First war of the 21st century & War Crimes

The 2006 election was a referendum on America's war in Iraq. The results displayed widespread mistrust of the Bush administration. Some of the most pro-war Republican hawks in the Senate and the Congress have been replaced by Democratic candidates that appeared to be anti-war or less pro-war. As a face saving measure, President Bush had to find the fall-guy, and so his 'trusted' Defense Secretary, the 74-year old neocon idealist, Donald Rumsfeld, had to be replaced with a realist - Robert Gates, former CIA Director. 

The decision to ask Rumsfeld to resign was easy for the White House. After all, Rumsfeld's resignation had been sought, since America's illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq, by many groups, including military officers within his own Pentagon, for not developing a 'winning' strategy. His policies have been dubbed variedly as being authoritarian, failed, insane, unrealistic, stupid, criminal, businesslike, quagmire and fiasco. 

Always defensive and combative, Rumsfeld was tunnel-visioned in his approach to the neocon-orchestrated war against the Muslim world (which he liked to package as Islamofascism); behaving more like an old dog that did not like to learn new tricks. In spite of mounting pressure from the Congress to sack him, Bush had kept him in his job, hoping for miracles in Iraq and thus, the 2006 election. But with the humiliating defeats in both the houses, the honeymoon was over. So, the man who was the architect of the first war of the 21st century became its first big casualty. 

As one of the primary architects of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Rumsfeld will always be remembered alongside Bush and Cheney for the scandals of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo that epitomized inhumanity, savagery, bigotry, perversion and sadism. He authorized the use of torture and brutal, evil and shameful treatment that violated the Geneva Conventions, and thus constitute war crimes. He refused to treat his Muslim prisoners as POWs. He put them in cage and moved them around naked. He approved interrogation techniques that included the use of dogs, removal of clothing, hooding, stress positions, isolation for up to 30 days, 20-hour per day interrogations, forcing to wear women's underwear on head, denying bathroom access and deprivation of food, sleep and rest. He approved the use of physical coercion and sexual humiliation to extract information from prisoners. He also authorized water-boarding (which constitutes torture), where the interrogator induces the sensation of imminent death by drowning.

In the Muslim world, Rumsfeld (alongside Bush & Cheney) will long be remembered as another Hulagu Khan that killed, plundered and looted Baghdad, destroying the very city that was once the citadel of Muslim learning. 

Like Robert McNamara of the Vietnam era, Rumsfeld is equally remorseless for the deaths of 655,000 Iraqis. He describes the Iraq war as a "little-understood, unfamiliar war". 

As has been pointed out lately by Marjorie Cohn of Thomas Jefferson School of Law, President of National Lawyers Guild, prosecuting a war of aggression isn't Rumsfeld's only crime. He also participated in the highest levels of decision-making that allowed the extrajudicial execution of several people. [Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib by Seymour Hersh] Willful killing is a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions, which constitutes a war crime. To elaborate further, Marjorie Cohn writes, "Even though Rumsfeld didn't personally carry out the torture and mistreatment of prisoners, he authorized it. Under the doctrine of command responsibility, a commander can be liable for war crimes committed by his inferiors if he knew or should have known they would be committed and did nothing to stop of prevent them. The U.S. War Crimes Act provides for prosecution of a person who commits war crimes and prescribes life imprisonment, or even the death penalty if the victim dies." [Jurist - Forum: Donald Rumsfeld: The War Crimes Case, Nov. '06]

War crime is a serious matter. Many legal experts and human rights activists are of the opinion that the warlords of our world need to be tried for their crimes against humanity. A few years ago, therefore, there were cases filed in the European courts against some war criminals, including Ariel Sharon of Israel for the massacre of Palestinians in Sabra and Chatilla refugee camps in Lebanon, and Jenine in the Occupied Palestine. Fearing their imminent arrest if they had stepped onto European soil, some of the Israeli generals did not disembark from their planes and returned to Israel. 

Last Tuesday (11/14/06), emboldened by Rumsfeld's resignation last week, German and American lawyers asked a German prosecutor to investigate Rumsfeld on allegations of war crimes, stemming from the treatment of prisoners held in military jails in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The 220-page lawsuit, filed with the German federal prosecutor in Karlsruhe, names 11 other current and former American officials, including Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, whom it claims either ordered the torture of prisoners or drafted laws that legitimated its use. The suit, filed by civil-rights legal groups on behalf of 12 detainees - 11 Iraqis and a Saudi - asserts that they were subjected to beatings, sleep deprivation, withholding of food, and sexual humiliation. [See: War Crimes Suit Prepared against Rumsfeld, and Groups to Seek War Crimes Charges Against Rumsfeld.

