Could Bush Be Prosecuted for War Crimes?

Jan Frel

The extent to which American exceptionalism is embedded in the national psyche is awesome to behold.

While the United States is a country like any other, its citizens no more special than any others on the planet, Americans still react with surprise at the suggestion that their country could be held responsible for something as heinous as a War crime.

From the massacre of more than 100,000 people in the Philippines to the first nuclear attack ever at Hiroshima to the unprovoked invasion of Baghdad, U.S.-sponsored violence doesn’t feel as wrong and worthy of prosecution in internationally sanctioned criminal courts as the gory, bload-soaked atrocities of Congo, Darfur, Rwanda, and most certainly not the Nazis — most certainly not. Howard Zinn recently described this as our "inability to think outside the boundaries of nationalism. We are penned in by the arrogant idea that this country is the center of the universe, exceptionally virtuous, admirable, superior."

Most Americans firmly believe there is nothing the United States or its political leadership could possibly do that could equate to the crimes of Hitler’s Third Reich. The Nazis are our "gold standard of evil," as author John Dolan once put it.

But the truth is that we can, and we have — most recently and significantly in Iraq. Perhaps no person on the planet is better equipped to identify and describe our crimes in Iraq than Benjamin Ferenccz, a former chief prosecutor of the Nuremberg Trials who successfully convicted 22 Nazi officers for their work in orchestrating death squads that killed more than one million people in the famous Einsatzgruppen Case. Ferencz, now 87, has gone on to become a founding father of the basis behind international law regarding War crimes, and his essays and legal work drawing from the Nuremberg trials and later the commission that established the International Criminal Court remain a lasting influence in that realm.

Ferencz’s biggest contribution to the War crimes field is his assertion that an unprovoked or "aggressive" War is the highest crime against mankind. It was the decision to invade Iraq in 2003 that made possible the horrors of Abu Ghraib, the destruction of Fallouja and Ramadi, the tens of thousands of Iraqi deaths, civilian massacres like Haditha, and on and on. Ferencz believes that a "prima facie case can be made that the United States is guilty of the supreme crime against humanity, that being an illegal War of aggression against a sovereign nation."

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