The repeal will not bring justice to those who were tortured. It will not bring back those murdered by a bloodthirsty military alliance of “civilised” Western powers.
Anyone old enough and alive at the time knows the story well. In the aftermath of 9/11 – and apparently in a fit of divinely inspired Christian fundamentalism – President George W Bush manipulated the American public’s outrage at the terror attacks and acquired Congress’ legal authorisation to use military force against Iraq in 2002.
Despite Iraq having nothing to do with the radical Islamist attack that killed thousands of Americans – and considering that Bush himself was clearly a radical Christian who hubristically thought God spoke to him directly – the invasion of Iraq was launched in early 2003, based on complete fabrications, and millions of Iraqi lives were broken and continue to be shattered to this very day.
Rather than using its powers to pass legislation that would hold Bush and his accomplices to account for prosecuting a blatant war of aggression and overseeing innumerable war crimes, the best Congress could come up with last week was to simply repeal the bill that started it all.
US war crimes always go unanswered
Yes, it is idealistic to hope that the United States, the self-appointed bastion and guardian of democracy, might actually hold its political leaders to account for war crimes. But this is not a plea to idealism, rather it is an attempt to shine a bright light at the underbelly of the US’ rampant hypocrisy.
By any objective standard, there can be no doubt that what the Bush administration did in Iraq was a crime of aggression, a recognised international crime particularly under the Rome Statute that established the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The White House under Bush lied about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. They further lied about late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s links to Al Qaeda and other radical Islamist groups. Their British allies across the pond – also considered ideological cornerstones of the democratic world – aided and abetted their deception by introducing what infamously became known as the “dodgy dossier”. They then, jointly with other NATO allies, launched a devastating and destructive invasion and occupation of a sovereign country.
During that occupation, American forces perpetrated horrifying war crimes and crimes against humanity. Who can forget the harrowing scenes leaked from the Abu Ghraib prisons where Iraqis were raped, urinated on, savaged by dogs, and electrocuted?
Who can erase from their memory the brutality of British forces who arrested innocent Iraqis in Basra before literally beating them to death? Of course, and thanks to WikiLeaks, we also now have a permanent record of the “Collateral Murder” events that led to the deaths of more than a dozen Iraqis and two Reuters journalists.
Despite all of these facts, and despite all the nonsense we hear night and day about the US and the UK respecting human rights and upholding international law, no one has faced charges let alone a tribunal for their role in decimating an entire country and scarring generations of Iraqi children, many of whom constantly live under the spectre of war, militia violence, and ongoing violent interference from both the US and Iran.
Internationally, no one will do a thing. This is simply because the main instigators are permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and can veto anything coming their way. Further, and even though Britain is a signatory to the Rome Statute and the ICC found that the British had perpetrated war crimes in Iraq, the court refused to prosecute or take action.
The United States simply dispensed with the formalities and withdrew from the Rome Statute entirely and, with its powerful veto, can never even be referred to an investigation, let alone a tribunal.
US domestic politics and courts are the only recourse
As such, and with the above borne in mind, it is clear that international legal systems are either totally unfit for purpose or completely incapable of holding powerful states to account. If we are to believe the idealistic speeches of American and British politicians about the merits of democracy and their respect for its principles, then the duty falls upon those politicians to hold their elites to account.
While the ICC cannot or will not intervene, in the constitutional law of both the US and the UK the people, through their elected representatives, are empowered to legislate as they see fit. They could easily pass laws that will hold the politicians responsible for the tragedy of Iraq to account and have them stand before a court of law to answer for their crimes.
Imagine the sort of global example this would set? Imagine how very careful even the most militant Christian fundamentalist president would be if he thought he would one day answer for crimes of aggression, crimes against humanity, and war crimes?
Instead, and by their inaction, the legislatures and elites of these powerful nations are simply reinforcing the age old maxim of “might makes right”. Until another state, suitably powerful enough, can hold them to account, then nothing will change. They will continue to hypocritically champion and even craft international law as and when it suits them, while doing everything they can possibly do to undermine that same law when it no longer suits their purposes.
As such, the repeal of the 2002 bill authorising military force does nothing in reality. Even today’s White House acknowledges the repeal will do nothing to change American military deployments in Iraq.
The repeal will not bring justice to those who were tortured. It will not bring back those murdered by a bloodthirsty military alliance of “civilised” Western powers. It is merely a symbolic move declaring an end to a losing chapter in an empire’s history, while the victims remain a footnote in the story of American imperialism.
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