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American Exceptionalism

War criminals among us

Patrick Guntensperger

PARKSVILLE, CANADA – Perhaps my inclination to be hypercritical of US politics and popular culture obscures the fact that I have a great deal of respect for the people of the United States of America. I criticise the US because I respect the people and their ability to absorb criticism and in the hope that the criticism will be given due consideration by the open-minded segment of the population that reads my analysis. It is in that spirit that I offer the following commentary on a recent US president. 

If George W. Bush had been the head of state of any other country but the United States of America, I believe that there would

Logo of the International Criminal Court

have been a strong movement, possibly even spearheaded by the US, to have him indicted and tried in the World Court as a war criminal, and further, I contend that he probably would have been convicted.

Specifically, I believe that he is guilty of what is described in The Nuremberg Principles and the United Nations Charter as “Crimes against Peace”. That specific charge is defined in those documents as:

   the “planning, preparation, initiation, or waging of wars of aggression, or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances, or participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the foregoing”.

 There is little argument that Bush manufactured the casus belli his administration used to justify the bombing, invasion, conquering, and occupation of a sovereign country, Iraq, and the apprehension, incarceration, and execution of that country’s head of state. Moreover there is little argument that he and his administration lied deliberately and lied repeatedly to the American people and to allies of the United States in an effort to create an international coalition to aid in a war of aggression and the overthrow of a sovereign regime.

The putative justification for the war prosecuted by the US and its co-conspirator nations against Iraq was that the country had or would shortly have weapons of mass destruction, and that, combined with Iraq’s bellicosity and Saddam Hussein’s intransigence, was sufficient to justify a pre-emptive strike. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke ominously of “mushroom clouds” being the smoking gun if the attack wasn’t launched, and one official after another spoke of “incontrovertible proof” and “absolutely unambiguous intelligence” assuring President Bush that the WMD, including biological agents and nuclear weapons, were being manufactured and stockpiled.

Of course that simply wasn’t true. Nevertheless the United States, with the co-operation of British prime Minister Tony Blair, and a “coalition of the willing” comprised of 49 countries including three (the UK, Australia, and Poland) who provided

One convicted war criminal

troops, launched a first strike against Iraq and ultimately occupied the country and executed Saddam.

It’s important that, as we consider whether Bush’s actions rise to the level of war crimes, we don’t follow the red herring of Saddam’s venality. Let us stipulate at the outset that Saddam was a miserable prick and a thoroughly detestable bastard; he had no business running a country, he was a brute and a vicious despot who thoroughly deserved the enmity and hatred of civilised people everywhere. Whether he deserved the death penalty is a matter for another discussion. The question isn’t about Saddam’s behaviour; it is about Bush’s actions. And there unquestionably exists a prima facie case that George W. Bush, as commander in chief of the armed forces and head of state of the United States committed acts that are specifically proscribed as crimes against peace by the world community.

And lest we forget that crimes against peace are a serious matter, let us remind ourselves that those crimes, specifically waging an unprovoked war of aggression, were among those for which the Nazis were tried at Nuremberg after WW II. Albert Speer spent 20 years in Spandau prison when convicted of those crimes, with the court remarking that leniency was shown in his case because of the evident remorse he showed – something entirely absent in Bush’s post war behaviour. Many of Speer’s compatriots, notably those who, like Bush, persisted in maintaining that they were justified in their behaviour, were executed.

Every rational post-game analysis of the genesis of the Iraq invasion reveals that there was, in fact, no credible evidence of WMDs in Iraq prior to or after the capture and execution of the Iraqi head of state. What Bush and his surrogates described as incontrovertible evidence of WMDs wasn’t even thought to be truly suggestive…even by the CIA who gathered and analysed the intelligence and briefed the president and the Joint Chiefs. And of course, it turned out that there were no WMDs or even evidence of any attempt to manufacture or acquire them. The pathetically unsupported conviction that they nevertheless existed is one more example of the inclination of America’s right wing to self-delusion; to living in a bubble and not letting facts or even common sense intrude into their self-created world view.

Not only was there no evidence to support the empty claims used to justify the war of aggression, but Bush knew it and lied to the world about it. But Bush and Cheney wanted it to be true, Bush because he wanted to be a warrior president and Cheney because his company, Haliburton, made untold millions as war contractors, so they told themselves and us it was true perhaps even until they actually believed it. So they killed over 100,000 (according to Wikileaks) men women and children, then started looking for the weapons of mass destruction that had never existed. When it became clear that they were trying to bring home a chimera, the Bush administration never admitted their culpability and Bush never even offered a “my bad!”

The Republicans are of course somewhat diffident when it comes to acknowledging Dubya as one of their own; he was conspicuous in his absence from the recent GOP convention, and the average Republican shuffles his feet and changes the subject when his name is brought up. But let’s be clear that the reason for their tacit disavowal of their erstwhile president has nothing whatever to do with his war crimes…it’s all about how his economic policies torpedoed the US economy; that’s really embarrassing and hard to explain. War crimes apparently not so much.

Nevertheless the rest of the world, even this commentator – unlike the RNC – is not ensconced in a delusional self-congratulatory bubble. I am fully aware that there will never be any serious attempt to prosecute Bush, Cheney, their sycophants like Blair, and other equally culpable wagers of wars of aggression on charges that, if proven, would see world leaders and heads of smaller, weaker states tried, imprisoned, and possibly even executed.

Just a few of Bush’s victims

That war was hypocritically launched and prosecuted by the United States of America and, other than the loss of many young American men and women in uniform, there will never be any repercussions or accountability. Any other country would have had some ‘splainin’ to do. Bush, though, has retired to a life of ease and prosperity, insufficiently intelligent or burdened by morals to suffer any pangs of conscience for the deaths he caused in his vanity war. He is, after all, an elder statesman…an American one.

Perhaps this is the true nature of the much vaunted “American exceptionalism”.




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