Retired General Antonio Taguba, the officer who led the Army’s investigation into Abu Ghraib, recently wrote in the preface to the new report, Broken laws, Broken Lives:
“There is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.”
Should those who ordered war crimes be held to account? With the conclusion of the Bush regime approaching, many people are dubious, even those horrified by Administration actions. They fear a long, divisive ordeal that could tear the country apart. They note that such division could make it far harder for the country to address the many other crises it is facing. They see the upcoming elections as a better way to set the country on a new path.
Many Democrats in particular are proposing to let bygones be bygones and move on to confront the problems of the future, rather than dwelling on the past. The Democratic leadership sees rising gas prices, foreclosures, and health care costs, as well as widespread dissatisfaction with the direction of the country, as playing in their favor. Why risk it all by playing the war crimes blame game? Perhaps some Democratic leaders are also concerned that their own role in enabling or even encouraging war crimes might be exposed.
Meanwhile, the evidence confirming not only a deliberate policy of torture, but of conspiring in an illegal war of aggression and conducting a criminal occupation, continues to pile ever higher. Bush’s own press secretary Scott McClelland has revealed in his book, What Happened, how deliberately the public was misled to foment the attack on Iraq. Philippe Sands’ new book, Torture Team, has shown how the top legal and political leadership fought for a policy of torture–circumventing and misleading top military officials to do so. Jane Mayer’s The Dark Side, reveals that a secret report by the Red Cross–given to the CIA and shared with President Bush and Condoleezza Rice–found that US interrogation methods are “categorically” torture and that the “abuse constituted war crimes, placing the highest officials in the US government in jeopardy of being prosecuted.”
Despite the reluctance to open what many see as a can of worms, there are fresh moves on many fronts to hold top US officials accountable for war crimes.
US courts have issued a barrage of decisions against the Administration’s claim that they can do anything and still be within the law. The Supreme Court ruled June 12 that the Administration cannot deny habeas corpus rights to Guantánamo detainees. The DC Circuit Court of Appeals on June 30 overturned the Pentagon’s enemy combatant designation of a Chinese Muslim held in Guantánamo for the last six years. A Maine jury in April acquitted the Bangor Six of criminal trespass charges stemming from protesters’ claim that the “Constitution was being violated by the Bush Administration’s involvement in Iraq.”