Demonstration at Iraq Inquiry on 29January 2010 when Tony Blair gave evidence.
These records have been demanded repeatedly by the Chilcot inquiry, set up when Gordon Brown was prime minister, back in 2009. Chilcot said then that his inquiry would take a year and a half, or maybe a bit longer. That would have seen it report over two years ago. But now its publication date has been pushed back into 2014 at least.
While many people were always sceptical that Chilcot’s team, handpicked from the British establishment, would land a mortal blow on the former prime minister who now poses as envoy for peace in the Middle East, at the same time no one expected the report to take so long. The hold up will be because the aforementioned Tony Blair wants it to be held up, and he would not be able to do so without the collusion of Cameron.
So whereas the Chilcot Inquiry was set up supposedly to investigate what went wrong in the run up to war in Iraq, the very people responsible for what went wrong are blocking its publication. Tony Blair remains at large urging us on to further wars, most recently in Syria.
In the meantime, records of an estimated 130 conversations between Blair and Bush and then Brown and Bush are being blocked by this top civil servant. In addition there are 25 notes from Blair to Bush and 200 cabinet level discussions also being withheld. This adds up to a lot of conversations, the majority probably damaging to Bush and Blair.
There is a lot at stake here, because Chilcot is trying to get at the precise point at which Blair agreed to go to war alongside Bush over Iraq.
If, as many of us suspect, this deal was made early in 2002, a full year before the invasion actually took place, it would show a conspiracy to go to war which not only ignored its legality or otherwise, but also a wilful series of deceits carried out by Blair and his allies.
The whole charade of government actions in the months before the war would be shown to be just that: the 45 minutes dossier, the distortion of intelligence findings, the demands for a second UN resolution, the blaming of the French for scuppering such a resolution, the pretence of wanting peace if Saddam Hussein would give up his (non existent)weapons of mass destruction.
All these were just so much spin and softening up, trying to get the public and MPs to agree to a war which had already been decided on, and which was clearly about regime change.
Blair’s tactic now is to delay as long as possible in the hope that time will soften opinion against him, and that he will be able to continue in a highly political role. Compare Blair’s role in international politics to that of any previous modern British prime minister to see how centrally, lucratively, and damagingly, involved he still is. A hostile Chilcot report would make it impossible for him to continue that role, and would open up the long overdue possibility of his facing war crimes proceedings.
As government ministers huff and puff about whistleblowers’ revelations about state surveillance, we should remember that they have a lot to hide. All discussions between the main protagonists in taking us to war in Iraq should be made public so we can judge for ourselves who was at fault. There is no justifiable reason for secrecy except to save the faces of those involved, and to allow them to remain rich, powerful and protected.
We owe it to the millions who suffered from the Iraq war and to the millions who demonstrated against it, to ensure that the truth comes out.
WASHINGTON — When President Obama strode into the Rose Garden last month after a week of increasing tension over Syria’s use of chemical weapons, many assumed it was to announce that the attack that had been broadly hinted at by his own aides had begun. Instead, he turned the decision over to Congress. And when Mr. Obama appeared on television Tuesday night, a speech initially intended to promote force made the argument for diplomacy.
Over the last three weeks, the nation has witnessed a highly unusual series of pivots as a president changed course virtually in real time and on live television. Mr. Obama’s handling of his confrontation with Syria over a chemical weapons attack on civilians has been the rare instance of a commander in chief seemingly thinking out loud and changing his mind on the fly.
To aides and allies, Mr. Obama’s willingness to hit the pause button twice on his decision to launch airstrikes to punish Syria for using chemical weapons on its own people reflects a refreshing open-mindedness and a reluctance to use force that they considered all too missing under his predecessor with the Texas swagger. In this view, Mr. Obama is a nimble leader more concerned with getting the answer right than with satisfying a political class all too eager to second-guess every move.
“All the critics would like this to be easily choreographed, a straight line and end the way they’d all individually like it to end,” said David Plouffe, the president’s former senior adviser. “That’s not the way the world works for sure, especially in a situation like this. I think it speaks to his strength, which is that he’s willing to take in new information.”
But to Mr. Obama’s detractors, including many in his own party, he has shown a certain fecklessness with his decisions first to outsource the decision to lawmakers in the face of bipartisan opposition and then to embrace a Russian diplomatic alternative that even his own advisers consider dubious. Instead of displaying decisive leadership, Mr. Obama, to these critics, has appeared reactive, defensive and profoundly challenged in standing up to a dangerous world.
