Ending the banality of militarism

A chief aim of the Witness Iraq lawsuits against six members of the Bush Administration — Bush, Cheney, Powell, Rice, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz — is helping to end the banality of militarism.

1389.9 Holocaust A

In 1963, Hannah Arendt, observing the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem, concluded that the Holocaust was not really the work of sociopaths.

Rather, it was the work of normal people who simply accepted the ideology of the Nazi regime and thought that what was happening was normal.

She called this the “banality of evil” – reflecting the fact that evil had become commonplace and trite.

In the United States, there is a similar banality of militarism.

The idea of invading countries, bombing cities around the world, and using military force to respond to complex international problems is simply taken for granted.

It has become commonplace and trite.

But it is neither commonplace nor trite for the victims of militarism – both the innocents who die abroad, and for the members of the United States armed forces who take orders from civilian leaders and then suffer the physical and mental consequences of executing such orders.

More than sixty years ago, the United States declared that militarism was wrong, and it created an international legal regime designed to govern the affairs of nations and prevent aggression.

Part of that regime required international approval of military actions so countries could not engage in military actions at will.

If Americans wish to take their system of justice seriously, then leaders must remain accountable under law for engaging in conduct that is illegal or criminal under international law.

By holding leaders accountable, it is possible to highlight this pernicious banality of militarism that currently exists in the United States.

Military action must be the very last option for any country committed to living in a global society consisting of other sovereign nations.

The Witness Iraq lawsuits seek to apply international law in such a way that the banality of militarism can be confronted in a court of law.

It is high time to end the banality of militarism and to recognize that military action, even in the best of circumstances, is a malevolent and heinous event.

What happens next – Key Date – May 22, 2013

Witness Iraq has notified the defendants in the civil action — George W. Bush, Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and Paul Wolfowitz — by mail of the lawsuits.

Witness Iraq has requested a response from counsel from all defendants by May 22, 2013.

In the event that counsel does not respond, Witness Iraq will issue the summons and personally serve any and all defendants within the jurisdiction of the Northern District of California.

Upon successful service of the summons and the complaints, the defendants will have 21 days to respond.

If the defendants do not respond, the plaintiffs may seek a “default judgment” from the federal court.

Please help me hold the Bush Administration accountable in federal court for the Iraq War

by Inder Comar

On March 13, 2013, I filed two lawsuits in the Northern District of California against George W. Bush, Richard Cheney, Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice and Paul Wolfowitz on behalf of an Iraqi client and on behalf of myself as a United States citizen.

My Iraqi client, Ms. Sundus Saleh, alleges that these defendants planned and waged a “war of aggression” in violation of laws set down at the Nuremberg Trials in 1946. She has exercised the jurisdiction of the court through the Alien Tort Statute, a law passed by the first Congress in 1789. She seeks to hold these defendants personally liable for their actions.

My case seeks to set new precedent regarding the obligations of government leaders. I am asking the court to acknowledge that I have a common law and/or constitutional right (premised in the First Amendment) to receive honest and candid information from government officials with respect to war and peace. I have also alleged that the defendants violated California’s false advertising law in planning and waging the Iraq War.

I am handling these cases completely pro bono. I have litigated numerous cases in the federal courts, both as an associate for a major law firm and now on my own. I want to win these cases, both for my client and for myself.

But these lawsuits won’t go anywhere without the help of people like you.

First, the more people who care, the more likely the courts will care. Take the Prop 8 litigation: that legal case has acted as a spearhead for a larger movement that is recognizing that the Constitution cannot discriminate based on sexual orientation. These lawsuits need similar support for the idea that leaders cannot deceive and mislead the public, particularly in matters of war and peace, and remain unaccountable. With the Supreme Court tightening access to the courts (even with the Alien Tort Statute in the very recent Kiobel decision), the courts need to know that people want to hold leaders accountable under law.

Second, my firm is a small San Francisco boutique that is primarily involved in corporate counseling and court appointed trial and appellate work. I will shamelessly admit that I cannot handle these cases alone! I need the support of passionate, intelligent and thoughtful people to secure the court orders that I want for myself and for my client.

As Americans, we are fortunate to have a functioning judiciary. Today, there are millions of people living in other countries who would be killed if they dared to question their leaders. In America, we are heirs to an 800 year tradition extending back to Magna Carta that says no one is above the law – not even the king. And George W. Bush was no king.

Please join me to make this trial a reality. You can help by supporting our fundraising campaign at indiegogo (http://igg.me/p/374841/x), by spreading the word about the lawsuits, and by reaching out to me (inder at comarlaw dot com) if you want to get involved.

Please help me hold our leaders accountable to prevent another Iraq War.

Why have a trial about the Iraq War?

Why do we need a trial for the Iraq War?

A trial creates a factual record. Part of the importance of trials after a war — whether it was the Nuremberg Trials after World War II or the trials which took place after Yugoslavia and Rwanda — is that evidence can be gathered and recorded. Witnesses can give testimony. Documents can be examined and submitted before a judge. This, in turn, gives historians the ability to examine what actually happened.

This type of fact finding has been absent for the Iraq War. Today, no one knows what leaders thought or knew when they claimed there were weapons of mass destruction. There is documented evidence that key members of the Bush Administration — people like Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz — publicly advocated for war against Iraq as early as 1998. Given these questions, a trial is required to simply uncover the facts.


A trial ensures accountability. The Executive, the Legislative and the Judicial branches are designed to check and balance the other and ensure accountability.

On the issue of the Iraq War, there has been no accountability. The Executive Branch has failed to properly investigate potential violations of law related to the Iraq War (in fact President Obama has indicated he will not investigate questions regarding potential Bush-era violations of law). The Legislative Branch has failed to properly investigate potential violations of law.

Only the third and final branch has the ability to investigate what happened 10 years ago.

The Revolution was fought because a king refused to be accountable to the people. American leaders — even former Presidents — are not kings, and our legal tradition entitles the people to hold leaders accountable should there be evidence of wrongdoing.

Requesting a trial is a fundamental right of the People. Any person who claims to suffer injury is entitled by ancient right to seek redress before a court.

Over 800 years ago, Clause 61 of Magna Carta gave the barons the right to petition the king for redress for any breach of that Charter.

The English Bill of Rights of 1689 similarly provided, “[I]t is the right of the subjects to petition the king, and all commitments and prosecutions for such petitioning are illegal.”

In the Declaration of Independence, the Framers highlighted the infringement of their right to petition for redress as a reason for the Revolution:  “In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”

The right to petition is protected by the First Amendment to the federal Constitution. In United States v. Harriss, 347 U.S. 612, 635 (1954), the US Supreme Court affirmed, “The First Amendment forbids Congress to abridge the right of the people ‘to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.’” In Eastern R. Conf. v. Noerr Motors, 365 U.S. 127, 138 (1961), the Supreme Court similarly concluded, “The right of petition is one of the freedoms protected by the Bill of Rights.”

It is fundamental right and basic American value for individuals to petition a court for redress of harms. This is true if the harm is caused by a neighbor, a stranger, or by a former leader.

 A trial will uncover the truth. The American legal system is premised on the idea that a proper trial, with rights afforded to defendants, consistent with robust due process protections, will reveal truth. There are too many questions regarding the lead-up to the war that need to be answered. A trial will help answer such lingering questions.

A trial will promote both justice and right. How little trust there is today concerning the political process, or between political parties! The reason for cynicism and distrust is because there is no faith that leaders are doing the right thing; no faith that leaders are held accountable when they do the wrong thing; and no faith that the system will promote fairness and justice.

A trial corrects these perceptions: It is the least that the American people deserve after a war that has killed so many and destroyed so much.

Litigating the US Invasion of Iraq