Lead counsel D. Inder Comar discussed the filing of the Chilcot Report with Scott Horton.
Lead counsel D. Inder Comar discussed the filing of the Chilcot Report with Scott Horton.
The Anglo-American legal tradition is in serious trouble if not a single major U.S. politician is willing to suggest that the most effective way to combat international terrorism is through law and the courts.
Terrorism is a crime under the United States code, defined at 18 U.S.C. §§ 2331 and 2332b . It sits just a few subchapters away from piracy, another international crime which is also adjudicated, relatively successfully, by the U.S. legal system. It is probably tough to remember, but the mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center attack, Ramzi Yousef, was tried in a civilian court. He is currently serving a life sentence in Florence, Colorado, at a federal Supermax prison.
It would reflect a great deal of strength for a politician to argue that law will dispose of terrorism. First, most of us already know that courts can successfully handle heinous international crimes. At Nuremberg, judges were able to weigh evidence and convict individuals who committed some of the most deeply offensive crimes in history. This work continues in the Hague today with the International Criminal Court. Most international scholars agree that such efforts are largely positive in helping to close the chapter on war and to move a society forward in a more positive, legally-minded direction. If a court was capable of adjudicating the Holocaust, it is surely capable of dealing with international terrorism.
There is strength in affirming fundamental values on which a civilized society is based. We cannot have a world in which some crimes go before a civilian judge, and some crimes are subject to summary execution by the President through a drone strike. In all matters of justice, separate-but-equal is a fatally flawed directive. Historically, the Anglo-American tradition has sought to limit executive power and preserve the ability of a neutral judge to adjudicate disputes — values that have been deeply weakened by 15 years of unending war and which now must be reclaimed or forever lost.
There is strength in admitting that the military approach to terrorism has not only failed, it has made the problem significantly worse. Using a bomb to solve terrorism creates a hydra where chopping off one head only produces three more. Kill Baghdadi and someone else will take his throne, or perhaps three more. Is this not what created ISIS? Is it really so difficult to see how the use of the military in the Middle East has opened the gates of Hell? Is no one really going to question the insanity of the U.S. simultaneously bombing ISIS (fighting Assad) and Assad (fighting ISIS)?
There is strength in dealing with the eventual even-handedness of justice. It is an unfortunate truth that Western countries have also, too, committed crimes since 9/11. Those crimes will require an accounting before a judge, at least some day. And in particular, there will never be peace in the Middle East without an answer for the Iraq War, which will be recognized one day by all peoples as one of the gravest international crimes since World War II. This was a war that was built on lies and sold to a fearful public like the vilest of snake oils. And its bitterness remains. The Iraq War destroyed a country, killed millions of innocent parents and their children, and is the caustic source of the violence that now roils the Middle East and strikes into Paris. Justice requires an answer for the Iraq War — a good and healthy thing as such justice will act as a lesson to the future that the human species will never survive if it relies on war, particularly at a time when so much destruction can be committed by so few in number.
Now, the specter of fascism creeps in this petty pace as politicians in Europe and the U.S. create false enemies and denounce refugees, threaten more war, and pander to the ugliest motivations of each of their respective nations. There is strength in rejecting this fascism.
The world should put together its finest legal minds from all countries — from the U.S., from Latin America, from Europe, from Africa, from Asia, and yes, from the Middle East. Let these minds define the problem, propose a legal solution, and then either work with the International Criminal Court in the Hague, or set up a special tribunal to adjudicate the issue of terrorism. Let that court issue warrants, and make sure that the world will cooperate with that court to arrest those who are wanted. Give the accused a lawyer, have a trial, and issue a sentence. Put the guilty in jail. And acquit those for whom there is not enough evidence, and let them go.
And after the world has set up that process, the world should do the same thing for those on all sides who are committing crimes. All people should take a look at the log in each of their own eyes, particularly after analyzing the speck in that of the other. The people of every nation must look into their hearts and their minds to figure out why governments, everywhere, are getting away with murder. The world needs to put a stop to that, as well.
