may have gotten that reaction from a country that was less dominated by its military. In context, he had been discussing how the Yamamoto and the smarter guys knew even if successful they were starting a loosing fight and could only hope the US would somehow be intimated by a big early win.

      The point we get to is one of needing a more open-minded and benevolent morality. That doesn’t mean being stupid or naive, but simply being more open minded and rational about our enlightened best interests. We’ll still screw up, as there was plenty of competing wisdom in the US FS in the 1930′s, but this stuff with Rummy etal is beyond excusable.

  4. Cole “The Nuremberg Tribunal declared that “To initiate a war of aggression . . . is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

    That the United States has failed to come to terms with its war crimes in Iraq only sets us up for a repeat performance. For a nation that lives by laws and the esteem of allies to act like an outlaw will ultimately undermine its own foundation. It is like playing golf in a bathroom– you’re going to end up with a lot of self-inflicted bruises.”

    Clear, concise, nailed it as is always the case

  5. I remember seeing Bush in a televised appearance during his campaign before he was even elected (from Texas, I think) during which he stated he intends to invade Iraq (it was an aside in response to a different question). As I recall it was a fairly small informal setting. I’ve never been able to find that footage online though, nor a written report about it. It would be interesting if someone could unearth that clip.

  6. But which part of this is new?
    The ICJ declared the US bombing of Nicaragua an instance of ‘unlawful use of force’ in the 1980s. The leadership then wasn’t held accountable. There wasn’t any accountability for the war in Vietnam.

    That the United States has failed to come to terms with its war crimes in Iraq only sets us up for a repeat performance.

    The way i see it – Iraq was “a repeat performance.”

    • Absolutley!

      “That the United States has failed to come to terms with its war crimes in Iraq only sets us up for a repeat performance.” – it should not be up to the USA to ‘come to terms’ with its war crimes – it had demonstrated previously that it is unable/unwilling to do so.
      ” For a nation that lives by laws and the esteem of allies to act like an outlaw will ultimately undermine its own foundation.” – you obviously have a differnt persepective than I . The USA ( as above) has committed war crimes previously demonstrating a total disregard for ‘laws’ . Though I will say the USA has been very quick quoting and applying the same laws to others ( looks alot like double standards)
      “It is like playing golf in a bathroom– you’re going to end up with a lot of self-inflicted bruises.” – this line perhaps sums up the whole underlying problem. The implication that its all about the USA …wow- you’ll end up with ‘alot of self inflicted bruises’. Its NOT like playing golf in the bathroom – its like giving kinder kids guns – a whole lot of OTHER people are going to get killed.

  7. Well sorry to say, this is now a moot point. Rumsfeld et al have already been found to be immune from war crimes prosecution in Europe because of the “head of state immunity” doctrine. This used to not apply to war crimes, or was at least limited to when the “heads of state” were in office, but according to the French courts, it now applies even after they leave office — a perpetual state of immunity for war crimes by virtue of being a top official. Note that the rules were entirely different when applied to people like Pinochet…but he was brown-skinned anyway.

    • Fair enough point, but Pinochet was by no means brown-skinned. Neither was Milosevic and Karadzic for that matter… Hypocrisy need not be racist…

    • When we REALLY get down to it, its that White Man-Brown Man thing that seems to explain alot of this, as far as looking for explanations go. Karzai may be a ‘ferringner, but who wouldn’t invite him to dinner with his great english, charm, and stylish green cape. In contrast to that guy fr Iran with his 3 day beard, who MUST smell like a camel.

  8. You can get sizable portions of the US population emotional about “death panels”, “non-ground zero-non-mosques”, lying under oath about sexual encounters, Obama’s true religions affiliation and place of birth, busing school children, and a myriad of other issues, but its hard to get up much emotion about making war on weak defenseless countries, once a bogeyman, or racial/ethnic/religious inferiority, is successfully established in the public mind.

    Of course we get emotional about American servicemen getting killed and wounded, but that only reinforces our desire to inflict more pain on our opponents.

    Indicting Rumsfeld et all for war crimes would resonate as an inferential indictment of a large portion of the population, a majority of congress, and the mainstream media. So it won’t happen because We the People are manning their barricade.

  9. why has this not been reported in the new york times or even huffington post ???

  10. See Bamford’s Pretext For War for details on Wolfowitz’ use of Doug Feith, Richard Perlman, and David Wurmser (Israelis who previously collaborated to persuade Netanyu to involve the US in a war against Iraq and Iran) to operate the offices in CIA, DIA, and NSA which provided discredited and manufactured “intelligence” to Bush to propagandize the people of the US toward theIraq war.

  11. I would like to see and accounting for Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan, with no mention of “crimes.” I just want to understand fully what we were and are about so terribly.

  12. Ahmadinejad says Iran may end higher enrichment
    link to salon.com
    Iran would consider ending higher level uranium enrichment, the most crucial part of its controversial nuclear activities, if world powers send Tehran nuclear fuel for a medical research reactor, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told reporters Friday.

    Addressing a packed press conference in a New York hotel, Ahmadinejad also said Iran was prepared to set a date for resumption of talks with six world powers to discuss Tehran’s nuclear program, saying October would be the likely time for the two sides to meet.

  13. Ike waged war on Iran and Guatemala by overthrowing their governments. He then waged a clandestine/proxy war on Indonesia. He kept the Vietnamese from voting on a referendum that would likely have unified the country and avoided the genocide visited on the peoples of Southeast Asia by the USA. All of those are very gross crimes against humanity, the first two being aggressive war crimes. The UN failed absolutely by doing nothing, and remains a failure. If Ike and his crew had gotten the German Treatment, the terrible Terror waged by successive US administrations almost continuously since 1953 against hundreds of millions of innocents likley would not have occurred. And I’ve only mentioned the outright War Crimes without touching the even more vicious economic war crimes launched against well over half the planet’s population that stretch back almost 100 years. A big part of our dilemma today is historians haven’t delivered a true accounting of the past, but have instead helped to cover up the very gross crimes of the past so they can continue unabated.

  14. So what’s new? The last major (undeclared) war was predicated on a lie as well. Declassified documents prove the second Gulf of Tonkin incident was a lie.

  15. Wolfowitz, Feith, “part of the Israel Lobby” “whose obsession with Iraq derived from their right-Zionist”, please! The PNAC
    lunatics are as American as apple pie. PNAC was a strategic blunder China’s passing the US in this century and instead hastened
    it by decades, a double-down of catastrophic proportions. That some are also supporters of Israels right-wing (which doesn’t particularly match a left-wing Israelis definition of “Zionist”) does not absolve them of being an American jingoist phenomena.

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