Why doesn't this surprise me. In every war BOTH side commit war crimes. History is clear about this. But the West with its sophisticated WMD and international gulags/tortrue network is particularly bad at this. Sigh, more freedoms down the drain. Bush Aims to Kill War Crimes Act By Jeremy Brecher & Brendan Smith 09/05/06 "The Nation" -- The US War Crimes Act of 1996 makes it a felony to commit grave violations of the Geneva Conventions. The Washington Post recently reported that the Bush administration is quietly circulating draft legislation to eliminate crucial parts of the War Crimes Act. Observers on The Hill say the Administration plans to slip it through Congress this fall while there still is a guaranteed Republican majority--perhaps as part of the military appropriations bill, the proposals for GuantÃ¡namo tribunals or a new catch-all "anti-terrorism" package. Why are they doing it, and how can they be stopped? American prohibitions on abuse of prisoners go back to the Lieber Code promulgated by Abraham Lincoln in 1863. The first international Geneva Convention dates from the following year. After World War II, international law protecting prisoners of war and all noncombatants was codified in the Geneva Conventions. They were ratified by the US Senate and, under Article II of the Constitution, they thereby became the law of the land. Wishing to rebuke the unpunished war crimes of dictators like Saddam Hussein, in 1996 a Republican-dominated Congress passed the War Crimes Act without a dissenting vote. It defined a "war crime" as any "grave breach" of the Geneva Conventions. It thereby advanced a global trend of mutual reinforcement between national and international law. The War Crimes Act was little noticed until the disclosure of Alberto Gonzales's infamous 2002 "torture memo." Gonzales, then serving as presidential counsel, advised President Bush to declare that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to people the United States captured in Afghanistan. That, Gonzales wrote, "substantially reduced the threat of domestic criminal prosecution under the War Crimes Act." Noting that the statute "prohibits the commission of a 'war crime' by or against a US person, including US officials," he warned that "it is difficult to predict the motives of prosecutors and independent counsels who may in the future decide to pursue unwarranted charges." The President's determination that the Geneva Conventions did not apply "would provide a solid defense to any future prosecution." Unfortunately for top Bush officials, that "solid defense" was demolished this summer when the Supreme Court in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld ruled that the Geneva Conventions were indeed the law of the land. The Court singled out Geneva's Common Article 3, which provides a minimum standard for the treatment of all noncombatants under all circumstances. They must be "treated humanely" and must not be subjected to "cruel treatment," "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment," or "the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples." As David Cole of the Georgetown University Law Center pointed out in the August 10 issue of The New York Review of Books, the Supreme Court's decision in Hamdan v. Rusmfeld "suggests that President Bush has already committed a war crime, simply by establishing the [GuantÃ¡namo] military tribunals and subjecting detainees to them" because "the Court found that the tribunals violate Common Article 3--and under the War Crimes Act, any violation of Common Article 3 is a war crime." A similar argument would indicate that top US officials have also committed war crimes by justifying interrogation methods that, according to the testimony of US military lawyers, also violate Common Article 3. Lo and behold, the legislation the Administration has circulated on Capitol Hill would decriminalize such acts retroactively. Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice, told the Associated Press on August 10, "I think what this bill can do is in effect immunize past crimes. That's why it's so dangerous." Human rights attorney Scott Horton told Democracy Now! on August 16 that one of the purposes of the proposed legislation is "to grant immunity or impunity to certain individuals. And these are mostly decision-makers within the government." The Coming Debate Bush officials have not acknowledged that one of their real motives for gutting the War Crimes Act is to protect themselves from being prosecuted for their own crimes. But so far they have apparently offered only one other reason for tampering with the law: The existing law, especially the Geneva language prohibiting "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment," is too vague to enforce. (Perhaps the Bush Administration should declare the US Constitution's ban on "cruel and unusual punishment" as too vague to enforce as well.) Fidell noted in an August 9 Washington Post article that military law includes many terms like "dereliction of duty," "maltreatment" and "conduct unbecoming an officer" that may appear vague but that are nonetheless enforceable. The Army Field Manual bars cruel and degrading treatment. When Attorney General Gonzales recently testified at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing that "outrages upon personal dignity" was too ambiguous, Senator John McCain stated that top military lawyers see no problem in complying with Common Article 3. The arguments for preserving the War Crimes Act and rejecting the Bush amendments, in contrast, are multiple and overwhelming: 1. Commitment to the Geneva Conventions protects US service people from future retaliation. As former Secretary of State Colin Powell has argued, abandoning the Geneva Conventions would put US soldiers at greater risk, would "reverse over a century of US policy and practice in supporting the Geneva Conventions" and would "undermine the protections of the law of war for our troops, both in this specific conflict [Afghanistan] and in general." 2. The War Crimes Act will prohibit "torture-lite" in the future. According to Scott Horton, the proposed legislation is "designed to provide an OK to certain techniques which fall just short of torture that are being used by the CIA," including "waterboarding, longtime standing and hypothermia," techniques that have been "linked to severe injuries and fatalities."