Sunday, May 13, 2012

Bush and Cheney (Not Exactly) Convicted of War Crimes by Malaysian (Pseudo-)Tribunal

My Facebook feed has been blowing up today with news that George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and six other members of that administration were “convicted” of war crimes by a Malaysian tribunal. The first story I read was on the AddictingInfo page, which in turn links to an article in the Foreign Policy Journal. Then Alan Colmes’s Liberaland picked it up, linking in turn to a piece in the Malaysian journal The Star Online. There are others, too, but you get the idea.

Justin Rosario of AddictingInfo proclaims, “Yes, this is a BFD.” No, actually, it is not. This is in fact not the first time ex-President Bush was thus… erm… convicted by that same body. Last November, he shared the dock—in absentia, of course—with former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair. Then, as now, the defendants were unanimously found guilty on all counts. And the American press was silent! Seriously, none of the MSM carried either story.

Gentle Reader, if you’ve paid any attention to either this site or the CC Facebook page over the last couple of years, you’ll have noticed a profound antipathy to the American press corps, whom I regard as lazy, cowardly, and generally incompetent. But sometimes… sometimes they don’t cover a story because there’s no story to cover.

If we actually read the articles instead of the headlines coming out of Kuala Lumpur, we learn that the judicial body in question is a “mock tribunal” or a “tribunal of conscience” with no authority whatsoever. In other words, Mr. Bush could have been standing in the “courtroom” and there would have been no legal right to hold him. This isn’t merely that Americans aren’t subject to what goes on in a Malaysian court; it’s that this isn’t a court at all, and no one is subject to its decisions.

The “Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission” was, according to Yvonne Ridley of Foreign Policy Journal, “the initiative of Malaysia’s retired Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who staunchly opposed the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.” Well, he’d be impartial, right? The American “war crimes expert and lawyer” cited in Ridley’s piece is Francis Boyle, whose other proclamations include the assertion that “Obama was bought and paid for by Zionists. That's why Rahm Emanuel was his chief-of-staff.”

Ridley herself seems to think it’s relevant to include on her bio that she’s “European President of the International Muslim Women’s Union, as well as being a patron of Cageprisoners.” Cageprisoners, in turn, includes Ridley’s article on their own website, crowing that their director’s evidence in the case was “crucial.” And to top things off, the “trial” (or was it just the press conference? Hard to say.) was held at—get this—the Kuala Lumpur Foundation to Criminalise War.

So there’s a tribunal that isn’t really a tribunal, headed by an advocate, relying on the expertise of an anti-Semitic crackpot, and reported by someone who pretends at some level to be a journalist but (in this case, at least) is actually functioning as a press agent.

This is, in short, nothing more than an opportunity to bring together a posse (a word I choose advisedly) of like-minded people to scream a couple of slogans, sing “Kumbayah,” and get their names in the paper. There appears to have been a defense, but we can be forgiven a little skepticism about its fervor and the extent to which it was taken seriously. Ah, but you see, this narcissistic display tribunal was run strictly according to the parameters of the Nuremberg trials. How do we know? Well, the prosecutor said so, so you know it’s true.

There’s a case to be made that there were those in the Bush administration who were in fact in violation of the terms of the Geneva Conventions in, for example, authorizing the use of torture at the facility at Guantánamo Bay. But whereas I don’t think American leaders ought to be any more exempt from the dictates of international law than anyone else, to call this a “conviction” is to stretch the definition of that word well past the breaking point.

This tribunal has—and ought to have—as much gravity as the decision by the Tea Party of Pigeon Puke, Mississippi that Barack Obama is a Kenyan Socialist Nazi Muslim. Oh, and by the way: the fun folks in Kuala Lumpur, with no problems in their own society to worry about, apparently, are likely coming after Mr. Obama next, for authorizing drone strikes in Pakistan.

For once the inaction of American journalists is absolutely justified.

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