Before returning to the continuing topic of American Democracy, Moral Clarity, and Torture, a sad yet surprising news–bite came our way this morning. Last Friday, crystelZENmud published a post entitled Moral Clarity of Torture... which contained a quotation regarding Robert H Jackson, spoken by Henry T. King, Jr. in 2003.
Mr. King died last Saturday, the following day: 9 May 2009, attaining the same beautiful age as our revered ZEN mother... 89 tours of the Sun. Now the marvelling exists, since we do not buy the International Herald Tribune (IHT) every day, nor do we always read its obituaries. But the stars are aligning themselves.
Henry T. King Jr. was one of 200 Nuremberg trial prosecutors (age 26 when he began) and eventually became a senior advisor of the Robert H. Jackson Center in New York state. The NY Times Obituary on King appeared today in Wednesday's IHT. King was (according to John Q. Barrett, professor at St. John's University): “... one of a handful of uniquely credible veterans in his field, one of the last 'voices' of Nuremberg.”
We express sincere regrets to his surviving friends and loved ones, and marvel that this tiny blog could have 'discovered' Mr. King in time to publish a discussion on torture during his last complete day of life.
King, along with former Nuremberg colleagues Whitney Harris and Benjamin Ferenez (who are both still alive) combined “forces to help shape the creation of the International Criminal Court”. As the draft of the ICC Statute progressed in Rome, it contained articles citing 'war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide'. The three surviving prosecutors of Nuremberg committed to lobbying the international array of Delegations for the inclusion of 'wars of aggression' in the Statute, which became a part of this formidable treaty against international lawlessness.
As may be remembered, the negotiated ICC Statute was not signed by President Clinton, the US Congress being against (as Republicans) it. Thus that Treaty never came before the Senate for ratification, and some have no illusions why President Bush was content to avoid committing his misAdministration to upholding long–standing international (moral) law.
In Henry King's own words:
“As I walked to the courthouse for the first time (NYT: “... [amid] the rubble of bombed out buildings and people begging for food”), I said I'm going to dedicate my life to the prevention of this.”
Evidently Mr. King, who worked so long to aid the Center named after former Associate Supreme Court Justice Jackson, was unable to persuade GW Bush, Dick Cheney and others of the need to eliminate wars of aggression and the accoutrements that pass with such heinous acts.
To this end, crystelZENmud awards Mr. King its second Global Peace Award.
Sidebar: On 12 May 2009, alleged Nazi war criminal John Demjanjuk was deported and flown to Munich Germany; perhaps the last case of a living Nazi being tried for the crimes of his youth. There exists no statute of limitations on Crimes of War, or Crimes against Humanity: he is apparently facing some Twenty Nine THOUSAND counts of homicide...
The two prior crystelZENmud posts (Pungent Pundits, and Moral Clarity of Torture) first decried to the Conservative 'voice' that alarmingly regards the revelation of official Bush–era acts (memoranda offering purported legal support for US torture procedures), when those media voices fully supported those in every way (radio personality Rush Limbaugh repeatedly compared torture to 'fraternity pranks'). Secondly, we wrote on how the USA had developed a historic voice for 'moral clarity' through the legal process developed in response to the fall of Nazi Germany, throughout 1945, which produced the London Charter, the Nuremberg Trials, and from those, the foundations of modern Human Rights law. A great portion of these were the result of one legal mind: Robert H Jackson, US Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.
The continuing question is whether (or to what extent) the rationales that propagandized torture through the more agitated set of extremist, Right wing commentators provoked perceptions of an alarmingly large number of Americans to change 180° towards supporting torture? Answering the question must take into account any future investigations of these acts. They simply call into question America's perceived role as a champion of Human Rights advancement.
In simple words (adapted from the recent article in Der Spiegel online):
Have we forsaken Nuremberg for Guantanamo?
Have we replaced Nuremberg with Guantanamo?
