Is George W. Bush a war criminal for deliberately violating the Geneva Conventions? Can he be prosecuted when he leaves office on January 20, 2009? The answers are found in Michael Haas’s George W. Bush, War Criminal? The Bush Administration’s Liability for 269 War Crimes, which documents 269 war crimes and assesses the culpability of Bush and his administration.
The author, Michael Haas, has written more than thirty books, most recently International Human Rights: A Comprehensive Introduction (2008). A well-known political scientist, he played a key role in stopping American funding of the Khmer Rouge. His book exposing Singapore’s many human rights violations is banned in that authoritarian country.
The Foreword to the book is written by former Nuremberg prosecutor Benjamin Ferencz.
The following chapters delineate 269 war crimes:
1) A President Without a Good Lawyer
President George W. Bush is ambitious but not a lawyer, so he relies on legal advice. The attorneys on which he has relied have been widely criticized as lacking the competence and wisdom to provide sound advice. Bush has preferred to “kick ass” (in his words) rather than listen to the legal fine points.
2) Crimes of Aggression
The concept of “just war” developed from the writings of Saint Augustine and others into international agreements prohibiting aggressive war. The primary war crime is to wage war without UN approval. There are five other crimes against peace, including propaganda for war, all violated by Bush.
3) Crimes Committed in the Conduct of War
Abraham Lincoln promulgated a code of warfare that served as a basis for the Red Cross Convention, the Hague Conventions, and the Geneva Conventions. Nevertheless, Bush and his commanding generals have allowed 36 violations of these and other international agreements.
4) Crimes Committed in the Treatment of Prisoners
Although General Tommy Franks ordered troops in Afghanistan and Iraq to follow the Geneva Conventions whenever they encountered enemy personnel, he was quickly countermanded by Bush. The “gloves came off,” and thousands were improperly treated. Some 175 war crimes have been committed, many captured on film, within American-run prisons in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantánamo—and in secret prisons.
5) Crimes Committed in the Postwar Occupations
Whereas the postwar military occupation of Afghanistan was brief, the expected scenario for postwar Iraq did not materialize. Iraq was governed by L. Paul Bremer, who claimed direct authority from President Bush in proclaiming “I am the law,” and another 52 war crimes have been committed.
6) Tribunals for War Crimes Prosecution
American and international law provides the basis for lawsuits, but sitting presidents cannot be brought to court on criminal offenses. Some cases have already been filed in Europe. This chapter will indicate which tribunals have been and could be used for trials as well as the statutory and treaty basis. Penalties under the law are identified.
7) The Bush Administrations’ War Crimes Liability
President Bush is directly responsible for some but not every war crime identified in the analysis, so an assessment is made of his culpability for each specific violation as well as members of his Cabinet, top military brass, field commanders, and field personnel. The ramifications of both suing and not suing Bush are complex. Arguments pro and con are reviewed. A truth commission is proposed.