George W. Bush isn't the only alleged war criminal visiting Surrey in October
A great deal of attention has focused on former U.S. president George W. Bush's upcoming visit to the Surrey Regional Economic Summit.
The StopWar Coalition has written a letter to Mayor Dianne Watts urging her to rescind the invitation because Bush is a "war criminal".
Meanwhile, two legal groups have called on the federal government to investigate and prosecute Bush for torture under the Criminal Code of Canada.
But Bush isn't the only alleged "war criminal" who will be at the summit, which takes place on October 20.
If you go to Google and type in the words "war criminal Bill Clinton", you will discover 13.6 million references. He will also be at the summit, but so far, nobody has publicly called for his arrest.
Some of those alleged war crimes concern Clinton's decisions to use military force in other countries without the approval of Congress or the UN Security Council.
Following the Second World War, the Nuremberg tribunal declared that launching a war of agression was the "supreme" war crime if it was not done in self-defence. Many legal scholars argue that a war of aggression can only be fought with the backing of the UN Security Council.
NATO disregarded this in 1999 when it attacked the former Yugoslavia during a crisis over Kosovo seeking independence. Clinton was president at the time.
The man who oversaw military operations, NATO's supreme allied commander for Europe, was Gen. Wesley Clark. He was raised in Little Rock, Arkansas, which happens to be home of the William J. Clinton Presidential Library.
Last week, I asked a senior lawyer with the New York–based Center for Constitutional Rights, Katherine Gallagher, why her group was calling for Bush's arrest but not for Clinton's when they're both in Surrey.
"Of course, that issue has been before the International Court of Justice in the Hague, brought by Serbia, contesting the legality of the attack on Serbia and ultimately actions around Kosovo," Gallagher replied. "There are certainly questions and concerns—I think we can see whether it's in Kosovo, whether we see it in Libya—about the authorization of the use of force by a U.S. president."
She emphasized, however, that her focus was on ending Bush's free ride for torture committed during his time in the White House.
"I think that there are many actions by former U.S. officials," Gallagher continued. "But what we need to do now is break the wall of impunity, because...we have such a clear-cut case and this is allowed to continue with impunity. If we can get a prosecution for the very clear violations against the [UN] convention against torture...that may help to open the door to additional investigations."
One of the sharpest left-wing critics of Clinton's presidency is Edward S. Herman, a professor emeritus at the Wharton School of Business. He coauthored Manufacturing Consent with Massachusetts Institute of Technology linguist Noam Chomsky.
In a 1999 Z magazine article entitled "Clinton Is The WorId's Leading Active War Criminal", Herman took aim at the former president's foreign policies. Herman prefaced the piece by saying the term "war crimes" was meant to "encompass the commission of all acts declared illegal under international rules of war as enumerated in the various Hague and Geneva agreements and conventions and pronounced in the Nuremberg and Tokyo tribunals".
In this definition, he included "carrying out of wars of aggression, the use of poison gases and other inhumane weapons, deliberately killing and starving civilian populations, and the use of force beyond military necessity".
He added that these actions can be carried out directly or through the use of proxy forces that are funded and encouraged.
"Thus, if the Clinton administration knew that Indonesia was killing large numbers of East Timorese and planned to ravage East Timor on a larger scale if it lost an independence referendum, and did nothing to prevent the crimes, Clinton and associates were guilty of war crimes by inaction," Herman wrote.
He acknowledged that "Clinton's military and other aggressive forays abroad have been partly a result of his political weakness, the need to divert attention from his domestic policy failures, and the longstanding need of Democrats to prove their anti-Communist and militaristic credentials".
But that didn't absolve the former president of responsibilty for actions ranging from "ad hoc bombings to boycotts and sanctions designed to starve into submission, to support of ethnic cleansing in brutal counterinsurgency warfare, and to aggression and devastation by bombing designed to return rogues to the stone age and keep them there".
Shortly after being elected, Clinton bombed Baghdad in 1993 after an alleged Iraqi assassination plot against former president George H.W. Bush. This killed eight Iraqi civilians, including a celebrated artist, Layla al-Attar.
"This kind of unilateral action in response to an unproven charge is a violation of international law," Herman wrote. "The legal excuse given by U.S. officials, which they relied on in justification of the bombing of Libya in 1986, is the right to self defense under Article 51 of the UN Charter. But that Article requires that the response be to an immediate threat to the retaliating party, clearly not the case, and therefore a legal fraud."
Herman added that this had the "further repellent feature that it was done almost surely for purely internal political reasons—to show Clinton's toughness, despite his Vietnam War record, and to countervail right-wing attacks on his lack of militancy".
"The same point can be made as regards his 1998 bombing of Afghanistan and the Sudan. Unknown numbers were killed in Afghanistan (and by the missiles that accidentally landed in Pakistan), and the pharmaceutical factory destroyed in the Sudan was the major source of medical drugs in that poor country," Herman stated. "All evidence points to the fact that the Sudan factory destroyed had no connection whatever to chemical weapons or Bin Laden, and was bombed on the basis of insufficient and poorly evaluated data."
Clinton also backed Turkey in its attacks on Kurdish separatists and boosted support to Colombia in dealing with its insurgency.
"The most monumental of Clinton's war crimes, however, has been his policy of sanctions on Iraq, supplemented by the maintenance of intense satellite surveillance and regular bombing attacks that have often resulted in civilian casualties," Herman claimed. "UNICEF reports that in 1999 more than 1 million Iraqi children under 5 were suffering from chronic malnutrition, and some 4,000-5,000 children are dying per month beyond normal death rates from the combination of malnutrition and disease. Death from disease was greatly increased by the shortage of potable water and medicines, that has led to a 20-fold increase in malaria (among other ailments). This vicious sanctions system, causing a creeping extermination of a people, has already caused more than a million excess deaths..."
U.S. treatment of Iraq in the 1990s was condemned by many, including Congressman Ron Paul and al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
Then there was the targeting of civilian infrastructure during the NATO attack on Yugoslavia in 1999.
"Two months after the war was over, the BBC 'revealed' that the attack on Yugoslav television on April 23 was part of an escalation of NATO bombing whereby the target list was extended to non-military objectives," Herman stated. "NATO was 'taking off the gloves.' According to Yugoslav authorities, 60 percent of NATO targets were civilian, including 33 hospitals and 344 schools, as well as 144 major industrial plants and a large petro-chemical plant whose bombing caused a pollution catastrophe."
This, Herman claimed, "was in open violation of the laws of war, although this was certainly neither publicized nor condemned in the mainstream media".
He concluded his lengthy article by maintaining that "U.S. Ieaders commit war crimes as a matter of institutional necessity", because they are required in their imperial role to keep "subordinate peoples in their proper place and assuring a 'favorable climate of investment' everywhere".
"War crimes also come easily because U.S. Ieaders consider themselves to be the vehicles of a higher morality and truth and can operate in violation of law without cost," Herman added. "It is also immensely helpful that their mainstream media agree that their country is above the law and will support and rationalize each and every venture and the commission of war crimes."
Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter at twitter.com/csmithstraight.