“There’s absolutely no question he’s very uncomfortable being commander in chief,” Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, a Republican who worked with the White House to support force against Syria, said in an interview. “In personal meetings, he comes across very confident. I wish I could deliver a speech as well as he does. But it’s like he wants to slip the noose. It’s like watching a person who’s caged, who’s in a trap and trying to figure a way out.”
For good or ill, and there are plenty who argue both points of view, Mr. Obama represents a stark contrast in style to George W. Bush. The former president valued decisiveness and once he made a decision rarely revisited it. While he, too, changed course from time to time, Mr. Bush regularly told aides that a president should not reveal doubts because it would send a debilitating signal to his administration, troops in the field and the country at large.
Mr. Obama came to office as the anti-Bush, his candidacy set in motion by his opposition to the Iraq war amid promises to be more open to contrary advice, more pragmatic in his policies and more contemplative in his decisions. When it came time to decide whether to send more troops to Afghanistan in 2009, he presided over three months of study and debate that even aides found excruciating at times but were presented as a more thoughtful process.
Known as a disciplined candidate and personality, Mr. Obama earned praise for boldness with the daring Special Forces operation in Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden, although that obscured the months of secret deliberations the public did not see. He likewise expanded drone strikes against people suspected of being terrorists and until recently expressed little doubt about their wisdom and necessity.
“President Obama was elected in part because when Washington followed the conventional wisdom into Iraq, he took a different approach,” said Dan Pfeiffer, his senior adviser. “The American people appreciate the fact that he takes a thoughtful approach to these most serious of decisions.”
But Richard N. Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations and a former State Department official under Mr. Bush who broke with his old boss and has been supportive of Mr. Obama at times, is highly critical of the way he has handled Syria. “Words like ad hoc and improvised and unsteady come to mind,” Mr. Haass said. “This has been probably the most undisciplined stretch of foreign policy of his presidency.”
With the civil war in Syria, Mr. Obama has telegraphed uncertainty for two years, clearly pained by the deaths of 100,000 people yet unsure what the United States could do about it that would succeed without dragging the country into another quagmire. He set a “red line” against the use of chemical weapons without defining what it would entail.
Once a sarin gas attack on Aug. 21 killed more than 1,400 civilians, according to American intelligence, Mr. Obama agreed that a military response was needed while making clear how much he wished it were not.
“I would much rather spend my time talking about how to make sure every 3- and 4-year-old gets a good education than I would spending time thinking about how can I prevent 3- and 4-year-olds from being subjected to chemical weapons and nerve gas,” he lamented during a visit to Sweden last week. “Unfortunately, that’s sometimes the decisions that I’m confronted with as president of the United States.”
Despite his penchant for process, he decided to ask Congress for authorization over the objections of his staff and without consulting his secretary of state, John Kerry, or his secretary of defense, Chuck Hagel. When Russia proposed averting a strike by having Syria give up its chemical weapons, Mr. Obama cautiously embraced the same concept even after Mr. Kerry had dismissed it as implausible and unworkable.
“Each time he’s done an about-face or a sharp turn, other people who kept marching in the same direction look kind of foolish,” said Peter D. Feaver, a Duke University professor who worked on the National Security Council staff under Mr. Bush and Bill Clinton. “It’s clear he didn’t fully think through the implications of going to Congress and prepare for that.”
Defenders said that too much attention was being paid to the path instead of the destination, and that if Syria gave up its chemical weapons, all history would remember is that Mr. Obama had made it happen. “I’d rather always have a president who will make the right decisions at the right time,” said Representative Steve Israel, Democrat of New York, “than a president who makes the wrong decisions because he doesn’t want to give more time.”
“You may evade justice but in our eyes you are each guilty of egregious war crimes, of plunder and, finally, of murder, including the murder of thousands of young Americans — my fellow veterans — whose future you stole.”
I write this letter on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War on behalf of my fellow Iraq War veterans. I write this letter on behalf of the 4,488 soldiers and Marines who died in Iraq. I write this letter on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of veterans who have been wounded and on behalf of those whose wounds, physical and psychological, have destroyed their lives. I am one of those gravely wounded. I was paralyzed in an insurgent ambush in 2004 in Sadr City. My life is coming to an end. I am living under hospice care.
