Letter to Congress on World Tribunal on Iraq
The Hon. Kendrick Meek
1039 Longworth House Office Building
Washington DC 20515
Tuesday, June 28, 2005
I hope that you have followed the proceedings of the World Tribunal on Iraq, which has been meeting in Istanbul and which issued its Preliminary Declaration yesterday. The Tribunal is a Jury of Conscience drawn from 10 countries to hear charges relating to the war of aggression being waged against the people of Iraq by the governments of the United States and the United Kingdom. The Tribunal has heard testimony from 54 witnesses and advocates, and this testimony should be helpful to U.S. Congressional committees that must eventually investigate many of the same charges. You can download the text of the Preliminary Declaration from http://www.worldtribunal.org/main/docs/jurystatement.rtf
The Tribunal was constituted in a similar format to a Grand Jury in the United States, and has handed down the following 13 charges against the United States Government:
1) Planning, preparing and waging the supreme crime of a war of aggression in contravention of the United Nations Charter and the Nuremberg Principles.
2) Targeting the civilian population of Iraq and civilian infrastructure.
3) Using disproportionate force and indiscriminate weapons systems.
4) Failing to safeguard the lives of civilians during military activities and during the occupation period thereafter.
5) Using deadly violence against peaceful protesters.
6) Imposing punishments without trial or charge, including collective punishment.
7) Subjecting Iraqi soldiers and civilians to torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.
8) Re-writing the laws of a country that has been illegally invaded and occupied.
9) Willfully devastating the environment.
10) Actively creating conditions under which the status of Iraqi women has seriously been degraded.
11) Failing to protect humanity’s rich archaeological and cultural heritage.
12) Obstructing the right to information, including the censoring of Iraqi media.
13) Redefining torture in violation of international law, to allow the use of torture and illegal detentions.
Additional charges were established against the United Nations Security Council, the Governments of the “Coalition of the Willing”, the Governments of Other Countries, Private Corporations and the Major Corporate Media.
The Tribunal recognized “the right of the Iraqi people to resist the illegal occupation of their country and to develop independent institutions” and affirmed “that the right to resist the occupation is the right to wage a struggle for self-determination, freedom, and independence as derived from the Charter of the United Nations”.
Finally, the Tribunal made ten recommendations:
1) “The immediate and unconditional withdrawal of the coalition forces from Iraq.”
2) Payment of reparations and compensation to Iraq by the U.S. and the U.K.
3) “That all laws, contracts, treaties, and institutions established under occupation which the Iraqi people deem inimical to their interests, should be considered null and void”.
4) The closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison and all offshore U.S. military prisons.
5) “An exhaustive investigation of those responsible for crimes of aggression and crimes against humanity in Iraq.”
6) “A process of accountability” extending to journalists who lied, media outlets who promoted hatred, and CEOs of war-profiteering corporations.
7) Consumer action against war-profiteers.
8) That soldiers refuse to obey illegal orders or to participate in this illegal war, and that other countries provide them with political asylum.
9) Reinforcement of a campaign to dismantle all U.S. military bases abroad.
10) Opposition to the provision of material, logistical or moral support for the occupation of Iraq by any government.
Whether you or I support each of these recommendations or believe that the charges of the Tribunal are warranted, these serious charges and specific recommendations are now being disseminated to every country in the world, and will receive significant popular support in nearly all of them.
The failure of the United States Congress to act on behalf of the American people to protect us from a corrupt and manipulative Administration bent on worldwide aggression has brought our country to an unprecedented crisis in its foreign policy. The effects of this crisis extend beyond the world of diplomacy into the everyday lives of Americans in increasingly obvious ways:
a) The pain of thousands of families whose loved ones have been killed or maimed in Iraq and elsewhere;
b) The anguish of servicemen and women living with what they have done on the illegal orders of our unscrupulous leaders;
c) The failure to realistically address the looming energy crisis because of our delusional reliance on military force to solve this problem;
d) The growing divisions in our society created by a cynical propaganda machine that uses chauvinism, fear and religious and racial prejudice to mislead large segments of the population about the nature of the war;
e) The gradual undermining of our trade-based economy by isolation from the rest of the world coupled with unsustainable levels of public and private debt;
f) The lack of public funds to deal with the real problems of real people due to the military budget and the debts incurred to fund it.
I hope that the recent interest shown by some of your colleagues in discovering the truth behind the lies we have been told about our involvement in Iraq will bear fruit. However, we already know that this war did not begin on March 19th 2003 or end on May 1st 2003. It continues today under the same shroud of secrecy and false pretences under which it was launched in 2002. It must be stopped. Please help.
Letter to Congress on U.S. Embargo of Buhrez, Iraq
The Hon. Kendrick Meek
1039 Longworth House Office Building
Washington DC 20515
Saturday, June 25, 2005
Disturbing stories are coming out of Iraq of new atrocities and violations of international law committed by American forces there:
“Near the city of Buhrez, 5 kilometers south of Baquba, two Humvees of American soldiers were destroyed recently. American and Iraqi soldiers came to the city afterwards and cut all the phones, cut the water, cut medicine from arriving in the city and told them that until the people of the city bring the “terrorists” to them, the embargo will continue.”
This report went on to explain that the embargo had already been in effect for a week, and that no one had been allowed to leave the town. At first, Al-Sadr’s militia was allowed to bring in some water, food and medicine, but this had now been prohibited. With American leadership, the 4th Geneva Convention (1949) outlawed collective punishment of protected persons in occupied territory in response to precisely this type of action by German and Japanese forces during World War II. Now our own forces are committing the same crimes.