I know very little about very little. But there is one thing I know to be true, like the light of a thousand suns. The answer to terrorism is law.
Is it impossible to conceive of a peacetime USA?
Culturally and politically, American leaders with both political parties have declined to provide a vision to the American people of a country that has declared an end to war in the Middle East and the resumption of a peace time society.
Instead, the last 14 years of war have produced an overgrown Executive branch, unconstrained by law, by Congress or the judiciary.
If nothing is done, the Executive branch, as a domestic institution, will almost certainly overwhelm Congress and the courts and will permanently disrupt the careful checks-and-balances system that is the hallmark of the American constitutional order. There is a real threat that unending war will create a domestic monster.
The hallmark of this overgrown Executive is the continued and unabashed violations of law with respect to military action.
Today, the Executive branch wallows in an aggressively militant governmental apparatus that routinely violates law and expands the boundaries — both legally and culturally — of permissible violent government conduct.
Bush-era illegality in the form of wars of aggression, torture, war crimes and domestic spying caused outrage amongst the public when these crimes were initially revealed.
But outrage without an outlet has, through some reverse osmosis, transmuted itself into a permanent cultural numbness.
The continued silence amongst members of the cultural, social and governmental elite with respect to Bush-era crimes permits a similar silence to surround illegal activities by the Obama Administration.
For example, the public seems to willingly accept the notion that the use of drone strikes (which in some instances may constitute illegal acts of aggression and crimes against humanity), the continued use of indefinite detentions at Guantanamo Bay and the normalization of domestic surveillance powers under national security auspices are the “new normal” — no matter whether laws are broken.
There is very little legal basis for Obama’s bombing of Syria, both internationally and domestically. In a functioning democracy, the bombing of a sovereign country would create widespread political discussion. Yet the decision in the US to bomb Syria was made practically overnight.
The same was true of the recent announcement — again, met with silence — that US ground forces would begin to enter Syria.
Even the bombing of a hospital in Kunduz, in what appears to be a clear prima facie war crime, produces mute commentary.
Carl Schmitt, the philosopher most associated with the intellectual defense of National Socialism, applauded a strong, law-breaking executive on the grounds of what he termed the “state of exception.”
Schmitt believed that in times of crises, a sovereign had to act outside of the normal constitutional framework in order to save society from existential threats. Schmitt thus defended the sovereign who violated the law, if in so doing, the sovereign could help a society delineate between friends and enemies, and give meaning to its citizens.
Nothing upset Schmitt more than the weakness of societies that had adopted liberalism, societies he viewed as hopelessly depoliticized and without the glory associated with a strong state.
Schmitt’s foul logic does much to explain the current “state of exception” in US politics. The supposed and ever present threat of terrorism is used as a means for the Executive branch to act outside of the law in order to save the law. Whether it is a Democrat or Republican in the White House, the law breaking remains the same.
Meanwhile, such illegal international actions threaten to shatter the remaining shards of what is left of the global peace. In attempting to “defend freedom” by the “war on terror,” the American government and its allies create further instability, which in turn creates additional violence directed against Americans. The CIA refers to this as “blowback.” It is not a difficult concept to grasp, and the fact that US leaders refuse to alter their conduct in the face of blowback means they are either too dense or too intentional in their use of military action abroad. Either conclusion should be frightening to a thinking person.
It is Hannah Arendt, another German thinker, whose 20th century insights are even more profound in this current time. In her classic, Eichmann in Jerusalem, she coined the “banality of evil” as a phrase that described the seeming stupidity (or at least the clumsiness) of people like Adolph Eichmann, who were responsible for countless atrocities and yet were able to defend their actions with trite rationalizations that they were simply doing their jobs, or following orders. Today, there is a similar caustic fog that shrouds the culture, a darkness that no one speaks of, and an acceptance of criminal conduct by those in power. Empathy towards the countless innocent victims (perhaps millions at this point) who have been killed in their homes, their schools, or even at their own weddings, all in the name of the War on Terror, is entirely absent from everyday discourse.
