Sunday, February 28, 2010


Rally in Nuremberg

On November 20th, 1945, at 10:00AM, the International Military Tribunal, composed of judges representing the victorious Allied forces, convened to prosecute senior members of the Nazi regime for (1) Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of a crime against peace, (2) Initiating and waging wars of aggression and other crimes against peace, (3) War crimes, and (4) Crimes against humanity, in the Palace of Justice in Nuremberg, Germany, the birthplace of the Nazi Party.
There were 24 defendants, ranging from Hermon Goring, the Reichsmarschell, Commander of the Luftwaffe, the German airforce, to Rudolph Hess, Adolph Hitler's Deputy Fuher, to Albert Speers, Germany's Minister of Armaments.
Associate Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson said this during his opening statement: "The wrongs which we seek to condemn and punish, have been so calculated, so malignant and so devastating, that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored, because it cannot survive their being repeated."
The end result of the main trial (there were subsequent trials for lesser Nazi officials) consisted of three acquittals, seven sentences of imprisonment from life to 10 years, and 12 death sentences (Martin Borman, the Successor to Rudolph Hess as Nazi Party Secretary, was sentenced to death in absentia. His remains were found in Berlin in 1972 and dated back to 1945. Goring committed suicide by poison the night before he was to be hung. Robert Ley, head of the German Labour Front , committed suicide before the trial began, and industrialist Gustav Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach was judged medically unfit for trial).
In the early hours of October 16, 1946, the ten condemned Nazi leaders of Nuremberg were led to the prison gymnasium and hanged.
The record of the trial runs to 42 volumes, and it is in "every decent library in the world," as Anthony Marreco, a junior member of the British prosecution team put it.
Many were opposed to the trails at first. Prime Minister Winston Chruchill believed the senior Nazi officers should just be branded as war criminals and summarily placed in front of a firing squad, and the Russian leader, Joseph Stalin (himself one of the greatest mass murders in recorded history) asked that 50,000 to 100,000 thousand German staff officers suffer that same fate. For awhile President Roosevelt tended to agree.
After being dissuaded from executing thousands of regular German army officers, Stalin argued for a trial before executions could take place for major Nazi officials, not wishing to be seen as being afraid to try them for various reasons (bringing attention to the Allied's own atrocities being one, such as the aerial bombing of civilian targets in Germany). Senior American officials persuaded Roosevelt that a trial was indeed necessary, and soon the British were more or less forced to go along, and it was agreed on that these trials would take place.
But to what purpose?
First of all a record needed to be made. An undeniable account of the war itself, who was responsible for starting it, and of course the atrocities that transpired during it, and bringing those responsible for those atrocities to justice needed to be done.
At the time it was hoped that the prosecution of these individuals would deter future transgressions of a similar nature. However, the genocidal conflicts in Bosnia and Rwanda has proven that premise to be false, and now we have Darfur, where the President of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir has been charged with war crimes and an arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court of The Hague, the first time such a call has been made to a sitting head of state.
Good. War criminals should be held accountable for their actions, or at least called out for them if an arrest and subsequent trial is not forthcoming.
Unfortunately there seems to be a double standard concerning the prosecution of suspected war criminals. So far the only indicted individuals are from second and third world countries, such as Bosnia with the ICC's predecessor, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, and Rwanda, by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, held in Arusha, Tanzania. Currently the ICC is investigating crimes in three other nations beside Darfur; Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Central African Republic.
On the 10th of February 2006, the ICC prosecutor published a letter responding to complaints he had received concerning the 2003 invasion of Iraq. He concluded that there was a reasonable basis to believe that a limited number of war crimes had been committed there, but that the crimes allegedly committed by nationals of states parties did not appear to meet the required gravity threshold for an ICC investigation.
So it seems we will never see the likes of George W. Bush and Tony Blair investigated, or indicted, for the war crimes that they so obviously perpetrated, unless it is through the criminal justice systems of the originating countries, or by third parties, such as Spain's investigation of Bush Administration lawyers involved in Guantanamo policy, like Jay S. Bybee, United States Court of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit, Douglas Feith, Senior Fellow, Hudson Institute, William J Haynes, Chief Corporate Counsel, Chevron Headquarters, John Yoo, UC Berkeley School of Law, Alberto R. Gonzales, and David Addington.
At least Spain and Britan are willing to look back at those policies that shaped the United States position and use of illegal tactics, such as torture, because our own nation is not.
A week ago last Friday, in a typical Bushian tactic of releasing what the administration may deem controversial news reports on Friday afternoons when the media has less time to focus on them, released a long awaited report from the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility, determining that White House attorneys John Yoo and Jay Bybee had committed professional misconduct in writing legal opinions that authorized torture, opening the way for further legal actions against the two, and possible disbarment.
However, on the same day, Associate Deputy Attorney General David Margolis, the top career attorney at the department, overruled OPR's findings of misconduct, stating only that Yoo and Bybee exercised "poor judgement" and made bad legal arguments, thus barring the OPR from referring the matter to state bar disciplinary authorities where Yoo and Bybee are licensed, and effectively (as far as the Obama administration is concerned) ending the investigation into any aspects of war crimes committed by the Bush administration.
This is particularly troubling as Yoo and Bybee were just pawns used by Bush and Cheney to justify actions which they had already put into practice, thereby "covering their asses," if the matter should ever come under scrutiny in the future. In effect Bush and his cronies broke existing laws against using torture on prisoners of war, then asked their own lawyers to rationalize and legitimize their actions by writing opinions that justified those actions.
It would seem that Bush and his senior officials who broke the law repeatedly by condoning and authorizing so called "enhanced interrogation techniques," had noting to worry about as far as worrying about future administrations investigating, let alone prosecuting their crimes, as President Obama has shown no inclination to do so whatsoever, with Margolis's actions demonstrating that point.
Of course the Republicans are delighted with the DOJ's final decision, hailing Yoo and Bybee true American heros. Those on the left have their own opinion, the following is typical:
"This totally expected action by the DOJ, particularly Holder [Attorney General Eric Holder] and I am sure with the consent of the President, over turns the legal basis for all of the convictions of all the Nazis by the lawyers and judges at Nuremberg, and that also puts into question the trials, convictions and executions of all of those at Nuremberg as it allows for the defense that they were not just following orders but the law. This does more to endanger all American military and civilians around the world than any terrorist organization or state could possibly hoped for in their wildest fantasies! Now the US has absolutely no grounds for seeking fair treatment for any Americans or for that matter any one else captured, detained or arrested anywhere in the world, for this says in essence that American use of torture, while it might have been based on 'poor judgment' was legal and not subject to any legal consequences. Not a surprise at all coming from the Administration of President "America is a nation of the rule of law, with no one above the law' Obama who since taking office has done every thing in his power, short of a mass blanket pardon, to protect and cover the criminal asses of the entire Bush/Cheney gang of war criminals under the laws and Constitution of the United States of America!"
Fortunately at least two members of Congress are dissatisfied with the DOJ's response. Rep, John Conyers (D-Mich) and Sen Patrick Leahy (D-Vt) have called for a thorough investigation of Bush policies, and not ruling out subsequent prosecutions. So justice in this country is not completely dead.
It is my opinion that no matter what beneficial impact the current administration has on this country, now and in the future, if health care, financial regulation, and aggressive curbs on global warming are made and put into place... if everyone who wants a job can find one, the Obama presidency will be a failed presidency in my eyes simply because it failed to hold Bush and his senior officials accountable for their criminal actions.
The thousands of innocent soldiers and civilians alike, who have died because of them deserve much better.

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