Twelve Myths in Bush’s “War on Terror”

Twelve Myths in Bush’s “War on Terror”

Michael Haas

There are many misconceptions about the “war on terror” now being promoted by President George W. Bush in interviews and “talking points” to his minions. At least twelve need to be cleared up before he leaves office and they become accepted truth:

1. The only way to remove Saddam Hussein from power was by invading Iraq. Prior to the invasion in 2003, there had been several attempted coups in Baghdad. Saddam Hussein’s air force was able to foil those which were most serious. In 1999, the top Saudi Arabia intelligence officer urged the United States to have the Security Council authorize the expansion of the no-fly zones over the north and south to cover the entire country. The idea was rejected by both the Clinton and Bush administrations.

2. The invasion of Iraq was premised on the high probability that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) that could be launched at the United States. In May 1999, presidential candidate Bush intimated — without mentioning WMDs — that he would launch a war on Iraq if elected. Throughout their investigation, United Nations inspectors reported finding no hard evidence that there was anything suspicious at the many locations that American military intelligence identified as possible secret WMD sites in Iraq before the invasion. However, former Secretary of the Treasury Paul O’Neill saw a secret document dated March 5, 2001, entitled “Plan for Post-Saddam Iraq and Foreign Suitors of Iraqi Oilfield Contracts.”

3. Prisoners at Guantánamo were the “worst of the worst” among those detained in Afghanistan in 2001. Of the 774 prisoners detained at Guantánamo, approximately 500 have been released already, at least 70 are eligible for release today, and about 100 are in limbo. Only 60 have been identified as likely to be convicted of an offense. The initial commandant at Guantánamo, General Rick Baccus, flew to Afghanistan to try to stop receiving “Mickey Mouse” prisoners. He was unsuccessful.

4. A special tribunal was needed to try al-Qaeda operatives at Guantánamo. When Bush decided that al-Qaeda terrorists could not be tried under criminal or military law, he tried to set up something new by executive order. After the Supreme Court faulted his new tribunal for violating the constitution, Congress set up a separate tribunal in the Military Commissions Act of 2006. But the violations cited in the first two trials at Guantánamo were found in American criminal statutes, thus negating the rationale for separate tribunals.

5. The legal proceedings at Guantánamo are “war crimes trials.” In the first trial, Salim Ahmed Hamdan was convicted of violating a criminal law, not a war crime. Ali Harnza Ahmad Suliman al-Bahlul, the second person on trial, was convicted of aiding others who committed war crimes principally because he drove them in vehicles. In other words, he did not commit a war crime. Some prisoners at Guantánamo may indeed be tried in court for war crimes, but no such proceeding has yet gone beyond preliminary motions.

6. There is no evidence that George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld are war criminals. In 2006, the Supreme Court in Hamdan v Rumsfeld ruled that the judicial system at Guantánamo violated Article 3, common to the four Geneva Conventions of 1947. A violation of the Geneva Conventions is a war crime. If there is a crime, there must be a criminal, though the Supreme Court ruled on procedures, not guilt. The judicial arrangements at Guantánamo violating the Geneva Conventions were set up under Bush’s executive order and implemented by Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld.

7. Valuable intelligence was only extracted from terrorists when torture was employed. The FBI obtained useful intelligence from several prisoners through normal interrogation. When the CIA pushed aside the FBI to employ torture, cooperation ceased and phony confessions emerged.

8. Harsh treatment of suspected terrorists and wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have crippled al-Qaeda. The National Intelligence Estimate of 2007 states just the opposite — that al-Qaeda has “regenerated key elements of its Homeland attack capabilities.” According to a White House press release about that estimate, al-Qaeda’s “intent to attack the U.S. is undiminished, and they continue to adapt and improve their capabilities.”

9. Torture is the worst abuse committed by the Bush Administration in the “war on terror.” Most of those subjected to torture are still alive, though several died. Dr. Steven Miles and others have identified 45 prisoners who were murdered by their American captors from 2002 to 2007. Some others have died through neglect of their medical conditions. Murder is arguably worse than torture.

10. The Geneva Conventions were never applied to prisoners captured in the “war on terror.” General Baccus posted signs informing the first groups of incoming prisoners at Guantánamo that they were only required, in accordance with the Geneva Conventions, to disclose their name, rank, and serial number. When the invasion of Afghanistan began, General Tommy Franks ordered that all prisoners should be treated in accordance with the Geneva Conventions. A few months later, the White House issued countermanding orders to both commanders.

11. Aside from murder and torture, the Bush administration has committed few war crimes. In George W. Bush, War Criminal?, with a Foreword by Nuremberg prosecutor Benjamin Ferencz, 269 war crimes are identified in four categories — 175 that deal with mistreatment of prisoners, 52 with the occupation of Iraq, 36 with the misconduct of war, and 6 with the launching of unjustified aggression. The number would be astronomic if based on the number of perpetrators, victims, and repetitions of the same types of crimes.

12. A presidential pardon would confer impunity on the war criminals of the Bush administration. Presidential pardons are conditional on admission of guilt. Indeed, the main sticking point in Nixon’s acceptance of his pardon by President Gerald Ford was the requirement that he admit guilt for his criminality. A president cannot pardon himself.

As time goes on, Bush will continue to rewrite history. Thus far, journalists have mostly avoided referring to his actions as “war crimes.” In so doing, the journalists are participants in a cover-up.

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