Former Bush official accuses Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld of war crimes

Richard Clarke is a Washington insider. He was national coordinator for security and counterterrorism and thus chief counter-terrorism officer in the White House when George W. Bush was president. He was also selected by president Obama as part of the team to review the workings of the NSA in light of Snowden’s revelations. He now tells Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! that he thinks that some of the things that Bush and Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld did in office were war crimes.

Amy Goodman: “Do you think President Bush should be brought up on war crimes [charges], and Vice President Cheney and [Defense Secretary] Donald Rumsfeld, for the attack on Iraq?”

Richard Clarke:”I think things that they authorized probably fall within the area of war crimes. Whether that would be productive or not, I think, is a discussion we could all have. But we have established procedures now with the International Criminal Court in The Hague, where people who take actions as serving presidents or prime ministers of countries have been indicted and have been tried. So the precedent is there to do that sort of thing. And I think we need to ask ourselves whether or not it would be useful to do that in the case of members of the Bush administration. It’s clear that things that the Bush administration did — in my mind, at least, it’s clear that some of the things they did were war crimes.”

Notice that he adds that he does not think that it might be ‘useful’ for Bush to be taken before the Hague. Why not? Because war crimes trials are only for war criminals who are not friends of the US? When it comes to American war criminals we are advised, in the words of our Nobel-prize winning, constitutional law professor president, to ‘look forward, not backward’.

But we have to be thankful for Clarke saying what should be obvious, that the US has committed war crimes. It is rare for insiders to speak so frankly.


  1. says

    It is rare for insiders to speak so frankly.

    He only does so now that he is a former insider. You gotta look at the time-line involved, to understand. Why didn’t he say that in 2004?

  2. colnago80 says

    Re Marcus Ranum @ #1

    He was a former insider in 2004 as he left the government in 2003.

  3. pianoman, Heathen & Torontophile says

    I was hoping it would be some whopper of a former Bush official other than Clarke. Reason is that Clarke’s been criticizing that administration for a long time but not many people with the authority seem interested in listening or doing anything about it.

  4. doublereed says

    It would be extremely useful at deterring future crimes. It’s one thing to be consoled by the fact that you won’t be tried while your man is in office, but it’s another to suggest that at any future point you could be brought to the Hague to answer for your crimes.

    While the deterrent effect doesn’t work in some circumstances, it’s actually quite effective against crimes committed by Institutions, Corporations, and Government Agencies.

  5. Dave Huntsman says

    There are times when playing political hardball can actually end up aligning with morality and the national interest. Obama’s reluctance to do anything other than ‘look forward’ means there is no chance for justice, or for needed national introspection. One of his first acts as President should have been to appoint a special prosecutor – and he would have had to be a Republican with integrity – to investigate the possibility of war crimes in the preceding years. That would have served morality, would have served justice, and would I feel have served the long-term national interest. It would also at the same time have kept the Republicans overall off-balance at a time we know when they were (and still are) refusing to govern and to compromise on anything. However, if there is one thing Obama is clearly not capable of, it is playing political hardball – even when doing so would be moral and in the national interest.

  6. says

    He was a former insider in 2004 as he left the government in 2003.

    I know. That was my point – he could have said something as early as 2004.

  7. AsqJames says

    @richardelguru (#3)

    Of the 148 countries involved in negotiating the Rome Statute (which established the International Criminal Court). 120 voted in favour of the treaty, 21 abstained and 7 voted against. Those seven were: China, Iraq, Israel, Libya, Qatar, United States, and Yemen.

    That’s some very distinguished company America!

    122 countries have now signed and ratified the Rome Statute, binding themselves to its terms under international law.
    31 have signed the treaty but have not yet ratified it. These include the US, but 3 of those 31 (Israel, Sudan and…bet you can’t guess who else) have since announced they no longer intend to complete ratification.

    In short the US government is not bound by the Rome Statute and does not have to hand over suspects to the court or abide by its judgments. What I’m not sure about is whether the ICC could indict US citizens for war crimes anyway. If they could it would severely limit any indictee’s list of potential holiday destinations as any member nation would be bound to detain them and deliver them to The Hague (whereupon I’d expect a short, but very exciting, surprise visit from the US military)

  8. Mano Singham says


    I think that there is this tacit agreement that each president will not investigate the wrongdoing of his predecessors and in fact will shield them from any repercussions for their actions. This enables each president to violate the laws with impunity knowing his successor will not do anything.

  9. Dunc says

    The US position on the ICC goes rather further than merely not ratifying the Rome Statue:

    In 2002, the U.S. Congress passed the American Servicemembers’ Protection Act (ASPA), which contained a number of provisions, including prohibitions on the United States providing military aid to countries which had ratified the treaty establishing the court; however, there were a number of exceptions to this, including NATO members, major non-NATO allies, and countries which entered into an agreement with the United States not to hand over U.S. nationals to the Court (see Article 98 agreements below). ASPA also excluded any military aid that the U.S. President certified to be in the U.S. national interest. Limits on military assistance have been repealed, as outlined below.

    In addition, ASPA contained provisions prohibiting U.S. co-operation with the Court, and permitting the President to authorize military force to free any U.S. military personnel held by the court,[33] leading opponents to dub it “The Hague Invasion Act.”

  10. colnago80 says

    Re Mano Singham @ #10

    Given that the impeachment of Clinton was payback for the impeachment of Nixon, Obama has good reason not to go after his predecessor, leas the Rethuglicans in the House go after him.

  11. AsqJames says


    I wasn’t actually aware of ASPA, but the part about invading the Hague doesn’t surprise me in the slightest.

    Incidentally, the other (first) part of that wikipedia description of ASPA is most amusing:

    The US Congress passed a law barring military aid to any ICC member…except for Canada and most of Europe…and countries we really like…and countries who say they don’t really think laws are important…oh yes…and except when it’s in our national interest.

    Because whether or not it was in the national interest had never mattered up to that point?!?
    So that part of it was almost completely pointless then…and finding themselves with no other problems to solve, the US Congress decided to pointlessly repeal a pointless law, they’d pointlessly passed previously.

    Isn’t democracy grand!

  12. militantagnostic says

    Dunc @11

    In addition, ASPA contained provisions prohibiting U.S. co-operation with the Court, and permitting the President to authorize military force to free any U.S. military personnel held by the court,[33] leading opponents to dub it “The Hague Invasion Act.”

    In other words the USA is a rogue nation.

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