Nuremberg and the 'war on terror'

Issue 

One of the first things I usually do on a Saturday morning is read the "Number Crunch" column in the Sydney Morning Herald's Good Weekend magazine. I find the assorted collection of interesting statistics irresistible.

These statistics were in the October 7 edition: "Number of Nazis sentenced to death at the 1946 Nuremberg Trials: 12; to life imprisonment: 3; imprisonment: 4; acquitted: 3."

The International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg tried 24 of the most important captured leaders of Nazi Germany. The war crimes of the Nazi regime are notorious and include an estimated 9-11 million Holocaust victims (Jews, Poles, Slavs, Roms, mentally or physically disabled people, homosexuals, Blacks, Jehovah's Witnesses, Communists and other political dissidents).

It got me thinking about the retribution being exacted by the US government and its allies for the atrocity of September 11, 2001 - mostly on people who had nothing to do with that atrocity!

In the Afghanistan invasion and occupation, more than 5700 have been killed, and a recent study published in the medical journal the Lancet estimated that up to 654,965 Iraqis may have been killed since the US invasion in war-related violence. Many times more have been injured and maimed.

So, more than 220 times as many people have been killed in these wars and occupations than the 2973 people who were killed in the September 11 attacks. In addition, there are more than 500 people detained without trial in the US concentration camp in Guantanamo, and thousands are detained by US-led occupation forces and their puppet regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And this month, as Mark LeVine reported in CommonDreams.org, Bush has signed into US law a bill that guts the right of habeas corpus, legalises the use of secret and coerced evidence, "clarifies" the Geneva Conventions to allow torture on his command, prevents future war crimes prosecutions, and arrogates to himself the right to declare anyone - including US citizens - enemy combatants who can be dragged from their families, thrown in any prison he chooses, anywhere on earth, for however long he wants. (See: "The American Republic Died Last Week", .)

In another article on that critical US website, David Rupel observed an irony about this decision:

"Two of the Nuremberg trial defendants, Field Marshall Wilhelm Keitel and Gen. Alfred Jodl, were sentenced to death on Oct. 1, 1946, in part, for delegating Hitler's infamous 'commando order'. Hitler ranted that allied commandos who attacked German troops by stealth were not soldiers but common criminals. Gangsters, he added, were not covered by the Geneva Convention.

"Substitute the word 'enemy combatants' for 'gangsters', and the Bush administration's approach is certainly rooted in precedent. Moreover, the law doesn't abandon the Geneva Convention. It merely allows leeway in interpreting old-fashioned notions about what constitutes torture."

(See: "US Must Follow Nuremberg Code" in .)

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