The United States may be the only country now on Earth in which people actually smile when talking about Torture, with an alarming number of citizens who see it as a 'good thing', where most other countries' citizens are silent–to–fearful of being seen or heard discussing such a heinous, secret State issue. And certain polls show nearly fifty–percent support for the 'unholy arts', aka 'enhanced interrogation techniques'. Availing upon one's moral compass, the situation at hand seems so far away from the theories that formerly held the USA as equals, with countries such as post–war Germany, England or France, as modern–day champions of Human Rights.
In seeking guidance from notes in the archives our Twentieth Century Schizoid War Era, so many quotations appear to be designed expressly for our times, this current debate. They ring with the clarity of a just cause, and they beg for reinsertion into our modern inquest. Some are thoughts on the universal origins of conflicts, which is where we begin.
Compare George Orwell's statement...
“Every war when it comes, or before it comes, is represented not as a war but as an act of self-defense against a homicidal maniac.”
With this Nuremberg opening statement quote from American Chief Prosecutor Robert H Jackson:
“Terrorism was the chief instrument for securing the cohesion of the German people in war purposes.”
The reader might be wondering whether we have forgotten, at ZEN Central, the 'terror' that reigned down upon the World Trade Center Towers, the Pentagon and a flight that crashed into the Pennsylvanian countryside... nothing could be further from the truth. But certainly if 'methods' were once used, insidious people can learn them, and implement them again. It remains to 'the People' to be aware, to react and renounce those methodologies.
But we are not against reminding the readers, that American planes (American, USAir and United) were hijacked by made–in–America 'hijackers' (most of the 'pilots' were trained at Florida flight schools, some with historic ties to CIA flight training programs), who had made their way through American airport security, which was designed by Americans, staffed by Americans as a least–cost model, financed by American companies in the air transport business. The ghastly events were so vividly broadcast in endless repetition in such a short span of days that they remain indelibly seared into the minds of the entirety of the American psyche, and a good portion of the Western world as well.
A stark event, producing a violent series of official reactions as a result of that strange day. Were the terrorist acts exploited (in the benign sense of the word) by an American Presidency whose remarkable commitment to aggression in that part of the world was coincidentally implemented prior to Bush's Inauguration (per Richard Clark)? Neoconservatives had advocated a 'sea–change' in American Foreign Affairs since the latter half of the 1990s, and had written that this could hardly occur without a 'Pearl Harbor' style event. They literally 'wished for' some cataclysm that would allow their ideology to take a more centrist role in America. We watched it happen.
Can we not say that Jackson's words (above) fulfil the contemporary situation? The 'American cohesion' was strongest between 2001 and 2002, while we looked for Bin Laden's 'Team Terrorism' throughout the ranges of Afghanistan: America wanted him 'Dead or Alive', in the very words of GW Bush, until coincidental failure to do so had Bush stating that he 'really wasn't concerned' (about catching ObL).
Consider the relevance from yet another Jackson quote, from his Opening Statement against the Nazi Defendants:
“Propaganda organs, on a scale never before known, stimulated the Party and Party formation with a permanent enthusiasm and abandon such as we, democratic people, can work up only for a few days before a general election.”
Whether or not readers have strong opinions regarding the current status of US mass media news as being 'balanced, and fair', it is hard to argue with the connotation that investigative journalism has changed, in the course of the last 15 years or so. 'Take it for granted' seems to be the modus operandi of today's 'newscaster': she or he rarely comes in on a political story with the kicker: '... and then we went to check the Government's statement(s) for ourselves; this is what we found'.
The timeless sense of Jackson comes through again, when thinking of our current culture's debate over torture:
“International law, natural law, German law, any law at all was to these (Nazi) men simply a propaganda device to be invoked when it helped and to be ignored when it would condemn what they wanted to do.”
From the Bush misAdministration, we know and cannot deny (if one is a supporter), that the regime argued fervently against application of the Geneva Convention against the Al Qaida/Taliban fighters, using as its basis the fact that the 'combatants' were 'unlawful', ie.: they are not the armed forces of an opposing state, but a transnational band of 'terrorist brigades' with classically–integrated cell hierarchies, thus the protections afforded to 'combatants' should not be extended.
