Why Bush and Blair Should be Prosecuted for War Crimes


Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair recently stated that air strikes and drones should be used once again on Iraq to stem recent gains by extremists in that country. Mr. Blair is oblivious of the responsibility he shares with former U.S. president George W. Bush on account of one of the most serious breaches of international law in recent times. The prosecution of Mr. Blair and Mr. Bush, along the lines of similar trials conducted in Argentina, Chile and Peru, is the only fitting response to such careless remarks.

A reminder of Iraq’s tragic events is in order: George W. Bush and his advisers were planning a premeditated attack on Iraq to secure “regime change” even before he took power in January 2001. Such a plan is described in detailed in the document “Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategies, Forces and Resources For A New Century,” written in 2000 by the neoconservative think tank Project for the New American Century.

In January of 2003, a group of U.S law professors warned President Bush that he and senior officials of his government could be prosecuted for war crimes if military intervention were to violate international humanitarian law. Similar warnings were given to British Prime Minister Tony Blair and to Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien by the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights. The prosecution case finds strong support in both treaty-law and customary international law, as reflected in the U.N. Charter and the Nuremberg Principles.

The U.N. Charter, a treaty ratified by the U.S. in 1945 by the U.S. and its main coalition allies, is widely considered the foundation of modern international law. Article 2(4) of the U.N. Charter bans the use of force in no uncertain terms, except when justified under very specific and well-defined conditions: “All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations.”

Accordingly, in the absence of an armed attack against the U.S. or the coalition members, any use or threat of the use of force must find support by a specific U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing such an exceptional course of action. Such authorization was never sought nor obtained, prompting U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to affirm, in September 2004: “From our point of view and the U.N. Charter point of view it [the Iraqui war] was illegal.”

In February 2006, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, at the time the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, acknowledged having received 240 communications reporting various war crimes committed in March, 2003. U.S. and U.K. officials, argued at the time that existing U.N. Security Council resolutions, issued in connection with and after the first Persian Gulf war, had authorized the invasion.

The Nuremberg Principles, which codified long-lasting principles of customary international law, also incriminate the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, many of them children, and the devastation of a country’s infrastructure on the war sponsored by former Prime Minister Blair and former President Bush.

The conduct and the consequences of the Iraq war are part of the “Crimes against Peace and War Crimes” codified in Nuremberg Principle VI, defining “crimes against peace” as the “(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 United States is not a party to the Rome Statute and the International Criminal Court (ICC) created by this treaty, yet as suggested by Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, U.S. officials may be prosecuted in other countries under the Geneva Convention. Ratner likened the prosecution of Mr. Blair and Mr. Bush for those crimes to the prosecution of the Chilean military dictator Augusto Pinochet, held under house arrest in London under the orders of Spanish magistrate Baltazar Garzón.

International treaties ratified by the United States are part of the ‘supreme law of the land’ and, as recalled by Justice Jackson, the Chief U.S. Nuremberg Tribunal Prosecutor: “Launching a war of aggression is a crime and no political or economic situation can justify it.”

Arguably, prosecuting a former U.S. president and a former British prime minister for war crimes is not practical and is likely to cause significant unrest both at the national and global level. However, three Latin American countries, Argentina, Chile and Peru, successfully tried and convicted former leaders to prison for crimes of much less magnitude than those involved in the Iraq war. Perhaps the U.S. and the United Kingdom could follow on those Latin American countries’ footsteps.

Dr. Cesar Chelala is an international public health consultant and a co-winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award. 

Dr. Cesar Chelala is a co-winner of the 1979 Overseas Press Club of America award for the article “Missing or Disappeared in Argentina: The Desperate Search for Thousands of Abducted Victims.”

November 25, 2015
Jeff Taylor
Bob Dylan and Christian Zionism
Dana E. Abizaid
Provoking Russia
Oliver Tickell
Syria’s Cauldron of Fire: a Downed Russian Jet and the Battle of Two Pipelines
Patrick Cockburn
Trigger Happy: Will Turkey’s Downing of Russian Jet Backfire on NATO?
Robert Fisk
The Soothsayers of Eternal War
Russell Mokhiber
The Coming Boycott of Nike
Ted Rall
Like Father Like Son: George W. Bush Was Bad, His Father May Have Been Worse
Matt Peppe
Bad Policy, Bad Ethics: U.S. Military Bases Abroad
Martha Rosenberg
Pfizer Too Big (and Slippery) to Fail
Yorgos Mitralias
Bernie Sanders, Mr. Voutsis and the Truth Commission on Greek Public Debt
Jorge Vilches
Too Big for Fed: Have Central Banks Lost Control?
Sam Husseini
Why Trump is Wrong About Waterboarding — It’s Probably Not What You Think
Binoy Kampmark
The Perils of Certainty: Obama and the Assad Regime
Roger Annis
State of Emergency in Crimea
Soud Sharabani
ISIS in Lebanon: An Interview with Andre Vltchek
Thomas Knapp
NATO: This Deal is a Turkey
November 24, 2015
Dave Lindorff
An Invisible US Hand Leading to War? Turkey’s Downing of a Russian Jet was an Act of Madness
Mike Whitney
Turkey Downs Russian Fighter to Draw NATO and US Deeper into Syrian Quagmire
Walter Clemens
Who Created This Monster?
Patrick Graham
Bombing ISIS Will Not Work
Lida Maxwell
Who Gets to Demand Safety?
Eric Draitser
Refugees as Weapons in a Propaganda War
David Rosen
Trump’s Enemies List: a Trial Balloon for More Repression?
Eric Mann
Playing Politics While the Planet Sizzles
Chris Gilbert
“Why Socialism?” Revisited: Reflections Inspired by Einstein’s Article
Charles Davis
NSA Spies on Venezuela’s Oil Company
Michael Barker
Democracy vs. Political Policing
Barry Lando
Shocked by Trump? Churchill Wanted to “Collar Them All”
Cal Winslow
When Workers Fight: the National Union of Healthcare Workers Wins Battle with Kaiser
Norman Pollack
Where Does It End?: Left Political Correctness
David Macaray
Companies Continue to Profit by Playing Dumb
Binoy Kampmark
Animals in Conflict: Diesel, Dobrynya and Sentimental Security
Dave Welsh
Defiant Haiti: “We Won’t Let You Steal These Elections!”
November 23, 2015
Vijay Prashad
The Doctrine of 9/11 Anti-Immigration
John Wight
After Paris: Hypocrisy and Mendacity Writ Large
Joseph G. Ramsey
No Excuses, No Exceptions: the Moral Imperative to Offer Refuge
Patrick Cockburn
ISIS Thrives on the Disunity of Its Enemies
Andrew Moss
The Message of Montgomery: 60 Years Later
Jim Green
James Hansen’s Nuclear Fantasies
Robert Koehler
The Absence of History in the Aftermath of Paris
Dave Lindorff
The US Media and Propaganda
Dave Randle
France and Martial Law
Gilbert Mercier
If We Are at War, Let’s Bring Back the Draft!
Alexey Malashenko
Putin’s Syrian Gambit
Binoy Kampmark
Closing the Door: US Politics and the Refugee Debate