Opinions Expressed in "Rants," while informed by Catholic doctrine, are merely the opinions of the author.

George W – War Criminal?

Was George W. Bush a War Criminal?  Some people are saying so.  Some pretty important people too.  Now that George W.’s term as President is coming to an end, and his person and his Office are no longer the same thing any more, there are some who suggest that he and Cheney and Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz may be subject to indictment in the Hague World Court. 


So are they guilty?

Well, Wikipedia says:

‘War crimes are "violations of the laws or customs of war", including but not limited to "murder, the ill-treatment or deportation of civilian residents of an occupied territory to slave labor camps", "the murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war", the killing of hostages, "the wanton destruction of cities, towns and villages, and any devastation not justified by military necessity".’

The most famous examples of war crimes are those charged at the Nuremberg trials after WWII, and the Tokyo trials, same war – in which individuals and states, and their Heads of State, were found guilty of, among other things:

- wanton destruction and appropriation of property, particularly non-military
- attacks against civilian populations
- depriving a prisoner of war to a fair trial
- torture or inhumane treatment

Also thrown into the mix, both Germany and Japan, and their heads of state, were charged with waging what’s called a “war of aggression.” 

Wikipedia defines it:

‘A war of aggression is a military conflict waged in the absence of "a necessity of self-defense, instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means, and no moment of deliberation." Waging such a war of aggression is a crime under the customary international law. It is generally agreed by scholars in international law that the military actions of the Nazi regime in World War II in its search for so-called "Lebensraum" are characteristic of a war of aggression.’

The United Nations, of which the United States is a member, basically has the right to call a war a war of aggression, and the U.N. Security Council, of which the U.S. is a member, should determine if any military intervention is justified before it takes place.

A justified war matches fairly closely to what the Catholic Church would call a “just war,”  Wiki refers to the Catechism on that one:
“More recently, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in paragraph 2309, lists four strict conditions for "legitimate defense by military force":
- the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;
- all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective
- there must be serious prospects of success
- the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition”

By “strict,” the above definition means that ALL FOUR of the conditions must be satisfied before a military intervention can be called a “just war.”

So, in the case of the U.S. war in Iraq, the justification for war was:

- First the claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and the intention of using them on the U.S. 

Problem, the U.S. never had proof; in fact they didn’t even have persuasive evidence – because there wasn’t any, because there weren’t any weapons of mass destruction.  The “experts” fudged the data.

- Then they refined the argument that Iraq has the capacity and/or intention to develop WMD’s.

Well, intentions are impossible to prove – and as for the capacity, technically Canada has the capacity to develop WMD’s, chemical, biological, and nuclear.  Should the U.S. invade Canada?

- Then they talked about how Saddam Hussein was allowing for the training of anti-American terrorists, particularly Al Queda, in Iraq.

Actually, Al Queda wasn’t in Iraq before the U.S. invasion.  But they’re there now.  Great place to go if you want to kill some American soldiers.

- Then it shifted to the removal of Saddam Hussein, who himself was a war criminal, was guilty of crimes against humanity, was a threat to the U.S., was a threat to his own people, was an evil dictator, a tyrant, etc.

All of these are true.  And the world might be a safer place without Saddam Hussein.  Still, the question is whether the U.S. has the RIGHT to remove Saddam Hussein.  Technically, only the United Nations has the right to decide to remove someone from power – that is, the collective wisdom of all the world leaders; that way such a decision is DEMOCRATIC – and the U.N. never condoned or authorized the U.S. to go in and get Saddam.

An American will argue – the U.S. shouldn’t need permission from the U.N. to protect its own citizens.  But U.S. citizens were never in any danger from Saddam. 

The American invasion of Iraq was an example of what is now called a “pre-emptive war.”  The idea is: if we know they’re going to attack us, we can attack them first.  Did the U.S. demonstrate that Iraq was going to attack it?  They said that they did, but did they?

It certainly does not satisfy the Church’s definition of a just war. This is why many church leaders, including the Pope himself, have expressed grave concern about the slippery-slope that undertaking a "pre-emptive war" represents - the threat to the self-determination and self-security of EVERYONE that isn't is powerful as the United States.

Estimates vary, depending on who you ask, but the average estimate is that over 600,000 Iraqi’s have died as a result of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, including its subsequent breakdown of infrastructure, increased lawlessness, reduced health conditions, sectarian violence – about 31% of that number was a direct result the U.S. led coalition itself.  Most of those deaths are civilians.

Further questions that now arise are: could the Iraqi war have been, in fact, motivated by economic interests, rather than threats to U.S. security: the price of oil, the presence of American contractors in Iraq, certain executive members’ connections to such contracts (like Dick Cheney), the idea of having an American "province," "foothold," did someone say "colony?" right in the middle of the middle east? 

Also thrown into the mix is suspension of human rights as defined in the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights, and the use of torture by the U.S. at their Guantanamo Bay holding facility – not technically on U.S. soil, so not subject to U.S. laws.  Most prominent in the news has been the use of a form of torture called “water boarding,” which when used against American soldiers in WWII by the Japanese, resulted in Japan being found guilty of war crimes.


Bottom line is that the U.S. got really scared on September 11, 2001, and the natural response to such fear is to want to reassert its (illusory) feeling of control over its own destiny.  If the schoolyard bully, we’ll call him Georgy, gets hit in the back of the head with a rock by a kid named, oh, I don’t know, Osama, then Georgy’s response is going to be to want to beat up Osama.  But what if he can’t find Osama?  We’ll Georgy looks over at that other kid, named Saddam – same religion as Osama, kinda looks like Osama – and beats him up instead.  And the dominoes fall. 

See my rant called How to Fight Terrorism

Also, a MUST-SEE documentary called Why We Fight – this documentary is nothing but facts.

So is George W. Bush, still currently the Head of State of the United States of America, guilty of war crimes, or of waging a war of aggression.  He certainly isn’t the first President to remove a dictator that wasn’t favorable to U.S. self-interests, such as in South America – but in those cases, the U.S. knew it was wrong, so tried to keep it a secret.  Not this time – that’s what makes it so scary.

So he’s not the first.  But I wonder, is there any way to make sure he’s the last?