London Mayor Tells Bush To Stay Out of Londontown — Will International Shunning Become Prosecution?

Boris Johnson, the conservative Mayor of London, has declared George Bush a persona non grata — asking him to stay out of London with his new torture-touting memoir. The question is whether such international shunning will become actual effort to prosecute Bush, who just confessed to war crimes. I discussed the controversy on Countdown.


Johnson begins his column without mincing words:

It is not yet clear whether George W Bush is planning to cross the Atlantic to flog us his memoirs, but if I were his PR people I would urge caution. As book tours go, this one would be an absolute corker. It is not just that every European capital would be brought to a standstill, as book-signings turned into anti-war riots. The real trouble — from the Bush point of view — is that he might never see Texas again.

It seems that, while our own Democratic and Republican leaders do not want to discuss torture (let alone investigate it), the Mayor of London is not keen on a former leader flogging his memoir and proudly proclaiming how he ordered the torture of suspects.

The controversy may only be the first international reaction to the book. While our media has discussed the book rather matter-of-factly as acknowledging his order to waterboard suspects, other nations take international treaties seriously and view this as an admission of a war crime.
Previously, Cheney and others were the subject of international calls for arrest after they admitted to roles in the torture program. The United States has a clear obligation to prosecute those responsible for our torture program. However, President Obama has promised to block any investigation of torturers and has stopped any investigation of those who ordered the war crime. In the absence of nations enforcing their international obligations, other nations will often set forward to enforce the rule of law.

Such claims are sometimes based on universal jurisdiction (or the universality principle) which asserts the right under public international law for any state to enforce laws against crimes outside its boundaries, regardless of nationality or country of residence of the accused. This enforcement is generally limited to such things as war crimes — viewed as a crime against all under such agreements as the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture. Obviously, such moves are controversial and subject to intense challenge. For example, one question is whether Protocol II Additional to the Geneva Conventions restricts universal prosecution of crimes to “international conflicts” to the exclusion of torture at CIA facilities or Gitmo. Ironically, Bush always emphasizes the “war on terror” as an international effort.

In addition, since we tortured foreign citizens, those countries would have grounds to issue a warrant as was the case in the arrest of former dictator of Chile Augusto Pinochet. Pinochet was arrested in London in 1998 on an order from Spanish Judge Baltazar Garzon who cited Spanish victims in Chile. Regardless of the grounds, any warrant for Bush would put Obama in an even more ignoble position on torture (if that is possible). He would have to fight an effort to enforce human rights law while blocking such enforcement at home.  We would be in the same position as Serbia in both protecting accused war criminals and resisting efforts of other countries in seeking to prosecute them.

In the meantime, Bush’s book tour schedulers may want to avoid those countries which care about human rights and focus on such natural allies as China, Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia.  He might want to avoid Italy, Spain, and much of Western Europe.

Cheney and Bush have now virtually dared anyone to come after them. They know that Obama has chosen politics over principle. The question is whether the shunning in London will become an actual effort in another country to issue an arrest warrant.

Currently, the debate over torture in the United States is focusing not on the use of torture but whether actual evidence derived from torture should be admissible in federal court. That was the position of Gov. Pataki in our recent debate on Hardball:

Debates of that kind send a message to other countries that we are well past any debate over the use of torture and are now arguing over the use of the fruits of torture. When combined with the Bush book and Cheney interviews, some leaders may view any enforcement of international law as up to other countries. In the absence of such enforcement, they could feel that their countries will be compromised like the United States in turning a blind eye to a war crime or a war criminal.

This brings us back to Boris Johnson. It is rather difficult to say that your country rejects torture when it is feting a former leader who has publicly admitted to ordering torture (and remains proud of it).

Jonathan Turley

100 thoughts on “London Mayor Tells Bush To Stay Out of Londontown — Will International Shunning Become Prosecution?

  1. Thank you for the Countdown link, Professor Turley, and for continuing the effort to expose Mr. Bush as the war crime pariah that he is. As a 32-year registered Republican, nothing would please me more than to see Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney in prison for the damage they have inflicted on our Nation by their war crime acts and other egregious misdeeds.

  2. I was curious because aside from old movies and TV shows (a sketchy source, I know) I had no idea. I do think it would be cool if the Crawford Caligula got busted and the cops said:

    “You’re nicked, me beauty!”

  3. eniobob,

    Although I agree with Barbara someone should tell her that We the People wish her vile criminal progeny had stayed in the womb.

  4. BIL – also remember 2 other important point about Babs comments:
    1) She has another brain damaged discharge that wants to further the damage done by Boy Blunder but has to pass the Quitta to get the job.

    2) Babs is an old-school East Coast snob, the real kind not the made up boggyman of FAUX news. She looks down on everyone that is not from old money and old, English, religion.

  5. Jelperman and Tony Sidaway-

    I understand that under British law, before an arresting officer can say “You’re nicked”, he must first say; “Allo, Allo, Allo- What’s all this, then?”.

  6. I’ve always had a soft spot for Boris Johnson, he’s a little bit loopy but he always says what he thinks.
    And I usually agree with him. We’ve certainly got enough criminals over here without importing them.
    But I’d rather we arrested Blair first, I’ve always seen him as being worse than Bush. Blair is an intelligent bloke but I always felt like someone told Bush to go to war, Tony Blair should have known better. Mind you, I did just get the book so I’ll have to give it a read. It’ll probably just give me more reasons to get grumpy

  7. Dear Jonathan,
    If I may be so familiar…..I posted your blo on Facebook because I found the topic interesting. A loony woman claimed that Mayor Johnson never made any such statements about bush and proceeded to accuse me of LYING about her Mayor.

    I know nothing about this Mayor. I said nothing about him when I added the link to this blo. Needless to say she offered no proof of her statement. Now, I have already Blocked her because I don’t need insane people telling me I can be arrested for posting “lies” on FaceBook, but for my own satisfaction, I’d like to know the proof that the good Mayor said this about bush and his admission of REAL criminal behavior.

  8. Thank you so much, Buddha! Sorry if I didn’t catch the obvious, but it’s been a busy week……anyway, I appreciate the help!

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