I write this letter on behalf of husbands and wives who have lost spouses, on behalf of children who have lost a parent, on behalf of the fathers and mothers who have lost sons and daughters and on behalf of those who care for the many thousands of my fellow veterans who have brain injuries. I write this letter on behalf of those veterans whose trauma and self-revulsion for what they have witnessed, endured and done in Iraq have led to suicide and on behalf of the active-duty soldiers and Marines who commit, on average, a suicide a day. I write this letter on behalf of the some 1 million Iraqi dead and on behalf of the countless Iraqi wounded. I write this letter on behalf of us all—the human detritus your war has left behind, those who will spend their lives in unending pain and grief.
You may evade justice but in our eyes you are each guilty of egregious war crimes, of plunder and, finally, of murder, including the murder of thousands of young Americans—my fellow veterans—whose future you stole.
I write this letter, my last letter, to you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney. I write not because I think you grasp the terrible human and moral consequences of your lies, manipulation and thirst for wealth and power. I write this letter because, before my own death, I want to make it clear that I, and hundreds of thousands of my fellow veterans, along with millions of my fellow citizens, along with hundreds of millions more in Iraq and the Middle East, know fully who you are and what you have done. You may evade justice but in our eyes you are each guilty of egregious war crimes, of plunder and, finally, of murder, including the murder of thousands of young Americans—my fellow veterans—whose future you stole.
Your positions of authority, your millions of dollars of personal wealth, your public relations consultants, your privilege and your power cannot mask the hollowness of your character. You sent us to fight and die in Iraq after you, Mr. Cheney, dodged the draft in Vietnam, and you, Mr. Bush, went AWOL from your National Guard unit. Your cowardice and selfishness were established decades ago. You were not willing to risk yourselves for our nation but you sent hundreds of thousands of young men and women to be sacrificed in a senseless war with no more thought than it takes to put out the garbage.
I joined the Army two days after the 9/11 attacks. I joined the Army because our country had been attacked. I wanted to strike back at those who had killed some 3,000 of my fellow citizens. I did not join the Army to go to Iraq, a country that had no part in the September 2001 attacks and did not pose a threat to its neighbors, much less to the United States. I did not join the Army to “liberate” Iraqis or to shut down mythical weapons-of-mass-destruction facilities or to implant what you cynically called “democracy” in Baghdad and the Middle East. I did not join the Army to rebuild Iraq, which at the time you told us could be paid for by Iraq’s oil revenues. Instead, this war has cost the United States over $3 trillion. I especially did not join the Army to carry out pre-emptive war. Pre-emptive war is illegal under international law. And as a soldier in Iraq I was, I now know, abetting your idiocy and your crimes. The Iraq War is the largest strategic blunder in U.S. history. It obliterated the balance of power in the Middle East. It installed a corrupt and brutal pro-Iranian government in Baghdad, one cemented in power through the use of torture, death squads and terror. And it has left Iran as the dominant force in the region. On every level—moral, strategic, military and economic—Iraq was a failure. And it was you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney, who started this war. It is you who should pay the consequences.
I would not be writing this letter if I had been wounded fighting in Afghanistan against those forces that carried out the attacks of 9/11. Had I been wounded there I would still be miserable because of my physical deterioration and imminent death, but I would at least have the comfort of knowing that my injuries were a consequence of my own decision to defend the country I love. I would not have to lie in my bed, my body filled with painkillers, my life ebbing away, and deal with the fact that hundreds of thousands of human beings, including children, including myself, were sacrificed by you for little more than the greed of oil companies, for your alliance with the oil sheiks in Saudi Arabia, and your insane visions of empire.
I have, like many other disabled veterans, suffered from the inadequate and often inept care provided by the Veterans Administration. I have, like many other disabled veterans, come to realize that our mental and physical wounds are of no interest to you, perhaps of no interest to any politician. We were used. We were betrayed. And we have been abandoned. You, Mr. Bush, make much pretense of being a Christian. But isn’t lying a sin? Isn’t murder a sin? Aren’t theft and selfish ambition sins? I am not a Christian. But I believe in the Christian ideal. I believe that what you do to the least of your brothers you finally do to yourself, to your own soul.
My day of reckoning is upon me. Yours will come. I hope you will be put on trial. But mostly I hope, for your sakes, that you find the moral courage to face what you have done to me and to many, many others who deserved to live. I hope that before your time on earth ends, as mine is now ending, you will find the strength of character to stand before the American public and the world, and in particular the Iraqi people, and beg for forgiveness.
