George W. Bush will offer some bromides about how the punishment shows that the United States honors the rule of law and how the punishment is further proof of Americas civilized behavior when compared with the enemys barbarity. Its also likely the U.S. news media wont place too much blame on Bush.
But the common thread from the bloody invasion of Iraq in 2003 through Abu Ghraib to Haditha is that Bush cavalierly sent young Americans into a complex and frightening conflict with false and alarmist rhetoric ringing in their ears.
Through clever juxtaposition, Bushs speeches linked Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks and later blurred the distinctions between Iraqs home-grown insurgency and the relatively small number of al-Qaeda terrorists operating in Iraq.
Though these claims lacked credible intelligence Hussein and bin-Laden were bitter enemies and al-Qaeda remains a fringe player in the Muslim world Bushs messages apparently sank in with impressionable young soldiers and Marines trying to understand why they needed to kill Iraqis. [See Consortiumnews.coms Bushs Latest Iraq War Lies.]
As a result of Bushs incessant propaganda, a poll of 944 U.S. military personnel in Iraq taken in January and February 2006 found that 85 percent believed the U.S. mission in Iraq was mainly to retaliate for Saddams role in the 9/11 attacks. Seventy-seven percent said a chief war goal was to stop Saddam from protecting al-Qaeda in Iraq.
While every soldier is responsible for his or her own actions in a war, it is the duty of the top levels of the chain of command including the Commander in Chief to take every possible precaution to ensure that troops on the ground do not commit war crimes.
Indeed, commanders and politicians who lay the groundwork for abuses often are held responsible along with the actual perpetrators. The late Yugoslavian leader Slobodan Milosevic was put on trial at the Hague not for direct participation in the slaughter of Bosnian Muslims and Croats in the 1990s, but for aiding and abetting the crimes.
Milosevics violent rhetoric and deceptive propaganda were two factors cited in his indictment. One count alleged that the fiery Serb leader controlled, manipulated or otherwise utilized Serbian state-run media to spread exaggerated and false messages of ethnically based attacks by Bosnian Muslims and Croats against Serb people intended to create an atmosphere of fear and hatred among Serbs.
In Bushs Iraq case, his legal responsibility is parallel though the facts are far from identical. The Yugoslavian conflict was essentially a sectarian civil war which involved ethnic cleansing and massacres.
In 2002, however, claiming a unilateral American right to invade any country that may pose a threat to U.S. security in the future, Bush took the law into his own hands. He brushed aside requests from allies, even from British Prime Minister Tony Blair, to get clearance from the U.N. Security Council before launching the invasion.
Bush and his neoconservative advisers judged that U.S. military preeminence in the post-Cold War world put them beyond the reach of international law and that public acclaim for a successful conquest of Iraq would silence any remaining critics.