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December 26, 2003

The Fog of War

I saw the documentary The Fog of War and was fascinated that Robert McNamara referred to himself as a war criminal, NOT in regard to Vietnam, where his self-judgment was somewhat ambiguous, but about his role in World War II. Back then, he was on the statistical team that helped plan the bombings of Japanese cities, which led to the total devastation of most of them and over 300,000 civilian deaths; Hiroshima was in many ways a sideline to the much broader conventional firebombing of their cities.

And McNamara noted his role as war criminal would only have come if the US had lost the war. With US victory, World War II recedes into memory as the "Good War" where the deliberate US mass murder of German and Japanese civilians is obscured.

Saddam Hussein is an evil guy, but given our military support for him during the time he was murdering Iranians and many of his own people, the US is hardly in the position to sit in single judgment.

War crimes tribunals should be drawn from multiple countries for a simple reason. No nation has the legitimacy to judge another, given the taint on all countries, so the best we can hope for is that in drawing on judges from multiple nations, we can draw on the best of traditions from around the globe.

Any single country imposing a judicial verdict, as the US appears ready to do in Iraq, merely accentuates its own historic hypocrisy.

The US killed millions of Vietnamese in a country not our own. Who are we to sit in single judgment on Hussein's murders or Kurds or others in Iraq?

Posted by Nathan at December 26, 2003 02:58 PM