Monday, June 28, 2010

The Nuremberg Precedent (III)

This is a continuation of posts from five years ago about our collective responsibility for the actions of the then Bush Administration for the War in Iraq. It is food for thought that the Obama Administration may be continuing some of the same practices such as indefinite detention without trial and extraordinary rendition. Surely these two punitive practices are directly in contradiction to promises made during his campaign.

It is also interesting in retrospect to read the letter from Project for the New American Century (PNAC) to President Clinton in 1998 signed by many of the major players in the Iraq fiasco (see Stanislaw Lem for definition of fiasco). Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Bolton and other players stated:

Given the magnitude of the threat, the current policy, which depends for its success upon the steadfastness of our coalition partners and upon the cooperation of Saddam Hussein, is dangerously inadequate. The only acceptable strategy is one that eliminates the possibility that Iraq will be able to use or threaten to use weapons of mass destruction. In the near term, this means a willingness to undertake military action as diplomacy is clearly failing. In the long term, it means removing Saddam Hussein and his regime from power. That now needs to become the aim of American foreign policy.

The Nazis were masters at propaganda. They had had two decades of observation of the first modern Total-propaganda State, Bolshevik Russia. They learned their lessons well. So it is no wonder that we encounter statements in December, 1945, at the Nuremberg Trials such as the following:

SIR HARTLEY SHAWCROSS (Chief Prosecutor for the United Kingdom): .... Hitler, the leader of the Nazi conspirators who are now on trial before you, is reported as having said, in reference to their warlike plans:

"I shall give a propagandist cause for starting the war, never mind whether it be true or not. The victor shall not be asked later on whether he told the truth or not. In starting and making a war, not the right is what matters, but (in) victory the strongest has the right."

Recently, many have castigated Senator Boxer for having stated that Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) were the only reason why the Bush Administration took us to war. Unfortunately, as loyopp has pointed out, (January 27, 2005), while this may have been true in the minds of many, including the Senators who voted for the resolution, it may not have been the actual case. This is discussed in great detail by Mad Kane.

However, in reading Rice's comments, one must be struck by the propagandistic tenor of her contentions which she must have known were inflated.

Surely Bush, Rice, Rumsfeld, etc. felt that these inflated contentions would disappear in the aftermath of finding even one WMD and their invasion would be "justified." After all, Hitler did have some more or less valid issues with Poland and the rest of Europe (especially the treatment of Germany after WWI).

The only important factor here is the InterNet. In less than 100 years the world has gone from domination by propaganda to the ability to skewer such propaganda in a moment. Unfortunately, the unconnected masses (and I include Senators) have yet to learn.
Now, of course, in retrospect, we know how much these people lied. In particular is the infuriating confession by Paul Wolfowitz (who was a professor for several years at Georgetown University after leaving the Bush Administration):

It was, he says one of many reasons. The magazine quotes Mr Wolfowitz saying "for bureaucratic reasons, we settled on one issue – weapons of mass destruction – because it was the one reason everyone could agree on."

Evil has not become banal, it has become bureaucratic.

Addendum: A young couple came in today with their new baby. After the visit I asked what their insurance was and they said "TriCare," the military insurance. I asked the father where he was stationed and he said he was out of Fort Benning in Ga, but was deployed to Iraq (he was only back for a few days to see the baby). He was a tank driver but they "weren't using tanks now." They were "helping Iraq rebuild the country."

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

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 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.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Some thoughts from the past

I am going to post some thoughts I had over five years ago about the responsibility that we in America have for the torture and mistreatment of other human beings we have. This was probably incited by the revelations of what transpired at Abu Ghraib.

The Nuremberg Precedent I
(27 January 2005)

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.

Sunday, June 20, 2010


Japan Has 'Priority' On Rights To Mine Afghanistan Mineral Deposits, Says friend Hamid Karzai

Seriously, I don't mind the loss of minerals (they aren't ours, after all) as much as all those poor fathers who either fly silently into Dover or, even worse, have scrambled brains for the rest of their life.
"Morally, Afghanistan should give access as a priority to those countries that have helped Afghanistan massively in the past few years," Karzai told the institute.

