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November 4, 2009

Bush, bring him to justice not to Canada

Reuel S. Amdur

Reuel S. AmdurGeorge W. Bush came to Canada on a speaking tour, appearing in Edmonton, Saskatoon, and Montreal between October 20 and 22.

Other like celebrities sharing what little wisdom they have with us this month are Dick Cheney and Tony Blair.

So who would invite these scoundrels? tinePublic Inc. gets the credit.

tinePublic Inc. is the creation of Christian Darbyshire and Andy McCreath, two buddies since Calgary high school days. Their business consists in peddling big-name speakers for engagements across Canada.

We left a message on Darbyshire’s voice mail asking about their invitation to war criminal George W. Bush but he did not return the call.

This dynamic duo has also brought Canada such other big names as Bill Clinton, Alan Greenspan, Colin Powell, Rudy Giuliani, and Lance Armstrong. It might have been interesting to put Powell on the same bill with Bush, but alas that did not happen. Recently, they arranged the appearance of Donald "You’re fired" Trump. But let’s go back to Bush.

Bush violated international law in his invasion of Iraq. As former United Nations Secretary- General Kofi Annan put it, "From the [UN] Charter point of view, it was illegal." Then there is the matter of transporting people for detention and torture to secret sites around the globe and the torture of prisoners at Guanatanamo, Bagram, and Abu Graib. One could go on.

Yet, he is a "name" and will make tinePublic lots of money. And Bush was admitted to Canada, unlike British MP George Galloway, against whom no one has alleged any war crimes.

Concern about war crimes charges has interfered with the travel plans of some other public figures. Israeli officials have begun to feel the heat. Israeli cabinet member Moshe Yaalon will not go to Great Britain for fear of arrest at the instigation of human rights organizations. Why not Bush?

Bush is in a different league. Unlike Yaalon, he is a former U.S. President, and as such governments would not dare try to bring him to justice. The same situation exists for Vladimir Putin with respect to his crimes in Chechyna. This situation reflects on developments in international law going back to the Nuernberg war crimes trials.

The Nuernberg trials took place under the cloud of extreme partiality. That point was fleshed out in detail by F.J.P. Veale in his book Advance to Barbarism, first published in 1948.

While not in the least denying the horrible crimes committed by the Nazis, Veale hit hard on the failure to bring charges before a neutral tribunal.

He also pointed out that Nuernberg was not prepared to entertain charges against the Allies, such as the carpet-bombing of Dresden. The Soviet Union wanted the Nazis charged with the Katyn massacre of Polish officers, a crime which–it was clear even then–was committed by the Soviets.

The tribunal refused to explore the matter objectively, though damning evidence was quite accessible and a key witness, a Swiss forensic physician, could have been called to give testimony.

What we have in Nuernberg is, as Richard Falk put it, "victor’s justice," or as Veale expressed it, "The most serious war crime is to be on the losing side."

Yet, Falk, an expert in international law, does not go all the way with Veale. Veale saw Nuernberg as a major stepping stone toward increased dehumanization of war. On the other hand, Falk sees it as setting a legal precedent for charges against war criminals on all sides.

He acknowledges that the powerful still largely control the process, so that Saddam was turned over to his enemies for trial and execution while Bush goes scot-free. Nevertheless, the reach of international law is extending farther, even on occasion causing grief for victors. Just ask Yaalon.

No, Bush was neither barred nor arrested when he showed up at a Canadian Immigration check-point, but it is important to keep his criminal conduct in the public eye. We are just beginning to see the positive fruits of Nuernberg, and we need to talk them up.

Reuel S. Amdur is a freelance writer based across the river from Ottawa.

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