Here on the 10-year anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, I wonder how long it will be before we can discuss the war free from the contamination of myths. It may be sooner than many myth-purveyors expect. Just listen to this lecture by Mel Leffler, one of the leading historians of American diplomacy. He has been a harsh critic of Bush-era diplomacy and his speech does accept some of the conventional critique (specifically about the “hubris” of the Bush administration), but his analysis is far more balanced than the conventional wisdom on the topic. All in all, Leffler’s analysis is a promising example of myth-busting.
For my part, the myths that get thrown at me most often have to do with why the war happened in the first place. Here are five of the most pervasive myths:
1. The Bush administration went to war against Iraq because it thought (or claimed to think) Iraq had been behind the 9/11 attacks. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the Bush Administration did explore the possibility that Hussein might have collaborated with al Qaeda on the attacks. Vice President Dick Cheney (along with some officials in the secretary of defense’s office) in particular believed this hypothesis had some merit, and in the early months gave considerable weight to some tantalizing evidence that seemed to support it. However, by the fall of 2002 when the administration was in fact selling the policy of confronting Hussein, the question of a specific link to 9/11 was abandoned and Cheney instead emphasized the larger possibility of collaboration between Iraq and al Qaeda. We now know that those fears were reasonable and supported by the evidence captured in Iraq after the invasion. This has been documented extensively through the work of the Conflict Records Research Center (CRRC), which examined the captured files of the Hussein regime. A 2012 International Studies Association panel sponsored by the CRRC on “Saddam and Terrorism” was devoted to this topic and spent quite a bit of time demonstrating how those who insist that there were no links whatsoever simply rely on a poorly worded sentence referencing “no smoking gun” of a “direct connection” in the executive summary of the 2007 “Iraqi Perspectives Project – Saddam and Terrorism: Emerging Insights from Captured Documents”report and ignore the evidence of links and attempted connections uncovered in the report itself as well as subsequent work by the project.
2. The Bush administration went to war against Iraq because it wanted to forcibly democratize Iraq. The administration was, in the end, committed to using force to defend the democratization project in Iraq but this myth has the logical sequence out of order. The correct sequence, as Leffler and myriad memoirs and contemporaneous reporting demonstrate, is this: (1) Bush was committed to confronting Iraq because of the changed risk calculus brought about by 9/11, which heightened our sensitivity to the nexus of WMD and terrorism (believing that state sponsors of terrorism who had WMD would be a likely pathway by which terrorist networks like al Qaeda could secure WMD); (2) Bush was also committed not to making the mistake of Desert Storm, namely stopping the war with Hussein still in power and concluded that confronting Hussein must end with either full capitulation by Hussein or regime change through war; (3) given regime change, the best option for the new Iraq was one based on pluralism and representative government rather than a “man on horseback” new dictator to take Hussein’s place. To be sure, the Bush administration greatly underestimated the difficulty of the democratization path, but democratization was not the prime motivation — confronting the WMD threat was. Democratization was the consequence of that prime motivation.
3. The “real” motivation behind the Iraq war was the desire to steal Iraqi oil, or boost Halliburton profits, or divert domestic attention from the Enron scandal, or pay off the Israel lobby, or exact revenge on Hussein for his assassination attempt on President George H. W. Bush. These conspiracy theories are ubiquitous on the far left (and right) fringes, and some of them were endorsed by mainstream figures such as President Obama himself. All of them seem impervious to argument, evidence, and reason. The absence of evidence is taken as proof of the strength of the conspiracy. Contrary evidence — eg., that Israel was more concerned about the threat from Iran than the threat from Iraq — is dismissed. Mel Leffler’s lecture on Iraq is a bracing tonic of reason that rebuts many of these nutty charges, but I suppose true believers will never be convinced.
4. What Frank Harvey calls the “neoconism” myth — that the Iraq war was forced upon the country by a cabal of neoconservatives, who by virtue of their political skill and ruthless disregard for truth were able to “manipulate the preferences, perceptions and priorities of so many other intelligent people…” who otherwise would never have supported the Iraq war. Frank Harvey painstakingly reconstructs the decision process in 2002 and documents all of the ways that the Bush administration took steps contrary to the “neoconism” thesis — eg., working through the United Nations and seeking Congressional authorization rather than adopting the unilateralist/executive-only approach many Iraq hawks were urging. (Leffler makes similar points in his lecture). Harvey goes on to make an intriguing case that had Al Gore won the election in 2000, he would have likely authorized the Iraq war just as Bush did. Harvey has not fully convinced me of the latter, but he usefully rebuts much sloppy mythologizing about Gore’s foreign policy views, documenting how Gore was, in fact, the most hawkish of officials on Iraq in the Clinton administration. At a minimum, Harvey proves that the Iraq war owed more to the Clinton perspective than it did to then-candidate George W. Bush’s worldview as expressed during the 2000 campaign. The neoconism myth serves a politically useful function of fixing all blame on a specific group of Republicans, but, as Harvey shows, the truth is not quite so simplistic.
