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."


Dr. C said...

A previous commenter on this series Ray Girvan said...

.... I don't think the Nuremberg Trials represent any kind of useful legal precedent for how to handle this kind of issue;

I would like to point out a post today by Glenn Greenwald in
The odiousness of the distorted Godwin's Law where he states:

"A primary point of the Nuremberg Trials was to seize on the extraordinary horror of what the Germans did in order to set forth general principles to be applied not only to the individual war criminals before the tribunal, but more important, to all countries in the future."

I don't necessarily agree with Greenwald on everything but I do on this issue (and multiple others).

Dr. C said...

This is an issue that just won't go away. Please see Glen Greenwald from today about the NYT's defense of dropping the word "torture" associated with water boarding, and the interesting comments from which it is derived. We are either guilty or not guilty, we can't be both.

Montag said...

Those villains were heavily invested in victory, leaving the writing of the final history to the victorious, which would have lauded them as heroes.

But the country they invaded rebelled against them, and the war was in doubt for years - and may still be.

The final history cannot be written when war never ends.