retrograde Republican recycling

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Republican recycling is going gangbusters, writes The Nation's Rebecca Gordon:

A barely noticed anniversary slid by on March 20. It's been 15 years since the United States committed the greatest war crime of the 21st century: the unprovoked, aggressive invasion of Iraq.

Gordon reminds us that "at least 600,000 people died in the decade and a half of war, civil war, and chaos that followed" the US invasion:

These days, there's a significant consensus here that the Iraq invasion was a "terrible mistake," a "tragic error," or even the "single worst foreign-policy decision in American history." Fewer voices are saying what it really was: a war crime.

Gordon discusses the Nuremberg tribunal, and then writes:

Similarly, the many war crimes of Dick Cheney and George W. Bush--the extraordinary renditions; the acts of torture at Guantánamo, Bagram Air Basein Afghanistan, and CIA black sites all over the world; the nightmare of abuse at Abu Ghraib, a US military prison in Iraq; the siege and firebombing (with white phosphorus) of the Iraqi city of Fallujah; the massacre of civilians in Haditha, another Iraqi city--all of these arose from the Bush administration's determination to invade Iraq.

It was to secure "evidence" of a (nonexistent) connection between Saddam Hussein and the Al Qaeda attackers of 9/11 that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld upped the ante at Guantánamo in his infamous memo approving torture there. The search for proof of the same connection motivated the torture of Abu Zubaydah at a CIA black site in Thailand. If not for that long-planned invasion of Iraq, the "war on terror" might have ended years ago.

"Secretary of Defense James ("Mad Dog") Mattis has said," Gordon continues, "that the president has the right to lock up anyone identified as a 'combatant' in our forever wars, well, forever:"

Speaking of Mattis and war crimes, there's already plenty of blood on his hands. He earned that "Mad Dog" sobriquet while commanding the US Marines who twice in 2004 laid siege to Fallujah. During those sieges, American forces sealed that Iraqi city off so no one could leave; attacked marked ambulances and aid workers; shot women, children, and an ambulance driver; killed almost 6,000 civilians outright; displaced 200,000 more; and destroyed 75 percent of the city with bombs and other munitions. The civilian toll was vastly disproportionate to any possible military objective--itself the definition of a war crime.

"In Iraq," the piece observes, "Mattis also saw to it that charges would be dropped against soldiers responsible for murdering civilians in the city of Haditha:"

In a well-documented 2005 massacre--a reprisal for a roadside bomb--American soldiers shot 24 unarmed men, women, and children at close range. As the convening authority for the subsequent judicial hearing, Mattis dismissed the murder charges against all the soldiers accused of that atrocity.

"Mattis is hardly the only slightly used war criminal in the Trump administration," notes Gordon--there is also Deputy CIA Director Gina Haspel:

Haspel was responsible for running a CIA black site in Thailand, during a period in the Bush years when the Agency's torture program was operating at full throttle. She was in charge, for instance, when the CIA tortured Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who was waterboarded at least three times and, according to the executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee's Torture report, "interrogated using the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques." (The report provided no further details.)

Haspel was also part of the chain of command that ordered the destruction of videotapes of the torture of Abu Zubaydah (waterboarded a staggering 83 times). According to the PBS show Frontline, she drafted the cable that CIA counterterrorism chief José Rodríguez sent out to make sure those tapes disappeared. In many countries, covering up war crimes would itself merit prosecution; in Washington, it earns a promotion.

Another torture-friendly Trumpite, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, is now nominated for Secretary of State. "Still, of all Trump's recycled appointments, the most dangerous of all," writes Gordon, is John Bolton:

Under George W. Bush, Bolton was a key proponent of that invasion, which he'd been advocating since at least 1998 when he signed an infamous letter to Bill Clinton from the Project for a New American Century recommending just such a course of action.

It's not just Trump's personnel that are deplorable--it's also his policies:

Meanwhile, the United States continues to fund and support the Saudi military's three-year-old war crime in that country, providing weaponry (including cluster bombs), targeting intelligence, and mid-air refueling for Saudi aircraft conducting missions there. The conflict, which The New York Times has called "the world's worst humanitarian crisis," has killed at least 10,000 people, although accurate numbers are almost impossible to come by. As of December 2017, the Yemen Data Project had catalogued 15,489 separate air attacks, of which almost a third involved no known military targets and another 4,800 hit targets that have yet to be identified. Hospitals and other health facilities have been targeted along with crowded markets. Government funding for public health and sanitation ended in 2016, leading to a cholera epidemic that The Guardian calls "the largest and fastest-spreading outbreak of the disease in modern history."

Through the illegal blockading of Yemen's ports, Saudi Arabia and its allies have exposed vast numbers of Yemenis to the risk of famine as well.

"And then there's always the chance," Gordon concludes wearily, "that Trump will start his very own unprovoked war of aggression:"

"I'm good at war," Trump told an Iowa rally in 2015. "I've had a lot of wars of my own. I'm really good at war. I love war in a certain way, but only when we win." With Mike Pompeo whispering in one ear and John Bolton in the other, it's frighteningly likely Trump will soon commit his very own war crime by starting an aggressive war against Iran.

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This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on March 30, 2018 2:25 PM.

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