5. Bush “lied” in making the case for war. I have addressed this myth before. It is a staple of the anti-Iraq/anti-Bush commentary — and not just of the pseudonymous trolls in blog comment sections. John Mearsheimer, one of the most influential security studies academics, has written a book built around the claim that leaders regularly lie and that Bush in particular lied about Iraq. Mearsheimer claims “four key lies,” each one carefully rebutted by Mel Leffler.
The first is the question of links between Iraq and al Qaeda. As I noted above, while the Iraq files contain no “smoking gun” of an active operational link, the record includes ample evidence of overtures originating from either side — each pursuing precisely the kind of enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend alliance of convenience that Bush worried about.
The second is the Bush administration statements of certainty about Iraq’s WMD programs. It turns out the Bush administration officials were wrong on many of those particulars and should have been less certain about how they were reading the intelligence, but there is no compelling evidence that they knew they were reading the intelligence incorrectly, which is what is logically required to prove the charge of “lying” rather than being “mistaken.”
The third is the charge that Bush claimed Saddam was behind the attacks of 9/11. Here Mearsheimer ignores the explicit and repeated explanation by President Bush (and countless administration figures) about what they meant — namely that the links they saw were (i) how 9/11 had changed their risk calculus and (ii) how terrorist groups and states sponsors of terror should be treated as part and parcel of the same war. Again, the Bush administration may or may not have been wrong to view things that way but these are disputes of reasoning and policy, not fact.
The fourth is the charge that Bush “lied” about sincerely pursuing a diplomatic solution short of war in 2002-2003. In fact, Bush was committed to a final resolution of WMD issue, which he believed would require either abject capitulation by Hussein or forcible regime change. Bush was not open to a wide range of face-saving and half-way diplomatic measures, but he never claimed to be. In other words, Bush was not willing to accept diplomatic solutions that others might have accepted, but he did go to great lengths to secure the diplomatic solution he was willing to accept but Saddam was not.
When one examines the historical record more fairly, as Leffler does, the “lying” myth collapses. This doesn’t absolve the Bush administration of blame, but it does mean that those who allege “lying” are themselves as mistaken as are the targets of their critique.
All of these myths add up to the uber-myth: That the arguments made in favor of the Iraq war were all wrong and the arguments made against the Iraq war were all right. Sometimes this is recast as “those who supported the Iraq war were always wrong and those who opposed the Iraq war were always right.” Of course, many of the arguments made in favor of the Iraq war were wrong. Hussein had not yet made by 2002 the progress in reviving his WMD programs that most intelligence services thought he had made. Many specific claims about specific WMD programs turned out to be not true.
On the other hand, many of the arguments made by those who opposed the Iraq war turned out not to be correct, either. For instance, Steve Walt cites favorably a New York Timesadvertisementpaid for by a group of academics (virtually all of whom I consider to be friends, by the way). Some of their arguments were prescient, more prescient than the contrary claims by war supporters — the warning about the need to occupy Iraq for many years, for example — but others not so much. It turns out, for instance, that there is considerable evidence of Iraq-al Qaeda overtures and attempted coordination, precisely what the Bush administration worried about. Likewise, contrary to what the war critics warned, neither Iraq’s arsenal of chemical and biological weapons nor their skill at urban warfare posed much of an obstacle to the invasion — of course, insurgency tactics such as urban warfare did pose serious obstacles to the occupation and reconstruction phase of the conflict.
Moreover, Walt and the others he cites favorably almost to a person opposed the surge in 2007, and while some of them now admit that they were wrong about this others still cling to the thoroughly rebutted view that the surge was irrelevant to the change in Iraq’s security trajectory. (Ironically, the debate over the surge may be where the grip of mythology lingers the longest. See how Rajiv Chandrasekaran, in an otherwise sensible piece of myth-busting, makes the error of claiming that it is a myth to believe that the surge worked. I have already answered the argument put forward by Chandrasekaran and others and so won’t take the time to do it again.)
The point is not that Walt and others were fools or crazy to doubt that the surge would work — on the contrary, they were squarely within the mainstream of conventional wisdom at the time. Rather, the point is that neither side in the Iraq debate has had a monopoly on wisdom.
