Imagine a web site presenting point-by-point indictments of outstanding American war criminals.
It is easy speak of McNamara, Kissinger, Bush and the neo-cons among others as major (and minor) war criminals, for instigating wars and supporting violent international crimes in Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s, Latin America in the 1980s, and the Middle East from the 1990’s. The literature on this subject is vast; William Blum’s book “Killing Hope” can be seen as merely an abstract of the subject.
With such a wealth of documentation (evidence?), it must be possible for a small group of people knowledgeable in both US and international law to draft a precise list of indictments, each charge citing a specific statute that has been violated. Certainly, my local motorcycle policeman has no trouble handing me a ticket with a number-coded citation of the traffic laws I have violated, say after an insufficiently languorous idyll at a stop sign.
We can all easily say George W. Bush lied about his concocted Iraq War, as the now exposed secret British government memo reveals, but what points of law did he violate in doing so? How would this be phrased by a prosecutor for presentation to a legal tribunal? We can look back to the Nuremberg and Tokyo Tribunals after World War 2 for examples of what is needed today. (1)
In 1967, Bertrand Russell helped convene a Vietnam War Crimes Tribunal in which American war crimes were examined. This was a “people’s” tribunal, which is to say it had no legal standing except in that most important of all jurisdictions, the court of public opinion. The “indictments” and “testimony” of the Russell Tribunal had its greatest impact in helping to raise public awareness about the reality, the monstrous criminality of the Vietnam War. This probably added something to the overall social pressure that opposed that war. (2)
I think a legally rigorous set of indictments for a wide array of American defendants from the time of the Vietnam War to the present, kept up to date as the careers of these individuals progress, would have an impact in helping to build public opposition to the Iraq War and American policies related to it. The idea would be to have these indictments “ready to use” in the miraculous circumstance that a legal tribunal with appropriate jurisdiction suddenly materialized out of the fog of international politics. While our war-criminal government officials and corporate decision-makers would probably loose little sleep over the likelihood of an American War Crimes Tribunal, they might on occasion have a slight case of gastrointestinal queasiness on seeing their very own web page (with mug shot of course) listing for each alleged crime: date, time, place, allegations, statutes and codes violated (local, national, international).
An American War Crimes Tribunal web site of the type described would be a challenge in at least three ways.
First, for opponents of the Iraq War and American imperialism and capitalism generally, to focus political critique into a list of particulars that is both factually accurate and legally precise.
Second, the presentation of such “people’s indictments” would be a continuing challenge to existing national and international courts that would have responsibility for any actual criminal proceedings, which obviously do not occur because of the raw political power (at the moment) of the accused and the governments they operate in.
Third, the existence of such indictments would have some effect on the accused themselves, to rethink their actions. While this last effect may seem negligible now it should not be discounted. Today, we know that such considerations have entered the minds of McNamara (writing excellent anti-nuclear weapons commentaries), Kissinger (planning his travels to avoid inconvenient jurisdictions) and Pinochet (reminding himself to become senile again). Robbing our present war criminals of a sense that their immunity is guaranteed in future decades could have both a restraining effect on them, and a preventative effect on their would-be successors.
I’m sure you get the idea.
I cannot produce such a web site, having neither the legal expertise, the command of the intricate historical detail of the skulduggery to be exposed, nor the knowledge of creating web sites. So, I hope you can transmit this idea to others who may be able to assemble the talents required for the task. There must be others who have already arrived at the idea of an American War Crimes Tribunal (I found at least one web page with the same intent), so perhaps with proper encouragement such individuals can find each other, pool resources and produce such a site. (3) Or, perhaps the people capable of putting together such a site have concluded it is not worth the effort.
When you consider the recent Spanish prosecution of Pinochet, other recent legal victories in the United States against torturers and death squad commanders (of the 1980s) from Central America, and convictions of Civil Rights (1950s-1960s) murderers in the 1990’s, one gains a sense of tempered hope for justice. Tempered because while it may seem that human society is slowly evolving to a point where war (and civil rights) criminals do not escape prosecution in their lifetimes, such prosecution may be both delayed and attenuated in proportion to the wealth and power of the individuals — and the constituencies identifying with them. An American War Crimes Tribunal web site with prospective indictments might add momentum to a desirable social evolution.
MANUEL GARCÍA, Jr. can be reached at: email@example.com
 War Crimes Tribunal (International Action Center)