FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

WAR CRIMES LAW APPLIES TO U.S. TOO

by Walter J. Rockler

As justification for our murderously destructive bombing campaign in Yugoslavia, it is of course necessary for the U.S. to charge that the Serbs have engaged in inhuman conduct, and that President Slobodan Milosevic, the head Serb demon, is a war criminal almost without peer.

President Clinton assures us of this in frequent briefings, during which he engages in rhetorical combat with Milosevic. But shouting “war criminal” only emphasizes that those who live in glass houses should be careful about throwing stones.

We have engaged in a flagrant military aggression, ceaselessly attacking a small country primarily to demonstrate that we run the world. The rationale that we are simply enforcing international morality, even if it were true, would not excuse the military aggression and widespread killing that it entails. It also does not lessen the culpability of the authors of this aggression.

As a primary source of international law, the judgment of the Nuremberg Tribunal in the 1945-1946 case of the major Nazi war criminals is plain and clear. Our leaders often invoke and praise that judgment, but obviously have not read it. The International Court declared:

“To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, 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.”

At Nuremberg, the United States and Britain pressed the prosecution of Nazi leaders for planning and initiating aggressive war. Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, the head of the American prosecution staff, asserted “that launching a war of aggression is a crime and that no political or economic situation can justify it.” He also declared that “if certain acts in violation of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them, and we are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us.”

The United Nations Charter views aggression similarly. Articles 2(4) and (7) prohibit interventions in the domestic jurisdiction of any country and threats of force or the use of force by one state against another. The General Assembly of the UN in Resolution 2131, “Declaration on the Inadmissibility of Intervention,” reinforced the view that a forceful military intervention in any country is aggression and a crime without justification.

Putting a “NATO” label on aggressive policy and conduct does not give that conduct any sanctity. This is simply a perversion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, formed as a defensive alliance under the UN Charter. The North Atlantic Treaty pledged its signatories to refrain from the threat or use of force in any manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations, and it explicitly recognized “the primary responsibility of the Security Council (of the United Nations) for the maintenance of international peace and security.” Obviously, in bypassing UN approval for the current bombing, the U.S. and NATO have violated this basic obligation. From another standpoint of international law, the current conduct of the bombing by the United States and NATO constitutes a continuing war crime. Contrary to the beliefs of our war planners, unrestricted air bombing is barred under international law. Bombing the “infrastructure” of a country– waterworks, electricity plants, bridges, factories, television and radio locations–is not an attack limited to legitimate military objectives. Our bombing has also caused an excessive loss of life and injury to civilians, which violates another standard. We have now killed hundreds, if not thousands, of Serbs, Montenegrins and Albanians, even some Chinese, in our pursuit of humanitarian ideals.

In addition to shredding the UN Charter and perverting the purpose of NATO, Clinton also has violated at least two provisions of the United States Constitution. Under Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution, Congress, not the president, holds the power to declare war and to punish offenses against the law of nations. Alexander Hamilton in The Federalist No. 69 pointed out one difference between a monarchy and the presidency under the new form of government: A king could use his army as he pleased; the president would have no such unlimited power. Under Article VI of the Constitution, treaties, far from being mere scraps of paper as we now deem them to be, are part of the supreme law of the United States. Of course, these days a supine Congress, fascinated only by details of sexual misconduct, can hardly be expected to enforce constitutional requirements.