Americans need only look to their Founders to understand the consequences of illegal warmaking. James Madison, the chief drafter of the US Constitution, observed, “Of all the enemies of true liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.
“In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people.”
As Madison observed, war itself becomes a threat to domestic security and individual liberty. It acts as the pretext for an overgrown Executive and the beginnings of a criminal state.
Madison’s classical liberalism is now threatened by the views of Schmitt and other statists, who seemingly welcome the growth of the “unitary Executive” and the beginnings of domestic despotism.
So long as Americans give their leaders carte blanche to wage war in their name, to break laws domestically and internationally, and to avoid scrutiny or oversight for such conduct, then criminality will only increase, and with it, an increase in the potential for sudden instability in the global economic and political order.
“He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.” Frederick Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, aphorism 146.
Earlier this month, lead counsel Inder Comar was interviewed about the Witness Iraq case by Chicago DJ Perri Small.
Listen to the interview and check out the full transcript below!*
Interview highlights include:
Perri Small: It is 10:07 on the Talk of Chicago, 1690 WVOM. My name is Perri Small. I think you guys are going to find this quite interesting. Former U.S. Attorney General is bringing a legal challenge against Iraq war officials and I am fascinated about who is bringing this suit. Members of the Bush Administration are being sued for their involvement in the Iraq war by an international team of lawyers, one of whom was a former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark. The team was assembled by Sundus Saleh, an Iraqi single mother. Joining us on the live line is attorney Inder Comar and her client—his client—is Sundus Saleh. Thank you attorney. Thank you so much for joining us today. How are you?
Inder Comar: Very well, thank you for asking. Thanks for having me on.
PS: I think this is absolutely fascinating. I have heard people talk about many times saying that maybe the Bush Administration—members of this administration—should be brought up on war crimes because of the Iraq War and the lies that were told about mass destruction and how—just the situation that we are in today, with ISIS, the Arab Spring. All of this I would say, in my opinion, is the direct result of the U.S.’s involvement in the Iraq War. So Inder—Attorney Comar—tell me how this suit came about and tell me a little bit about your client.
IC: Sure, absolutely. So my client is a single Iraqi mother. She fled Iraq in 2005, really at the height of the violence. She was a refugee in Jordan, and currently has a refugee status in Australia. And she brought this suit—we brought this suit—two years ago to challenge the unlawfulness of the Iraq war itself. So you’re absolutely right that many lawyers, already, have tried to bring about torture challenges, for example, for the torture that is now well documented that took place in Iraq against many members of the Administration. Those lawsuits were unfortunately unsuccessful. So what we’re actually doing, or the theory of our case, is that the war itself was illegal. And we’re citing to the Nuremberg trials, so we’re citing to precedent that is more than sixty years old, that was used against the Germans after World War II. And at the Nuremberg trials—which was an effort by the U.S. and the U.K. and the other __ powers – France and the Soviet Union—that court held that the worst thing that a leader can do—worse than torture, worse than crimes against humanity—is actually bringing an illegal war itself. And that’s called the crime of aggression. And they called aggression the chief, excuse me, the supreme international crime. So that’s a quote from the case. And so we’re telling this court—we’re in the Ninth Circuit right now—we’re asking this court to review that holding from Nuremberg, that rule, which it can do, and other courts have reviewed Nuremberg in other contexts and found it to be binding law in U.S. courts. So we’re asking the Ninth Circuit to do the same thing here, to review the chief rule from Nuremberg, which is that those who bring illegal wars must be held to account. And we’re asking that court to honor that rule in this case, to review the lead up to the war, all the statements that were made, the planning that went into it, which we elect was illegal, and declare the Iraq War illegal. And if so, to order that damages be paid to people who were innocent victims of war.
