I’ll bet George W. Bush doesn’t lie awake at night thinking about the hundreds of thousands in Iraq who are still suffering because of him. Lost loved ones, lost ancient treasures, lost homes, lost towns, lost dreams. No doubt there are those who benefited from the invasion – there always are. And now, after years of “insurgencies” and “skirmishes”, there seems to be all-out war again, with Iraq asking the U.S. to help with bombing targets. All this, the result of Bush’s illegal invasion.
What kind of people are we, who can prosecute an Edward Snowden, but not George W. Bush? When I heard about Richard Clarke’s* admission that President George W. Bush had committed “war crimes”, I’m ashamed to say I silently rolled my eyes – for a split second. Then a little shockwave hit me. I realized the significance of the phrase had faded in my mind.
It’s subtle how meanings can shift over time. One day you notice that a word has come to mean something different from its original intention. I had gradually come to think of the phrase “War Crime” as silly and irrelevant. And suddenly I realized that its very irrelevance was because it is a powerless term. The crime gets committed, then goes unpunished – these days.
Nuremburg* was about war crimes. The whole world was supposed to have learned from that horrific experience with Nazis and fascists. War Crimes are profoundly deserving of prosecution. The guy down the street who sells weed gets prosecuted. The guy who reveals ‘national secrets’ gets prosecuted. But the president of the United States of America – ‘leader of the free world,’ committing much worse crimes – gets a pass***. Wow.
Something about adding the term ‘war’, elevates the crime. It becomes a crime many look up to, instead of down on. Something to reflect on, this….
I force myself down into the intellectual sewage of it all. Getting into it is much worse than a bad smell. It is as sickening as the most horrible crimes I’ve heard of. And it’s not about numbers: Hitler’s war killed more. It’s about injustice so huge it’s hard to think about. I mean, there just isn’t an English word strong enough – ‘injustice’ sounds pathetic.
What I feel about Bush’s illegal invasion of Iraq is a kind of low-grade rage. I felt the same way when I knew he was about to invade. Some of my rage was against those who went along with him. Most did not. There was no way the U.N., for example, would support the invasion, because there was no convincing evidence. So Bush and Cheney went ahead and led an illegal invasion of Iraq – with a few Nato buddies.
Iraq under Saddam Hussein’s oppression, was anything but a perfect country. But it was functioning. We all knew that was about to change for the worst. There would be all the ‘horrors of war’. And that’s exactly what happened.
To me, it was as if a teenager with a submachine gun declared he was going into a school, and we didn’t stop him. And now that he killed half the kids, we’re not going to prosecute him either. Is that because they weren’t our kids?
A murderer can claim, “I believed he would kill me, if I didn’t kill him first”. And a jury gets to decide if they agree or not. Apparently a president of the United States can make a similar claim, and never go to trial. Those of us who were paying attention, know that’s essentially what happened. Yet we do nothing. Safer to keep our heads down?
I sometimes wonder if we do nothing because deep down we are beginning to suspect that thugs in corporate dress have hijacked democracy. The ‘bad guys’ are running the show#. The NSA? Haliburton? Koch brothers? And the disease seems to be spreading through much of the western world. Democracy isn’t really functioning any longer. It’s become just another modern myth.
What if that’s all true?*Former top counterterrorism official for the U.S. ** http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/nuremberg-trials *** http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/aug/31/obama-justice-department-immunity-bush-cia-torturer #http://www.democracynow.org/2013/6/4/american_fascism_ralph_nader_decries_how More background: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/29/richard-clarke-george-bush-war-crimes_n_5410619.html and http://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/2012/05/12/bush-convicted-of-war-crimes-in-absentia/ and http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1354211/George-W-Bush-cancels-Switzerland-visit-fears-arrest-torture-charges.html