Nor can a great deal be expected from the media. Reporters rely on the controlled handouts of the State Department, Pentagon and NATO, seeing their duty as one of adding colorful details to official intimations of Serb atrocities. Thus, the observation of a NATO press relations officer that a freshly plowed field, seen from 30,000 feet up, might be the site of a massacre has been disseminated as news. The notion that humanitarian violations can be redressed with random destruction and killing by advanced technological means is inherently suspect. This is mere pretext for our arrogant assertion of dominance and power in defiance of international law. We make the non-negotiable demands and rules, and implement them by military force. It is all remindful of Henrik Ibsen’s “Don’t use that foreign word `ideals.’ We have that excellent native word `lies.’ ”

Walter J. Rockler, a Washington lawyer, was a prosecutor at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trial. This essay originally appeared in the Chicago Tribune

More articles by:
June 27, 2016
Robin Hahnel
Brexit: Establishment Freak Out
James Bradley
Omar’s Motive
Gregory Wilpert – Michael Hudson
How Western Military Interventions Shaped the Brexit Vote
Leonard Peltier
41 Years Since Jumping Bull, 500 Years of Trauma
Rev. William Alberts
Orlando: the Latest Victim of Radicalizing American Imperialism
Patrick Cockburn
Brexiteers Have Much in Common With Arab Spring Protesters
Franklin Lamb
How 100 Syrians, 200 Russians and 11 Dogs Out-Witted ISIS and Saved Palmyra
John Grant
Omar Mateen: The Answers are All Around Us
Dean Baker
In the Wake of Brexit Will the EU Finally Turn Away From Austerity?
Ralph Nader
The IRS and the Self-Minimization of Congressman Jason Chaffetz
Gordon Smith
Goodbye UK, Goodbye Great Britain: What Next?
Martha Pskowski
Detained in Dilley: Deportation and Asylum in Texas
stclair
Headaches of Empire: Brexit’s Effect on the United States
Dave Lindorff
Honest Election System Needed to Defeat Ruling Elite
Louisa Willcox
Delisting Grizzly Bears to Save the Endangered Species Act?
Jason Holland
The Tragedy of Nothing
Jeffrey St. Clair
Revolution Reconsidered, Guest Starring Bernard Sanders in the Role of Robespierre
Weekend Edition
June 24, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
A Blow for Peace and Democracy: Why the British Said No to Europe
Pepe Escobar
Goodbye to All That: Why the UK Left the EU
Michael Hudson
Revolts of the Debtors: From Socrates to Ibn Khaldun
Andrew Levine
Summer Spectaculars: Prelude to a Tea Party?
Kshama Sawant
Beyond Bernie: Still Not With Her
Mike Whitney
¡Basta Ya, Brussels! British Voters Reject EU Corporate Slavestate
Tariq Ali
Panic in the House: Brexit as Revolt Against the Political Establishment
Paul Street
Miranda, Obama, and Hamilton: an Orwellian Ménage à Trois for the Neoliberal Age
Ellen Brown
The War on Weed is Winding Down, But Will Monsanto Emerge the Winner?
Gary Leupp
Why God Created the Two-Party System
Conn Hallinan
Brexit Vote: a Very British Affair (But Spain May Rock the Continent)
Ruth Fowler
England, My England
Jeffrey St. Clair
Lines Written on the Occasion of Bernie Sanders’ Announcement of His Intention to Vote for Hillary Clinton
Norman Pollack
Fissures in World Capitalism: the British Vote
Paul Bentley
Mercenary Logic: 12 Dead in Kabul
Binoy Kampmark
Parting Is Such Sweet Joy: Brexit Prevails!
Elliot Sperber
Show Me Your Papers: Supreme Court Legalizes Arbitrary Searches
Jan Oberg
The Brexit Shock: Now It’s All Up in the Air
Nauman Sadiq
Brexit: a Victory for Britain’s Working Class
Brian Cloughley
Murder by Drone: Killing Taxi Drivers in the Name of Freedom
Ramzy Baroud
How Israel Uses Water as a Weapon of War
Brad Evans – Henry Giroux
The Violence of Forgetting
Ben Debney
Homophobia and the Conservative Victim Complex
Margaret Kimberley
The Orlando Massacre and US Foreign Policy
David Rosen
Americans Work Too Long for Too Little
Murray Dobbin
Do We Really Want a War With Russia?
Kathy Kelly
What’s at Stake
Louis Yako
I Have Nothing “Newsworthy” to Report this Week
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail