Obama Administration Calls for War Crimes Investigation in Gaza War — But Remains Undecided on Any Prosecution of U.S. War Crimes Under the Bush Administration

125px-flag_of_the_united_nationssvgIn a striking departure from the Bush Administration, Ambassador Susan E. Rice, US Permanent Representative to the United Nations, called for an investigation into possible war crimes committed by Israel in the recent Gaza fighting. While correctly noting such violations by Hamas, Rice noted that there are now credible accounts that need to be investigated. The question is now whether the Administration will apply the same standard to the investigation and prosecution of war crimes that are now clearly identified in the Bush Administration involving an official torture program.

The message still notably pronounced such violations by Hamas while only suggesting investigation into the claims against Israel (while also accusing people of using such allegations to inflame feelings against Israel). Nevertheless, even the suggestion of such an investigation is a departure from the Bush Administration’s refusal to criticize Israel. Here is the relevant part of the statement:

The United States is deeply concerned Mr. President about the loss of Palestinian and Israeli life in recent weeks and the tragic suffering of Palestinian civilians, who require urgent humanitarian and reconstruction assistance. Violations of international humanitarian law have been perpetrated by Hamas through its rocket attacks against Israeli civilians in southern Israel and the use of civilian facilities to provide protection for its terrorist attacks. There have also been numerous allegations made against Israel some of which are deliberately designed to inflame. We expect Israel will meet its international obligations to investigate and we also call upon all members of the international community to refrain from politicizing these important issues.

Notably, these allegations are being advanced by independent media groups like the BBC. Rice is clearly correct that Hamas routinely used human shields and has been using unguided rockets to terrorize Israel. However, there are clearly legitimate questions raised over how Israel responded. I am very sympathetic to the need for a response but obviously these allegations must be investigated and prosecuted.

Of course, unlike the “allegations” against Israel, the Bush torture program has been confirmed by Bush officials. Yet, President Obama and Eric Holder continue to withhold their commitment to investigation and prosecute any war crimes committed by our own country.

For the full story, click here.

For Rice’s statement, click here

24 thoughts on “Obama Administration Calls for War Crimes Investigation in Gaza War — But Remains Undecided on Any Prosecution of U.S. War Crimes Under the Bush Administration

  1. Is this bad or is this the setup for arguing that equity and justice would require Bush Co faces the same music?

  2. Buddha, I think this is terrific news. It provides a great “consistency in the application of the law” argument when the inevitable whining begins. Of course, this will offend premillenial fundamentalists, who will likely consider this as evidence that Pres. Obama is indeed the anti-christ determined to prevent the rapture. But I believe that faction ought to be ignored entirely in policy making.

  3. Buddha & Mike,
    I hope this is good news. Remember, however, that we tried and executed a Japanese General for water boarding and torture. But now we have many Americans, admittedly a vocal minority, who say when we do it it is okay and not torture. When it comes to governmental expediency hypocrisy is a distinct possibility.

  4. Mike Spindell,
    I share your concerns. The problem is that a portion of the population can’t come to grips with the idea of Americans committing war crimes. I doubt that a majority of the population remembers Mai Lai. It’s another version of the short memory phenomenon you noted on the executive privilege issue.

  5. All of this proper talk about Obama prosecuting the Bush Administration for war crimes like torture and no trolls yet! Who would have imagined that!
    Mike,
    I remember Mai Lai and Lt. Calley was rightfully prosecuted for a shameful incident that in some respects pales in comparison to our systematic torture that was ordered and authorized by Bush and others. Bush should get the same treatment that Calley got.

  6. so Lt. Calley killed a bunch of innocent civilians and it pales in comparison to water boarding a half dozen people. I have honestly heard it all now.

    And on top of that actually having a serious discussion about it, what does the conservative media call it – oh yes Bush Derangement Syndrome or BDS for short. Mike S dont go apoplectic on me watch that bad heart wouldnt want to be guilty of murder or manslaughter.

    Let me see if I can get this straight-
    1. we were attacked
    2. we went to war to prevent another attack from 7th century mystics
    3. we almost caught them but the NY Times gave up intelligence gathering techniques.
    4. We wire tapped bad guys having conversations with maybe Americans.
    5. We got warrents but after the fact. What a few hours or a day or two.
    6. that had to be discontinued due to liberal intervention.
    7. there is a war on and the bad guys may come back but liberal do gooders made it impossible to effectively gather intelligence.
    8. we water board a few guys because we need some intelligence.
    9. now liberals want to try Bush and members of his administration for water boarding because that was all that was left to them because of liberal intervention in the intelligence gathering system.

    You guys on the left are famous for unintended consequences. In most cases you cant see past the nose on your face.

    Lets raise taxes on those rich people that buy big yachts, whoops rich people stopped buying yachts and now the people that build boats dont have any work.

    Lets take land out of production for city parks so we can walk our dogs whoops housing prices in these areas go up now we cant afford a house let alone a dog.

    Lets not have nuclear power plants because of a movie whoops now we have global warming.