I know I haven’t had a monopoly on wisdom either and, indeed, my own personal views on Iraq have evolved over time. I opposed putting the Iraq issue on the front-burner in the 2001-2002 time frame and refused to sign a petition arguing for that because I thought the higher priority involved chasing AQ out of ungoverned areas. When the Bush administration did put the Iraq issue on the front-burner over the summer of 2002, I found the arguments of Bush opponents to be over-drawn and unconvincing — in particular, the anti-Bush position seemed not to take seriously enough the fact that the U.N. inspections regime had collapsed nor that the sanctions regime was in the process of collapsing — and so I found myself often critiquing the critics. I found the Bush argument that Hussein was gaming the sanctions and poised to redouble his WMD efforts when the sanctions finally collapsed to be a more plausible account of where things were heading absent a confrontation (and as we now know from the interviews with Hussein after his capture that was exactly what he was planning to do).
However, as the march to war accelerated in February 2003, I was one of those who recommended to the administration that the deadline be extended in the hopes of getting yet another UNSC resolution, one that would provide a united international front at the outset of the war. The administration rejected that course, and, in retrospect, I doubt whether what I was calling for was achievable.
Since the war started, I have had my fair share of criticisms for how the war has been handled, but I have always supported the position that having invaded, we now had to succeed. I supported the surge, and I opposed the Obama administration’s decision to walk away from the commitment for a small stay-behind force that would be a makeweight in internal and regional balances of power.
I feel more confident about the positions I took on Iraq later in the war than the ones at the outset. But more importantly, I am increasingly confident that the judgment of history will be more nuanced and less simplistic than the judgment of contemporary critics of the war. And, hopefully, less contaminated by myth.
One thing brings these four men together. Hassan bin Attash, Sami el-Hajj, Muhammed Khan Tumani and Murat Kurnaz—they are all survivors of the systematic torture program the Bush administration authorized and carried out in locations including Afghanistan, Iraq, Guantánamo, and numerous prisons and CIA “black sites” around the world. Between them, they have been beaten, hung from walls or ceilings, deprived of sleep, food and water, and subjected to freezing temperatures and other forms of torture and abuse while held in U.S. custody. None was charged with a crime, two were detained while still minors, and one of them remains at Guantánamo.
This week, in a complaint filed with the United Nations Committee against Torture, they are asking one question: how can the man responsible for ordering these heinous crimes, openly enter a country that has pledged to prosecute all torturers regardless of their position and not face any legal action?
The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the Canadian Centre for International Justice (CCIJ) filed the complaint on the men’s behalf.
The country in question is Canada, visited last year by former U.S. President George W. Bush during a paid speaking engagement in Surrey, British Columbia. Bush’s visit drew hundreds in protest, calling for his arrest, and it also provided bin Attash, el-Hajj, Tumani and Kurnaz the opportunity to call on the Canadian government to uphold its legal obligation under the U.N. Convention against Torture, and conduct a criminal investigation against Bush while he was on Canadian soil.
To this end, the four men, submitted a 69-page draft indictment that CCR and CCIJ had presented to Canada’s attorney general ahead of Bush’s arrival in support of their private prosecution. The submission included thousands of pages of evidence against Bush consisting of extensive reports and investigations conducted by multiple U.S. agencies and the U.N. The evidence is overwhelming, not to mention the fact that Bush has admitted, even, boasted of his crimes, saying “damn right” when asked if it was permissible to waterboard a detainee – a recognized act of torture.
Canada should have investigated these crimes. The responsibility to do so is embedded in its domestic criminal code that explicitly authorizes the government to prosecute torture occurring outside Canadian borders. There is no reason it cannot apply to former heads of state, and indeed, the Convention has been found to apply to such figures including Hissène Habré and Augusto Pinochet. A criminal investigation into the allegations was the lawful thing to do. It was also what Canada had agreed to do when it pledged its support to end impunity for torture by ratifying the Convention.
Thanks to the Obama administration’s call to look only “forward” – even in the face of torture that demands a proper reckoning – and a court system in the U.S. that has readily closed its doors to torture survivors, the crimes of the Bush era are effectively beyond the reach of justice in the U.S. But the immunity – the impunity – granted to these criminals here should not follow them into other countries, particularly those that are signatories to international laws and treaties against torture.
