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May 24, 2008

The International Criminal Court's American Exception

By JC Garrett

Long recognized as an ardent defender of human rights, and champion of the Rule of Law, America has been unceremoniously stripped of her glorious garments of Freedom, Truth, and Justice, and clothed in the dirty rags of Oppression, Deception, and Despotism.


A late 2007 New York Times editorial urged the arrest of Ahmad Harun, Sudan's interior minister from 2003 to 2005, who funded and armed the janjaweed militias that are said to have murdered 200,000 people and driven 2.5 million from their homes. Harun has been charged with war crimes by the International Criminal Court. The editorial calls for Harun to be surrendered to The Hague for prosecution. It stresses that "holding government officials responsible for the genocide in Darfur is crucial ... not only as a weapon of this genocide but as a way to fight the next one."

Every word in the editorial was true, and the Times is to be commended for calling for justice to be meted out to government officials who instigate, fund, and enable the murders of hundreds of thousands of civilians, and other crimes against humanity.

What I have a problem with is the obvious exception made in the administration of justice when it comes to crimes committed by American government officials.

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Estimates of deaths in Iraq as a direct result of the American invasion vary widely, and have been routinely suppressed and creatively spun by the Bush administration. The lowest estimates are in the area of 85,000 civilian dead, but those estimates only count civilians killed by military violence that are reported by at least two approved international media sources. The authors of such estimates openly acknowledge that thousands of deaths go unreported in their findings, and also that they do not use any valid scientific method to arrive at their numbers.

The highest credible estimates are over one million Iraqi dead. That Sept. 2007 study, conducted by ORB, the reputable British polling agency, found that about 1,033,000 more people have died violent deaths in Iraq since coalition forces arrived in March 2003 through August 2007, than would have died had the invasion not occurred.

The number of Iraqi refugees who have fled to neighboring countries has now reached 2.2 million. The number of displaced Iraqi citizens driven from their homes to other locations inside Iraq has risen to more than 2 million.

A side-by-side comparison of the alleged crimes of Ahmad Harun and those that can be attributed to Mr. Bush's invasion of Iraq is very telling: Harun is responsible for 200,000 deaths and 2.5 million displaced citizens. Bush is responsible for 1,000,000 deaths and 4.2 million refugees. Uncalculated and untold civilian wounded. Even if the math is off a bit - hell, even if you cut Bush's numbers in half - he still beats Harun in total lives ruined.

Joshua Holland of AlterNet points out:

"These numbers suggest that the invasion and occupation of Iraq rivals the great crimes of the last century -- the human toll exceeds the 800,000 to 900,000 believed killed in the Rwandan genocide in 1994, and is approaching the number (1.7 million) who died in Cambodia's infamous "Killing Fields" during the Khmer Rouge era of the 1970s."

On the orders of George W. Bush, hundreds of thousands of small arms and more potent weapons have been distributed to the Iraqi military, police, and even militias, and now we are arming and funding both Shia and Sunni warlords and their gangs, many of whom have until very recently been insurgents fighting and killing American soldiers and Marines.

We are actually paying them not to shoot at us. And George Bush and John McCain say Obama is the one "negotiating with terrorists."

General David Petraeus told the Senate Armed Services Committee on last Sept. 11, that Iraq has already made a $1.6 billion arms deal with the U.S., and has plans to buy $1.8 billion more. A Government Accountability Office report concluded that nearly 200,000 weapons bought by American taxpayers and intended for issue to Iraqi security forces are missing. It is feared that the infusion of arms will provide the means for a full-scale civil war and unfettered genocide, and that the U.S. may be arming their past and future enemies.

As Salon's Mark Benjamin reports, weapons proliferation expert William Hartung of the New America Foundation says, "I think this is kind of crazy ... Now we are making deals with some of these Sunni groups. Well, what if they turn around and go back to being insurgents after we have built them up? I think the danger of these arms being misused, even in the short term, is fairly high."

After WWII, we tried and convicted many Japanese as war criminals for waterboarding Allied prisoners. Some of them were executed for their crimes. Waterboarding was considered by many to be one of the worst forms of torture imaginable. In the war crimes trial of one Japanese officer, Judge Advocate General, Lt. Col. Allan Browne said the charge "...includes the savage and barbarian water treatment and far exceeds in beastiality the 'run of the mine' brutality established in this case." The Japanese officer was sentenced to 22 years at hard labor. Another Japanese soldier who waterboarded a Filipino Lawyer got life.

One Japanese civilian employee at a POW camp was sentenced to 5 years at hard labor for nothing more than delivering an open-handed slap for a rules violation, which was common practice in the Japanese army and viewed as an acceptable form of discipline in the training of recruits and as a rebuke for minor infractions. The slap was so common that it was one of the charges in a large number of cases, and the only charge in several. Now, our own President has personally authorized not only water torture, but such things as belly slaps, "stress positions" (like hanging by the wrists with hands cuffed behind your back; or "short-shackling" in a position where the prisoner is unable to fully stand, nor fully sit), and the use of trained combat dogs in interrogations.

