Saturday, December 27, 2008

Former Officer and Diplomat Calls For Rule of Law

by Ann Wright

After having served in eight Presidential administrations during my 29 years in the US Army/Army Reserves and 16 years as a United States Diplomat, I resigned on March 19, 2003 in opposition to the decision ofthe Bush Administration to invade and occupy Iraq. During the past five and one-half years, the American public and Congress have been presented with evidence that President George Bush,Vice-President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense Colin Powell, and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice purposefully and knowingly misled the American people,the United States Congress, the United Nations, and the world with false intelligence about Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction, the original rationale the Bush administration gave for the need for military action against Saddam Hussein and Iraq.

Others who resigned about the time I did, namely British diplomat and deputy chief of legal affairs for the British Foreign Service, Elizabeth Wilmshurst, specifically put in her March 20, 2003 letter of resignation to British Prime Minister Tony Blair, that use of force against Iraq without a United Nations Security Council authorization amounts to the“crime of aggression.”

A crime of aggression is a crime against the peace, and by international law is a war crime. The ten “Downing Street memos” written by senior British governmentofficials to Tony Blair of their conversations with senior Bushadministration officials from April 2002 through the summer of 2002, tell Tony Blair that the Bush Administration had provided no legal basis for invading and occupying Iraq. They would have to “fix the intelligence” on weapons of mass destruction in order to use that as a rationale for military action against Iraq. Initiating a war of choice by invading and occupying a sovereign country that has not harmed another country or the international community, is a war crime for which those responsible must be held accountable.

The leaders of the super powers of today are no more immune to prosecution for iolation of international law—particularly a violation that is a war of aggression that has killed over one million Iraqis—than were the leaders of Germany and Japan who invaded and occupied other countries and were responsible for the deaths of millions of people during World War II. Those leaders were prosecuted, as must Bush, Cheney, Powell, Rumsfeld, and Rice be prosecuted. If they are not held accountable, then future U.S.presidents will attempt similar criminal actions.

Other war crimes have been committed by U.S. government officials for which they must be held accountable. The Bush Administration’s policy ofusing torture to gain information from detainees violates U.S. domestic law as well as international law. Written memoranda and conversations between senior Bush administration officials now available to prosecutors provide the details of an orchestrated campaign of interrogation that utilized torture techniques that was approved by Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, CIA director George Tenet, advisor to the President and later Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel John Yoo, Defense Department legal counsel William Haynes, former Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel Jay Bybee who wrote the August, 2002 torture memorandum.

By a vote of 17 to 0, a bipartisan Senate Armed Service committee report released December 11, 2008, concluded that decisions made by Rumsfeld werea "direct cause" of widespread detainee abuses, and that other Bush Administration officials were to blame for creating a legal and moral climate that contributed to inhumane treatment.

The abuse of detainees atAbu Ghraib in late 2003 was not simply the result of a few soldiers acting on their own. Instead, the report documents a series of high-level decisions in the Bush administration that "conveyed the message that physical pressures and degradation were appropriate treatment for detainees in U.S. military custody." The report presents its harshest criticism at Rumsfeld's decision in December 2002 to authorize the use of aggressive interrogation techniques at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

In a December 15, 2008, interview with ABC News, Vice-President Cheney said of the CIA’s use of water boarding (a technique universally described as an act of torture): "I was aware of the program, certainly, and involved in helping get the process cleared." Asked whether he still believes itwas appropriate to use the water boarding method on terrorism suspects,Cheney said: "I do."

Military officers who passed on the administration’s decision to violate domestic and international law on torture must be prosecuted. They include former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard Meyers, Central Command commander General Tommy Franks, former US forces in Iraq commander General Ricardo Sanchez and Major General Geoffrey Miller who implemented “improved interrogation techniques” in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib.

Congressional complicity in war crimes must be addressed if the Congress is ever to regain its checks and balance role in government, much less reclaim its constitutional authority to decide on whether the United States goes to war.

After the Democrats were elected to lead the Congress in November, 2006, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House JudiciaryCommittee chair John Conyers refused to initiate hearings that could have led to the impeachment of Bush and Cheney, despite at least twenty books that researched the evidence of their criminal actions. Nor did they apparently read the 35 articles of impeachment prepared by Congressman Dennis Kucinich as Pelosi still maintains she hasn’t “seen the evidence”of criminal wrongdoing.

As a retired Army officer and a U.S. diplomat who was taught that we in government service are held accountable for our actions, I urge President Obama to authorize a special prosecutor to investigate the invasion of Iraq and torture as war crimes committed by senior officials of the Bush Administration. Rather than being “divisive,” the decision to investigate and hold accountable if warranted, those who committed crimes while inpublic office will show that we believe in the rule of law.

The world community, our friends and foes alike, is watching to see what course the United States takes.

Ann Wright served 29 years in the US Army/Army Reserves and retired as aColonel. She was 16 years in the US diplomatic corps serving in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Afghanistan and Mongolia and was on the small team that reopened the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan in December, 2001. Wright resigned from the US Department of State in March 2003 in opposition to the Iraq War.

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