If the Convention against Torture is to have any hope of fulfilling its mission of preventing torture, the committee must send countries like Canada a clear message: it is their legal obligation to ensure there is no safe haven for torturers and any action to the contrary makes these states effectively complicit in furthering impunity for some of the worst crimes of the past decade.
These four survivors are asking the U.N. to enforce its own convention, nothing more and nothing less. They call upon the U.N., unlike Canada, to unequivocally reject a worldview in which the powerful are exempt from rules, treaties and prohibitions against senseless acts of barbarity. Will the U.N. hear their call?
In The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder, Bugliosi presents a tight, meticulously researched legal case that puts George W. Bush on trial in an American courtroom for the murder of nearly 4,000 American soldiers fighting the war in Iraq. Bugliosi sets forth the legal architecture and incontrovertible evidence that President Bush took this nation to war in Iraq under false pretenses—a war that has not only caused the deaths of American soldiers but also over 100,000 innocent Iraqi men, women, and children; cost the United States over one trillion dollars thus far with no end in sight; and alienated many American allies in the Western world.
No living Homo sapiens is above the law. -(Notwithstanding our good friends and legal ancestors across the water, this is a fact that requires no citation.)
May 19, 2008 — With respect to the position I take about the crimes of George Bush, I want to state at the outset that my motivation is not political. Although I’ve been a longtime Democrat (primarily because, unless there is some very compelling reason to be otherwise, I am always for “the little guy”), my political orientation is not rigid. For instance, I supported John McCain‘s run for the presidency in 2000. More to the point, whether I’m giving a final summation to the jury or writing one of my true crime books, credibility has always meant everything to me. Therefore, my only master and my only mistress are the facts and objectivity. I have no others. This is why I can give you, the reader, a 100 percent guarantee that if a Democratic president had done what Bush did, I would be writing the same, identical piece you are about to read.
Perhaps the most amazing thing to me about the belief of many that George Bush lied to the American public in starting his war with Iraq is that the liberal columnists who have accused him of doing this merely make this point, and then go on to the next paragraph in their columns. Only very infrequently does a columnist add that because of it Bush should be impeached. If the charges are true, of course Bush should have been impeached, convicted, and removed from office. That’s almost too self-evident to state. But he deserves much more than impeachment. I mean, in America, we apparently impeach presidents for having consensual sex outside of marriage and trying to cover it up. If we impeach presidents for that, then if the president takes the country to war on a lie where thousands of American soldiers die horrible, violent deaths and over 100,000 innocent Iraqi civilians, including women and children, even babies are killed, the punishment obviously has to be much, much more severe. That’s just common sense. If Bush were impeached, convicted in the Senate, and removed from office, he’d still be a free man, still be able to wake up in the morning with his cup of coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice and read the morning paper, still travel widely and lead a life of privilege, still belong to his country club and get standing ovations whenever he chose to speak to the Republican faithful. This, for being responsible for over 100,000 horrible deaths?* For anyone interested in true justice, impeachment alone would be a joke for what Bush did.
Let’s look at the way some of the leading liberal lights (and, of course, the rest of the entire nation with the exception of those few recommending impeachment) have treated the issue of punishment for Bush’s cardinal sins. New York Timescolumnist Paul Krugman wrote about “the false selling of the Iraq War. We were railroaded into an unnecessary war.” Fine, I agree. Now what? Krugman just goes on to the next paragraph. But if Bush falsely railroaded the nation into a war where over 100,000 people died, including 4,000 American soldiers, how can you go on to the next paragraph as if you had been writing that Bush spent the weekend at Camp David with his wife? For doing what Krugman believes Bush did, doesn’t Bush have to be punished commensurately in some way? Are there no consequences for committing a crime of colossal proportions?
Al Franken on the David Letterman show said, “Bush lied to us to take us to war” and quickly went on to another subject, as if he was saying “Bush lied to us in his budget.”
Senator Edward Kennedy, condemning Bush, said that “Bush’s distortions misled Congress in its war vote” and “No President of the United States should employ distortion of truth to take the nation to war.” But, Senator Kennedy, if a president does this, as you believe Bush did, then what? Remember, Clinton was impeached for allegedly trying to cover up a consensual sexual affair. What do you recommend for Bush for being responsible for more than 100,000 deaths? Nothing? He shouldn’t be held accountable for his actions? If one were to listen to you talk, that is the only conclusion one could come to. But why, Senator Kennedy, do you, like everyone else, want to give Bush this complete free ride?
