Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Hunting Down the War Criminals

SS Doctor Aribert Heim, war criminal

Associated Press has a story up on the ongoing hunt for Nazi war criminals. The Simon Wiesenthal Center releases periodic lists of top war criminals from the Nazi era still at large. Despite the Wiesenthal Center's one-sided apologetics for Israeli crimes against the Palestinians (all sides have engaged in atrocities), we should pay attention to their efforts to bring Nazi war criminals and their collaborators to justice, even decades after their hideous crimes took place. Such efforts should also make Bush and his cronies start sweating, for reasons I will make clear.

Currently, the sadistic SS doctor from Mauthausen concentration camp, Aribert Heim, is at the top of Wiesenthal's list. (A former Israeli Air Force Colonel claims Heim was kidnapped and executed over twenty years ago, but other Nazi hunters are not convinced.) Heim was captured by U.S. forces, but mysteriously released. The AP article notes that "his American-held file in Germany mysteriously omitting his time at Mauthausen". The U.S. protected numerous fleeing Nazis. The Nazi Gehlen intelligence organization was specially protected, and Nazi scientists were imported into the United States in the little-known Operation Paperclip.

Perhaps the U.S. saw SS Dr. Heim, grotesquely, as some sort of scientist, because he engaged in so-called scientific experiments at Mauthausen. Here's an example of Dr. Heim's "science":
It was 1941, and an 18-year-old Jew had been sent to the clinic with a foot inflammation. Heim asked him about himself and why he was so fit. The young man said he had been a soccer player and swimmer.

Then, instead of treating the prisoner's foot, Heim anesthetized him, cut him open, castrated him, took apart one kidney and removed the second, Lotter said. The victim's head was removed and the flesh boiled off so that Heim could keep it on display.
Why would the United States protect such a ghoul? But this is not a question that can be publicly asked in America today, where a mainstream politician like Barack Obama is pilloried because he dare mention that some out-of-work small town Americans may feel "bitter", or his pastor has anti-establishment or unorthodox beliefs about the perfidy of the American government.

The Wiesenthal Center supposedly lists the top ten wanted Nazis, who besides Heim include John Demjanjuk, whose numerous prosecutions, appeals, acquittals, and legalistic maneuvers ended with a conviction for war crimes committed as a concentration camp guard, a conviction upheld in 2004. Just last January, Demjanjuk's order for deportation was upheld, and he awaits, pending further appeal his deportation to the Ukraine.

Demjanjuk is 88. Heim, if alive, would be 93. The other wanted Nazis are all elderly. But they remain underground, or under threat of prosecution and deportation, while protected by the state where they reside. SS-Obersturmführer Søren Kam is one of those. Wanted for the 1943 murder of Danish editor Carl Clemmensen, a German court denied the extradition of the 87 year old Lam, saying the statute of limitations on Clemmensen's murder has run out, accepting that Lam, who has admitted to involvement in the case, had committed manslaughter, not murder. (Clemmensen's body had been riddled by eight bullets from three different revolvers.)

U.S. War Criminals to Be Hunted Someday?

The geriatric status of Heim, Lam, Demjanjuk and others has not prevented them from being charged with crimes, and they will no doubt be pursued one way or another for the rest of their remaining lives.

U.S. war criminals -- currently uncharged -- like George W. Bush, president of the United States, and other members of his administration (Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, etc.), should ponder the fate of the Nazis pursued by justice, even unto their last years. No matter what they think they can get away with, if a party or regime in this country ever comes into power and sets its aim as cleaning up the crimes of this country, whether to serve justice, or as a matter of realpolitik, needing to reclaim some measure of integrity internationally, then Bush et al. had better have set aside a defense fund.

This is in addition to the possibility that other countries may choose to extradict or prosecute those criminals who aggressively invaded a sovereign country (Iraq), killing over a million people, and then proceeded to torture thousands or tens of thousands of individuals. Attempts to prosecute Donald Rumsfeld for torture have been made in France, Germany, Argentina, and Sweden.

