Saturday, April 17, 2004

War Crimes and Truth Commissions

Warcrimes are being committed in Falluja. If what has made it through the media filter doesn't demonstrate it right off - using heavy weaponry in a heavily populated area, the hundreds of civilian deaths - then this account of an international aid worker on the ground in Falluja will leave you in no doubt. Firing on unarmed civilians holding truce flags, firing on marked ambulances; the stress and frustration of our troops seems to have pushed them beyond the limits of "civilized" warfare, as if there could be such a thing.

A major endeavor of our next Administration will be investigating the brutality and crimes of our own forces and commanders in Iraq. We will need a politically powerful War Crimes Investigation here and a Truth Commission in Iraq to begin healing that fractured nation. John Kerry is ideally suited by his experiences in the Senate for overseeing these tasks with honesty, fearlessness, and compassion. It is going to be a painful and politically difficult process.

We currently have 10,000 people interred in concentration camps in Iraq to which the Red Cross and Red Crescent do not have access. We have spread depleted uranium throughout Iraq and will not allow the UN access to heavily contaminated areas to assess them. We have committed an environmental crime on untold generations of Iraqis. We have committed violations of the Geneva Conventions untold numbers of times. Of course, we have also waged an aggressive, unprovoked war upon Iraq. Some even argue that our Oil for Food program and embargo was tantamount to genocide.

People will have to answer for all of this. No American President has been prosecuted for crimes committed while in office; it is imperative that we change that tradition. Responsible parties must be made known and made accountable, including Clinton and the First Bush, and members of their Administrations.

It's uncomfortable and unpleasant to contemplate that these things might have been done in our names, by our supposedly democratic government, by both Democrats and Republicans. As unpleasant as it will be, and as unwelcome the revelations which may emerge could be, we have to do it to stave off the strong likelihood that it will happen again soon if we do not take a clear-eyed look at ourselves and our leadership.

Lacking knowledge among Americans of how distant the reality of Iraq was from the pablum spoon fed to us by the Administration and a cowed and complicit corporate media, there will be no constituency for the sort of changes in our political system we need to make. If America stumbles eyeless through Iraq, we will continue as the targets of a jihad that will last for generations. I do not wish the forcus of our nation's energy and ingenuity to be on fighting and killing Middle Eastern people for the remainder of my life, and the lives of my children. There are only two ways to end terrorism permanently - genocide or justice. Which option would you have us take?

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