PS: You know I suspect, that the reason why this isn’t a lead story in media is because nobody expects this to go anywhere. Especially—she had another—her suit was dismissed in December 2014 by the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, ruling that members of the Bush Administration had immunity from a civil suit. So, tell me, why are you going forth with this? Is this part of your strategy? Because the civil suit didn’t go anywhere, so tell us what’s different from this suit, as opposed to the civil suit.
IC: Yeah, absolutely. So, this is an appeal—so the civil suit, the underlying civil suit—was dismissed in December. And so we lodged an appeal in January, and this is the briefing that has happened since then. And we were very lucky and very fortunate to have this former U.S. Attorney General file a brief in support of the case. Ramsey Clark has been active ever since leaving the Johnson Administration—he was under Johnson—and has been a real advocate for human rights and civil rights. We had a brief that was filed by the Planethood Foundation, which was founded in 1996 by one of the last living prosecutors from Nuremberg. So we’ve assembled a really great team to take the case now on to appeal. And you’re absolutely right, the issue now before appeal, is whether these officials are actually immune. So that’s the first challenge now, because the Federal District Court held that there was this immunity that prevented the case from proceeding. Just like the courts have done over the last ten years with respect to the torture claims. And so we’re saying that immunity can’t apply here for two reasons.
One is because this was the exact defense that the Germans made at Nuremberg, which was that they were immune because everything they did was lawful under German law. And Nuremberg rejected that. I mean that’s one of the key principles from Nuremberg, is that you can’t rely on your domestic law as a defense to allegations of international aggression. So that’s our first point. And our second point is that, we’re making the claim that the immunity law, as it stands, requires that is people be acting within the lawful scope of their employment. So it’s interesting, the courts here—as they did in the torture cases five or six years ago—they actually looked to District of Columbia labor law, so they looked to the labor law to determine if a government official was acting within the scope of their valid employment authority. And we’re alleging that the facts here are just so ugly—all the misrepresentations that were told—the Neoconservative ideology which we really identify as the driving force of the war. That this war was based not on genuine national security concerns, but it was based on this foul ideology, using the United States military in a very aggressive manner against other countries, purely for sustaining, or bringing American military supremacy to the region. And so we identify that as the real issue that prompted war. And so we want the Court to say, in light of that, these people were not acting lawfully. They had a preexisting agenda they came to office with, and then they implemented it. It’s like getting the keys—here’s the analogy—when you get the keys to the company car, and then you go off on a frolic and detour. In those cases, you don’t hold the employer liable, you hold the person you took the car away, right, and did whatever they wanted to do.
PS: You know, I was reading the article, and they were talking about what your basis was—how this came about—was that you were reviewing some of the statements that were made by President George W. Bush, real President, former Vice President Dick Cheney, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and other high ranking members of the Bush Administration. We’re going to take a break. When we come back, we’re going to continue the conversation. I want to know more about your client. I want to know whether your family thinks you have lost your mind, and a myriad of other things.
PS: We’re talking to Attorney Inder Comar, and he has a client Sundus Saleh. From what I understand, is a single mom. She doesn’t live in Iraq, she lives here in the United States, right?
IC: No, she’s in Australia right now.
PS: She’s in Australia?
IC: Yeah, she’s a refugee in Australia.
PS: So, you know what, I have to ask you this. I mean this is daunting, to say the least. Do your mom and dad think you’ve lost your mind?
IC: [Laughs] Well, that’s a good question.
PS: Yeah, I mean I have to ask you, do your parents think you’ve lost your mind? All these wonderful attorneys that you’ve been able to bring together—you’re serious about this, aren’t you counselor?
