The Fourth Geneva Convention explicitly defines "grave breaches" which are to be considered "war crimes." Those that U.S. leaders have committed on a massive scale include:
"launching an indiscriminate attack affecting the civilian population or civilian objects in the knowledge that such attack will cause excessive loss of life, injury to civilians or damage to civilian objects." (Protocol 1, Article 85).
U.S. Executive Branch leaders have tried to escape their legal responsibilities in their current war-making by claiming they do not apply to today's "War on Terror" against "non-state" actors. But this is, of course, as valid as North Korea giving itself the right to attack South Korea. As U.N. Rapporteurs on Torture and Drone strikes have stated, there is no serious doubt that U.S. leaders have massively violated both the spirit and letter of international law seeking to protect civilians in wartime.
Among the most obvious and important violations of international law to which U.S. leaders are a signatory include:
(1) Failing to meet their responsibilities for "Protection Of Civilian Persons In Time Of War," including Article 25 of the 1907 Hague Convention which states that "attack or bombardment of towns, villages, habitations or buildings which are not defended, is prohibited."
In Vietnam alone U.S. leaders dropped 6.7 million tons of bombs and used an equal amount of ground artillery. As Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick report,
"Unexploded ordnance blanketed the countryside. Nineteen million gallons of herbicide poisoned the environment. In the South, the U.S. had destroyed 9,000 of 15,000 hamlets. In the north it rained destruction on all six industrial cities leveling 28 of 30 provincial towns and 96 of 116 district towns ... Nearly 4 million of their citizens had been killed. The landscape had been shattered. The beautiful triple-canopy forests are largely gone. In 2009 land mines and unexploded bombs still contaminated over a third of the land in six central Vietnamese provinces. Over 16 million acres remained to be cleared. Beyond the terrible toll of the war itself, 42,000 more Vietnamese were killed by leftover explosives." (15)
(2) Failing to meet their responsibilities as an Occupying Power in Iraq as required by the Hague Convention Article 43 which states that
"the authority of the legitimate power having in fact passed into the hands of the occupant, the latter shall take all the measures in his power to ensure ... public order and safety."
As discussed, U.S. Executive leaders failed to provide public order and safety; the U.S. military was revealed in the Wikileaks cables to be turning over captives to be tortured by the Iraqi police; and, of course, the U.S. was itself murdering, maiming, torturing and incarcerating the innocent. (16)
(3) Engaging in the "Crimes Against Peace" defined at Nuremberg to include "planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances," and defined by U.S. Chief Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson as
"the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole."
There is no doubt that the U.S. invasion of Iraq was such a "crimeagainst the peace." U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan unambiguously stated, as r eported in a BBC article entitled "Iraq War Illegal, Says Annan":
"I have indicated it was not in conformity with the UN charter from our point of view, from the charter point of view, it was illegal."
Benjamin Ferencz, a U.S. Nuremberg prosecutor who convicted 22 Nazis, has stated that a:
"prima facie case can be made that the United States is guilty of the supreme crime against humanity, that being an illegal war of aggression against a sovereign nation."