Psychological torture, said by experts to be even worse than physical abuse, was also approved by our freedom-loving Oval Office dweller. Deprivation of sleep, food and water was acceptable. Also allowed was extreme sensory deprivation in which prisoners are isolated in a soundproof room, bound, wearing earmuffs and blackout goggles or sandbags over their heads, with soft mittens on their hands to deprive them even of their sense of touch.

The C.I.A. has admitted the use of these techniques, and even put out a manual explaining how to use them most effectively. That same manual reveals that the C.I.A. is well aware of the debilitating psychological effects caused by these methods, stating that sensory deprivation "induces stress; the stress becomes unbearable for most subjects ... some subjects progressively lose touch with reality, focus inwardly, and produce delusions, hallucinations, and other pathological effects."

Forced nakedness and sexual humiliation was condoned. Dowsing prisoners with cold water, exposing them to cold and hot temperature extremes, constant bombardment with loud music, recordings of crying babies, and the shrill squeals of dying rabbits, injections of mind-altering drugs, refusal of necessary medical treatment, threats of imprisonment, rape, or killing of prisoners' family members - any normal human being wouldn't dare try to say these things do not rise to the level of torture.

Bush also put his stamp of approval on the C.I.A. program of "extraordinary rendition" in which people are kidnapped, drugged, and shipped to another country for "interrogation." Many of those countries are on the U.S. government's list of human rights violators, and some have been sanctioned for their barbarism.

One need look no further than the case of Canadian citizen Maher Arar, who was sent to Syria where he was tortured and interrogated for nearly a year before being released. The U.S. government would not even allow Arar to have his day in court, dismissing his civil case on the bogus premise that the trial could not be conducted because it would expose "state secrets." Arar was found by Canadian investigators to be innocent of any crime. The Canadian government awarded him reparations of millions of dollars and offered a sincere apology for their acquiescence to his mistreatment. The U.S. did neither, and is not expected to. Bush doesn't do apologies.

Milan has issued international arrest warrants for 22 C.I.A. agents for the kidnapping and rendition of Abu Omar, who had been granted political asylum in Italy. Omar was handed over to Egyptian authorities, and was tortured. Warrants for 13 C.I.A. operatives have been issued in Germany for the kidnapping and rendition of German citizen Khalid el-Masri to a prison in Afghanistan where he was tortured. His civil case in the U.S. was dismissed in May, 2006. Call me crazy, but I think the Founding Fathers would have valued human rights more highly than state secrets. Without the former, what good is the latter? The only legitimate purpose for state secrets is to protect humanity.

Along with those crimes, all authorized by the President, Mr. Bush has personally admitted the existence of secret "black sites," C.I.A. prisons scattered around the globe which hold "ghost" detainees - people the government has "disappeared." Of all the many violations of the Geneva Conventions Bush has orchestrated, this is one of the most abhorrent. The law, both U.S. law and international law, mandates the reporting of the names of all prisoners to the International Committee of the Red Cross, and must permit that body to conduct inspections of all prisons, and have access to all prisoners for the purpose of evaluating the humaneness of their treatment and physical condition. There is only one possible reason for denying this access: prisoners are not being treated humanely. The denial of this access is tantamount to a confession of guilt. It's just my personal opinion, but Saddam Hussein's expulsion of weapons inspectors from Iraq was far smaller a sin than Bush's expulsion of torture inspectors from the prisons.

George W. Bush looked into a television camera in 2003 and told the world that Saddam's torture chambers and rape rooms had been torn down - then he went and built his own.

Long recognized as an ardent defender of human rights, and champion of the Rule of Law, America has been unceremoniously stripped of her glorious garments of Freedom, Truth, and Justice, and clothed in the dirty rags of Oppression, Deception, and Despotism.

Saddam Hussein was a vicious tyrant and a murderer. He deserved to be tried and brought to Justice. Ahmad Harun should be tried for his crimes against humanity in Darfur, and brought to justice.

George Bush is responsible for the unnecessary deaths of at least hundreds of thousands of people around the world. He has violated dozens of long-standing laws and treaties, enacted by smarter men who recognized the value of human life and the importance of treating all people with compassion and respect. He has signed his name to some of the most immoral policies ever devised by an American President. In his authoritarian zeal and self-righteous arrogance, he has sold his soul and squandered America's crowning glory for the mere appearance of what he perceives as a "tough" image. What he calls "freedom," free men call slavery. What he calls "progress," sane men call rancid decay. What he calls "God's will," godly men call sacrilege.

To steal a line from Mr. Bush's favorite President, "Honest Abe" Lincoln:

"If this is coffee, please bring me some tea, but if this is tea, please bring me some coffee."

I suspect that if the New York Times thought they could do it without being vilified, they would call for Mr. Bush to receive the same justice they urged for Mr. Harun. Alas, it is simply too politically incorrect to call a war criminal by his rightful title when that war criminal happens to be the President of the United States.

By JC Garrett

Submitters Bio:
JC Garrett is a freelance writer and Constitutional scholar from the piney-woods of East Texas.

Mr. Garrett owns and operates an independent recording studio, plays several instruments, writes, sings, and produces music.

His stories have appeared in Political Affairs Magazine, ACLU FreedomWire, Online Journal, Infowars, Prison Planet, OpEd News, Consortium News, The Intelligence Daily, Democratic Underground, Truthdig, The Memory Hole, Wired, World Prout Assembly, and local publications.