IC: Oh, absolutely. This is a very serious effort to apply the rule of law with respect to war making. And we’re not asking the courts to do anything new. Everything that is talked about, or what I’ve told you about, was announced more than sixty years ago at an international tribunal that was convened in large part by Americans. So, we’re not asking the courts to do anything outrageous, or radical. In fact, we’re asking the contrary. We’re saying that what’s radical is the ability for national leaders to violate law with impunity. And that’s extremely dangerous for a Republic, and for a society that has to govern itself. And so this is—we could not—the team that we have could not be more serious about the importance of making sure that national leaders, when they violate the law, are accountable to a judge.
PS: Oh, I’m sure you’ve been called a communist. What would you say—what happened during the Bush Administration—I remember sitting and watching as the country was making its—I remember Colin Powell sitting there at the UN and making the case why this country should go to war with Iraq. And it was so convincing! It was so convincing. And so one of the reasons why I don’t really hold a lot of these congressmen and these senators—hold their feet to the fire this much—is because they were so convincing. And I think Colin Powell—General Powell said—he’s a little upset that he was given wrong information. And of course, this was very detrimental to his credibility, for years, and will forever, I think, be a stain for him. I mean, do you remember? I mean, were you old enough? I don’t know how old you are—were you old enough to remember seeing Colin Powell giving this compelling reason why we should strike Iraq?
IC: Yes, oh I totally remember that. And as part of the case we reviewed all those materials. And you’re absolutely right that General Powell has repudiated that speech. He has gone—he said in an ABC interview—he calls it a blot on his record. And I think that’s one of the things we did, is we reviewed everything with the passage of time, we looked back at what they said, and tried to discern what was going on. Because what they were really doing and what we allege, was an intentional effort to mislead people in two ways. First, there was an intentionality to mislead people to think that Sadaam was in league with al Qaeda. Which was not true—there was no evidence of that ever. In fact, all the evidence is strongly to the contrary. But you have these administration officials making this case that they’re essentially business partners. Which is not true. The second misrepresentation—
PS: —Well I’ll let you tell me that—the second misrepresentation—let’s talk about that when we come back from the break. You have some more time?
IC: Oh yeah, absolutely.
PS: Alright, then. We’re talking to attorney Inder Comar. And I’m going to find out more about the plaintiff in this case.
PS: For those of you who are just joining us, members of the Bush Administration are being sued for their involvement in the Iraq War by an international team of lawyers, one of whom was a former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, which I find fascinating. The team was assembled by Sundus Saleh, an Iraqi single mother. So, I’m going to start there again—oh, when we went to break you were talking about—you gave us the first and now you’re going to give us the second misinformation that was given to the American people. Inder Comar, our guest, who is an attorney. Thank you so much once again for joining us and you can give us that second note that you were going to give us.
IC: Absolutely. So the first was the alleged link between al Qaeda and Sadaam, and the second is this notion that there were weapons—that they had weapons. And again, we just looked at the statements, we looked at what people were saying, what journalists were saying at the time—that there weren’t any weapons. So we’re alleging again that they blew that out of proportion. You know, there was a famous quote from Condoleezza Rice that said, “We can’t let the smoking gun be a mushroom cloud,” right? Which obviously stoked fears of 9/11. And we allege that 9/11 was used as basically a fear mechanism, to make everyone afraid, and that would support the war.
PS: And the second one?
IC: Oh yeah, so the second one, was the supposed notion that they had nuclear weapons, that they had weapons on mass destruction. We looked at that and the evidence is again—the evidence that was available to them at the time is just to the contrary.
PS: All right, tell us more about your client, tell me more about your client.
IC: Sure, yeah.
PS: Yeah, I’m very interested because I’m sure that if there were more people aware of this lawsuit, and if there was any type of media interest, her life wouldn’t be worth a dime. So, I’m saying, for her to come forward and be a part of this suit I think is very brave of her. But tell me about this client.
IC: Yeah, absolutely so she had a very middle class life in Iraq, as a lot of people did. I mean she was an art teacher. She’s not Muslim—she’s a member of a religious minority called the Sabean Mandean people. And they worship John the Baptist, actually.
PS: They worship—I’m sorry—they worship whom?
IC: Oh, John the Baptist.
PS: John the Baptist?
IC: Yeah, so they think that he was the real guy—the real messenger of God. So when you go to her house, or when you go to other peoples’ houses who are in this faith, the pictures on the wall are of John, and not of Jesus, or they’re not of Muhammad. They’re a very discreet and insular religious group. And they’ve lived in Iraq for two thousand years. But after the invasion, Iraq became a very destabilized place. She was kicked out of her home—the home was taken from her by militia groups. She fled to Bagdad—she lived in the North—so she fled to Bagdad, where she worked for the election commission for sometime. I don’t remember if there was that same election. And as a member of this religious minority she was targeted by a lot of these Shia militia groups. And so the violence just became so bad that she fled with her children—she had her four children with her—and they fled and they went to Jordan, initially, where they lived, and where she has basically lived since 2005, up until about a couple years ago. And then she was able to get refugee status in Australia, where she lives right now.
PS: That is really interesting. So, how often—well we know we have all this great technology—so how often do you and the other attorneys Skype or teleconference or whatever about this case. I mean, what is daily? How are you actually moving this case forward?
IC: Right, well that’s a great question. I mean, the case is being moved forward by the deadlines. So the biggest deadline we had was this court brief we that filed in May, and then in early June, and that’s when we had this brief that was filed part by Ramsey Clark. So, when there are deadlines—and this is true of any lawsuit—when there’s a deadline, you do a lot of talking. Then after the deadline, you wait for the next deadline. So we don’t have anything to do until the wintertime. And my hope is there will be a court hearing before the Ninth Circuit in the late winter, early spring. So maybe February or March of next year.
PS: So how do our listeners follow the progress of this case? Are you doing any type of social media? Is there a website? How do we find out?
IC: Yes, absolutely. So we have a website called Witness Iraq—so one word, w-i-t-n-e-s-s-i-r-a-q dot-com —so if you go there, we have copies of the important pleadings. We have a Facebook page, so if you look for Witness Iraq on Facebook, you’ll pull up the page. And the Facebook page is actually the main place we’re updating. And there we put up articles that people write about the case, interviews—we’ll certainly mention this interview—and then also updates about where the case is and how it’s progressing. So it’s all being blogged about on the internet, and that’s the best way to kind of keep updated about the status.
PS: You know, one of the things that just I find so fascinating about this is about, is when you talk about the Nuremberg trials. And I would say the vast majority of Americans today do not have a clue about what Nuremberg was all about. There have been movies done, of course. Great actors—the greatest actors of all time—were in this movie about the Nuremberg trials. So what is it like when you present this argument, when you talk to people, and you talk about Nuremberg, do you kind of get the same sense that I do that they don’t know what the hell you’re talking about?
IC: Well you know, it’s not just people—it’s judges. So we have an education battle that we have to educate the judges. And they’re starting to get it. Like I’ve mentioned, in the last ten years or so, there have been two or three really great court cases were the judges have actually looked at the Nuremberg trials and have said, this is binding U.S. law, as far as we’re concerned, or is incorporated into U.S. law. But before then, there was a little bit of a challenge. So we have a challenge not just with non-lawyers, but also with the lawyers and judges themselves. But that being said, there’s a reason, maybe, that we’ve culturally forgotten about Nuremberg. For me it’s very powerful that after the U.S. defeated one of its most nefarious enemies in history, we gave them a trial. That’s a really remarkable thing for a country to do to another country.
PS: It was! It was amazing!