These legal experts who filed the case believe that there is a fair chance of succeeding in bringing Rumsfeld and other Pentagon brasses to justice. The problem, however, is even if Rumsfeld and Co. are to be found guilty and condemned, the USA may not allow their extradition for hearing and subsequent imprisonment. Among western countries, interestingly, the USA is the only country that has not accepted the full jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague to try its own war criminals, although, rather hypocritically, she had no problem having other monsters like the late Slobodan Milosevic of Yugoslavia or Hutu leaders of Rwanda tried under the auspices of the ICJ. 

With U.S. laws protecting its government officials that are at variance with international laws, Rumsfeld's war crimes case may eventually go to the UNSC. But there, the USA will veto such resolutions further isolating herself from the rest of the civilized world. Nonetheless, for billions of conscientious people in our planet, the suit is a much welcome event. It should be a matter of warning and deterrence for war criminals of today and tomorrow. "Even if we never put Rumsfeld on trial in a German court, he will be harassed and publicly stamped as a torturer," said Wolfgang Kaleck, a Berlin attorney who filed the complaint against Rumsfeld, together with the Center for Constitutional Rights, an American group, and other legal organizations.

During the resignation event in the White House, President Bush said in tribute: "Donald Rumsfeld has been a superb leader during a time of change. Yet he also appreciates the value of bringing in a fresh perspective during a critical period in this war." In his farewell speech, Rumsfeld was equally gracious to his boss. Addressing the president, he said: "It is not well-known, it was not well understood, it is complex for people to comprehend and I know with certainty that over time the contributions you've made will be recorded by history." Only time will tell whether his euphoria is rightly placed!

Dr. Habib Siddiqui lives in suburban Philadelphia, PA, and is the author of the book Islamic Wisdom. He can be reached at [email protected]

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Older Comments:
Well I do agree that Rumsfield should resign, but of course the Americans are not only responsible for the troubles in Iraq now. Most of the killings in Iraq are a result of Muslim killing muslim in Iraq. There are Shia and Sunni groups killing each other. If you believe that Rumsfield should be convicted of war crimes, what about the gang leaders of Shia and Sunni gangs fighting each other?


Korean war - 1,000,000 + asian killed
Vietnam war - 2,000,000 + asian killed
Der Yasin 250 arabs butchered
Nasir al-Din village - all inhibitants butchered
Karmal town - 22 arabs butchered
Al-Qabw village - 30 arabs killed
Bet Darras - all inhibitants butchered
Bet Al-Khuri - all butchered
Al-Zaitun village - all inhabitants assembled in the village mosque and blasted alive.
Iraq and Afghanistan - still counting
And many more.

Prior to US invasion of Iraq, Bush and his thugs were already twisting UN's arm, and bullied it to get unconditional protection from prosecution for its soldiers for war crimes that it had not yet committed. Why? Because it's painfully obvious that the US administration clearly had torture, murder and mayhem on the pre-invasion agenda. What does that say about the Americans and their leadership? Nothing more than this was expected of this motley crew of cut-throats whose sole intent was to pillage, plunder, slaughter and rape defenseless Iraqi Muslims. This is American nature. Look at what they have done since their forefathers set foot on American soil. They pillaged, raped, burned, looted and murdered the indigenous Red Indians. Then they set about kidnapping Africans from costal Africa and dragging them back in chains canned like sardines in infamous African death ships where at the end of the journey more than 45% of the helpless victims would perish, many dead and rotting for many days, in their own excrement. Then once in "America" they were tortured, beaten and treated worse than animals and forced to work like common farm animals. It was only in the last century that the Africans received some form of emancipation but even now, the racism and hate is evident in all aspects of a black man's life in "America". So is it any wonder that the US made history by dropping nuclear bombs on Japan and willfully massacring innocent civilians, indeed an entire generation? Or the hundreds of thousands they massacred in Vietnam, Korea, Panama, the Palestine through its proxy Israel, and now in Afghanistan and Iraq. When will the UN or NATO or the EU have the shame and courage to bring the US and its grubby killer crony Israel to justice for all its past crimes of genocide and inhuman proportions of brutality? When will there be justice? I do believe that the US will pay because there is a God, and God's justice will prevail earlier or late. God willing.

I hear a lot of bashing of America, some is valid, and some is just as prejudicial as is blamed on us. Americans don't have a corner on prejudice. Rumsfeld was a bull in a china shop and certainly made mistakes in leadership and maintenance of the war. Torture of prisoners was unnecessary, against the values of most Americans and politically stupid. If Rumsfeld is guilty, the Democrats will be more than happy to point that out and take him to task.