This is the very issue facing those whose wholehearted support for the Neoconservative 'mission' precluded retention of our 'moral clarity' in the face of the overwhelming realities of a post–Nine–Eleven world.
But one aspect that was never developed in the process that implemented the 'Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib' procedures, was the aspect of reciprocity. Even the Nazis possessed enough clarity to consider the quid pro quo aspects of upholding (or appearing to...) the Geneva Conventions.
Again, from Jackson's Closing Statement:
“The Geneva Convention would have been thrown overboard openly except that Jodl objected because he wanted the benefits of Allied observance of it while it was not being allowed to hamper the Germans in any way.”
(Alfred Jodl: Chief of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW: the Army) Operations Division 1938-1945)
Public debates regarding the position of American POWs that could be captured and held in either Bush–era war zone was extremely limited, and certainly had no influence on the authors of the now infamous Torture Memos. Any anecdotal reports of American POWs in either war theatre, are non–existent. Whether one should trust 'unlawful combatants' or simple natives in two occupied countries, to observe the Geneva Conventions is beside the point: being that the ratio of 'civilian victims' to 'combatant victims' is too high already, bystanders who are not judged to be 'combatants' probably are not expanding their Rules of War lexicon, prefering to use their most base motivations were they to 'stumble on' or actively capture any Coalition Forces.
Our discussion centers on these primal comparisons, via the prism of History, to compare the different eras: Moral Clarity of the USA in terms of prosecuting the unthinkable crimes directed from the heights of the Nazi war machine, with the opposing situation confronting the USA of today. What future for the USA of a post–Nine–Eleven world? We do not claim that the issue is as clear–cut today, in discussing whether there should be investigations or prosecutions of the Bush regime, as when Hitler's Generals, diplomats, bankers, propagandists and industrialists were scorching the European soil in their descent into the hell of Aryan superiority.
But one more time, Jackson comes through with a statement that survives the times, and revives a sense of how we could have chosen to maintain our Moral Clarity, yet didn't do so:
“Modern civilization puts unlimited weapons of destruction in the hands of men. It cannot tolerate so vast an area of legal irresponsibility.”
Waging wars of aggression is something theoretically illegal in International Law. Pre–emptive law, under the Bush 'Doctrine', went against the grain of the UN Charter. The 'Torture Justifications' violated several modern era accords, one being the Convention Against Torture of the 1980s. They also violated US Law, and the US Army's Rules.
Is it worse for a Human Being to condone Torture, or to subsequently condemn the logical, morally clear choice to investigate and, if judged sufficiently grave, to prosecute the actors who operated under Oath, to uphold and defend the US Constitution? One could say the latter compounds the former.
Persons who act in the name of the citizenry, do so with a responsibility to simply be responsible. Changing the rules to suit contingencies, requires heightened levels of responsibility. We know this, we are, theoretically 'Civilization'.
Thus we conclude this series of thoughts, developed through their historical context, with a composited foundation provided from Jackson's Opening Statement:
The real complaining party at your bar is Civilization. (...) Civilization asks whether law is so laggard as to be utterly helpless to deal with crimes of this magnitude by criminals of this order of importance.”
At some point, the American people shall have to acknowledge that accountability, in some form, should determine the individuals' status of responsibility, from the Commander–in–Chief and Vice President through their Cabinet staff, and subordinate legal advisers, down through the entire hierarchies: to the field staff who'd actually performed the infliction of torture; from the teams that selected victims, and the Doctor(s) that supervised the ordeal(s), to the hand pouring water on a waterboarding victim's covered, immobilized face.
Once again, arguments arise that resist comparing what happened to millions of Nazi victims, to what treatment is brought against 'terrorists' currently or formerly in US custody under the novel theory of 'unlawful combatant' status. Those who argue such, seem to be missing the fundamental points, which underscore most of Jackson's points... Those thoughts are harmoniously simple:
Aren't we supposed to be better than they: the Nazis of yesteryear?
Hasn't Civilization cultivated a better world in the last sixty years?