FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Bush Regime’s War Crimes Dodge

by DAVE LINDORFF

 

Could George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and maybe Alberto Gonzales all end up sucking poison gas?

That, apparently, is a concern now being taken seriously by Attorney General Gonzales, who is quietly working with senior White House officials and friendly members of Congress to do what murderous dictators in Chile, Argentina and other bloodthirsty regimes have done as their future in office began to look uncertain: pass laws exempting them from prosecution for murder.

At issue is a growing legal threat of the president and other top administration officials facing prosecution for violations of the U.S. War Crimes statutes, which since 1996 have made violation of Geneva Conventions adopted by the U.S. violations of American law, too.

Gonzales knows the seriousness of this threat. As he warned the president, in a January, 25, 2002 “Memorandum to the President” (published in full in the appendix of Barbara Olshansky’s and my new book, The Case for Impeachment), “It is difficult to predict the motives of prosecutors and independent counsels who may in the future decide to pursue unwarranted charges based on Section [the US War Crimes law].” In another part of that same memo, Gonzales notes that the statute “prohibits the commission of a `war crime'” by any U.S. official, with a war crime being defined as “any grave breach of” the Geneva Convention on the Treatment of Prisoners of War” or of the Geneva Convention’s Article 3. That article extends protection to combatants in other than official wars or military roles. Gonzaqles, in that memo, also pointedly notes that the punishments for such violations, under U.S. law, in the event that mistreated captives die in custody, “include the death penalty.”

What has the White House and Bush’s mob attorney, Gonzales, worried is the decision last month by the U.S. Supreme Court in Hamden v. Rumsfeld, which expressly established that the president had “violated” the Geneva Convention’s Article 3 by arbitrarily deciding that captives in the so-called War on Terror and in Afghanistan would not be considered POWs, and would not be accorded protection under the Geneva Convention. This determination by a 5-3 majority of the US Supreme Court could easily be the basis for the prosecution Gonzales warned about.

Of course, the president could not be indicted for this offense while in office. The Constitution provides a protection against that. But he could be indicted once his term ends. Meanwhile, other administration personnel, including the vice president, have no such protection against indictment even while in office.

The very fact that Gonzales, according to a report in today’s Washington Post, has been ‘quietly approaching” Republican members of Congress about passing legislation exempting Americans involved in the “terrorism fight” from war crimes prosecution suggests how worried Bush and his subordinates really are.

It’s interesting how this has become the tactic of choice for the criminals in the White House. When Bush was caught violating the clear provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act by authorizing spying by the National Security Agency on Americans’ communications without a warrant, the administration went to Congress to seek legislation retroactively authorizing the crime. Since the president was exposed as having summarily and unconstitutionally invalidated some 800 laws passed by Congress through the use of what he calls “signing statements,” an astonishing breach of the separation of powers, the administration has been seeking a new law in Congress that would in effect grant that power to presidents, again retroactively. Now Bush is apparently hoping to get the same compliant Republican-led House and Senate to backdate a law exempting him and his cohorts from punishment under the War Crimes statute-a law, ironically, passed almost without objection by both houses of a Republican-led Congress in 1996.

Of course, this legal dodge might not work. Not only could a future prosecutor seek to have such a law ruled illegal itself (after all, the U.S. is a signatory of the Geneva Conventions, making them legally binding anyhow), but because the U.S. is a signatory of the Geneva Conventions prohibiting torture in any form, the president and his subordinates could also be charged as war criminals by other nations-particularly if it were determined that the U.S. was unwilling or legally unable to prosecute.

That could make things a little claustrophobic for administration personnel once they leave office.

No doubt Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld et all would like to continue their world travels once they leave government “service.” For one thing, there’s lots of money to be made on the internation speaking circuit. Lots more can be made by doing international business consulting. But if there is a threat of arrest and prosecution by prosecutors in countries like Spain, Germany or Canada, such travels would pose a huge risk. Similar fears have kept former National Security Director and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger pretty much housebound since a near detention in Paris on war crimes charges a few years back.

