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Monday, October 09, 2006

U.S. must follow Nuremberg code

Perhaps it was by some quirk of Intelligent Design that Congress passed the law legitimizing the Bush administration's right to do whatever it chooses to detainees (short of rape and mutilation) almost 60 years to the day of the verdicts at Nuremberg.

Two of the Nuremberg trial defendants, Field Marshall Wilhelm Keitel and Gen. Alfred Jodl, were sentenced to death on Oct. 1, 1946, in part, for delegating Hitler's infamous "commando order." Hitler ranted that allied commandos who attacked German troops by stealth were not soldiers but common criminals. Gangsters, he added, were not covered by the Geneva Convention.

Substitute the word "enemy combatants" for "gangsters," and the Bush administration's approach is certainly rooted in precedent. Moreover, the law doesn't abandon the Geneva Convention. It merely allows leeway in interpreting old-fashioned notions about what constitutes torture.

A second strike against Keitel dealt with his role in carrying out Hitler's "Night and Fog" decree. Under this directive, suspected resistance sympathizers were whisked away by night to places where no one would ever learn of their fates. "Read More" click link below


Substitute the word "insurgents" for "resistance" and this, too, has a familiar ring. In the wake of Abu Ghraib, the U.S. Army estimated that between 70 percent and 90 percent of those rounded up had done nothing.

Worse, Republicans in Congress maintain that any objections to these breaches of international law and basic decency "coddle" terrorists. For obvious political reasons, advance word is that trials in some cases could begin in synch with next month's elections.

The Nuremberg Charter enumerated four crimes. In highlighted form, these were:

# Conspiracy to wage war of aggression;

# Actual launching of aggressive war;

# Killing, plundering and destroying in a war not justified by militarily necessity; and

# Crimes against humanity.

Arguably, the invasion of Iraq fails to rise to the level of crimes against humanity revealed at Nuremberg. As long as the world draws a moral distinction between shoving children into gas chambers versus chalking up their unintended deaths in an unnecessary war to "collateral damage," that debate will continue. But the first three counts speak for themselves. And I submit that at least some who were hanged at Nuremburg were less guilty of war crimes than the people who brought us Iraq.

Julius Streicher, for one, was executed on general principles. Although a loathsome sort, no evidence was presented linking Streicher to specific murders or the war. However, the tribunal concluded that publishing his vicious anti-Semitic tabloid constituted a crime against humanity because it incited others to murder. In truth, it differed more in focus than in content from some anti-Islamic vitriol heard nowadays from stage right.

Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, chief U.S. prosecutor, affirmed that the legacy of Nuremberg should be that the Germans stood trial not because they lost the war -- but because they started it.

The jury of history is out on whether he was correct. Until that verdict is final, holding these detainees without charge or having them tried by hand-picked "military commissions" serves only to incite global terror and lower America's credibility even further.

If there is any evidence of crimes, why not allow these detainees to be judged by an independent international body, as was done with such painstaking circumspection 60 years ago at Nuremberg?
U.S. must follow Nuremberg code


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