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Thu Nov 15, 2012, 12:12 AM


War Criminals? What Can be Done?

Doublen February, Chris Woods and Christina Lamb of the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism published a pretty shocking article about the drone strikes in Pakistan.

It seems the CIA was deliberately targeting civilians, including first responders who were coming to the aid of victims of a first drone strike.

The "double tap" strikes, where rescue workers are deliberately targeted, are a violation of the Geneva Conventions. They are an act of terror. Under US law, specifically the 1996 War Crimes Act, a war crime is defined as a "grave breach" of Geneva, and can be a capital offense. The Conventions provide for the protection of civilians providing aid to the wounded.

About three weeks ago, the Guardian reported that the United Nations is setting up a dedicated investigation group in Geneva to look into the drone attacks, with a special emphasis on intentional civilian killings.

There are actually two problems here that need to be solved. The first problem is to identify the responsible individuals. There is no doubt that if these "double tap" attacks actually occurred, that they were war crimes.

I know that these drone operators are trained at an academy near where I live. If they are not being taught that targeting civilians performing rescue operations is a war crime, then the persons training them are probably war criminals, possibly more culpable than the actual drone operator.

Also, someone must have approved these tactics. It makes no sense that Obama would have been in on that decision. There is no point to them other than to create more enemy combatants, which is directly contrary to his entire agenda, afaict.

Seeing as how the CIA is reported to be in charge of these operations, Gen. Petreaus seems the likely suspect here. So, just for discussion, let's assume that he's a bona fide war criminal under the pertinent US statutes. What can be done about it?

I would guess that Obama would ask for his resignation as soon as he's made aware of his culpability here. But what other actions can he take?

The international courts are out of the question at this point in time. Obama would be destroyed if he were to submit to their authority. It would be suicide.

What about the domestic courts? It seems certain that even if charges could be brought in a US court, and even if a conviction could be obtained somehow amid all the right-wing uprising that would be sure to occur, then a swift appeal would be made to the Robertís Supreme Court and they would throw out the conviction. This seems certain.

So, with this court, we would be worse off having obtained a conviction, seeing as how they would seize this opportunity to overturn the law. At least now we still have the law, even if there is no way to enforce it.

(As an aside, the use of drones as a weapon may have sort of been codified as legal, both by the congress in their authorization for a global war on terror, and by the courts. The executive doesnít really have any ability to deem things as either legal or illegal, unless you subscribe to the John Yoo school of unitary executive garbage. I donít think Obama will choose an option like that unless there is no other way to move forward. In any event, war and killing and such is all perfectly legal, and will be considered as such for the purpose of this discussion, except as noted under the provisions of the War Crimes Act.)

I see Obama as being pretty well boxed in here. There really is no way to proceed that doesn't make things a lot worse. This stuff is really broken. Badly broken. He has restored some faith in us to our allies, but they really cannot help us here in any way that I can see.

My first choice of action would be to impeach Justice Scalia. He has publicly committed a crime while sitting on the bench. He spent the night with a defendant in a case that was before him, then refused to recuse himself from ruling in the case. That was illegal under US law, but he wrote a 23-page memorandum explaining why the laws don't apply to him. He should be impeached for that. We cannot move forward without first making an attempt to restore the rule of law.

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