Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld--War Crimes

by Richard Crews

George Bush was President, Dick Cheney was Vice President, and Donald Rumsfeld was Secretary of Defense for several years while the U.S. was at war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Did they condone torture of prisoners? It seems clear from reports of the International Red Cross and sworn testimony of guards at Guantanamo Bay that they did. And they did not just condone it--they did not just set policies and procedures establishing the use of torture; they sent specific, direct orders again and again--hour after hour; day, week, month, and year after year--next use such-and-such technique on such-and-such specific prisoner. The interrogators were unsure of their legal and moral footing; they asked their higher-ups again and again; and they got back specific, direct orders--again and again.

Were the techniques they ordered truly torture? It seems clear that they were. The prisoners were told that their families were dead and their homelands had been destroyed by nuclear bombs; they were kept for months in solitary confinement in tiny cells (sometimes even for days in coffin-like boxes deprived of air and light), naked in freezing temperatures, beaten, dragged around by a rope around the neck, shackled and kept standing for days on end, deprived of sleep and food, subjected to water-boarding, and interrogated for as much as 18 to 20 hours a day. "Torture," according to the United Nations Convention Against Torture, is “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted...."

Were Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld guilty of war crimes? It seems clear that they were. "War crimes" are defined in the statute that established the International Criminal Court in The Hague to include "causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health" including "torture or inhumane treatment."

Should they be indicted by that International Criminal Court? Many people believe that they should. Other political leaders of other countries have been.

Will they be indicted by that court? Probably not. That would involve delicate, tangled threads of international diplomacy.