In November, U.S. Marines destroyed Fallujah and massacred its people under “weapons-free” rules of engagement, a euphemism for a “free-fire zone”. Males between the ages of 15 and 40 were not permitted to leave the city before the assault, ensuring their deaths. The Nazzal Emergency Hospital was bombed to the ground, killing doctors, staff and patients. Mark 77 Mod 5 bombs (“improved” napalm, with jet fuel in place of gasoline) were used to incinerate houses and the people inside them, and there have been allegations that white phosphorus, a banned chemical weapon, was used in artillery shells.
Recent reports show that the destruction of Fallujah has become a model for assaults on smaller towns all over Western and Northern Iraq, including al-Quaim and Haditha. A doctor from al-Quaim sent out “an URGENT humanitarian request from the hospitals in the west of the country”, saying he had proof of the American destruction of a hospital there, as well as of the murder of a patient in his bed and the burning of “the whole store of medication of the west area of Iraq”.
When will our leaders come to their senses and put a stop to this madness? When will you stand up as a Congressman and as a member of the House Armed Services Committee to express the outrage that more and more Americans are feeling as we gradually come to understand what is being done in our name? What will happen to our neighbors’ children when they finally come home and have to live with what they have done on the illegal orders of this corrupt government?
Letter to John Conyers on Charge of Aggression
The Hon. John Conyers
2426 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington DC 20515
Thursday, June 2nd, 2005
Dear Mr. Conyers,
I understand that you are leading an investigation into the implications of the “Downing Street minutes” and that the focus of your investigation is to determine whether President Bush misled the United States Congress in a way that warrants congressional proceedings for impeachment.
I am writing to ask you to expand the scope of your inquiry to include the additional charge that Mr. Bush and other members of the United States Government have committed international aggression against Iraq. I am enclosing two articles that I have written on this subject.
“The Crime of War: from Nuremberg to Fallujah” has been accepted for publication in Peace Review and has already appeared in Z Magazine. It is a review of current international law regarding aggression, and explains precisely how the United States Government has in fact violated international law by invading and occupying Iraq.
“Reviving Legitimacy” is a commentary on the legal advice that Britain’s Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, gave to Prime Minister Blair twelve days before the invasion, with particular emphasis on what he said about the ultimately untenable legal position of the United States Government. You can also read his advice in full at The Times web site.
I understand that there are political impediments to bringing a charge of international aggression against one’s own government. However, I would ask you to consider the following:
1) As Lord Goldsmith warned Blair in paragraph 34 of his advice, “Aggression is a crime under customary law which automatically forms part of domestic law”. Thus, the absence of a pertinent federal statute or precedent is not a formal impediment to bringing such a charge.
2) Article VI Clause 2 of the United States Constitution incorporates international treaty law as part of “the supreme Law of the Land” on a par with federal law and the Constitution itself, so that treaty violations by the U.S. Government are in fact violations of its constitutional duty on a par with violations of federal law.
3) The United States is a signatory to the Kellogg-Briand Pact, which renounces the use of “war as an instrument of national policy”, and the United Nations Charter, which reserves exclusively to the U.N. Security Council the responsibility to “decide what measures shall be taken” in response to “any threat to the peace”.
4) There is no basis in international law for the “doctrine of preemption” as President Bush has used this term. As Lord Goldsmith wrote in paragraph 3 of his advice, “I am aware that the USA has been arguing for recognition of a broad doctrine of a right to use force to preempt danger in the future. If this means more than a right to respond proportionately to an imminent attack (and I understand that the doctrine is intended to carry that connotation) this is not a doctrine which, in my opinion, exists or is recognized in international law.”
5) The fact that the argument for such an illegal “doctrine” may be politically appealing to a panicked domestic constituency has no bearing on its legitimacy. Ultimately, in the eyes of international law, it is no more than a self-serving justification for aggression.
6) The National Defense Strategy of the United States of America (2005) has now expanded this claim of a right to use military force to almost any circumstance at the sole discretion of the President of the United States. It is very important that legitimate institutions in the United States challenge the legitimacy of this doctrine before our government commits additional acts of aggression.
7) The judges at Nuremberg called aggression “the supreme international crime”, and sentenced German leaders to death for committing it. This is a crime that must be taken seriously for the sake of our country and the world.
I believe that the legal, constitutional and political aspects of this situation can interact in ways that will eventually produce a positive outcome. The very fact that serious legal and constitutional action is brought against senior officials will be politically potent, while at the same time this changing political climate will be favorable to a positive legal and constitutional outcome. The procedures you are initiating are clearly a crucial part of this process.
I have been in touch with Ben Ferencz, who also wants to institute legal proceedings against U.S. leaders for the crime of aggression. He was the Chief Prosecutor of the Einsatzgruppen trial at Nuremberg in 1946, known as the “greatest murder trial in history”. He obtained convictions against 21 senior German officers for the murders of more than one million people. He was also one of the architects of the International Criminal Court and was honored as such at the signing of the Treaty of Rome in 1988. Ben is 85 years old now, and this is an enormous task for him to take on (not that that has ever stopped him before!), but you may want to call on his experience and expertise to assist you in this case. He has told me that he considers access to relevant U.S. documents to be crucial, so I hope that you will likewise assist him in any efforts he makes to gain access to such documents.
We are living at a crucial time for the future of our country. I applaud your willingness to stand up for the legitimate constitutional principles on which that future now depends.