Thursday, December 25, 2008

War Criminals: Theirs and Ours.

I had no intention of posting anything this morning but Glenn Greenwald looks at the way the US makes a distinction between American war criminals and the other non-American leaders who commit similarly heinous crimes.

There is an almost comic book simplicity to the cackling non-American evildoers and a rush to understand - and attribute only the most moral motives to - Americans who commit war crimes which would be instantly condemned were they to be committed Ahmadinejad, a man who is routinely compared to Hitler, despite the fact that he has never committed any crime.

As Glenn states:

But people like Goldsmith, Drezner, Douthat, and The Los Angeles Times Editorial Page can only see a world in which they -- Americans -- are situated at the center. They cite the post-9/11 external threats which American leaders faced, the ostensible desire of Bush officials to protect the citizenry, and their desire to maximize national security as though those are unique and special motives, rather than what they are: the standard collection of excuses offered up by almost every single war criminal.

If ostensible self-protective motives are now considered mitigating factors in the commission of war crimes -- or, worse, if they justify immunity from prosecution -- then there is virtually no such thing any longer as a "war crime" that merits punishment. Every tyrant and every war criminal can avail themselves of this self-defense. But advocates of this view -- "Oh, American officials only did it to protect us from The Terrorists" -- can't or won't follow their premise to this logical conclusion because their oh-so-sophisticated and empathetic understanding that political leaders act with complex motives only extends to their own leaders, to Americans.

But the rest of the world's war criminals -- the non-Americans -- have no such complexities.
And that is precisely why Dick Cheney can sit on American national television and almost casually admit to a war crime. Because torture is different when Americans do it as they do so with a heavy heart and for only the noblest of reasons. The others obviously do so without motive and merely to satisfy their sadistic tendencies which is why the latter are war criminals and the former are not.

It's a logic that simply takes your breath away. And yet it is being repeated endlessly in the American media.

Click title for Greenwald's entire post.

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