I get tired of hearing the same rants about how horrible the United States and it people are. Maybe a little time should be spent on asking why the vast majority of the killing in Iraq is done by people calling themselves Muslim. The US may be a convenient and, in this circle, popular scapegoat but we are not the cause of all of your problems. I am glad and the whole world should be glad that the US is not as bad as is portrayed here.

One major problem with american society is Prejudice which means:
an unfavorable opinion or feeling formed beforehand or without knowledge, thought, or reason.

We see a pattern of deep prejudice in American history as well.

It was against native amnericans as savages.
Against Black Africans as less human etc.
Against Chinese as China man etc.
Against Mexicans as thives robbers Latin americans as drug dealers etc.
Against Jews as dirty jews.
Against Japanese. With an atomic bomb.
Killing and burning of thousands of vietnam's children and women and many many innocents.
And muslims as terrorist.

with all the propaganda of equal rights and etc etc americans end up always been a supporter of prejudice.

This makes them unreasonable and unjust and cruel.

And american people are draged into these prejudice affairs VIA EXPLOITATION.

Which is the greatest SIN.

I am just here to say, on this topic, I totally agree with Romesh Chander, well said.

rumsfeld, blair, bush bombed 3 muslim countries. hanging the three ( after we give them a fair trial ofcourse )will be the least we can offer the families of all those who lost their lives in the war on Islam. there is one american Woman who was opposing the war from day 1, maybe a couple, not more. cheers:-) Victory for Islam!

Yes. The case is valid. Hope it happen soon. Very sad. These barbaric acts still happen today. Don't see people are interested in peace anymore as long as the powerful act like a school teacher.

Teacher: Say after me children

School children: Yes sir

Teacher: Terrorist

School Children: Terrorist! Terrorist!

In order to sustain peace forever, the client states concept should go.

Here is the excerpt from to-days USA Today (Nov 17):

The U.S. military on Friday said it plans to build a $125 million compound at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base where it hopes to hold war-crimes trials for terror suspects by the middle of next year.
The compound, designed to accommodate as many as 1,200 people, would include dining areas, work spaces and sleeping accommodations for administrative personnel, lawyers, journalists and others involved in trials at the isolated detention center in southeast Cuba.

It would create a total of three courtrooms on the base to allow for simultaneous trials, and a separate high-security area to house the detainees on trial.

"We need to build more courtrooms, and we want to do multiple trials," said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Chito Peppler, a Pentagon spokesman. He said the government hopes to begin construction as soon as possible to be ready for trials no later than July 1.

Human rights groups and foreign governments have called on the Bush administration to close Guantanamo, saying detainees are being held illegally, but the planned construction of new facilities underscores its permanence.

"This is a huge waste of taxpayer money," said Michael Ratner, president of the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents hundreds of Guantanamo detainees. "They've been trying to try people for five years, and until they try somebody according to the Constitution, nothing's going to happen there."

Larry Cox, executive director of Amnesty International USA, described the compound proposed by the Pentagon as "a permanent homage to its failed experiment in second class justice."

The U.S. government is drafting new rules for the trials under the Military Commissions Act, which President Bush signed last month. The Supreme Court had declared that previous efforts to try Guantanamo detainees were unconstitutional.

Thank you Mr. Romesh Chander, you speak for the majority.

I think trying just the one criminal will be 'gross injustice'. He has others who were equal participants; both Bushs', cheney,rice,powell,wolfowitz and all theirs assistants, blair and team.While trying him might as well take care of sharon(whatever state he is in) and olmert for the destruction caused in Lebanon. Can we go back another half a century and haul in a bunch more?

Why not, President of Iran is being for
something he said the Jews. Rumsfield, Bush, Cheney, Rice and Wolf should be charges of illegal war and war crimes.

Contrary to popular punditry, Americans are not against war in Iraq (or Afghanistan); they are just against LOSING it. If US was winning, every american (warm-blooded or cold-blooded) will be cheering it.

We had war crimes trials at Nuremburg against Nazis, because Nazis were defeated. Well, US is not defeated (so far, at least), so there will be no war crime trials against US.

Pentagon has just announced that they will be constructing a huge War Crimes Trial building at GITMO, under the new Military Trials Commission Act signed by GW Bush last month. Don't hold your breath; the real War Criminals (GWB, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolofitz, Perle) will not be tried.

By the way, Who is Bob Gates. He is a clone of Rumsfeld. They both drink the same Kool-Aid from the same jug.

So, war and killing will go on till US finds that it cannot 'win'. Even if US 'loses', the real war criminals will escape the trials.

Thank you for shedding light on this topic.