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Bush's Hypocrisy on War Crimes

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In March 2003, after Iraqi troops captured several U.S. soldiers and let them be interviewed on Iraqi TV, senior Bush administration officials expressed outrage over this violation of the Geneva Convention.

"If there is somebody captured," President George W. Bush told reporters on March 23, 2003, "I expect those people to be treated humanely. If not, the people who mistreat the prisoners will be treated as war criminals."

No one in the Bush administration, however, acknowledged the extent of their own violations of rules governing humane treatment of enemy combatants. Nor did the U.S. news media offer any context, ignoring the U.S. handling of Afghan War captives at Guantanamo Bay in 2002 and the fact that the U.S. military also had paraded captured Iraqi soldiers before cameras.

During those heady days of “embedded” war correspondents reporting excitedly about Bush’s “shock and awe” invasion, what Americans got to see and hear was how the Iraqi violation of the Geneva Convention – the videotaped interviews – demonstrated the barbarity of the enemy and justified their punishment as war criminals.

Bush’s fury over the POW interviews echoed across Washington. “It is a blatant violation of the Geneva Convention to humiliate and abuse prisoners of war or to harm them in any way,” declared Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke on March 24.

That same day, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told the BBC, “The Geneva Convention is very clear on the rules for treating prisoners. They're not supposed to be tortured or abused, they're not supposed to be intimidated, they're not supposed to be made public displays of humiliation or insult, and we're going to be in a position to hold those Iraqi officials who are mistreating our prisoners accountable, and they've got to stop.”

On March 25, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld added, “In recent days, the world has witnessed further evidence of their [Iraqi] brutality and their disregard for the laws of war. Their treatment of coalition POWs is a violation of the Geneva Conventions.” [For a contemporaneous story, see’s “International Law a la Carte.”]

Hypocrisy Exposed

It would take months and years – as documents from Bush’s first term were gradually released to the public – to reveal the extent of the Bush administration’s hypocrisy.

For instance, it’s now known that the International Committee of the Red Cross began an investigation of U.S. war crimes in Iraq from the first days of the invasion, interviewing Iraqis captives from March to November 2003.

On Jan. 15, 2004, ICRC president Jakob Kellenberger expressed his concern to Secretary of State Colin Powell about the Bush administration’s attitude regarding international law, specifically an op-ed by then-State Department legal adviser William Taft IV in the Financial Times four days earlier.

In that op-ed, Taft wrote that there was no law that required the U.S. to afford due process to foreigners captured in the “war on terror.”

"American treatment of detainees held at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba is fully consistent with international law and with centuries-old norms for treating individuals captured in wartime," Taft wrote. “We are engaged in a war.”

It’s unclear what Kellenberger cited in Taft’s column, because the recently released minutes of the meeting were heavily redacted. But the conversation segued into Powell asking Kellenberger “where in addition to Afghanistan, did ICRC have problems with notification and access to detainees?”

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Jason Leopold is Deputy Managing Editor of and the founding editor of the online investigative news magazine The Public Record, He is the author of the National Bestseller, "News Junkie," a memoir. Visit (more...)

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Apparently, Obama doesn't see any hypocrisy or... by Dennis Kaiser on Friday, Apr 17, 2009 at 12:11:08 PM
Retro finger-pointing isn't exactly productive whi... by Otay on Friday, Apr 17, 2009 at 1:35:02 PM
Dennis, assuming our elections or votes have&... by Otay on Friday, Apr 17, 2009 at 3:04:27 PM
Caught by his own words...will he (they) be hung b... by boomerang on Friday, Apr 17, 2009 at 12:13:33 PM
Thank you for the concise dissertation of Bush and... by Archie on Friday, Apr 17, 2009 at 1:26:19 PM
How about gropus that got their panties in a twist... by Michael Cavlan on Friday, Apr 17, 2009 at 1:49:59 PM
love George Bush & forgive him.  To this ... by shadow dancer on Friday, Apr 17, 2009 at 2:04:50 PM
you are not an Iraqi whose entire family was blown... by Otay on Friday, Apr 17, 2009 at 3:31:33 PM
seems to not recall that many of the same players ... by Stanimal on Friday, Apr 17, 2009 at 3:17:38 PM
Otay, this old Indian geezer is living upon the la... by shadow dancer on Friday, Apr 17, 2009 at 3:55:29 PM
shadow dancer, if the very first Americans who ref... by Gustav Wynn on Friday, Apr 17, 2009 at 6:41:29 PM
My how did you manage to put so many words in my m... by Otay on Saturday, Apr 18, 2009 at 12:06:34 PM
I forgot to mention Romantic narcissistic childhoo... by Otay on Saturday, Apr 18, 2009 at 12:15:24 PM
Bush Administration authorized use of insects in i... by CB Brooklyn on Friday, Apr 17, 2009 at 4:35:53 PM
What is this "We of Things" your trying ... by shadow dancer on Friday, Apr 17, 2009 at 11:46:51 PM
Why are you still speaking of Bush atrocities when... by jersey girl on Saturday, Apr 18, 2009 at 2:48:41 AM
What's the point? Why rant about Bush's crimes wh... by jersey girl on Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 1:22:03 PM
With all due respect, I believe a more effective a... by Nick van Nes on Saturday, Apr 18, 2009 at 8:46:01 AM
None of them are listening.. They don't care. The... by jersey girl on Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 1:40:38 PM
Jersey Girl, there's been no change.  I j... by shadow dancer on Saturday, Apr 18, 2009 at 4:45:10 AM
I figured as much.... by Otay on Saturday, Apr 18, 2009 at 12:20:30 PM
CIA agents said they didn't know they were bre... by Nick van Nes on Saturday, Apr 18, 2009 at 8:26:39 AM
is the only way to get them to tell a prosecutor e... by Nick van Nes on Saturday, Apr 18, 2009 at 8:31:48 AM
... the question now is what do we do about the cu... by Mr M on Saturday, Apr 18, 2009 at 9:36:23 AM
personally, Mr. M. it's what I call the John t... by shadow dancer on Saturday, Apr 18, 2009 at 11:06:20 AM
"So all I actually have to do is nothing." ~ shado... by dotmafia on Saturday, Apr 18, 2009 at 11:28:06 AM


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