World’s Most Evil And Lawless Institution? The Executive Branch Of The U.S. Government

Published on ZNet, by Fred Branfman, June 28, 2013.

Introduction: America’s Secret Shame: America has a secret. It is not discussed in polite company or at the dinner tables of the powerful, rich and famous … //

… Americans keep this secret because facing it openly would upend our most basic understandings about our nation and its leaders. A serious public discussion of it would reveal, for example, that we cannot trust Executive Branch leaders’ human decency, words, or judgment no matter who is President. And more troubling, acknowledging it would mean admitting to ourselves that we have been misleading our own children, that our silence has robbed them of the truth of their history and made it more likely that future leaders will continue to commit acts that stain the very soul of America. 

It is a matter of indisputable fact that the U.S. Executive Branch has over the past 50 years been responsible for bombing, shooting, burning alive with napalm, blowing up with cluster bombs, burying alive with 500 pound bombs, torturing, assassinating, and incarcerating without evidence, and destroying the homes and villages of, more innocent civilians in more nations over a longer period of time than any other government on earth today.

It is also undeniable that it has committed countless acts, as no less an authority than U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry noted in regard to Vietnam, which have been:

contrary to the laws of the Geneva Convention, and… ordered as established policies from the top down,” and that “the men who ordered this are war criminals.”

And its crimes against humanity have continued since Vietnam. Thirty years later, a Nuremberg prosecutor speaking of the U.S. invasion of Iraq stated that a

prima facie case can be made that the United States is guilty of the supreme crime against humanity, that being an illegal war of aggression against a sovereign nation.”

And as you read these words the U.S. Executive Branch is adding to its crimes, as it conducts secret drone and Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) ground assassinations of individuals without due process.

The rationalizations by which even decent human beings allow themselves to ignore their leaders’ mass murder, e.g. that “these things always happen in war,” or “it’s the other side’s fault,” are just that: rationalizations that allow us to avoid our secret shame. Human civilization, through its body of international law, has defined which acts are both immoral and illegal even in times of war. And a citizen’s first responsibility is to oppose his or her own government’s crimes, not those of others.

Although America’s media, intellectual, political and economic elites ‘turn their heads pretending they just don’t see’ U.S. leaders’ responsibility for mass murder, dozens of dedicated and honorable scholars and activists led by Noam Chomsky have spent years of their lives meticulously documenting it.

Readers wishing to flesh out the overview below are directed to five important recent books: Kill Anything That Moves, by Nick Turse, about Vietnam; Dirty Wars (and a film), by Jeremy Scahill, about Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia; The Deaths of Others, by John Tirman, covering Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan; The Untold History of the U.S. by Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick (and a 10-part Showtime documentary) discussing U.S. policy from World War II to the present; and Drone Warfare by Medea Benjamin. FLYBOYS, by James Bradley, also offers invaluable information on U.S. aerial mass murder of civilians in World War II, as does The Korean War: A History by Bruce Cumings on U.S. Executive massacres of civilians in Korea. Such careful work has been supplemented by numerous reports from such organizations as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Until now, the issue of U.S. Executive Branch leaders’ disregard for innocent human life has mainly concerned their treatment of “non-people” abroad. But as the sinews of a surveillance state and police-state infrastructure have been steadily strengthened at home since 9/11, an Executive Branch mentality that has been so indifferent to innocent human life abroad will threaten increasing numbers of Americans in coming years.

No honest human being can deny what the facts below reveal about the U.S. Executive’s institutional evil and lawlessness. The only serious question is what we are willing to do about it.

Can Americans Trust the U.S. Executive Branch? … //

… Executive Evil in Microcosm: A Personal Report: … //

… Executive Lawlessness: Might Makes Right: … //

… Among the most obvious and important violations of international law to which U.S. leaders are a signatory include:

(1) Failing to meet their responsibilities for “Protection Of Civilian Persons In Time Of War,” including Article 25 of the 1907 Hague Convention which states that “attack or bombardment of towns, villages, habitations or buildings which are not defended, is prohibited.”

In Vietnam alone U.S. leaders dropped 6.7 million tons of bombs and used an equal amount of ground artillery. As Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick report,

Unexploded ordnance blanketed the countryside. Nineteen million gallons of herbicide poisoned the environment. In the South, the U.S. had destroyed 9,000 of 15,000 hamlets. In the north it rained destruction on all six industrial cities leveling 28 of 30 provincial towns and 96 of 116 district towns … Nearly 4 million of their citizens had been killed. The landscape had been shattered. The beautiful triple-canopy forests are largely gone. In 2009 land mines and unexploded bombs still contaminated over a third of the land in six central Vietnamese provinces. Over 16 million acres remained to be cleared. Beyond the terrible toll of the war itself, 42,000 more Vietnamese were killed by leftover explosives.” (15).
(2) Failing to meet their responsibilities as an Occupying Power in Iraq as required by the Hague Convention Article 43 which states that

the authority of the legitimate power having in fact passed into the hands of the occupant, the latter shall take all the measures in his power to ensure … public order and safety.”

As discussed, U.S. Executive leaders failed to provide public order and safety; the U.S. military was revealed in the Wikileaks cables to be turning over captives to be tortured by the Iraqi police; and, of course, the U.S. was itself murdering, maiming, torturing and incarcerating the innocent. (16).

(3) Engaging in the “Crimes Against Peace” defined at Nuremberg to include “planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances,” and defined by U.S. Chief Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson as

the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

There is no doubt that the U.S. invasion of Iraq was such a “crime against the peace.” U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan unambiguously stated, as reported in a BBC article entitled “Iraq War Illegal, Says Annan”:

I have indicated it was not in conformity with the UN charter from our point of view, from the charter point of view, it was illegal.”

Benjamin Ferencz, a U.S. Nuremberg prosecutor who convicted 22 Nazis, has stated that a:

prima facie case can be made that the United States is guilty of the supreme crime against humanity, that being an illegal war of aggression against a sovereign nation.”

He also noted that the British deputy legal adviser to the Foreign Ministry had stated that:

I regret that I cannot agree that it is lawful to use force against Iraq without a second Security Council resolution … [A]n unlawful use of force on such a scale amounts to the crime of aggression; nor can I agree with such action in circumstances that are so detrimental to the international order and the rule of law.”

Only in America could leaders convince their citizens they are not launching an aggressive war when they unilaterally attack foreign nations thousands of miles away which pose no serious threat to them.

(full long text with hyperlinks, footnotes).

(Fred Branfman’s writing has been published in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the New Republic, and other publications).

Links:

Published on realsociology:

Comments are closed.