They started a war with doctored evidence and without United Nations consent. They tortured prisoners, paraded them around naked and subjected them to waterboarding. They held suspects in prisons for years without ever charging them.
Although key figures in the Bush administration have committed numerous war crimes during their ‘War on Terror,’ they have never been charged. Yet, the evidence against the Bush administration continues to mount – even General Antonio Taguba, who led the US army’s investigation into the Abu Ghraib abuse, recently declared “the current administration has committed war crimes.”
But as the Bush administration enters its twilight, a growing number of politicians, lawyers and activists want to bring them to justice. Last May, British environmental journalist George Monbiot attempted to make a citizen’s arrest on John Bolton, Bush’s former Under-Secretary of State. While the arrest wasn’t successful, it put the spotlight back on the Bush administration’s crimes. Adbusters editor Sean Condon talked with Monbiot about why he decided to take matters into his own hands.
Adbusters: Why did you try to arrest John Bolton?
George Monbiot: The Iraq War is slipping from the public’s consciousness and I wanted to remind people that it is a supreme international crime. The perpetrators of this crime are living among us and they are responsible for the murder of some hundreds of thousands of people. They must be brought to justice. Obviously I can’t bring them to justice by myself, but by reminding people of the crimes, I hope to create an atmosphere which makes it more likely that one day they might be investigated and prosecuted.
AB: Do you think it will have to be citizens who make the arrests?
GM: The process to arrest war criminals within the Bush administration exists, but the willingness does not. So in the absence of that official response, the only people who are going to try to advance this process are independent citizens, and it’s a shame that it has to be like that. If there was an official process and if the courts were pursuing these people then I wouldn’t have to bother to expose myself to that risk.
AB: What is the specific charge for Bolton?
GM: The charge is most clearly formulated by the Nuremberg principles, which are broadly accepted as the mainstay of customary international law and assimilated into the nation laws of countries around the world. They define it as a crime of aggression, a war that is waged in violation of international treaties or a war that is preemptive rather than immediately defensive. On both counts the Iraq War clearly qualifies as a crime of aggression. It’s very clear that Bolton was involved in the planning of the Iraq war. One line of evidence is that he inserted the false claims about Iraq’s attempt to obtain uranium from Niger into a state department fact sheet.
AB: Bolton’s defense is that Iraq broke international law, thus allowing America to invade.
GM: Well, the only circumstance that the United Nations allows a country to engage in war without its expressed prior approval is in an extreme situation of self-defense as defined by Article 51 of the UN Charter. That was not the case with the Iraq War. Self-defense is defined as responding to an attack. Iraq did not attack the United States and indeed wasn’t even threatening to attack the United States.
AB: Are you trying to make it as uncomfortable as possible for members of the Bush administration to travel abroad?
GM: I hope they feel confident about traveling abroad. We don’t want to scare them away. In fact, perhaps we should encourage them to feel as comfortable as possible while traveling abroad so that they can then walk into the trap, given that it is highly unlikely that they would ever be prosecuted on American soil. But the process has to begin. This great crime cannot be allowed to stand uncharged, and we cannot allow a situation to persist which says that those who commit such a crime can expect to get away with it, because that encourages other people to commit the same crime.