The New York Times, in a June 17, 2004, editorial, said that in selling this nation on the war in Iraq, “the Bush administration convinced a substantial majority of Americans before the war that Saddam Hussein was somehow linked to 9/ 11, . . . inexcusably selling the false Iraq-Al Qaeda claim to Americans.” But gentlemen, if this is so, then what? The New York Times didn’t say, just going on, like everyone else, to the next paragraph, talking about something else.
In a November 15, 2005, editorial, the New York Times said that “the president and his top advisers . . . did not allow the American people, or even Congress, to have the information necessary to make reasoned judgments of their own. It’s obvious that the Bush administration misled Americans about Mr. Hussein’s weapons and his terrorist connections.” But if it’s “obvious that the Bush administration misled Americans” in taking them to a war that tens of thousands of people have paid for with their lives, now what? No punishment? If not, under what theory? Again, you’re just going to go on to the next paragraph?
I’m not going to go on to the next unrelated paragraph.
In early December of 2005, a New York Times-CBS nationwide poll showed that the majority of Americans believed Bush “intentionally misled” the nation to promote a war in Iraq. A December 11, 2005, article in the Los Angeles Times, after citing this national poll, went on to say that because so many Americans believed this, it might be difficult for Bush to get the continuing support of Americans for the war. In other words, the fact that most Americans believed Bush had deliberately misled them into war was of no consequence in and of itself. Its only consequence was that it might hurt his efforts to get support for the war thereafter. So the article was reporting on the effect of the poll findings as if it was reporting on the popularity, or lack thereof, of Bush’s position on global warming or immigration. Didn’t the author of the article know that Bush taking the nation to war on a lie (if such be the case) is the equivalent of saying he is responsible for well over 100,000 deaths? One would never know this by reading the article.
If Bush, in fact, intentionally misled this nation into war, what is the proper punishment for him? Since many Americans routinely want criminal defendants to be executed for murdering only one person, if we weren’t speaking of the president of the United States as the defendant here, to discuss anything less than the death penalty for someone responsible for over 100,000 deaths would on its face seem ludicrous.** But we are dealing with the president of the United States here.
On the other hand, the intensity of rage against Bush in America has been such (it never came remotely this close with Clinton because, at bottom, there was nothing of any real substance to have any serious rage against him for) that if I heard it once I heard it ten times that “someone should put a bullet in his head.” That, fortunately, is just loose talk, and even more fortunately not the way we do things in America. In any event, if an American jury were to find Bush guilty of first degree murder, it would be up to them to decide what the appropriate punishment should be, one of their options being the imposition of the death penalty.
Although I have never heard before what I am suggesting — that Bush be prosecuted for murder in an American courtroom — many have argued that “Bush should be prosecuted for war crimes” (mostly for the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo) at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands. But for all intents and purposes this cannot be done.
*Even assuming, at this point, that Bush is criminally responsible for the deaths of over 100,000 people in the Iraq war, under federal law he could only be prosecuted for the deaths of the 4,000 American soldiers killed in the war. No American court would have jurisdiction to prosecute him for the one hundred and some thousand Iraqi deaths since these victims not only were not Americans, but they were killed in a foreign nation, Iraq. Despite their nationality, if they had been killed here in the States, there would of course be jurisdiction.
**Indeed, Bush himself, ironically, would be the last person who would quarrel with the proposition that being guilty of mass murder (even one murder, by his lights) calls for the death penalty as opposed to life imprisonment. As governor of Texas, Bush had the highest execution rate of any governor in American history: He was a very strong proponent of the death penalty who even laughingly mocked a condemned young woman who begged him to spare her life (“Please don’t kill me,” Bush mimicked her in a magazine interview with journalist Tucker Carlson), and even refused to commute the sentence of death down to life imprisonment for a young man who was mentally retarded (although as president he set aside the entire prison sentence of his friend Lewis “Scooter” Libby), and had a broad smile on his face when he announced in his second presidential debate with Al Gore that his state, Texas, was about to execute three convicted murderers.
In Bush’s two terms as Texas governor, he signed death warrants for an incredible 152 out of 153 executions against convicted murderers, the majority of whom only killed one single person. The only death sentence Bush commuted was for one of the many murders that mass murderer Henry Lucas had been convicted of. Bush was informed that Lucas had falsely confessed to this particular murder and was innocent, his conviction being improper. So in 152 out of 152 cases, Bush refused to show mercy even once, finding that not one of the 152 convicted killers should receive life imprisonment instead of the death penalty. Bush’s perfect 100 percent execution rate is highly uncommon even for the most conservative law-and-order governors.