Thursday, January 27, 2005

The Nuremberg Precedent

Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on where we stand, there is a precedent for judging the current actions of the highest officials of the US Government with respect to their decisions in regard to other human beings, namely those captured in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is important to note that Nuremberg, the trials for war crimes, was not against the organization to which the Nazi officials belonged, (in 1945-46, that no longer existed), but against individuals. Perforce, the individuals were judged vis a vis their actions as human beings with the criteria for judgment being the generally assumed laws of humanity. Most of the defendants were hung.

There are a number of web sites devoted to the Nuremberg Trials. I will be perusing these in the coming days to extract relevant information. Let me start with the following quote from here:

SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: You know what Aktion Kugel was: That escaped officers and noncommissioned officers, other than British and American, were to be handed over to the police and taken to Mauthausen, where they were shot by the device of having a gun concealed in the measuring equipment when they thought they were getting their prison clothes. You know what "Aktion Kugel" is, don't you?

GOERING: I heard of it here

Here the practice of taking prisoners to another facility to suffer a fate which the primary facility would not be responsible for is exposed. Is this not what happens to prisoners which we send to other countries via the "special airplane" which seems to ply its way between Guantanamo and countries that may use torture as a first resort?

Is not Goering here trying to escape responsibility by saying "I first heard of it here?"

Think about this. Is it not possible that some larger force might in the future have US government officials in the docket questioning them in this manner about our own extra legal maneuvers? Certainly the Nazi officials were doing what they felt they needed to do to guarantee their "security." Yet they were held for a personal, not institutional, responsibility.

The responsibility of the German people as a whole was not, to the best of my knowledge, addressed at Nuremberg. But that does not exonerate us. What responsibility do we now hold to confront injustices that may be similar to those existed in 1945?

I will answer that. I, you and the rest of America hold that responsibility and we had best get on with it in any way that we can.

Our Senate did not adequately confront either Condelezza Rice or Alberto Gonzales for the part that they have played in, if reports can be believed, the ongoing torture of captives.

This will not go away. It happened. It has to be addressed. Either now or later.

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