Gonzales’ anxious behing-the-scenes scuttling about in the halls of Congress in an effort to save his boss’s neck also suggests that the White House is getting worried about the November election. After all, if they thought they had a secure grip on Congress through November 2008, why the sudden rush to get a bill through undermining the War Crimes statute now? Maybe Bush is afraid that if he waits until November, he’ll be dealing with a Democratic House and/or Senate, which would be unlikely to grant him such legal protection.

There is a delicious irony in watching this law-and-order, let-’em-fry president and his tough-guy VP, attorney general and defense secretary, resorting to the same kind of dodgy legal tactics that they accuse convicted killers (and terrorists) of using in an attempt to avoid the gallows.

Chances are their strategy will work, at least in the U.S. But at least it’s entertaining to watch.

DAVE LINDORFF is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His new book of CounterPunch columns titled “This Can’t be Happening!” is published by Common Courage Press. Lindorff’s new book is “The Case for Impeachment“,
co-authored by Barbara Olshansky.

He can be reached at: dlindorff@yahoo.com

 

 

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
September 23, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
The Meaning of the Trump Surge
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: More Pricks Than Kicks
Mike Whitney
Oh, Say Can You See the Carnage? Why Stand for a Country That Can Gun You Down in Cold Blood?
Chris Welzenbach
The Diminution of Chris Hayes
Vincent Emanuele
The Riots Will Continue
Rob Urie
A Scam Too Far
Pepe Escobar
Les Deplorables
Patrick Cockburn
Airstrikes, Obfuscation and Propaganda in Syria
Timothy Braatz
The Quarterback and the Propaganda
Sheldon Richman
Obama Rewards Israel’s Bad Behavior
Libby Lunstrum - Patrick Bond
Militarizing Game Parks and Marketing Wildlife are Unsustainable Strategies
Andy Thayer
More Cops Will Worsen, Not Help, Chicago’s Violence Problem
Louis Yako
Can Westerners Help Refugees from War-torn Countries?
David Rosen
Rudy Giuliani & Trump’s Possible Cabinet
Joyce Nelson
TISA and the Privatization of Public Services
Pete Dolack
Global Warming Will Accelerate as Oceans Reach Limits of Remediation
Franklin Lamb
34 Years After the Sabra-Shatila Massacre
Cesar Chelala
How One Man Held off Nuclear War
Norman Pollack
Sovereign Immunity, War Crimes, and Compensation to 9/11 Families
Lamont Lilly
Standing Rock Stakes Claim for Sovereignty: Eyewitness Report From North Dakota
Barbara G. Ellis
A Sandernista Priority: Push Bernie’s Planks!
Hiroyuki Hamada
How Do We Dream the Dream of Peace Together?
Russell Mokhiber
From Rags and Robes to Speedos and Thongs: Why Trump is Crushing Clinton in WV
Julian Vigo
Living La Vida Loca
Aidan O'Brien
Where is Europe’s Duterte? 
Abel Cohen
Russia’s Improbable Role in Everything
Ron Jacobs
A Change Has Gotta’ Come
Uri Avnery
Shimon Peres and the Saga of Sisyphus
Graham Peebles
Ethiopian’s Crying out for Freedom and Justice
Robert Koehler
Stop the Killing
Thomas Knapp
Election 2016: Of Dog Legs and “Debates”
Yves Engler
The Media’s Biased Perspective
Victor Grossman
Omens From Berlin
Christopher Brauchli
Wells Fargo as Metaphor for the Trump Campaign
Nyla Ali Khan
War of Words Between India and Pakistan at the United Nations
Tom Barnard
Block the Bunker! Historic Victory Against Police Boondoggle in Seattle
James Rothenberg
Bullshit Recognition as Survival Tactic
Ed Rampell
A Tale of Billionaires & Ballot Bandits
Kristine Mattis
Persnickety Publishing Pet-Peeves
Charles R. Larson
Review: Helen Dewitt’s “The Last Samurai”
David Yearsley
Torture Chamber Music
September 22, 2016
Dave Lindorff
Wells Fargo’s Stumpf Leads the Way
Stan Cox
If There’s a World War II-Style Climate Mobilization, It has to Go All the Way—and Then Some
Binoy Kampmark
Source Betrayed: the Washington Post and Edward Snowden
John W. Whitehead
Wards of the Nanny State
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail