Saturday, October 10, 2009

There Are No Wars Without War Crimes And War Criminals; So Why Can’t We Prosecute And Bring Justice To This World?

There Are No Wars Without War Crimes And War Criminals; So Why Can’t We Prosecute And Bring Justice To This World?

People of passion and principles see the world as it should be; people of power, position prostitute justice as a function of “their privilege”, shape events and outcomes to their profit and protection. Our forefathers advocated the violent over throw of an existing, legitimate governance and had they failed in that enterprise we call our Revolutionary War; they would all surely have been hanged for treason. All too frequently the history of war has been written by the victors. They become the judges of the sins of wars to such an extent that many raise the questions as to the validity of any form of “War Crimes” trials; are they the pursuit of justice or acts of the final revenge of the hostilities.

There is no question at this moment that there is an awakened awareness of the criminality that accompanies every war, an eye opening demand for “Justice” for the hideous and heinous defiance of the minimal standards of the “rules of warfare”, for terror, torture, death, destruction and perversion visited upon the innocents, the non-combatants.

This post deals with but a sampling of current “War Crimes” concerns and more with the legal issues that surround the frustrations of prosecution of those clearly guilty of having committed and sanctioned acts that no one can deny are “crimes against humanity” no matter the circumstance.

In a world where Genocide a daily occurrence, where man fashions terms that attempt to explain away such things as inevitable in war, like “ethnic cleansing”, where murder and assassination, torture and rape are understood as normal in warfare; in a world where man openly fashion weapons of mass destruction and extermination as perceived necessities; we must ask some serious questions of the political institutions of this world.

In essence the question must be framed in the following question: “Does war permit the situational dismissal of every law, every standard of right and wrong, every standard of decency and permit every atrocity that man can inflict in the name of combat be legalized, legitimized as a new “norm of war”, where every servant of a state at war is excused every act of the beast of war, from murder to rape and torture of every being regardless of their race, color, ,creed, age, sex or condition.

If that be true every utterance of right and wrong by every religion and body of law on Earth is meaningless hypocrisy if we reserve the situation right to set aside every principle of decency when bestiality serves better serves nations at war. Life has no meaning, no value and all law is a sham. We are merely animals! There is much deeply serious content to this post in a perspective that marches from Concord and Lexington across the legions of wars and human Genocides since, let alone the massive slaughters of the earlier history of this planet that mark the path of our convenient justification of our “Right-Kill-At-Will” that continues to this very moment in time.

“…if we were to be true to the history of our nation, we would be pressing the international community to extend the coverage of the Geneva Conventions, and not as the current administration has done, worked to restrict that coverage…”

Tony Blair Called ‘War Criminal’ After Iraq Memorial Service

By James Sturcke~London Guardian

Tony Blair was branded a “war criminal” today by the father of a soldier killed in the Iraq war after a memorial service to honor the dead at which the Archbishop of Canterbury criticized “policy makers” for failing to consider the cost of the conflict.

Rowan Williams, who has previously described the decisions that led to the war as “flawed”, praised the “patient and consistent” efforts of troops on the ground.

But he used his address at the national service of remembrance in St Paul’s cathedral to remind his audience that the conflict, which claimed the lives of 179 British service personnel, remained highly controversial.

Among those in the congregation listening to his words was former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who led the country into war and who was confronted at a reception after the service by Peter Brierley, whose son, Lance Corporal Shaun Brierley, 28, was killed in March 2003.

Brierley refused to shake Blair’s proferred hand, saying: “I’m not shaking your hand, you’ve got blood on it”.

“I understand soldiers go to war and die but they have to go to war for a good reason and be properly equipped to fight,” Brierley said.

“I believe Tony Blair is a war criminal. I can’t bear to be in the same room as him. I can’t believe he’s been allowed to come to this reception. It comes back to me every day, every time I see a coffin come off a plane; it reminds me of what happened to Shaun.”

Addressing the congregation, Williams said: “Many people of my generation and younger grew up doubting whether we should ever see another straightforward international conflict, fought by a standing army with conventional weapons.

“We had begun to forget the realities of cost. And when such conflict appeared on the horizon, there were those among both policymakers and commentators who were able to talk about it without really measuring the price, the cost of justice.”

The archbishop alluded to the controversial nature of the campaign, known as Operation Telic, which brought hundreds of thousands of people onto the streets in protest in the run-up to the war.

“The conflict in Iraq will, for a long time yet, exercise the historians, the moralists, the international experts. In a world as complicated as ours has become, it would be a very rash person who would feel able to say without hesitation, this was absolutely the right or the wrong thing to do, the right or the wrong place to be.”

Iraq veterans and bereaved families joined the Queen, Gordon Brown and senior military leaders for the service.

Servicemen and women injured fighting during Operation Telic, and the families of those killed in the conflict, were also among the congregation.

Other senior royals attending included the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall, Prince William, the Earl and Countess of Wessex and the Princess Royal.

In April, Britain ended combat operations in Iraq with a sombre remembrance service for the 178 service personnel and one civilian Ministry of Defence worker who died during Operation Telic. The event brought to a close the six-year campaign that began in March 2003.

In July an inquiry into the Iraq war, headed by Sir John Chilcot, was formally launched.

Former Blair Aide Says Uk Covering Up Iraq War Meetings

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Blair Set To Be Head Of European Union


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“Israel's” War Crimes: Beyond Reasonable Doubt « Silver Lining
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Docudharma:: Nobel Peace Prize Winner Accused of War Crimes by Spain
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No! Leaders Should Not Be Held Responsible for their War Crimes

Posted by Jeremy B. Merrill October 8, 2009

Paul Lauren, a historian at the University of Montana, gave a terrific talk last night at the Ath. His talk, part of a series on human rights and the law, followed a lunch talk last Monday by Montana Attorney General and CMC Alum Stephen Bullock (a great talk too, I thought).

Dr. Lauren’s talk focused on the history of the international war crimes tribunals such as those held after WWII and in the aftermath of recent genocides in Eastern Europe and Africa followed by a plea in support of the International Criminal Court in the Hague and the Rome Statute establishing it.

I disagree with Dr. Lauren, however: a functional ICC would by its nature be a political body, dispensing not actual justice but instead affecting the will of the powerful, masquerading as justice.

First, Dr. Lauren’s argument: Dr. Lauren first detailed various instances of tribunals being held for defeated foreign heads of state. Kaiser Wilhelm II was supposed to be tried, according to the Treaty of Versailles, which ended World War I. Nazi leaders were tried in Nuremberg and, as is less known, various leaders of the Japanese empire were tried in Tokyo. And, within our lifetimes, Slobodan Milosevic and others involved in ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia were tried in The Hague.

In 1998, various world nations created and signed a treaty, the Rome Statute, to establish a permanent court to try and punish war criminals around the world. As yet, various African war criminals have been indicted, but not yet tried, in front of the court.

The United States and a variety of other nations, including Israel, China, Russia and India have either not signed the Rome Statute or not ratified it. (In fact, the Clinton administration signed the treaty but didn’t send it to the Senate for ratification. The Bush Administration then “unsigned” the United States from the treaty.)

Dr. Lauren then explained why the Court ought to be supported. To him, history is a tide of change and morality, demanding that heads of state no longer benefit from sovereign immunity.

So, the tide that began with trying heads of states who lost wars must be followed to punishing winning heads of state.

This claim is tough to swallow: who among us wants to throw Harry S Truman in jail for winning World War II?

However, the moral indictment is clear: Truman ordered the use of nuclear weapons against Nagasaki and Hiroshima, killing tens of thousands of innocent civilians.

Somehow, though, I don’t see Americans lining up to call for Truman’s prosecution, even if only as a statement of principle. Even I would not feel comfortable calling for Truman’s prosecution.

I do, however, fully support investigating, trying and punishing high-level Bush administration officials (rhymes with Shmick Shmeney) for violating clearly established law forbidding torture.

I’m in the minority here; most Americans don’t want Bush administration officials to be put on trial. But even I, on some visceral level, would only accept an investigation by Americans, tried in American courts. I suspect most Americans agree with me.

In other words, we Americans do demand some sort of special immunity for our heads of state.

And as a good philosophy major, I say that the United States ought to obey Kant’s categorical imperative, we must: “Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.” That is, if we want immunity for our own leaders, we must act such that other nations’ leaders receive similar sovereign immunity.

A further flaw of the ICC is its complete lack of independence.

It quite clearly, has only found itself capable of indicting weak heads of state like Omar al-Bashir of Sudan and defeated African warlords. It has not indicted more powerful or more popular leaders, though ones who have certainly engaged in questionable activities, like Russian President Dimitri Medvedev and Georgian President Mikheil Saak’ashvili, responsible for last year’s war in that region or even officials from the Bush administration, who was likely responsible for illegal and unconstitutional human rights violations committed at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan or at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba.

This makes clear the ICC’s tragic flaw: it is incapable of bringing about any justice but victor’s justice.

This form of “justice” is, in fact, no justice at all. Some may argue, as Dr. Lauren did, that prosecuting even a few war criminals is good.

However, only prosecuting powerless war criminals encourages war criminals to maintain power and fails to deter those potential war criminals who believe they’ll retain some amount of power (like most leaders of large or rich countries).

Also, a familiar analogy will show why inconsistent prosecution is unjust. Let us suppose that we agree that dealing hard drugs is wrong and ought to be punished. However, most of us feel that the sentencing disparity (whether myth or not) between the rich white person’s drug, powder cocaine, and the poor black person’s drug, crack cocaine, is unjust because two similar evils are treated differently due to, mostly, the race and economic status of the criminal.

The ICC would indubitably have a similar disparity: the leaders of rich and powerful countries (such as the United States, Saudi Arabia or the United Kingdom) who are accused of war crimes would maintain virtual immunity, while the leaders of poorer (like Uganda) or less popular (like Israel) states who commit far lesser offenses would face strict punishment.

This is no justice.

You have caught me lying though, O Reader. I do, in fact, support holding war criminals responsible. However, these prosecutions must be either done by the people harmed themselves (like an American investigation and trial of Bush-era torturers) or by an ad-hoc court without the mandate to apply justice evenly but to inflict “victor’s justice,” punishing the loser’s crimes while whitewashing those of the winner.

However, to call this travesty, “victor’s justice”, to be true justice would itself be unjust – let us call it what it is: pure revenge.

Audacity in Norway | by Kim Petersen / October 9th, 2009

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has seen fit to award a peace prize to a man less than a year into elected presidential office in the United States. So what are Barack Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize credentials?

Obama is a man who has yet to shut down a global gulag, who has yet to end the warring in Iraq, who has yet to oversee the return of the elected president of Haiti (deposed by US, Canadian, and French forces), who stands unflinching on the coup d’etat in Honduras, who runs cover for Israeli massacres of Palestinians and Israeli violations of the Geneva Conventions (i.e., supporting war crimes), who seeks to proliferate military bases in Columbia, who has ramped up the killing in Afghanistan, and who has overseen the spillover of war into Pakistan.

Is this the criteria that is deserving of a Nobel Peace Prize?

The Norwegian Nobel Committee chairman Thorbjørn Jagland said, “Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future.”

So Nobel Prizes are being handed out for offering hope? Is this an effort to prod Obama along the road toward a peace-making presidency?

Didn’t Norway reward Yitzhak Shamir, Shimon Peres, and Yasser Arafat Nobel Peace Prizes for giving the hope of peace in historical Palestine? Since then Israel has carried out many slaughters of the indigenous Palestinians. And yes, Palestinians have resisted with violence — sometimes lethal.

Wasn’t US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger co-awarded a 1973 Nobel Peace Prize for negotiating a cease-fire in the US war on Vietnam? Hope was hung around a ceasefire destined to collapse. At least Vietnam’s Le Duc Tho had the integrity to refuse a prize where peace was based on the tokenism of hope.

There are many examples that contradict the notion that Nobel Prizes would spur the US nation toward peace. Yet the leaders of the most warring nation on the planet continue to be rewarded with peace prizes. It defies rationality.

Did Obama offer a mea culpa for US atrocities?

Did Obama seek justice for the perpetrators behind the killing of an estimated 1.3 million Iraqis based upon a concocted casus belli?

To his credit, Obama did something most unusual in acknowledging that the US was behind the 1953 coup d’etat in Iran? Did he offer an apology? Did he offer compensation?

Hoping for peace in a state based on the genocide, dispossession, and marginalization of its Original Peoples, a state whose economy was largely built through slavery, a state built through the expansionism of war with its neighbors, a state built through dominating its hemisphere through self-declared destiny, despite never managing the gumption to apologize for these past grave crimes seems rather dubious.

There are plenty of states deserving of censure. However, when one state with a long history of violence stands supremely powerful and claims itself to be a beacon onto all other states, that is where transformation must first occur in a world whose people long for a just peace.

That will require more than wishful thinking. It will require the audacity to mobilize the masses to a revolution for peace.

Kim Petersen is co-editor of Dissident Voice. He can be reached Read other articles by Kim, or visit Kim's website.

Why Are We In Afghanistan? | by Ron Jacobs / October 8th, 2009

In 1967 Norman Mailer released a novel titled Why Are We In Vietnam?This exercise by Mailer is the story of a couple 18 year-old Texans off on a hunting trip with their wealthy fathers. The quartet are consumed with an overload of braggadocio and testosterone.

The story of the trip, which is full of whiskey and tales of past sexual conquests, racial slurs and assumptions of American exceptionalism, is told through the eyes of one of the younger men. It is obviously meant as a psychological metaphor for why the US fought in Vietnam. Like the film The Deer Hunter and a number of other films having to do with killing America’s enemies, the nature of US machismo and its curious confusion with racism and homophobia, Why Are We In Vietnam? puts forth the proposition that not only is the rugged individualism of the white-skinned pioneer essential to the myth of the US conquest of the North America continent, it is also essential to the expansion of US capitalism as well.

If one explores this idea in the context of recent history both on Wall Street and in Washington’s current overseas adventures, it become clearer why very few folks in Imperial Washington — though not in the rest of the country — want to get out of Iraq or Afghanistan. The projection of military power overseas becomes compensation for the shrinking economic power of Wall Street. Liberal and right-wing believers whose stock in the church of capital has fallen can still feel good about themselves as long as their mission continues overseas against the Muslim and peasant hordes.

As for the heretics within, let the loudmouth preachers of right wing radio condemn those citizens to the mercies of the angry white men and Sarah Palin — their Joan of Arc. Once the heretics have been burned at the stake of right wing rhetoric, the armies of the right will end their Tea Parties, pick up their weapons and take back the White House, installing a white person back in the Presidential bedrooms. Once done, that black man who’s in those bedrooms right now would no longer be a threat, having been emasculated just like a Scottsboro Boy.

So, while Mr. Obama (that black man) ponders whether or not he should continue the US projection of power into Afghanistan begun by his predecessor, Texan George Bush, or pull out, one wonders if Obama is part of the hunting party on par with the plantation’s generals or is he just the guy who must retrieve and dress the kill?

If he accepts General McChrystal’s call for more troops and the consequent increase in bloodshed, does Obama then become a trusted equal to the generals or the Pentagon’s Stepin’ Fetchit? If he rejects this and future calls to escalate this fruitless war, will he be sent back into the kitchen to wait for the bell telling him to bring out the next course or will it represent a defeat for the current crop of General Custers?

Then again, there’s the Biden option. This proposal would repackage the war in Afghanistan under its original wrapping as part of the “war on terror.” This repackaging would require a bit of convoluted convincing since national security adviser Ret. General James Jones told the media that “fewer than 100 Al-Qaida (the bogeymen of Islamic terror) are operating in Afghanistan.”

Of course, the hawks in DC counter this statement with the argument that it is precisely because there are US troops in Afghanistan that Al Qaida’s strength has diminished. However, the fault in this line of reasoning can be found in the supposition of its supporters that the Taliban must be defeated to keep Al Qaida on the run. Why?

Because at the same time that Al Qaida’s activities in Afghanistan have diminished, the strength of Taliban and other resistance forces have grown. In other words, even though Al Qaida forces have almost ended operations in Afghanistan, the resistance to western occupation has grown.

Then there’s the question of Pakistan. In recent weeks, US officials have begun to suggest the existence of a Taliban formation in the Baluchistan province of Pakistan

Furthermore, US Ambassador Anne W. Patterson and a junior US diplomat — Deputy Head of Mission Gerald Feierstein in Pakistan — have threatened US air strikes on the city of Quetta where this grouping — called the Quetta shira by western media — are supposed to be quartered. These threats have been met by calls for the expulsion of these diplomats in at least one Pakistani media outlets.

If US troop numbers are increased in Afghanistan, the staging of a ground invasion into Waziristan or Baluchistan or air strikes not carried out by drones launched in Nevada becomes that much easier.

If changing the situation in Pakistan is a dominant reason for the current debate over mission and troop numbers in Afghanistan and the battle in Afghanistan is considered just part of that equation, then there is little doubt that US troops will remain in that country for the foreseeable future.

Furthermore, the likelihood of their numbers increasing becomes even greater.

On Monday Obama said withdrawal from Afghanistan wasn’t an option. Bearing in mind Lao Tzu’s observation that he who rejoices in victory delights in killing, this writer awaits.

Ron Jacobs is the author of The Way The Wind Blew: A History of the Weather Underground. His most recent novel Short Order Frame Up is published by Mainstay Press. He can be reached Read other articles by Ron, or visit Ron's website.

Unintended Consequences In Nuclear Pakistan | By Fred Branfman

[Under Vice President Joe] Biden’s approach … American forces would concentrate on eliminating the Qaeda leadership, primarily in Pakistan, using Special Operations forces, Predator missile strikes and other surgical tactics.

—The New York Times, Sept. 30, 2009

Biden has argued against increasing the number of U.S. combat troops in Afghanistan. …

—The Washington Post, Oct. 2, 2009

Statesmen must be judged by the consequences of their actions. Whatever Nixon and Kissinger intended for Cambodia, their efforts created catastrophe.

—William Shawcross, “Sideshow: Kissinger, Nixon and the Destruction of Cambodia” (2002), Page 396 (Emphasis added.)

“I think you’re closer to the World War II generals than you are to the Vietnam ones.”Dwight Eisenhower was the obvious model. “You may not realize it, but you have more influence than any other military leader in this country right now. More than the Joint Chiefs. You can make a case for you not staying, because there’s no job after this that will compare to it.” The implied suggestion was politics.

—Bob Woodward quoting Gen. Jack Keane mentoring his protégé, Gen. David Petraeus, in “The War Within: A Secret White House History, 2006-2008” (2009) (Emphasis added.)

The Oct. 7 Wall Street Journal reports that President Barack Obama is reading Gordon Goldstein’s “Lessons in Disaster: McGeorge Bundy and the Path to War in Vietnam,” a warning against heeding inevitable military requests for more troops. But however valuable Goldstein’s book might be, William Shawcross’ book “Sideshow: Nixon, Kissinger and the Destruction of Cambodia” is far more relevant and significant.

For no matter how much Gen. David Petraeus, Gen. Stanley McChrystal and other hawks disagree with the Biden doves on troop increases, both sides reportedly concur on the importance of going after Taliban and al-Qaida “sanctuaries” in Pakistan, a policy eerily reminiscent of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger’s disastrous decision to widen the Vietnam War into Cambodia in 1969. The Obama administration has already begun to escalate the fighting in Pakistan, a policy that could make even the Nixon-Kissinger destruction of Cambodia seem like a pleasant memory.

If U.S. military leaders are right that they cannot prevail in Afghanistan without escalating into Pakistan, this is the strongest possible argument for withdrawing from Afghanistan. For nothing, not even Taliban rule in Kabul, could justify allowing the tiny Afghan tail to wag a giant, nuclear-armed Pakistani dog whose stability is clearly America’s very top priority in the region. Further instability in Pakistan would only benefit al-Qaida, which has already made deep inroads into Pakistan and is unlikely to return to Afghanistan even if the U.S. withdraws from there. Former N.Y. Times correspondent Stephen Kinzer is right: “It should be engraved on the minds of every American diplomat: Do nothing that will further destabilize Pakistan” (from the “Rethink Afghanistan” video).

Irving Kristol’s recent death reminded us of his phrase “the law of unintended consequences,” referring to neoconservative attacks on well-meaning liberal domestic policies. Both neo- and garden-variety conservatives, however, have never been willing to apply this same “law” to their far greater international disasters. There is no record, for example, of Kristol’s son Bill or his fellow conservatives acknowledging the blow to U.S. interests and the enormous human suffering—including over 1 million Iraqis dead, wounded or made homeless—caused by the neoconservative-engineered invasion of Iraq.

As indifferent to non-American human suffering as have been conservatives, neoconservatives and neo-Stalinists like Dick Cheney, however, they presumably did notintend to see their invasion of Iraq destroy the Bush presidency, bring to power Barack Obama and congressional Democrats, strengthen anti-American terrorist forces around the globe, and vastly increase worldwide hatred for America due to the Bush administration’s making torture an official state policy for the first time in American history.

Given the U.S. history of unintended consequences in Cambodia and Iraq, not to mention Iran and dozens of other instances, it seems at first glance incredible that so-called Obama doves are seriously calling for increasing drone strikes and clandestine U.S. ground incursions into Pakistan, while pressuring the Pakistani army to expand fighting even though its campaign into the Swat Valley has already produced Pakistan’s greatest humanitarian disaster since 1947. The most likely explanation for this irrationality is at least partly that they see escalation in Pakistan as a necessary political counterweight to the Petraeus-McChrystal push for a troop buildup in Afghanistan, which they oppose.

Their concern is understandable. Bob Woodward has reported how Petraeus mentor Gen. Jack Keane has already begun prepping Petraeus for a run for president. A Republican Party desperate for leaders other than Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee will probably draft him as a presidential candidate if he can continue to avoid blame for his disastrous mismanagement of the Af-Pak theater. Petraeus protégé McChrystal’s disloyal and unprecedented public pressure on Obama for a troop buildup has clearly functioned as an attempt to blame Obama for the inevitable Afghan disasters to come even if Petraeus does not run for president. Obama’s aides are undoubtedly desperate to find a credible alternative to a growing U.S. troop buildup and skyrocketing American casualties in Afghanistan.

Though understandable, however, escalating in Pakistan would be dangerously and foolishly myopic, risking “unintended consequences” far exceeding even the disasters of Indochina and Iraq, and crippling the Obama presidency even more than if it were to withdraw from an Afghanistan where al-Qaida is no longer present and to which it is unlikely to return.

Petraeus, as the military chief of the Af-Pak theater enjoying even greater “influence” than the Joint Chiefs, has already seen his forays into Pakistan drive the Taliban and al-Qaida eastward, vastly increase both their strength and that of homegrown terrorists, create a vast upsurge in popular anti-American feeling, divide the Pakistani military, and destabilize an already unpopular and corrupt Pakistani government. Further destabilizing a nuclear-armed Pakistan already engaged in a cold and sometimes hot war with India could lead to a U.S. foreign policy crisis dwarfing Afghanistan and Iraq combined.

Shawcross’ “Sideshow” provides a cautionary tale of the kind of unintended consequences that going after enemy “sanctuaries” can lead to. President Nixon, after taking office in January 1969, and Henry Kissinger, who directed U.S. policy and bombing in Cambodia, decided to go after North Vietnamese “sanctuaries” in the sparsely populated northeast regions of an otherwise neutral and peaceful Cambodia. They began by unilaterally conducting secret and massive B-52 bombing raids, violating both the U.S. Constitution and the Nuremberg principles. When the bombing raids did not succeed, they invaded Cambodia with U.S. and South Vietnamese forces. When that failed they escalated their bombing, using B-52s against civilian targets in one of the most savage bombing campaigns of civilians in history. They also created and propped up the corrupt and totally incompetent regime of Gen. Lon Nol, who had overthrown Prince Sihanouk, until Nol’s loss to the murderous Khmer Rouge in April 1975.

The “unintended consequences” of the Nixon-Kissinger attempt to destroy North Vietnamese “sanctuaries” in Cambodia included:

—Driving the North Vietnamese westward into Cambodia, weakening and destabilizing the Lon Nol government.

—Transforming the Khmer Rouge from a small and ineffectual force numbering no more than a few hundred into a large army capable of defeating the combined forces of U.S. airpower and the Lon Nol army. Had Nixon and Kissinger respected Sihanouk and not bombed and invaded Cambodia, there is little reason to believe that the Khmer Rouge would have taken power.

—Fostering widespread pogroms and massacres of Vietnamese citizens of Cambodia, poisoning Vietnamese-Cambodian relations even further.

—Murdering, maiming, impoverishing and starving countless Cambodians, even before the Khmer Rouge came to power.

And this occurred in a nation of only 7 million that posed little threat to anyone beyond Vietnam. The Pakistan issue, of course, is far, far more serious.

Interestingly enough, Kissinger—like so many others, including his protégé Richard Holbrooke—appears to have learned nothing from his destruction of Cambodia. Writing in Newsweek on Oct. 3, Kissinger opined that “a sudden reversal of American policy would fundamentally affect domestic stability in Pakistan by freeing the Qaeda forces along the Afghan border for even deeper incursions into Pakistan, threatening domestic chaos.” Of course, the opposite is true in reality. It is the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan that has driven “the Qaeda forces”—and the Taliban—further east into Pakistan, threatening the same kind of “domestic chaos” that Kissinger produced 40 years ago when his bombing drove the North Vietnamese and Khmer Rouge further west into Cambodia.

But Kissinger’s remark about what al-Qaida might do in the event of a U.S. withdrawal is more to the point. He is fatuous in suggesting that an American withdrawal from Pakistan would “free” al-Qaida to move more deeply into Pakistan. Al-Qaida is already making deep inroads into Pakistan beyond the Northwest Frontier Territories and is likely to continue to do so whatever happens in Afghanistan. But if so, this raises a basic question: Why are we fighting in Afghanistan if “Qaeda forces” are unlikely to return there even if the Taliban wins?

It is impossible at this point to predict the precise “unintended consequences” of further U.S. escalation in Pakistan. Experts worry that dissident elements in the Pakistani military might supply one or more of Pakistan’s dozens of nuclear weapons to terrorists; that anti-American terrorist forces could increase as unexpectedly as did the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia; that a further strengthening of al-Qaida could lead to new 9/11s; that the Pakistani government could be weakened from within; and that tensions between Pakistan and India could reach unprecedentedly dangerous level.

Two things are certain at this point, however.

First, the U.S. has even less control over events in Pakistan than it does in Afghanistan. It is the height of hubris, the arrogance of power and sheer folly to continue unleashing forces there which it cannot control.

Second, despite the horror of the Nixon-Kissinger destruction of Cambodia, it did indeed remain a “sideshow.” Today, it is Afghanistan which is the sideshow. Allowing Pakistan to become the main event would constitute the greatest U.S foreign policy error of the post-World War II era, destroy the Obama presidency and lead to the election of an authoritarian Republican president in 2012 who could make us yearn for the days of George W. Bush.

Fred Branfman, the editor of “Voices From the Plain of Jars: Life Under an Air War” (Harper & Row, 1972), exposed the U.S. secret air war in Laos while living there from 1967 to 1971 and went on to develop solar, educational and Information Age initiatives for California Gov. Jerry Brown and national policymakers.

In Concord, The Minuteman--Unlawful Patriot?

By Jim Burrows

This is the third in my series of postings capturing my thoughts and reflections from my frequent visits to the Old North Bridge in Concord, the site to which I most often go to pray and meditate these last half dozen years. The course of this series has followed my usual path through the site. In the first, I started where each visit begins and ends, at the graves of the two British soldiers. In the second, I proceeded to the obelisk and contemplated the historic parallels between their mission to Concord and our invasion of Iraq. In this installment we proceed across the bridge to the monument that was the reason for my visit on September 12, 2001, the first time I came to the site explicitly to pray.

Today, we visit the Concord Minuteman. My prayer on September 12 was one of thanksgiving as well as one of mourning and remembrance. It seemed clear to me that just as the Minutemen defended their homes and neighbors in Colonial America, a number of the passengers of Flight 93 constituted the Militia in 2001. The details were sketchy, but it seemed clear from the reports of phone calls from the passengers that a group of men and women had gathered, determined that the hijackers had to be stopped from using their plane as a weapon, and charged the cockpit.

I came here to honor them, and their predecessors of the last 3 centuries, free citizens, volunteers who have stood to defend our Republic and Commonwealth. A few weeks later, in early October, I came here to pray before writing an essay entitled "
9-11: America Victorious", in which I protested the portrayal of 9-11 as an American failure. This angered me because it gives too little credit to patriots like Beamer, Bingham, Burnett, and Glick who exemplify the Minuteman spirit.

In all the times that I have discussed this subject at the foot of the Minuteman statue, never has anyone disagreed with my contention that the Flight 93 heroes are the modern versions of
Isaac Davis, and his fellows. Some have been surprised that they hadn't thought of it that way before, but none have taken issue.

Not so my other observation. You see, the
Minuteman as portrayed inDaniel Chester French's statue is clearly an Unlawful Combatant, or more correctly, he is not in terms of the Geneva Conventions, a "Lawful Combatant". According to Article 4 of the Third Geneva Convention, in order to qualify as a Prisoner of War (a Lawful Combatant), one must fulfill the following requirements:

(a) That of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates;
(b) That of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance;
(c) That of carrying arms openly;
(d) That of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.

The colonial militias at the time of the Battle of Concord wore no uniforms, and displayed no fixed distinctive sign, though some did wear war paint and others cockades, but these were more designation of rank than of allegiance. It can also be argued that they did not conduct their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war. Certainly it was so argued at the time. One of the fallen British soldiers at the North Bridge was described by a fellow as appearing to have been scalped. The militia fired from cover, retreated into civilian houses and blended into the civilian populace. There is reason to believe that the cannons that the Governor was looking for in Concord were stolen from the British in Worcester. In the months leading up to the Battle of Concord, the militia had been used to intimidate the Governor's appointed judges, and so on.

Please, dear reader, understand that I do not say these things to disparage the Minutemen or the militias in general. You will be hard pressed to find someone more proud of the history or citizens of the Commonwealth or the Republic. I vehemently support the revolutionaries and insurgents who were our founding fathers. They were free men who fought for Liberty and for us, their descendants. They founded one of, if not the, greatest countries ever to grace the pages of history.

Rather, I bring these things up because I am critical of the Geneva Conventions and even more so of our nation's relationship to them. You see, in direct contradiction of the policies and opinions of the current administration, I hold that the Geneva Conventions
do not cover enoughpeople, rather than too many. They are not quaint, should not be abandoned or narrowed. They should be expanded. As they stand they would not cover the very men who fought to create our country. They would not cover the farmer who sets aside his plow to take up his rifle.

Ah, but you say, what of paragraph 6? (At least those of you facile with GCIII Article 4, Section A.) What of
6. Inhabitants of a non-occupied territory, who on the approach of the enemy spontaneously take up arms to resist the invading forces, without having had time to form themselves into regular armed units, provided they carry arms openly and respect the laws and customs of war.

We were, however an occupied territory, a colony. Recall, if you will, that what had the Colonists up in arms (literally)—gathering the cannons, muskets and ammunition that Governor Gage sent his troops to find and confiscate were the "Intolerable Acts", including the Quartering Act, the reason that that the framers felt it was necessary to include in the Constitution the prohibition that No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Also, we had plenty of time. We had organized militias for more than a century. We did not "spontaneously take up arms". We chose the path of irregular militias rather than regular armies. No, paragraph 6 is not for us.

I'm no lawyer, especially not one versed in international law, so there may be something that I have overlooked, some way in which one might argue that the colonial militiamen might be covered by GCIII and GCIV, but at best, the matter is unclear. And so, if we were to be true to the history of our nation, we would be pressing the international community to extend the coverage of the Geneva Conventions, and not as the current administration has done, worked to restrict that coverage.

This country was founded by insurgents, by free men who banded together for self protection who believed that the government was "of, by and for the people", that it takes its legitimacy from the will and the consent of the governed. We reject monarchy based on divine right and the subordination of the people to the state. The restrictions in the Geneva Conventions are based on the premise that only a state may raise an army, that fighters who are part of a recognized army fielded by a legitimate state should be protected. Individuals who fight for their own liberty, for the defense of their neighbors without state blessing are not as valued and protected. Unlawful Combatants. Insurgents and other non-state sponsored individuals are not protected. This should not be surprising as the Geneva Conventions are agreements between states.

It is perfectly understandable, but in terms of what happened on April 19, 1775, and the years that followed it, of the principles of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitutions of the United States and of the several Sates, it is not very American. It is very Bush, however. The current administration believes very much in rule by a strong individual, a Commander in Chief who is the sole decider in a Unified Executive. They have advanced political theories that dismiss individual liberty for the good of the State and the nation. They have sought to limit the number of people protected by the Geneva Conventions, and by our laws. For them, States are more important than individuals, rights are granted to citizens by the state rather than the other way around, and of course all power in the state is wielded by the sole supervisor of the unitary executive.

The lesson of Isaac Davis, the Acton Minuteman immortalized in the Concord Minuteman statue is that the farmer, the gunsmith, the man who was convinced that if he took up arms he would die, takes up arms because it is the right thing to do, because a patriot protects his neighbor's town from being burned by an occupying army seeking to disarm honest farmers. Here is not a soldier, not a lawful combatant, but a gunsmith, a farmer, a free man, chosen by the common consent of his fellows, to lead the first charge.

This is America.

But as ever, don't believe me. Read the history of the
Battle of Concord and the Intolerable Acts. Read of the life of Isaac Davis, and the owl he believed foretold his death but which did not hold him back. Read the story of Mark Bingham, the gay patriot from San Francisco and the words of his mother, Alice Hoglan regarding the ground that is hallowed by the bones of her son and the terrorists he died fighting. Decide for yourself what the memorials in Concord mean at their heart, what it means to honor the enemy dead, what it means to live in a Commonwealth and a Republic founded by insurgents, rebels and citizen soldiers.

Be a free voice.
Be Liberty's voice.
Cry, "Freedom!"

Vox Libertas

Posted by Vox Libertasat 8:53 PM

Labels: 9/11, battle of concord, Beamer, Bingham, Burnett, concord, Flight 93, freedom,Glick, history, in concord, Isaac Davis, Mark Bingham, militia, minuteman, old north bridge, politics


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