Judgment by Nuremberg

The U.S. is now pushing the provisional government of Iraq to pursue war-crime tribunals in that country against Saddam Hussein and members of his regime who killed civilians. That’s fine, if those prosecutions are carried out under the rules established in the Nuremberg tribunal and under the auspices of the International Court of Justice.

But then, the U.S. government and military also should be held up for inspection. If they’re examined objectively, we think crimes against humanity will be revealed, and both our political leaders and military officers should stand trial. Unnecessary manslaughter of civilians by the military is a crime, whether or not it is the United States doing the killing.

Or should we say child slaughter, as was recently the case in Afghanistan, where nine innocent children were killed by American forces in one attack, and six were killed in another? The missed target in the latter tragedy wasn’t even Taliban or Al Qaeda but simply a “renegade Afghan commander.” A U.S. officer said he was sorry, but that won’t do.

If our country’s leaders are going to decide unilaterally to attack other countries for extended periods of time, then they have to take responsibility for civilian deaths, and that includes the period following the so-called war.

In a recent update of civilian deaths in the Iraq war and occupation, the number of reported deaths by one research group was put at a minimum of 7,900. The occupying authority has a binding responsibility under the Geneva Convention and Hague Regulations to prevent civilian deaths resulting from a breakdown of law and order.

We would urge Congress to initiate independent investigations into the ongoing civilian deaths in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Slice off a piece of the huge outlays of tax dollars going into these debacles for investigation and possible prosecution of war crimes involving civilian deaths.

The rationale that we are enforcing our view of international morality and wiping out potential terrorists, and that some innocent people must die because of it, is an extreme violation of law. With regard to Iraq, we all know now that there were no weapons of mass destruction. U.N. resolutions state that military intervention in any country without clear provocation is aggression, a crime without justification that should be prosecuted.

The Nuremberg tribunal against Nazi war criminals declared: “To initiate a war of aggression is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

Killing innocent civilians is certainly evil, and our country is doing it. We must ask ourselves: Are we willing to lay down the rule of law against others who do evil, and give ourselves sanctity?