War Crimes — ‘Within the scope of their employment’

October 6, 2013

7_Years_of_war_087.sJPG_950_2000_0_75_0_50_50.sJPGIn the midst of the most-current, pure-crazed US government debacle, a murderous example from most-recent history, most-horribly won’t go away — 107 people were killed in Iraq yesterday in just a few incidents: The killings, which also included attacks on journalists and anti-extremist Sunni fighters, have raised fears that the country is falling back into the spiral of violence that almost led to civil war after the 2003 US-led invasion.

Accountability seems nowadays “non-essential” to government functions, or maybe being held liable ain’t in this country’s nature..

(Photo and its history was found at Columbia Journalism Review).

The little girl above was 5-years-old in January 2005 when both her parents were shot to death by US troops at a checkpoint in the northern Iraqi town of Tal Afar — her name is Samar Hassan, and she’s now about 14. In May 2011, the New York Times traced her down, then living on the outskirts of Mosul.
I sure hope she’s still doing okay. She had never seen the photo of herself shown above, and never knew it had become one of the most famous images of the Iraq war. The Times article carried a picture of her seeing it for the first time.

The Iraq experience was a lie to the worse end. And like a lot of other shit in the glorious history of the US — i.e., genocide, slavery, only nuclear-bomb user, etc. — the Iraqi war left a horror-mark on an entire nation and its regions round about.
A horrible, new kind of war. And from the 2010 Wikileaks ‘Iraq War Logs,’ via the UK’s Guardian:

This Iraqi family’s fate was by no means unique.
The war logs, seen by the Guardian, contain a horrific dossier of cases where US troops killed innocent civilians at checkpoints, on Iraq’s roads and during raids on people’s homes.
The victims include dozens of women and children.
The US rarely admitted their deaths publicly.
In the secret logs the killings mainly figure as “escalation of force incidents”.
Commanders send in reports outlining how soldiers faithfully followed the rules of engagement: first signals, then warning shots, and as a last resort direct fire to disable a vehicle or its driver.
The relentless drumbeat of civilian deaths illustrates the nature of 21st century warfare and key differences from the way the Americans conducted themselves in their eight-year war in Vietnam.
Suicide attacks were unknown in America’s last major foreign conflict before Iraq.
There was no expectation that anything on wheels or indeed any pedestrian could be a moving bomb.
The second difference is a change in western military doctrine, common to other Nato armies during counter-insurgencies.
Known since 2001 as force protection, it puts a high premium on minimising all conceivable risk by permitting troops to bypass traditional methods of detecting friend from foe in favour of extreme pre-emptive action.

If there had been no Iraqi war, then no need for this Jack Bauer-like ‘extreme pre-emptive action‘ bullshit.

In all this current so-called animosity between President Obama and the Republican Party is way-different than three years ago when they joined hands in one giant bipartisan stance — keeping George Jr., The Dick, and all their compatriots from going to jail over the Iraq war.
David Corn in Mother Jones, December 2010:

In its first months in office, the Obama administration sought to protect Bush administration officials facing criminal investigation overseas for their involvement in establishing policies the that governed interrogations of detained terrorist suspects.
A “confidential” April 17, 2009, cable sent from the US embassy in Madrid to the State Department—one of the 251,287 cables obtained by WikiLeaks—details how the Obama administration, working with Republicans, leaned on Spain to derail this potential prosecution.

Jump forward to Firedoglake last Thursday and a post by Peter Van Buren, former US Foreign Service officer for 23 years, and the latest on the non-prosecution of war crimes:

On March 13, 2013, Comar filed two lawsuits in California against George W. Bush, Richard Cheney, Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice and Paul Wolfowitz on behalf of an Iraqi client and himself.
He alleges the defendants planned and waged a “war of aggression” in violation of laws set down at the Nuremberg Trials in 1946 and seeks to hold the defendants personally liable for their actions.

So, because every other problem in America has been resolved, Obama’s Department of Justice requested that the Bush Gang be granted procedural immunity.
DOJ claims that in planning and waging the Iraq War, the Bushies acted within the legitimate scope of their employment and are thus immune from suit.
This is the “Westfall Act Certification,” defense, submitted pursuant to the Westfall Act of 1988.
The Act permits the Attorney General, at his or her discretion, to substitute the United States as the defendant and essentially grant absolute immunity to individual government employees for actions taken within the scope of their employment.

Now to be fair, this is actually a fairly standard defense by the government.
The idea in theory is that if a government official follows the rules and say, denies you a passport lawfully because you did not present the required documentation, you can’t sue the guy.
I can say in my own State Department career assisting American Citizens abroad, most of whom had been arrested for something (top three reasons for arrest: drugs, drugs and drugs), more than one wanted to sue me personally because of something well out of my control, such as a foreign judge thought they were scum sucking freaks,or that a Korean prison turns out to be an unpleasant place.
I was just doing my job, and followed the rules, and thus the government protected my actions.
Still, while understanding the Department of Justice wants to just dismiss cases like Comar’s as routinely as possible, it leaves a sour taste to learn that the current administration wants to immunize the Bushies over a terrible war that nearly bankrupted America and resulted in so many needless deaths.
This is little more than cops giving other cops a pass on a speeding ticket, professional courtesy you know.
Or maybe the Obama folks are worried that if they hold Bush accountable, a future President Rand Paul might try and prosecute them for wanton murder by drones.
Attorney Comar does raise a good point in his lawsuit: since much of the planning for the Iraq War was done long before thugs like Rumsfeld, Rice and Wolfowitz actually took office, they should not be protected by Westfall.
In addition, there is that “violation of the Constitution of the United States” clause that must figure into this all somehow.

Yes, indeed, the good, old Constitution, a copy thereof in the vest pocket of every true-blood Teabagger, and supposedly likewise, close to the heart of a constitutional scholar/teacher like Obama.

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