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

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
Steve Horn
Under Tillerson, Exxon Maintained Ties with Saudi Arabia, Despite Dismal Human Rights Record
John Berger
The Nature of Mass Demonstrations
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
Brian Cloughley
What Money Can Buy: the Quiet British-Israeli Scandal
Mel Gurtov
Donald Trump’s Lies And Team Trump’s Headaches
Kent Paterson
Mexico’s Great Winter of Discontent
Norman Solomon
Trump, the Democrats and the Logan Act
David Macaray
Attention, Feminists
Yves Engler
Demanding More From Our Media
James A Haught
Religious Madness in Ulster
Dean Baker
The Economics of the Affordable Care Act
Patrick Bond
Tripping Up Trumpism Through Global Boycott Divestment Sanctions
Robert Fisk
How a Trump Presidency Could Have Been Avoided
Robert Fantina
Trump: What Changes and What Remains the Same
David Rosen
Globalization vs. Empire: Can Trump Contain the Growing Split?
Elliot Sperber
Dystopia
Dan Bacher
New CA Carbon Trading Legislation Answers Big Oil’s Call to Continue Business As Usual
Wayne Clark
A Reset Button for Political America
Chris Welzenbach
“The Death Ship:” An Allegory for Today’s World
Uri Avnery
Being There
Peter Lee
The Deep State and the Sex Tape: Martin Luther King, J. Edgar Hoover, and Thurgood Marshall
Patrick Hiller
Guns Against Grizzlies at Schools or Peace Education as Resistance?
Randy Shields
The Devil’s Real Estate Dictionary
Ron Jacobs
Singing the Body Electric Across Time
Ann Garrison
Fifty-five Years After Lumumba’s Assassination, Congolese See No Relief
Christopher Brauchli
Swing Low Alabama
Dr. Juan Gómez-Quiñones
La Realidad: the Realities of Anti-Mexicanism
Jon Hochschartner
The Five Least Animal-Friendly Senate Democrats
Pauline Murphy
Fighting Fascism: the Irish at the Battle of Cordoba
Susan Block
#GoBonobos in 2017: Happy Year of the Cock!
Louis Proyect
Is Our Future That of “Sense8” or “Mr. Robot”?
Charles R. Larson
Review: Robert Coover’s “Huck out West”
David Yearsley
Manchester-by-the-Sea and the Present Catastrophe
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail