Saturday, May 20, 2006

Killing Fields: Genocide in Iraq

Pol Pot imposed a revolutionary ideology on Cambodia so radical and rigid that if the countenance of a terrorized Cambodian, indoctrinated through coercion, betrayed even a hint of skepticism, that person would be summarily executed. President George W. Bush seems to have virtually achieved this kind of control in America without the threat of force as evidenced by the meekness of the media, the Democratic pseudo-opposition and the hesitant moderates within the Republican Party. Not only is Congress unwilling to investigate possible impeachment charges, they refuse to even censure him despite all the lies, cover-ups and illegal activities, not to mention war crimes. The accusation that Bush has violated the UN Charter, Geneva Conventions, the Convention on the Use of Some Conventional Weapons and the Convention on Torture is paradoxically inadequate to describe the severity of the crimes against humanity perpetrated by this president. By adding to the war crimes committed by his father, the former President George H. Bush, and President Clinton, President George W. Bush has reached the apogee of war crimes, namely genocide.

Proving genocide is problematic due to the ambiguous wording of the convention, the necessity to prove intent, clarification of the phrase “in whole or in part” and the number of precedents to guide the adjudication in any particular case. Since the enactment of the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in 1948, prosecutions have occurred in the national courts of the territory where genocide was committed, international tribunals created by the Security Council, and the International Criminal Court. For example, Ethiopia, Guatemala and Columbia have prosecuted perpetrators of genocide nationally, Rwanda and Serbia have prosecuted perpetrators of genocide in courts created by the Security Council and Serbian leaders have also been prosecuted at the International Criminal Court. Salient cases of genocide that have escaped prosecution to date are the Indonesian leaders responsible for the massacres in East Timor, the Khmer Rouge leaders responsible for the mass murders in Cambodia, the destruction of the Tibetan culture by the Chinese and President G. W. Bush. for crimes against humanity in Iraq.

The accusation that President W. Bush has committed genocide is based on Article 3 section b and e of the Convention on Genocide which assigns guilt to persons who engage in a “Conspiracy to commit genocide” and to those who bear “Complicity in Genocide”. President W. Bush has violated Article 2 section a, b, c of the genocide act which states that “Genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethical, racial or religious group such as:

(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.”

The most devastating instrument of genocide inflicted on the Iraqi people was the implementation of sanctions which were initiated under the authority of Security Council Resolution 661, approved on August 6 1990, mandating a mandatory and complete embargo on all trade with Iraq. A Security Council Sanctions Committee was created with one representative from each country on the Council, each of whom had a veto. The Americans and British exploited their veto to impose harsh conditions on the people of Iraq by prohibiting parts to repair water treatment plants, medicines, incubators, cardiac equipment, syringes, catheters, chlorine, radiology and laboratory equipment, incubators and sterilization equipment.

The most nefarious consequence of the sanctions was a severe shortage of clean water and destruction of the sewage system resulting in high levels of cholera, typhoid, dysentery and diarrhea. According to UNICEF, “Safe drinking water is a nation-wide problem and cases of diarrhea have increased from an average of 3.8 episodes per child/year in 1990 to nearly 15 episodes per by 1996. During the same period, typhoid fever increased from 2,240 to over 27,000 cases.” Tuberculosis rates tripled from 46.1 per 100,000 people in 1989 to an estimated 131.6 per 100,000 people in 2000. UNICEF estimates 4,000 excess child deaths every month above the 1989 pre-sanctions rate. In total, the sanctions were responsible for the deaths of over one million people, half of whom were children.

Although the sanctions were intended to force Saddam Hussein to destroy his weapons of mass destruction, in practice they became a weapon to starve the people of Iraq and deny them access to proper medical care in the hope that they would overthrow Saddam Hussein. The sanctions were responsible for “killing members of the group”, “causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group [Iraqis]”, and “inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its [Iraqis] physical destruction in whole or in part.”

On top of the sanctions, unleashing the fury of the American war machine on the hapless people of Iraq on January 16 1991, will be recorded as one of the great evil deeds in history. Flying at a safe Nintendo altitude of 40,000 feet, American bombers spewed 80 million tons of explosives over a 42 day period effectively bombing Iraq into the pre-industrial age. Targets included water treatment plants, chlorine plants, communication facilities, electrical generators, industrial plants, irrigation systems, farm silos, hospitals, schools, mosques, densely populated cities and the famous baby milk factory. The U.S. used fuel-air explosives, napalm and cluster bombs all of which had been defined as illegal in international law because of their inability to distinguish between military and civilian targets. Estimates of the number of people killed range from 100,000 to 200,000. This bombing campaign clearly inflicted on Iraqis “conditions of life calculated to bring about its destruction in whole or in part.”

President Bush Sr., President Clinton and President Bush Jr. sustained the bombing of Iraq until 2003 under the guise of a humanitarian campaign to protect groups at risk from Saddam Hussein. During that twelve year period, three to four bombing sorties a week wreaked havoc in the two no-fly zones established by the British and Americans. According to the Pentagon, 280,000 sorties were flown between 1991 and 2000 and from 1998 to 2002, the United States dropped 780 tons of bombs during 24,000 combat missions. The UN reported in 1999 that U.S. and British air raids flattened an agricultural school, damaged dozens of schools and hospitals and destroyed water supplies for 300,000 people in Baghdad.

Without clean water, water treatment facilities, medicine, medical equipment and sufficient food, it became increasingly difficult to sustain life. Bombing in the no-fly zones further damaged the infrastructure of Iraq and further inflicted “conditions of life calculated to bring about its destruction in whole or in part.”

President George W. Bush perpetuated the sanctions and bombings in the no-fly zones undermining even further the ability of the Iraqi people to survive. In addition, he declared war on Iraq in 2003 followed by a military occupation resulting in instability and insecurity. An insurgency consisting mostly of Sunni Muslims adopting terrorist methods of warfare engaged with messianic fervor in a clandestine killing spree of Americans. American forces armed and trained mostly Shiite Muslims in order to ultimately transfer responsibility for peace and order to Iraqis. The country degenerated into sectarian violence expelling any vestiges of stability and security. Between the insurgent-phobic trigger fingers of American troops, American-trained militias, insurgent groups and revenge-seeking citizens there is barely a square foot of safe ground on which to stand. As of April 13 2006, the war and military occupation have resulted in the death of between 34,139 and 38,280 Iraqis according to Iraq Body Count.

As a result, “Three years after the invasion [2003], Iraq remains a living nightmare for many Iraqis. Up to half of Iraq’s labor force is unemployed; more than 60% of the population depend on government rations to survive; over 20% live below the poverty line; and more than 400,000 children are suffering from malnutrition. This, on top of all the destruction, death and disorder.” (Herbert Docena, ZNet) The World Health Organization reports that “The military conflict of March/April 2003 with the following looting and civil unrest led to a further disruption of water treatment and supply plants, of sanitation facilities and power production plants and to the destruction of the remaining medical equipment in health facilities. Continuing widespread insecurity and lawlessness constrain the access to health facilities with the exacerbation of fighting in different areas of the country causing a large number of casualties.”

Although the genocide began with the former President Bush and continued with President Clinton, President George W. Bush was complicit in the genocide by destroying the infrastructure even further, by persevering with the sanctions, by continuing with the no-fly zone bombing, by heavy bombing after declaring war and by destabilizing the country during the military occupation.

The question “in total or in part” is a no-brainer because the extent of harm caused to the Iraqis meets the criteria in the Genocide Convention given that the entire country was subject to the devastation inflicted by the Americans. The question of intent can be separated into two questions. Whether the extent of the damage was intended is not disputable. It would have been a simple exercise to predict the outcome of the targeting and sanctions. Destroying people’s access to clean water leads to death and disease. Bombing people’s homes and markets leads to deaths. The more difficult question about the intention to destroy “in whole or part” the Iraqi nation” is irrelevant because any reasonable and rational person could have predicted that outcome. The fact that President Bush is neither reasonable nor rational does not excuse his crime of genocide.

In addition to his complicity in the genocide, President Bush is guilty of a conspiracy to bomb and impose sanctions on Iraq. Conspiracy can mean to “act in agreement and in secret towards a deceitful or illegal purpose.” When George W. Bush occupied the White House and continued the policies pertaining to Iraq of his father and President Clinton, he endorsed the policies of his two predecessors. That makes him a co-conspirator in genocide.

Compared to the damage caused by the Hutus in Rwanda and the Serbs in Bosnia both of which are considered to be genocide by the International Criminal Court, the acts of President Bush constitute no lesser a crime. Denis Halliday, former UN Assistant Secretary-General and Humanitarian Coordinator, resigned his post in 1998 describing U.S. and British policy as “genocidal.” Hans von Sponeck who succeeded Halliday resigned in 2000 asking “How long should the civilian population of Iraq be exposed to such punishment for something they have never done.” Two days later, Jutta Burghardt who headed the World Food Programme in Iraq, also resigned believing that the harm inflicted on the Iraqi people is intolerable.

Genocide is substantially different than other international crimes in its diabolical barbarity and is described in UN Resolution 96 (1946) as a crime that “shocks the conscience of mankind” and one that results in “great losses to humanity”. Escaping prosecution for violating the Geneva Convention and UN charter will not only be a travesty of justice but will distort the historical record omitting one the most important aspects of President George W. Bush’s presidency. Escaping prosecution for genocide will be the ultimate injustice and will open a yawning chasm between the historical record and the truth.


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