Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Fwd: War Criminals 'R' US

Published on Monday, January 29, 2007 by CommonDreams.org
by Richard Curtis

Many years ago during boot camp I learned a series of General Orders.
And while these are difficult to recall (and oddly enough even to
find) any longer, one of the things I recall learning was an
obligation to follow all lawful orders. Part of what we learned had
to do with the military having made changes in training following the
War Crimes at My Lai. My clear impression was that the Navy intended
us to know our obligations under the Hague Conventions of 1889 and
1907, the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the Nuremberg Conventions.

These Conventions have legal standing as US law due to their having
been ratified by our Senate. These days the most one hears about such
things tends to involve the case of Lt. Ehren Watada, and his refusal
to follow orders to deploy to Iraq. Watada's claim is that as the
Iraq War was instigated on false pretexts it is clearly a violation
of the above Conventions and in particular a Crime Against Peace. The
Army's position is that Watada refused orders and that this behavior
is criminal under the Army's legal system. The judge hearing the case
refuses to allow the defense to even use Watada's reasons for
refusing these illegal orders to be considered.

Why would a military judge refuse to allow an officer to make the
case that in refusing an order the officer was following a higher
law, which is itself recognized by the military? This seems to be
obviously irrational. A judge should be bound by the law, including
important provisions of international law that have been incorporated
into domestic law. For a judge to refuse to follow the law is beyond

But there is a reason. Watada's challenge is that the Iraq War is
illegal. This fact seems beyond question. A legal war cannot
logically be premised on lies, and we all know the Iraq War was
premised on a series of well coordinated lies (the "Downing Street
Memo" being the proof any rational person needs). The judge cannot
allow Watada to argue the War is illegal because it is obviously
illegal, and as such constitutes a War Crime, so the judge disregards
the law - much to the shame of us all.

If the war is acknowledged as illegal that means admitting that
everyone who participates in it, plans it, or orders it is a war

As a society, our morality is incredibly shallow, and we have a
difficult time dealing with challenges such as these. Watada is
obviously right and those who prosecute him can only succeed if they
can put the law aside in making their charges stick.

We don't like to think that a young Marine drafted into the military
via the Poverty Draft and then sent off to war in Iraq is a War
Criminal - but he is. They all are. This is the obvious moral truth
that follows from Watada's challenge.

This is what the Nuremburg Conventions demand. One cannot be excused
from illegal acts simply because one was ordered to commit those
acts. We are all moral beings, even in the military, and as such have
a legal and moral obligation to refuse to participate in War Crimes.
And yet tens of thousands of military personal, not to mention the
entire military command up to the president, are by definition War

This is why Watada is not allowed to make a reasonable defense. This
is why our politicians and media refuse to discuss the details of his
case. This is why most Americans know nothing of international law.
The law is clear. The history and origins of the war are clear. It is
a crime. And those who prosecute this war are criminals.

These are just the facts of the case. The real question is will the
American people tolerate being lead by War Criminals? Will the
American people decide that the law and morality matter? Or will we
continue to pretend that if someone in a position of power says that
it is so that it is so? Nuremburg demands of us that we think morally
and think for ourselves. Nuremburg stands in the shadows condemning
our leaders and our military.

Watada properly and legally refused an illegal order and we must now
admit the truth of his position and recognize that we as a society
stand condemned in the light of this truth. Morality is not easy, and
thinking for oneself in a time of wars and lies is even harder. There
are times when we are tested. This is one of those times.

Are we any better than those Germans who just followed orders?

Richard Curtis, PhD is a recent graduate of the School of Religion at
Claremont Graduate University and presently an adjunct professor of
philosophy at Shoreline Community College in Seattle, WA. ###

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