War crimes investigations begin at home

During a press conference in Baghdad in 2008 US President George Bush Jr dives away just in time to avoid the shoes of an angry Iraqi journalist thrown to him (File)

Philip Weiss 

Mondoweiss  /  April 6, 2022

If you support war crimes investigation of Putin, you need to demand accountability of Americans and their allies — George Bush for the Iraq catastrophe and Israel’s Gantz for bombing Gaza “back to the Stone Age,” as he bragged.

White House officials and reporters have been going nonstop in recent days about alleged Russian war crimes in the Kyiv suburbs and in Mariupol, and they’ve convinced me. I support the calls for international war crimes investigations of Russian atrocities in the Ukraine, including the launching of this hateful war in February.

But I find such calls by American leaders and the American press hollow given the ample American and Israeli track record of alleged war crimes, which no one in our official culture cares about. No, they shut such investigations down.

It would seem to be an obvious moral observation that: We have no standing to demand such investigations unless we make similar demands on American and Israeli authorities, who have supervised horrors in the Middle East, notably the invasion of Iraq that killed hundreds of thousands. “Unprovoked.” Just what they say about Putin and the Ukraine. The only consequences to George Bush was he got shoes thrown at him.

Or take that American drone strike on an Afghan family that killed 10 people as the U.S. was leaving Afghanistan last August. The U.S. lied about the attack, said it was aimed at ISIS, and then called it a “tragic mistake.” And yes, in a spasm of interest, The New York Times investigated some American attacks. Now that’s down the memory hole.

How many tragic mistakes did the U.S. make across Iraq and Libya? How many tragic mistakes has Saudi Arabia made in Yemen using American weaponry in an American war that has caused the deaths of nearly 400,000, most of them children?

I suppose Russia claims it has made some tragic mistakes in the Ukraine. But who is listening to their propaganda right now? We censor that.

Of course my focus is Palestine. You only have to go back 11 months to the 11-day onslaught on Gaza that killed 250 people and included attacks on civilian infrastructure — like the high-rise housing the press in Gaza City that collapsed like our World Trade Center. The U.N. Human Rights Council is investigating that war but 68 U.S. senators want that investigation shut down.

And we don’t hear Judy Woodruff, Jane Ferguson and Simon Ostrovsky of PBS News Hour, or NBC’s Lester Holt, Richard Engel and Andrea Mitchell cheering on that investigation– when they are all but demanding international investigation of Russia’s attacks. “Humanity demands” action, Woodruff said last night.

The current Defense Minister of Israel, Gantz, ran for prime minister in 2019 bragging that he had bombed Gaza back to the “stone age”. He was taking full credit for the 2014 onslaught that killed 2200 people including 500 children and rubbled the capital. You’d think that Gantz would be a pariah, afraid to step foot in Europe. Yet American politicians meet him and embrace him, including progressive Democrats.

Meantime, a horde of good liberals in the Obama White House worked to prevent Israeli leaders from ever being tried for the Stone Age war– or the one before it, which began when Israel killed hundreds of people at a policy academy graduation ceremony in Gaza on the theory that they were part of Gaza’s security force. John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Samantha Power, Susan Rice, and Suzanne Nossel all said there was no problem with that.

Then in 2018, Gazans held weekly protests at the high fence that has kept them in an open-air prison for the last 14 years. They were demanding the right to return to homes and villages from which they or their families had been turned out in 1948-1949. A lot like what all those Ukrainians in Poland and Moldova and Hungary say on TV — we just want to go back to our homes.

Israeli forces at that border fence shot thousands of Palestinians during the protests, killing a couple of hundred, and maiming many more, notably including leg amputations.

I’ve never heard calls for war crimes investigations on the news or from the White House over those slaughtered protesters, armed with slingshots and maybe a molotov cocktail or two.

Meantime, the New York Times ran four op-ed pieces justifying the shooting of those protesters. Here’s an excerpt of one of them.

Israeli soldiers facing Gaza have no good choices…. Knowledgeable people can debate the best way to deal with this threat. Could a different response have reduced the death toll? Or would a more aggressive response deter further actions of this kind and save lives in the long run? What are the open-fire orders on the India-Pakistan border, for example?

I’m sure the Russians have similar justifications for what they’re doing in Ukraine. And I’m sure The New York Times doesn’t run them on the op-ed page.

The old saying is that charity begins at home. So does piety about violations of the laws of war.

Philip Weiss is senior editor of Mondoweiss.net and founded the site in 2005-2006

h/t Scott Roth and James North and Donald Johnson.