Sort of begs the definition of "morally" I would say.
(Would you buy a used car from this guy?)

Friday, June 18, 2010

Friday Crab Blogging

A (presumably) Jurassic crab found by our intrepid reporter from an underpass in Exmouth (Jurassic Coast themed mural by a local school)

This little guy just got in from rowing a galley for Ben Hur ("Ramming speed, Hortator!".) (Ben Hur was written by Lew Wallace, an incredibly interesting man. He was Governor of the New Mexico territory when Billy the Kid was doing his thing.)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Mid Week Crab Catchup

I'll get back to crabbing on Friday but, if there are any interested readers out there, please travel on over to the post on JSBlog entitled "In search of the ochidore."

In addition to a beautiful picture of a crab (not true blue, mind you, but still quite attractive) you can meander through the lexicographic jungle with our Devonshire guide.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

These children of Gaza are looking for food in garbage. In a surprise, and gracious, move Israel has allowed "soda, juice, jam, spices, shaving cream (!), potato chips, cookies and candy" into the blockaded zone. Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said his country is committed to ensuring that "the civilian population of Gaza will receive civilian goods" (I assume he is referring to Israeli garbage).

Children are children. From here:

President Obama called for a "new approach" on the blockade (while crossing his fingers and accepting a check from the AIPAC.)


Saturday, June 05, 2010

Friday Crab Blogging (late)

Once again our wide ranging correspondents (from here and here)have uncovered specimens of a both historic and cultural interest.

In the first instance, we have samples from that emporium of renown, Harrods. One sincerely hopes that all the crustaceans on offer there are not quite so crunchy. In particular, since rock crabs "...are aggressive monsters that look like harmless rocks while they are sleeping, and wake up and attack unsuspecting players that pass by," caveat emptor.

(Noted in passing: the English Pound, that funny letter "L," seems to have suffered a rather severe devaluation if one has to fork out 6,000 of them for one measly crab.)

Next we have a rather interesting addition also in the rather petrified genre.

One feels a little like Monsieur Holmes (excuse me, Poirot) when trying to dissect, or otherwise disassemble this picture. Firstly, this crab appears to be surrounded by jewelery or similar artifacts. There is, of course, the watch. Close attention shows that whilst the minute hand is on the "nine" the hour hand has just passed the "four." Clearly this is not Switzerland. A clue to the crab's locale, in addition to the funny L, can be found in the wording pasted atop the watch: "Please remove plastic wedge from winder." In this case, "wedge" is the clue. This also indicates that the watch is upside down so, just maybe, it is Switzerland. (Also used with "wood," as in Wedgewood.) The watch is certainly new since it is on a backing in addition to the aforementioned tape. This suggests that this is not someone's upper chest drawer, but in an emporium. We strongly doubt it is Harrod's.

It is unclear what the object above the watch is. Perhaps a bracelet of pewter? (This brings up the question of why more habitues of ale houses didn't get lead poisoning, but we will let that go for now.) The object immediately above the crab appears to be a ornamented metal container, on top of which is a key? with a tag attached. Very interesting.

Finally, the crab. This appears to be of porcelain. This is of interest because the name porcelain derives from the Italian for a cowry shell, another marine animal. Since porcelain was not available in Europe before the 18th century (a good book to read about the European discovery of porcelain is Arcanum: The Extraordinary True Story), this is more evidence of a contemporary venue.

In any case, the crab appears to be of Art Deco design. The claws are attached to the main body and I suspect that it is also some type of jewelry case since it almost appears in relief. This then suggests that these objects are found in the local antique or second hand store.

It is a nice crab.

Here is a contribution from Lindsey:

That black thing is a net (little does she know that crabs are not caught in nets) and the crab is wearing glasses because, of course, so does Dr. C.!

Thursday, June 03, 2010

I want out of here but there's no place to go

Say it isn't so, Joe.

Four shots to the head in "self defense." Sort of stops any conversation in its tracks.

Update, 06/04:
Still, he acknowledged that Israel might object to the 500 tons of cement on board, which the army maintains the militants can use to fight it.

Cement? Yes, yes. The perfect nuclear deterrent.