Sunday, January 22, 2006

Convict the Real Criminals

Yet another low level officer has been convicted for one of innumerable war crimes in Iraq. Chief Warrant Officer Lewis Welshofer, Jr., was found guilty of negligent homicide in the death of Major General Abed Hamed Mowhoush, who died in custody in 2003.

I'm not going to argue that Welshofer shouldn't be convicted for his crime -- although three years seems a bit light as a punishment for killing someone who was completely helpless at the time -- however, I will argue that we need to go much further. Why aren't we investigating the real criminals: George W. Bush and the high ranking officers under his command?

Bush is the commander-in-chief of the United States military. He sets the tone for the conduct of war. He and his administration have created those murky grey areas where officers like Welshofer operate. He and his administration are (whether through direct orders, implications, creating an "environment," or simple incompetence) responsible for establishing war crimes as standard operating procedure in Afghanistan, Iraq, Guantanamo Bay, and secret CIA prisons around the world. He is, at the least, seriously derelict in his duty to ensure that our men and women in uniform conduct themselves in accordance with U.S. and international law.

So, too are the generals and other officers in the field derelict in their duty to enforce the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the Geneva Conventions, and the rules of war. "I didn't know," the favored claim of officers in charge of prisons and interrogation sites, is less than an excuse. It's an admission of dereliction of duty and conduct unbecoming an officer. It is their duty to know and to ensure that all operations under their command are conducted within the bounds of the law.

But why aren't we investigating these real criminals? Because any real investigation would determine that these war crimes aren't isolated incidents or cases of low level grunts taking matters into their own hands out of confusion, ignorance, or cruelty. This is standard operating procedure. War crimes are far more widespread than these few famous cases reveal.

No, I wasn't there, but I was smart enough to read a book by someone who was and you should be too. Your current reading assignment: Love My Rifle More Than You by Iraqi veteran, former Army sergeant and Arabic interpreter Kayla Williams. Williams will give you a guided tour through the realities of this war built on lies and a first-rate education on the crimes committed not just against Iraqis but against every woman in uniform.

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