May 8

May 8th. 1945 was the day Admiral Doenitz's successor government to Adolf Hitler surrendered to the Allies in Berlin. May 8th is VE Day, Victory in Europe day. It used to be a much bigger deal than it is now. More in proportion to the losses sustained defeating Hitler it seems. The Russians who had given up so many made it one of the days for their Red Square military parades. The Brits always preferred Armistice Day to commemorate those lost in World War I, I guess for the same reasons the Russians marched on May 8th. The French preferred July 14th.

You can look back over the faces of that time and see what Victory in Europe meant to people. Here's one courtesy of Burwell's photo stream at Flickr. 

It is from a city where I lived life times ago it seems now, Lincoln, surrounded by airfields like Coningsby and Waddington from where the bombers used to set out nightly against the Reich. RAF Waddington was the home of 617 Squadron, the Dambusters, who took Barnes Wallis's "bouncing bombs" to the Ruhr, in one of those "mission impossible" ventures later made into a movie.

But as you see, we are looking at the backs of the people facing the medieval Stonebow with its clock forever indicating the time they assembled. Looking at their backs. Turning away from what they stood and fought for. Sixty Four years after May 8th 1945 where have we come to? The victors founded the UN in San Francisco. They signed its charter, and thereby gave up aggressive war as an instrument of policy, for the top principle of the UN charter which we still say binds its members is peace. The victors tried the losers at Nuremberg, not because they lost, but to establish what kind of crime aggressive war was, and is, to establish that crimes against peace are those which make all other crimes of war, including the several crimes against humanity, possible.

And then we had a government which made aggressive war its policy. September 17th 2002, as the bombing of Iraqi hospitals and schools and other public facilities or civilian areas started in preparation for the invasion of April 2003, the US formally adopted a policy of going to war to prevent threats from emerging which were not known to exist. This quote is from the Wiki entry on Bush Doctrine.

The security environment confronting the United States today is radically different from what we have faced before. Yet the first duty of the United States Government remains what it always has been: to protect the American people and American interests. It is an enduring American principle that this duty obligates the government to anticipate and counter threats, using all elements of national power, before the threats can do grave damage. The greater the threat, the greater is the risk of inaction – and the more compelling the case for taking anticipatory action to defend ourselves, even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy’s attack. There are few greater threats than a terrorist attack with WMD.

To forestall or prevent such hostile acts by our adversaries, the United States will, if necessary, act preemptively in exercising our inherent right of self-defense. The United States will not resort to force in all cases to preempt emerging threats. Our preference is that nonmilitary actions succeed. And no country should ever use preemption as a pretext for aggression.

Bush's war, as it was prepared and implemented, and I'm assuming the Project for a New American Century publications point to "intent" on this is the crime of aggression which made all else possible. So it was in August of 1939 when Poland was divided up between Hitler and Stalin. That aggressive act led to VE-Day, the San Francisco founding of the UN and the  Nuremberg Tribunal. This May 8th is a good day to ask, "how is that the principles which made that first May 8th possible have become so perverted that we would sooner argue about the by-products of a war of aggression than discuss the responsibility for the war which made the crimes possible? Once the decision to go to war was made arguments were needed to bring the people along, the argument included linking Al-Qaeda to Iraq with its non-existent WMD stock pile.

Yes, torture is a crime, yes death as a result of torture is a crime. But where has that "can do" spirit gone that was still evident in 2006? Here's an interview from July 10th 2006 with Ferencz a former Nuremberg prosecutor.

It isn't only a question for the US. Obviously it would be great to get some justice here. But both paties are implicated. Neither wants to deal with the issues which loom large, namely whether the President and presidency is under the law, and the War Powers Act.

It is also a question for the International Court in the Hague which Bush didn't join. Britain and Poland both recognized that court. Both can be tried there for their part in what Bush did, including torture and rendition.

Bush's war will probably turn out to be the event which destroyed the UN, as Mussolini's invasion of Abyssinia destroyed the League of Nations. But a new rebirth of law internationally in the spirit of May 8th 1945, when we can look each other in the eye again and recognize each other for what we are, will need a revival of UN institutions based on an accounting of just what happened to pervert so much that was so good in its orginial impetus.

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The NYT's definition of blinding American exceptionalism

Why are the much less brutal methods used by the Chinese on Fischer called torture by the NYT, whereas much harsher methods used by Americans do not merit that term? Here we find what is clearly the single most predominant fact shaping our political and media discourse: everything is different, and better, when we do it. In fact, it is that exact mentality that was and continues to be the primary justification for our torture regime and so much else that we do.


Patrick Cockburn: Afghans riot over air-strike atrocity

Shouting "Death to America" and "Death to the Government", thousands of Afghan villagers hurled stones at police yesterday as they vented their fury at American air strikes that local officials claim killed 147 civilians. The riot started when people from three villages struck by US bombers in the early hours of Tuesday, brought 15 newly-discovered bodies in a truck to the house of the provincial governor. As the crowd pressed forward in Farah, police opened fire, wounding four protesters. Traders in the rest of Farah city, the capital of the province of the same name where the bombing took place, closed their shops, vowing they would not reopen them until there is an investigation. A local official Abdul Basir Khan said yesterday that he had collected the names of 147 people who had died, making it the worst such incident since the US intervened in Afghanistan started in 2001. A phone call from the governor of Farah province, Rohul Amin, in which he said that 130 people had died, was played over the loudspeaker in the Afghan parliament in Kabul, sparking demands for more control over US operations.