As American combat troops left Iraq in December 2011, at that point, the war was largely forgotten by the American public. What remains in public memory are retrospectives of the war, especially on its ten-year anniversary. The dominant narrative is that the Iraq war was a mistake because of the lies or “faulty intelligence” that were used to justify it, costs to the United States, and the strategic folly of invading the country in the first place. However, the war was more than a mistake — it was a crime. Portraying the war as a mistake does three pernicious things: downplay the gravity of the crime, does not question the premises of militarism and permanent war, and perpetuates the myth of American benevolence. Cumulatively, these retrospectives amount to a gross revision of history. Read the rest of this entry »
Tag Archives: Middle East & North Africa
Speech: “Imperialism, racism, and torture”
This is the text of a speech I gave at a panel Stanford Says No to War hosted called “It’s All About U.S.: Questioning U.S. Militarism”. This speech was given on May 26th, 2010 and is the last speech I gave at Stanford.
During the Nuremberg Trials, the chief American prosecutor, Robert H. Jackson, famously stated: “To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” America has a long history of war and its accumulated evils. It began as thirteen small colonies that sat along the Atlantic coast. In over a century, the United States expanded all the way to the Pacific Ocean – from sea to shining sea. The process was not pretty. It involved the genocide of the native Americans and the enslavement of millions of black Africans whose free labor was needed to fuel the American capitalist economy. At the dawn of the twentieth century, the United States began to colonize other lands, such as Hawaii, the Philippines and Cuba. Since then, it has occupied and militarily intervened in several parts of the globe, such as in Latin America, Southeast Asia, Africa, Europe and the Middle East. And let’s not forget the many democratically-elected leaders America overthrew in places like Chile and Iran. The United States currently occupies two countries – Iraq and Afghanistan – and has a network of over 700 bases across the planet. Thus, the United States is an empire. Read the rest of this entry »
Crimes of war and the need for justice
It is essentially common knowledge that Iraq posed no imminent threat to the United States. Iraq possessed no stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction and had no connection to al-Qaeda or 9/11, thus, discrediting the Bush administration’s justifications for war. Since the invasion was not authorized by the United Nations Security Council nor waged in self-defense against an imminent threat, the invasion of Iraq was an unlawful use of force (see Art. 39 and 51 of the Charter of the United Nations). In other words, the war in Iraq was a crime against peace and a war of aggression. The Nuremberg Principles (Art. 6) define “crime against peace” as “namely, planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression, or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances, or participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the foregoing”. The Judgment of the Nuremberg Tribunal famously stated that “to initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” Upon waging war with another country, the consequences of that initial act of aggression are various forms of human suffering. This includes, but is not limited to, torture, rape, mass murder, and the intentional or unintentional killing of civilians. This has evil has manifested in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Read the rest of this entry »