In his State of the Union speech in January 2012, President Barack Obama proposed to create a unit to look into business fraud and another one to look into illegal or improper trade practices. Later, he created, by executive order, a trade bureau, which, in a prior blog, I made the case that the action was very likely unconstitutional, because Congress has the power to regulate interstate commerce. If these proposals involve looking back at prior conduct, they violate Obama’s dictum that he didn’t want to investigate for prosecution, any high crimes and misdemeanors that may have been committed by George W. Bush and high officials in his administration. Obama said he wanted to look ahead, not back. Therefore, I thought it was appropriate to repeat a piece I published to the Peace Action network on November 6, 2007. Since it is a fairly long piece of writing, my plan is to publish it in three blogs.
Speaker Pelosi, you recently told Ed Schultz, on his talk show carried by Air America, that you would welcome anyone providing information about a law that President Bush has broken that should lead to impeachment. The listings below provide specific instances in which laws at the national or international level have been broken, or in which widely accepted norms of governmental operation have been violated.
I. Violations of the UN Charter
1) The “shock and awe” psychological campaign conducted against Iraq before the March 2003 invasion, complemented by the public threats to use the full force of the U.S.military, violates Article II of the UN Charter, which calls upon Member nations to refrain from threatening the use of force.
2) The invasion of Iraq violated Article 51 of the UN Charter, which limits a claimed right of self-defense to a response to an armed attack.
3) The claim by the United States that it can unilaterally enforce selective UN resolutions goes against long-standing U.S. practice and bypasses enforcement provisions in the UN Charter.
II. Violations of the Nuremberg Principles, the Geneva and Hague Conventions
1) The command responsibility doctrine in the Nuremberg Principles holds that those in positions of command cannot escape responsibility for the actions of subordinates.
2) The seminal document in the paper trail of torture authorization, the Bybee memo, cleared the Justice Department and received the imprimatur of White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales, who labeled the Geneva Conventions as “quaint.” President Bush holds the command responsibility for this memo.
3) The Rumsfeld memo specifying harsh means of interrogation and the very similar September 2003 memo by the top commander in Iraq, General Ricardo Sanchez, both implicate Bush under the command authority principle.
4) Holding detainees without charges or any judicial action violates a basic precept of the Geneva Conventions, by which the status of detainees must be established by competent authority operating within a structure of law.
5) Mistreatment of detainees, up to and including torture, at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in Afghanistan and in Iraq has been so common a practice and so varied in method that it is difficult to catalog the mistreatment, but clearly, common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions has been so tattered and torn as to have ceased to be a restraint on U.S. action under President Bush.
6) The practice of extraordinary rendition, by which detainees are sent to other countries for interrogation, without judicial process, may not technically violate the Geneva Conventions, but it is an abhorrent act that violates the spirit of the Conventions. Although the U.S. insists it gets assurances that the receiving countries will not practice torture, there is no practical way to check on the fulfillment of the promise. According to an article on detainees’ mistreatment in the December 26, 2002 Washington Post, at least 100 suspects were sent to other countries by the United States.
7) Changing the laws of an occupied country, as was done by the Coalition Provisional Authority, especially the promulgation of Order 39, which allows extensive penetration of the Iraqi economy by foreign corporations, violates the Hague Conventions, the Geneva Conventions and the U.S. Army Field Manual, “The Law of Land Warfare.”
The next blog will take up the violation of the U.S.Constitution and statutes; also, it will cover the use of weapons of mass destruction.