IC: Right, exactly. The Soviets just wanted to hang these guys, the British just wanted to hang these guys. The Americans who were at Nuremberg were very idealistic about the power of law to help shape human behavior and to create a future where leaders would be held to account before the law. This idea that all are equal before the law—this is what was really guiding these people. And you read their letters, you read what they told the judges—they were idealistic. And you had a comment earlier about how people might call me a communist—but it’s funny that these people—and what is guiding me is this very liberal democratic notion about the rule of law. And that’s what was guiding these people. So, I didn’t learn about Nuremberg until law school, and when I learned about it I was shocked that all this had happened, like you mentioned, and for me—
PS:—How old are you, Attorney Comar?
IC: I’m 35.
PS: I want to punch you.
IC: [Laughs] Why’s that?
PS: Because you know, you have your youth. And that is a sad commentary on our educational system in the United States. I mean we were taught about Nuremberg in social studies class. And you said you had never heard of Nuremberg?
IC: Not until law school, yeah. I mean I had heard about it, but I never really learned about it until then. I took a class on it.
IC: It was specialized!
PS: The dumbing down of America—I talk about it all the time. I’m not talking about you specifically, but, I’m just saying, that says a lot about out country and the educational system.
PS: Yeah, and you know what Attorney Comar, I just think you really have just done something magnanimous in this quest. Because like I said I’m sure there are people that think you have lost your mind, I’m sure people think this is a frivolous lawsuit, but I just have to tell you, it’s very brave. Personally, I’ll just tell you, I hope something comes out of this. But our judicial system is so corrupted, the odds are against you – and you probably know that the odds are against of you—but the fact that you want to move forward with this is just incredible to me. And can I just ask you, what drives you?
IC: Well, what drives me is that sense of idealism I just mentioned. And what drives me is that, as a country, we have to find—each one of us has to find that issue that we’re passionate about, and that we know to be true from a perspective of social justice. I mean when you look at what’s going on today, there’s no shortage of problems—there’s no shortage of issues that need to be addressed. From an environmental point of view, from a social justice point of view, from an income, and gender and racial equality point of view—there’s so many things that need to be tackled. And my issue, the thing that I’m passionate right now, is issues of war and peace, and this issue of the rule of law, and this issue of real democratic accountability of leaders who start wars, which in my mind was banned at Nuremberg. And that’s what drives me, but I think everyone has their—based on their experiences and lives—has something that drives them as well. Something they wake up and think about and say, “Wow, I really wish I had the energy, or the bravery, or the courage to do this thing that I really think would make a big difference.” And I would say, just do it. Because no one’s going to do anything for us. We have to shape the system for ourselves, and we have to have the energy to make a difference for the better. Because it’s not doing to happen by itself. And it will take a lot of hard work. And you know, actually, no one has ever told me that this is a frivolous case, and no one has ever sent me any hate mail—to the contrary. So I think that if I can do it, I think other people can find issues that they’re inspired about, and they can work hard in the face of what may seem like insurmountable odds. But that’s been true of any kind of social justice.
PS: Yeah, anything that’s going to exact some type of change. I thank you so much. It’s witnessiraq.com that people can follow this?
IC: Yeah, absolutely.
PS: All right, so when we come back I’m going to come back to Beau, and others. If you want more information or to follow this this case, go to witnessiraq.com.
*This transcript and recording have been lightly edited and callers have been excised for clarity.
The decision to appeal the district court order dismissing the Witness Iraq lawsuit and Ms. Saleh’s inquiry into the Iraq War was not made lightly.
After more than a year and half of effort, the prospect of an appeal that might end in the same outcome is, frankly, a daunting one.
After reviewing the case law and affirming that the Nuremberg Principles should apply in this matter, the necessity of an appeal became self-evident.
Nuremberg gives a court sufficient justification to examine the claims brought by Ms. Saleh and to investigate whether the conduct of government leaders in planning and waging the Iraq War was illegal under domestic and international law.
Whether a United States court will accept this invitation remains to be seen.
But other than the Chilcot Inquiry in the United Kingdom, there is no other meaningful effort today examining the legality of the Iraq War.
Even as Iraq descends into further chaos, and even as paramilitary groups such as the Islamic State gain strength, it is too easy to forget that the current bloodshed in Iraq is the bitter fruit of the poisonous tree that was the initial invasion.
We will brief these issues to the United States Court of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit and hope that it can be convinced that a judicial inquiry is finally warranted, and that Ms. Saleh’s claims for damages can proceed.
We must envision the world we want to live in and work hard every day to build that world.
It is possible to live in a world where warmaking is governed by law, and where leaders cannot invade other countries without the prospect of accountability for such decisions.
Such was the promise of the Nuremberg Trials themselves.
If Nuremberg is to mean anything, its prohibitions against international aggression must be acknowledged by US jurists and apply to US leaders.
This was the promise that American prosecutors gave to the international tribunal more than 60 years ago. We must keep that promise or else we will return to the world that existed before 1939 and the Second World War.
The revelations from the Senate Torture Report have placed the potential crimes of the previous Administration in focus once more. The aggression against the people of Iraq and the torture committed by the CIA — including torture of innocent people — did not have to happen. These were affirmative choices made by people in power, done to exploit 9/11 for their own purposes.
We have identified at least two different laws that would support indictments against those who committed torture in the last decade: the War Crimes Act (18 U.S.C. § 2441) and the Convention Against Torture implementing legislation (18 U.S.C. § 2340A). We have drafted a public memorandum discussing these laws in an effort to spur debate on the issue of potential wrongdoing.
As more and more facts are revealed, as greater consensus emerges regarding what happened during those dark days after 9/11 — just today, Senator Carl Levin, reiterated that the Bush Administration misled the country about the links between Iraq and Al Qaeda — there will be a greater push from both the public, the international community, and almost certainly members of government regarding the need for accountability. Aggression was not the only crime committed at Nuremberg: the grotesque excesses of the Nazis against their victims gave birth to modern jurisprudence regarding crimes against humanity and torture as well.
The release of the torture report, combined with the Iraq War, make clear that what is now at stake is the legacy of Nuremberg itself.
December 12, 2014 Public Memorandum
While we await the order from the Court on immunity, we were outraged to learn last week that Save the Children had provided a “Global Legacy Award” to Tony Blair.
In support of the petition, Counsel Inder Comar drafted this letter and asked Save the Children to do the right thing.
December 5, 2014 Letter to Save the Children
We wish we had better news, but Judge Tigar canceled the November 13, 2014 oral argument and hearing on the Defendants’ motion to dismiss, and Ms. Saleh’s request for an evidentiary hearing. This is the second time this year that the Court has canceled an oral argument. The order vacating the hearing is attached to this blog post.
Based on the court order, the trial court will, at this point, ask for additional briefing, or it will — after a year and a half — issue its final court order as to whether ex President Bush and other high officials violated the Nuremberg principles, and whether they are immune from a lawsuit alleging as such.
November 3, 2014 Order Canceling Oral Argument
In the latest round of court papers in Saleh v. Bush, Case No. 3:13-cv-1124 JST (N.D. Cal. Mar. 13, 2013), the United States has argued that the holdings from the Nuremberg Tribunal have “neither estoppel nor preclusive effect” and are “irrelevant” to the question of whether US officials are immune from suit based on allegations of aggression.
The United States continues to maintain that former Bush Administration officials are subject to dismissal based on a domestic law, the Westfall Act, that shields government officials from civil lawsuits for activities undertaken during the scope of an official’s employment.
Saleh argues that defendants Bush, Cheney, Powell, Rice, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz acted outside the scope of their authority in planning and waging the Iraq War, which she contents was done in violation of US and international law. Specifically, she contends that these individuals committed aggression against Iraq, which was outlawed by the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, Germany, over 60 years ago.
The Court has also reset the hearing date from September 11, 2014, to November 13, 2014 in the Northern District of California.
Check out the latest update about the lawsuit!!
And check out the pleadings referenced in the video here: