Inquiry: Is the Bush Administration Guilty of Crimes Against
The Satya Interview with
C. Clark Kissinger
Something is stirring; the
tide is changing. People of conscience around the world are taking
action to hold those in power accountable for
their actions. The World Tribunal on Iraq, which held 20 hearings in
cities all over the globe, culminated in Istanbul in late June, issuing
a statement calling for the indictment of George Bush and Tony Blair
for war crimes by the International Criminal Court. Former
Attorney General Ramsey Clark has issued formal indictments against both Bush
administrations for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Iraq.
A grieving mother drew thousands of military families and supporters
to the door of George Bush’s vacation home to hold him accountable
for the occupation. And there’s a national movement afoot to
impeach George Bush (see www.impeachbush.org).
But those are all about our government’s involvement in Iraq. While crucial,
there are other equally vital issues deserving of attention and investigation.
What about the torture of prisoners and denial of their due process? What of
the reckless policies that endanger the environment, polluting our water, air,
soil and bodies? And how about the assault on public health, a result of moralistic
policies on reproductive health?
Now, the people behind the Not In Our Name statements of conscience against wars
of aggression are bringing it all together, sponsoring the International Commission
of Inquiry on Crimes Against Humanity committed by the Bush administration in
New York City, October 21-23.
C. Clark Kissinger is an organizer of the Commission and a board member of Not
In Our Name. A lifetime radical, Kissenger helped organize the first march on
Washington against the war in Vietnam in 1965 as national secretary of Students
for a Democratic Society. C. Clark Kissinger took some time to talk with Catherine
Clyne about the Bush administration, crimes against humanity, and the upcoming
Tell us about the Commission of Inquiry. How did it come about and what is its
The Commission of Inquiry into the possibility of war crimes and crimes against
humanity committed by the Bush administration was initiated by the Not in Our
Name statement of conscience. We felt that it was very important to initiate
a conversation—that’s long over due in our society—about what
this administration has actually done.
This is not a general gripe session against every policy of the Bush administration,
but rather an investigation into four specific areas where we believe the policies
of this administration rise to the level of crimes against humanity. Those are:
Wars of aggression, with particular reference to Iraq and Afghanistan. The torture
and indefinite detention [of prisoners of war and “enemy combatants”],
with reference to the abandonment of international standards for the treatment
of prisoners and the setting up of off-shore camps, like at Guantánamo,
and the so-called rendition of prisoners to other countries where they will be
subjected to torture.
with kind permission.
The third area is the destruction
of the global environment, with reference to the systematic policies
that are contributing to the catastrophic effects of
global warming—and of course we’ve just had a lesson in that with
hurricane Katrina, with hurricanes becoming more frequent and much more powerful
because of the general rise in temperature of the ocean waters. The fourth
area are the attacks on global public health and reproductive rights, with
to the genocidal effects of forcing international agencies to promote abstinence
only in the midst of a global AIDs epidemic. We just saw reference to that
[in August] in the New York Times about the condom crisis in Uganda, where U.S. government
policies are making it extremely difficult for countries that have very high
incidences of HIV infection to get condoms and other things they need to protect
the population from the spread of HIV; and all of this is flowing from a certain
theocratic policy of this administration.
What sort of relationship does the Commission have (or not) to the World Tribunal
on Iraq that culminated in Istanbul in late June?
We see ourselves as building on the work of the World Tribunal on Iraq, which
also held hearings in a number of different countries around the world. There
is a difference in that the Tribunal focused exclusively on the question of
Iraq; whereas, we are taking on four different areas. We feel here, in the
where an audience needs to hear it. The Tribunal in [Istanbul] got wonderful
publicity in the Turkish media—it was front-page news there—and
they had camera crews from all over Europe. But it was really whited out in
in the U.S.
We are also a little different in format. The Tribunal used a conference format.
They had different respected authors and experts sort of delivering papers,
and at the end, the Tribunal of judges considered all of what they heard and
a concluding statement of their findings. Our Commission will be held more
like a formal prosecution. There will be four prosecuting teams, one for each
area, who will actually present a case. We will name people we think should
be held responsible. We will present the sections of domestic or international
we feel they have violated. Although we will not be bound by international
are being done that we consider to be crimes against humanity that have not
yet been codified into international law, but nonetheless have that effect
of consciously carrying out policies that can result in the deaths of millions
of people. There will be closing arguments, presentation of evidence, documentary
evidence, witnesses, video evidence, and we will be streaming the proceedings
on the Internet so they can be shared with the entire world.
Who will be participating?
We are working with the organizations that are on the front lines to craft
or core activists in these areas—to function as the prosecuting attorneys.
I understand representatives of the Bush administration have been invited. Will
anyone be attending?
We don’t know yet. We haven’t yet finalized the text of the indictment,
but they will certainly be served, and the facilities will be made available
for representatives of the Bush administration to come and defend themselves
against the charges. We feel that is important because we think we can actually
make the case. In other words, this is not political theater. It’s not
just a show we are putting on to build for the next mobilization or whatever.
We think they’re actually guilty of these things and it can actually be
proven, and proven with rigor in a way that unbiased people looking at it will
say, “Wow, I didn’t think they were actually doing that. And I didn’t
realize the evidence was actually there.” We are seeking to affect public
opinion in a broad way.
I was active in the anti-Vietnam war movement, and I think the government learned
very early on with the teach-ins that participation in these things can be
counterproductive. Nonetheless, the option is going to be there for them. On
the other hand, we
don’t feel we have to put on a defense for them if they don’t feel
inclined to come. They have the monopoly of the media in this country and we
hear their positions put forth day and night in the mass media.
What sort of evidence will be presented?
The evidence will be of several kinds. First of all, there is a great
deal of documentary evidence that has to do not only with laws but internal
that have been leaked. For example, there is the famous memo written by Alberto
Gonzales when he was [White House Counsel], just before the U.S. invaded Afghanistan.
The president asked for an opinion on how the U.S. laws prohibiting the use
of torture should be interpreted. Gonzales wrote a rather lengthy memo in which
he basically told the president, ‘Don’t worry about it.’ In
addition to the Geneva Conventions, U.S. statutory law actually makes it a
crime for agents of the U.S. to engage in torture, and provides even the death
in cases where death results from torture. And of course there has been something
like 22 prisoners now, killed under U.S. interrogation particularly in Afghanistan,
Abu Ghraib and other places in Iraq. Even the documents that came out of the
military medical coroners say these people died of blunt force trauma or that
they were homicides.
Second, there will be witnesses that will testify to different aspects of what
has taken place. We are hoping to have witnesses from the Middle East in attendance—it
was a lot easier for them to get to Turkey than to get to the U.S., and you
also have the problem of the government blocking people from entering the U.S.,
we might have to take their testimony via the Internet and broadcast it live
during the actual proceeding.
What final outcome do you envision for the Commission?
As I said earlier, we actually want to break into the media and force a debate
that really hasn’t been held. We are doing two unique things. First, we
are bringing these issues together in a way that they haven’t been brought
together before. Also, we’re actually trying to expand the concept of what
constitutes a crime against humanity. When you say crime against humanity, most
people think about the Holocaust, WWII or a war situation. But there are policies
being carried out by this administration that are frankly genocidal. It may not
travel at the same speed as the Holocaust but the effects are the same. We need
to expand people’s conceptions of what constitutes crimes against humanity.
This is probably a classic naysayer question, but some of the crimes listed,
like global warming and aggression against Iraq, were also perpetrated under
the Clinton administration. Is President Clinton or anyone in his administration
going to be held accountable?
I am sure there will be evidence that relates to that and I don’t want
to say that the statute of limitations will run out on Clinton or previous presidents
for that matter. None of the things we are talking about originated with the
Bush administration. However, the Bush administration is the one in power at
the moment and the one carrying these policies out. And many of them have in
fact been exacerbated under the Bush administration. For example, whereas Clinton
treated the Kyoto Protocol on limiting greenhouse gas emissions with benign neglect
and didn’t submit it to the senate for ratification, Bush actively repudiated
it and is engaged in policies that are increasing the emission of greenhouse
gases. So yes, there is a continuity; but there is also a discontinuity of
What is the primary thing you hope Americans will glean from this Commission?
I think there is a great deal of hatred of the Bush administration right now.
It is really hard to think of a period in my life where the president was so
royally hated. Everywhere you go you just hear these angry statements against
At the same time, I don’t think there is at all a sufficient understanding
of what lies behind all this, what motivates policy. I am hoping that through
this Commission, people will be prompted to dig deeper.
They are trying to break down the traditional and the ideological glue that
holds the country together, which results in the possibility of things coming
in a very dramatic way, opening up really new opportunities for masses of people
to step onto the stage and engage in historic independent action. Which is
why I have joined with others in a separate initiative raising the slogan “the
world can’t wait”—we have to drive out the Bush regime.
The Commission of Inquiry on Crimes Against Humanity committed by the Bush administration
will be held October 21-23 in New York City. Opening sessions will be in the
Grand Ballroom of the Manhattan Center, 311 W. 34 Street. To learn more, visit