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Condi, War Crimes & the Press

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During the three years of carnage in Iraq, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has shifted away from her now-discredited warning about a "mushroom cloud" to assert a strategic rationale for the invasion that puts her squarely in violation of the Nuremberg principle against aggressive war.

On March 31 in remarks to a group of British foreign policy experts, Rice justified the U.S.-led invasion by saying that otherwise Iraqi President Saddam Hussein "wasn't going anywhere" and "you were not going to have a different Middle East with Saddam Hussein at the center of it." [Washington Post, April 1, 2006]

Rice's comments in Blackburn, England, followed
similar remarks during a March 26 interview on NBC's "Meet the Press" in which she defended the invasion of Iraq as necessary for the eradication of the "old Middle East" where a supposed culture of hatred indirectly contributed to the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

"If you really believe that the only thing that happened on 9/11 was people flew airplanes into buildings, I think you have a very narrow view of what we faced on 9/11," Rice said. "We faced the outcome of an ideology of hatred throughout the Middle East that had to be dealt with. Saddam Hussein was a part of that old Middle East. The new Iraq will be a part of the new Middle East, and we will all be safer."

But this doctrine - that the Bush administration has the right to invade other nations for reasons as vague as social engineering - represents a repudiation of the Nuremberg Principles and the United Nations Charter's ban on aggressive war, both formulated largely by American leaders six decades ago.

Outlawing aggressive wars was at the center of the Nuremberg Tribunal after World War II, a conflagration that began in 1939 when Germany's Adolf Hitler trumped up an excuse to attack neighboring Poland. Before World War II ended six years later, more than 60 million people were dead.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, who represented the United States at Nuremberg, made clear that the role of Hitler's henchmen in launching the aggressive war against Poland was sufficient to justify their executions - and that the principle would apply to all nations in the future.

"Our position is that whatever grievances a nation may have, however objectionable it finds the status quo, aggressive warfare is an illegal means for settling those grievances or for altering those conditions," Jackson said.

"Let me make clear that while this law is first applied against German aggressors, the law includes, and if it is to serve a useful purpose, it must condemn aggression by any other nations, including those which sit here now in judgment," Jackson said.

With the strong support of the United States, this Nuremberg principle was then incorporated into the U.N. Charter, which bars military attacks unless in self-defense or unless authorized by the U.N. Security Council.
Nervous Blair

This fundamental principle of international behavior explains why British Prime Minister Tony Blair was so set on a Security Council vote to authorize the invasion of Iraq or at least indisputable evidence that Iraq remained a serious military threat to other countries. Based on internal British legal opinions, Blair knew the invasion would be illegal.

This concern led the Bush administration to hype evidence of Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction, which included Rice's famous declaration that she didn't want the "smoking gun" evidence of Hussein's WMD to be "a mushroom cloud."

Bush even considered staging his own casus belli by tricking Iraq into firing on a U-2 reconnaissance plane painted with U.N. colors to win U.N. backing for attacking Iraq, according to minutes of a Jan. 31, 2003, meeting in the Oval Office that involved Bush, Blair and senior aides, including then-national security adviser Rice.

Despite Bush's promise at that meeting to "twist arms and even threaten" other nations, the United States couldn't bully a majority of the U.N. Security Council into supporting an invasion, especially with Iraq giving U.N. weapons inspectors free rein to search suspected WMD sites and with nothing found.

On March 19, 2003, Bush chose to press ahead with the invasion anyway, ousting Hussein's government three weeks later but then stumbling into a bloody insurgency that has now pushed the nation to the brink of civil war. Tens of thousands of Iraqis - possibly more than 100,000 - have died, along with more than 2,300 U.S. troops.

U.S. arms inspectors also failed to find any caches of WMD. Other allegations about Hussein's supposed collaboration with al-Qaeda also proved unfounded. Gradually, Rice and other senior Bush aides shifted their rationale from Hussein's WMD to a strategic justification, that is, politically transforming the Middle East.

This new rationale - essentially an assertion of a special U.S. right to invade and occupy any country that is perceived as an obstacle to U.S. goals in the world - is a spin-off of the neoconservative Project for a New American Century of the 1990s.

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Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at It's also available at

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