Evidence has been mounting for some time on the war crimes of the Bush Administration. I knew the ACLU has a call for the release of a Justice Department Office of Inspector General report on the investigation of the FBI's role in the unlawful interrogations of detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay, but only recently came across this article from a few years back in The New Standard (emphasis added):

Dec. 21, 2004 – Repeated references in an internal FBI email suggest that the president issued a special order to permit some of the more objectionable torture techniques used at Abu Ghraib and other US-run prison facilities around Iraq. The email was among a new batch of FBI documents revealed by civil rights advocates on Monday. Other documents describe the initiation of investigations into alleged incidents of torture and rape at detention facilities in Iraq....

The author of the email, whose name is blanked out but whose title is described as "On Scene Commander -- Baghdad," contains ten explicit mentions of an "Executive Order" that the author said mandated US military personnel to engage in extraordinary interrogation tactics.

An Executive Order is a presidential edict -- sometimes public, sometimes secretive -- instituting special laws or instructions that override or complement existing legislation. The White House has officially neither admitted nor denied that the president has issued an Executive Order pertaining to interrogation techniques.

The specific methods mentioned in the email as having been approved by the unnamed Executive Order and witnessed by FBI agents include sleep deprivation, placing hoods over prisoners' heads, the use of loud music for sensory overload, stripping detainees naked, forcing captives to stand in so-called "stress positions," and the employment of work dogs....

The correspondence is dated May 22, 2004 -- a couple of weeks after images of torture and humiliation at the prison broke in the world media...
Of course, it was only earlier this month that news broke that the highest officials in the Bush administration were intimately involved in the planning and execution of torture at Guantanamo, and possibly elsewhere, and that Bush himself admitted knowledge of the entire process and "approved" it.

Some believe that Bush's September 6, 2006 speech to Congress "amounted to a public confession to criminal violations of the 1996 War Crimes Act", in that he "implicitly admitted authorizing disappearances, extrajudicial imprisonment, torture, transporting prisoners between countries and denying the International Committee of the Red Cross access to prisoners." And certainly, it's not that that Bush and his cronies weren't warned about what they were doing.

It was no less than then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales who warned Bush in a memo dated January 25, 2002 that their treatment of detainees already amounted to war crimes:
In the memo, the White House lawyer focused on a little known 1996 law passed by Congress, known as the War Crimes Act, that banned any Americans from committing war crimes -- defined in part as "grave breaches" of the Geneva Conventions. Noting that the law applies to "U.S. officials" and that punishments for violators "include the death penalty," Gonzales told Bush that "it was difficult to predict with confidence" how Justice Department prosecutors might apply the law in the future. This was especially the case given that some of the language in the Geneva Conventions - such as that outlawing "outrages upon personal dignity" and "inhuman treatment" of prisoners - was "undefined."

One key advantage of declaring that Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters did not have Geneva Convention protections is that it "substantially reduces the threat of domestic criminal prosecution under the War Crimes Act," Gonzales wrote.

"It is difficult to predict the motives of prosecutors and independent counsels who may in the future decide to pursue unwarranted charges based on Section 2441 [the War Crimes Act]," Gonzales wrote.
The only thing keeping Bush and his top political aides and cabinet members from being prosecuted as war criminals is will... well, also their tremendous political power, the cowardice of the opposition party, and the fear and/or torpor of the mass of the American population.

Still, as the fates of Aribert Heim, John Demjanjuk, and others demonstrate, times do change. And one day it may be Bush and Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell, and Rice, who must hide for their lives, or stand in the dock of a criminal court and answer for their crimes.

As an aside, the Establishment hatred for Obama's now-former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, is not because of his conspiracy theory about the AIDS virus -- a crank notion rooted in some very real crimes by the United States, not least the barbaric, racist Tuskagee syphilis experiments, wherein "for forty years the US Public Health Service (PHS) conducted an experiment on 399 black men in the late stages of syphilis," without their knowledge or provision of medical assistance. No, they hate him, and seek to use the black preacher against the moderately liberal mainstream politician Obama, because he dared to criticize the United States for its own use of terrorism.
"You cannot do terrorism on other people and expect it never to come back on you," said. "Those are Biblical principles, not Jeremiah Wright bombastic divisive principles."
It is incontroverible that the United States has engaged in state terrorism and illegal war and occupation upon other countries. I very much don't want to see it "come back" upon America. But I do want to see those responsible brought to justice in a court that provides full rights for the accused, but also is unafraid to mete out justice to the convicted.

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