As the U.S. military completes its investigation of the alleged murder of 24 Iraqi civilians at the hands of U.S. Marines last November in Haditha, the next phase likely will be some form of court martial against Marines implicated in the case.
If that happens, President George W. Bush has made clear that he expects justice to be meted out to any Marine found guilty of a war crime against Iraqi civilians. But, as we anticipated in an earlier article, virtually no U.S. media attention has focused on the Nuremberg principles and Bush's culpability in the crime.
In this guest essay, Peter Dyer reviews the principles of international law that were set by U.S. and other allied jurists after World War II, rules against aggressive war that were meant to apply to the architects of illegal conflicts as well as to the grunts on the ground:
George W. Bush -- in his first public comment on the alleged massacre of 24 civilians by U.S. Marines in Haditha, Iraq, last November -- said: “If, in fact, these allegations are true, the Marine Corps will work hard to make sure that ... those who violated the law -- if indeed they did -- will be punished.”
Now that President Bush has resolved publicly that those who committed war crimes will be punished, the subject of U.S. war crimes may begin to move closer to its deserved prominent place in the American public discourse. If this happens, more Americans are likely to realize that the man who spoke of punishing war criminals has himself violated the law and should be accordingly punished.
In fact, according to the Nuremberg Charter, a document which the U.S. had a major role in drafting, those who initiate a war of aggression quite literally bear individual criminal responsibility, not only for waging unprovoked war, but for the war crimes which inevitably flow from aggression.