Saturday, January 29, 2005

The Nuremberg Precedent (II)

I was wrong in a previous post. The Nazi organizations were indicted at Nuremberg. However, it was not possible to convict the subordinates under this indictment and the principal actors (Goering, etc.) were all tried as individuals.

The Indictment of Nazi Organizations
The indictment of Nazi organizations was designed to deal with the problem of what to do about the hundreds of thousands of people who had been members of organizations such as the SS and the Gestapo. The idea was to find them to have been criminal organizations, then hold hearings to determine the extent to which a member was guilty.

At the conclusion of the trial against the 21 individuals, the International Military Tribunal spent a month hearing testimony about the organizations.

The indictment of the organizations, however, raised a fundamental legal question: the legitimacy of creating a system of guilt by association. Although members of the criminal organizations were later tried by German denazification courts set up by the U.S. occupation government, no one was ever punished solely on the basis of the tribunal convictions.
Three of the six indicted organizations were found guilty. They were: the SS, the Gestapo and the Corps of the Political Leaders of the Nazi Party.

Three of the organizations were not convicted. They were: the SA (Hitler's street thugs, known as brownshirts, whose power had dwindled in the 1930s); the Reichsregierung (Reich Cabinet) and General Staff and High Command of the German Armed Forces. The latter two organizations were determined to cover relatively few members so that it was deemed better to deal with them as individuals.

In spite of this, it raises serious questions about what we, as citzens of a democracy and thus responsible for our leaders, may be held accountable for vis a vis the War in Iraq. It is no secret that the German people, to this day, are held to blame for Hitler and his terrorism.
Through the years Germany has been desperate in its desire to be forgiven. To some extent it has a point. No nation has undergone greater self-examination about its direct role and complicity in mass murder than Germany has. There have been endless acknowledgments and meaningful gestures of restitution. Germany has been in an arrested state of moral inquiry, continually examining its character, seeking some clarity about the madness it once mindlessly saluted.

Given their good faith, the Germans are understandably left wondering: Is forgiveness ever forthcoming, or is our guilt eternal?

What we in America have done is to abandon this sense of responsibility that pervaded the world after the horror of WWII.

There was much discussion of the War in Iraq as a "just" war. This has a long history in the Catholic Church and is discussed here. It is my firm belief and that of many others that, at this time, there can be no justification for the War in Iraq under the Just War rubric.

If the War in Iraq is not "justified", then it is a war of aggression. Nuremberg addressed this next:

Count Two: Waging Aggressive War, or "Crimes Against Peace"
This evidence was presented by the British prosecutors and was defined in the indictment as "the planning, preparation, initiation, and waging of wars of aggression, which were also wars in violation of international treaties, agreements, and assurances."

This charge created problems for the prosecutors. Although Hitler had clearly waged an aggressive war, beginning with the invasion of Poland in 1939, Count Two was based on allegations that the Germans had violated international agreements such as the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928. Signatories to that agreement had renounced war as an instrument of national policy (as opposed, say, to defensive war), but the pact did not define "aggressive war" and did not spell out the penalties for its violation.

(The Anschluss and the invasion of Czechoslovakia were not held to be aggressive wars because Hitler had manipulated the political situation in each nation in order to avoid an invasion.)

The Soviet Union also had broken the Kellogg-Briand Pact by invading Finland, Poland and the Baltics, and had schemed with Hitler to sign the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact in 1939 (which secretly divided Poland).

Robert Jackson, the chief U.S. prosecutor, wanted the International Military Tribunal to create new international law that would outlaw aggressive war. Clearly, the premise that it is possible to outlaw war is a questionable one

This is potent stuff. The United States was the founding member of the United Nations. The United Nations did not vote to approve the War in Iraq and, in addition to the aforementioned Kellog-Briand pact, it seems to me that we have violated the spirit if not the letter of international law.

The question comes down to "what did George W. Bush know and when did he know it." For months after the invasion, the administration continued to spout the contention that weapons of mass destruction existed. If they are now say, as Condelezza Rice did at her confirmation hearings, that they really didn't feel that, one simply has to go to this link at the White House web page to see how disrespectful of the truth that is (link courtesy of loyopp).

What I am trying to do here, and it is an impossible task, is to remove myself from history and look on the current situation as if it had happened 50 years ago and the Bush Administration had been hauled before an International Court for the crime of an aggressive war. And I had been implicated because I was an American Citizen and sat by and did nothing.

No comments: