Benjamin Netanyahu's definition of "war crimes"

The Prime Minister says Hamas is guilty for denying Red Cross access to prisoners: exactly what the U.S. did.

By Glenn Greenwald
October 24, 2009 3:25PM (UTC)
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded yesterday to the U.N. Report finding Israel guilty of war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity by pointing out that Hamas committed war crimes -- a fact nobody disputes but which doesn't exonerate Israel in any way.  Netanyahu argued, accurately, that Hamas committed four types of war crimes, one of which is this:  "they've been holding our captured soldier, Gilad Shalit, without access to the Red Cross, for three years."

So holding prisoners without providing access to the Red Cross is a "war crime"?  Who knew?


The CIA quietly moved scores of detainees out of its own "black site" prisons in recent years and turned them over to foreign governments, refusing to provide the International Red Cross any information about their treatment or whereabouts, according to a report made public this week.

There is substantial reason to believe that these "ghost detainees" included some high-profile suspects, including Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, a Libyan-born jihadist captured in Afghanistan whose claims about ties between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were prominently used by top Bush administration officials to justify the war in Iraq, according to human-rights activists who have closely followed the issue. Following the U.S. invasion, al-Libi recanted those claims, saying he fabricated his story about Iraq-Qaeda ties in order to get his interrogators to stop their abusive treatment of him. After his recantation became known in 2004, U.S. government officials dropped all public references to him and he was never heard from again -- even though he was once hailed as the U.S. military's first big "catch" after the 9/11 attacks.

When Red Cross officials later pressed for information about what happened to such "ghost" detainees, U.S. government officials insisted they were returned to their country of origin under assurances they would be given "humane" treatment, the report states. But the Red Cross was never given access to the detainees -- nor told anything about what happened to them after they were sent back.  Nor were U.S. State Department officials given details of the transfers or details about the nature of the "assurances" of humane treatment provided by foreign intelligence services to the CIA, according to a former top Bush administration official who was aware of the transfers but who asked not to be publicly identified because the issue remains highly classified. "This issue has been hiding in plain sight -- but nobody has connected the dots," said the former official.

The Red Cross remains "gravely concerned" that a "significant number" of these prisoners may have been subjected to abusive treatment -- and that the organization "has not received any clarification of the fate of these persons," the report states.

So according to Netanyahu's own definition, the U.S. committed "war crimes" continuously and in numerous cases.  We didn't merely imprison them secretly and without allowing Red Cross access -- a "war crime" by itself, according to the Israeli Prime Minister -- but we abused these disappeared prisoners to induce them to provide information to "justify" an aggressive war against Iraq, one that resulted in the deaths of at least 100,000 people, almost certainly many times that number.  Robert Jackson, the lead prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials, said in his Closing Argument of the case against the Nazis that "the central crime in this pattern of crimes" was not genocide or mass deportation or concentration camps; rather, "the kingpin which holds them all together, is the plot for aggressive wars."

Just looking at what Netanyhau said constitutes "war crimes," can anyone anywhere possibly doubt that the U.S. committed them -- gravely, deliberately and continuously?  Does that matter at all?  Isn't it so striking how we don't even bother with the pretense of caring about that, let alone imposing even symbolic consequences on those responsible?

Glenn Greenwald

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