    Lets use ethanol in our gasoline to make the air cleaner whoops since we are making it out of corn poor people are now not able to buy cheap food.

    After awhile I would think you guys would get tired of being wrong all the time. I guess its like the dog and the porcupine, the dog gets quilled but he keeps going back for more thinking I’ll get him this time. Stupid fucking dog. I used to help my uncle (a vet) pull quills out of the same god dam dog everytime. Had I been older I would have called him ole’ progressive or maybe old yiberal.

    I could go on and on. As old doc used to say too soon old and too late smart – and that is the history of liberal thought.

  7. Bron,
    I will keep it very simple for you. The Mai Lai incident was Calley ordering on his level. The torture was done upon ORDERS from your BFF George W. Bush, in violation of US law. Secondly,we have tortured scores of people in the war on terror. Bush only admitted to 3, not two detainees that were waterboarded, but many other torture techniques were used at Gitmo, Bagram and at the CIA sites. Finally, over 100 detainees died during our detention of them. At least 30+ of them were considered homicides. You have to stop listening to Fox News. You are accepting their lies without verifying them for yourself. When the government orders the torture of scores of people, when the government holds 700 detainees for several years without charging them with any crime and without providing any access to any judicial system for 4 or 5 years, that is horrendous and on a scale that affects us all. Here is a link to released documents that support the numbers that I have mentioned above. http://action.aclu.org/torturefoia/released/102405/. Take a look. It isn’t pretty reading, but this is the unlawful conduct ordered and authorized by the Bush regime.

  8. Bron98,

    Why is it that when there are Americans who just simply want a moral standing law abiding government back,you have to turn it into an attack on liberals? Don’t be fooled as there are many many conservatives that feel the same way.

    It’s not about left or right or whatever party you favor,it’s about moral standing. I bet you auditioned for a part in that wonderful smash hit of a movie ‘American Carol’ eh?

    Talk about 7th century mystics?

  9. There are many real tests for Obama coming up. On Glenn Greenwald’s site there is a discussion of the ACLU’s Civil Lawsuit on behalf of 6? people who the CIA kidnapped and rendered to be tortured in other countries or in US run black prison sites. So far the Obama adminstration has not waived the very dubious claim of state secrets in this case which is due to be heard on the 9th. This means so far they are not supporting either criminal or civil prosecutions against those who ordered and carried out torture.

    Will it be left to Spain to call our people to account as they are with Israel? That would be a black mark on our nation. The real values of Obama will show themselves in these cases. If he will not allow the civil suit to go forward there will be not even a modicum of justice for the victims of US wrongdoing and if he sticks with the claim of state secrets he has effectively said: “If the president does it, it is legal.”

  10. Rafflaw:

    Ok I will concede this, that if that is true and Americans or their agents did the killing and not other prisoners killing collabartors, then you are correct and I think a death penalty would be in order. If this is correct I am ashamed, what was done was torture and cannot be condoned.

    I wish one of you all would have shown me this up front and not harped on water boarding. I think it actually distracts from the real issue which is what you pointed me to. I still am of the opinion that water boarding does not rise to the level of the web site you sent me to and as such distracts from the real issue.

    I am sure that there is not one person on the right (average citizens like myself) that would not agree with you on this if true.
    Again you all need to get off the water boarding, it pales in comparrison to what I saw on that web site and is a distraction because people disagree about whether or not it rises to the level of true torture.

  11. Rafflaw:

    on further inspection of those records it looks like a lot of the homicides were actually combat deaths. Some of the others were during prison riots and probably some of them were killed by other prisoners. There were some that appear to have been done while during interogation but maybe not. One did mention that a Navy Seal team beat the crapt out of a guy during a mission (gotta love those seals).

    And also the list was put out by the ACLU and we know they have no axe to grind. So bring on your trial and if Bush did condone torture as policy then hang him in public. As Buddha says we will reap the whirl wind of public outrage if we dont.

    And please dont think you are keeping it simple for me, you are keeping it simple because you cant think any other way. Which is America evil, everyone else virtuous.

  12. Bron98, I write in what I hope is not a vain effort to summarize certain points and clarify certain differences of opinion. The goal is to see if discussion of these extremely important issues is possible without resort to editorial hyperbole and name calling. Here goes.

    1. The law of war (and there is such a thing) has developed over many centuries.
    2. Treaties and other international agreements relating to the treatment of prisoners of war are intended to provide basic rights and protections for those who have been removed from combat. The U.S. has been instrumental in the development of many of the rules because it is in our interest to protect the lives of our own troops by providing serious sanctions for those who would abuse them.
    3. Waterboarding has long been recognized as torture and is therefore illegal. It is not subject to differences of opinion.
    4. Terrorism has complicated the application of the law of war because the battle is fought against often anonymous groups rather than nation states. This has produced legitimate debate among governments around the world with respect to whether and how laws should be revised to accommodate these new realities.
    5. Treaties to which the United States is a party are as much the law of the land as are domestic statutes adopted by Congress. Therefore, we cannot simply ignore them or adopt policies to repudiate our obligations under them by executive decision. There are procedures available to formally withdraw from treaties under various circumstances.
    6. Fundamental to the current debate is recognition of the principle that a unilateral determination to ignore the law (which means to violate it) is the first step down the road to anarchy.
    7. The debate raging in this country at the present time has nothing to do with whether we should be “soft” or “hard” in the fight against terrorist groups. It involves how we are to apply existing law to our treatment of persons suspected of terrorist activity and what procedures should be utilized for that purpose.
    8. Much of the anger directed toward the Bush administration arises from the growing evidence that Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney made a decision early in the administration to selectively ignore established law when they deemed it expedient to do so and that they enlisted the assistance of White House legal counsel and the Department of Justice to provide legal opinions to support what they had already determined to do. If true, that means that lawyers within the administration in essence concocted opinions in bad faith and represents a perversion of both the executive and judicial branches of government. Underlying this is the controversial theory that the decisions of the president trump the law, that is, that his decisions are not subject to review or approval by either the legislative or judicial branches of government. This is the so-called unitary executive theory. Most scholars agree that this theory has no constitutional basis and represents a form of despotism.
    9. If the administration has violated the law, it must be held to account, not only because this country is founded upon the primacy of the law, but because we cannot pursue treaty violations against others if we do not honor those same treaties by our own conduct.
    10. When the terms “torture” and “war crimes” are used in debate, they are technically accurate terms. However, they understandably stir emotions, frequently resulting in the denigration of the arguments to mere exchanges of insults.
    Finally, I wish to point out the distinction between the accusations against the Bush adminstration and what came to be known as the Mai Lai Massacre. Lt. Calley basically lost control under admittedly stressful circumstances, resulting in the random and intentional murders of many innocent women and children. He was tried, convicted and sentenced for his crimes. The issue in the present situation is whether a sitting president adopted and carried out a policy of intentionally violating established law. That claim, if true, is indeed worse than what occurred at Mai Lai because the president acts for all of us and his crimes are the crimes of the nation.
    I don’t know if anything I’ve said is helpful, but it is an attempt to lay out the background of the debate and the reasons for its importance.

  13. I keep hearing about peace talks etc,etc but the thing t6hat really
    sticks out in my mind and looking at my kids,is how the children of
    these people must feel seeing there mothers,fathers ,sister and brothers splatterd all over the place and being left alone to cope with that,since your neighbor is going through the same thing and can’t help you.”Your Neighbor Has No Shoes,But you Have No Feet.

    Tragic.

  14. MikeA:

    thank you and I do understand all that. But what about all of the rights that Lincoln abused during the civil war? There is more to this argument than a legal side. We did not know that they (Al Queda) did not have nuclear and biological weapons, it was a real issue.

  15. MikeA,
    Perfect summation and answer, but see the response? This is the trolls bob and weave. Sucks you in by seeming to present reasonable questions, when fully answered changes the subject. Only an idiot, bereft of any logic, would respond to you by citing Lincoln. Non sequitor rules the feeble minds of Limbaughed twits, who when backed to the wall threaten you by saying how big they are. My guess is he is an emaciated nineteen year old punk, living at home and filling some seat in college, that would best be filled by someone with the capacity to learn.

  16. MikeA:

    thank you for your thoughtful comments, I appreciate the time you took to put them together. I understand your points (security vs liberty). And I agree I do not want an ID card nor do I want my phone to be tapped without a warrent.

    My example could have been FDR and Japanese internment during WWII, which I disagree with but understand.

    And as far as Lincoln goes he did not really suspend the constitution by suspending Habeas Corpus. And as far as Milligan goes does it even apply because the Gitmo detaines are not nor ever have been US citizens. I think the only US citizen John Lind was given a trial quickly.

    Just some of my questions not being a lawyer.

  17. Lincoln DID suspend habeas corpus. On April 27 , 1861. He also abused that suspension to jail journalists he didn’t like.

    You’re clearly not a historian either.

    You ever wonder why you get so trashed? Look at the quality of your work. That says it all.

  18. Was I the only one that took notice that in the picture taken of the only living presidents that Obama had positioned himself between Bush Sr. and Bush Jr. It was and is a clear sign that he is a Bush man. He knows that he had better be or he could windup like John and Robert Kennedy and like the over 3000 dead on 9-11. You don’t mess with the Bush family. Will Bush ever be charged with any crime? No. He is to well protected. We better be glad he did not go ahead and become the first dictator of the United States has he had every thing set up to where he could have very easily and things are still set up for anyone who is in the office of the president to do so. So it is no great wonder that Obama does not want to chance things that Bush did to much and we, the American people, sleep on.

  19. […] Watch CBS Videos Online Although McCain said that we now just need to move on, I’m impressed by his ability to speak the truth. To his point about moving on, however, if McCain admits that the Bush administration violated the Geneva Conventions and the U.N. Convention Against Torture, that means that the people that formulated the torture policy are guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity. I just don’t get how you can “move on” from fundamental violations of U.S. and international law that we routinely call on other nations to prosecute. […]

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