When I see the Vietnam Memorial, it makes me sad that 87,000 loyal and trusting Americans were sent to fight a war for what appears to have been false reasons. It makes me sad that perhaps millions of Vietnamese may have been killed for economic and geopolitical advantage rather than the reasons given at the time. It makes me even sadder that the ones who may have manufactured those false reasons, as well as those who profitted off the war were never identitied so we were doomed to repeat the same mistakes.
When President Obama took office he said that to investigate the prior administration for war crimes would dwelling on the past, and that he wanted to look to the future. But, by that standard, no crime would ever be punished because, by definition it has already happened. The problem is, if we don’t do those investigations, we will continue to act on the same false information, and some of those responsible for the deception will still be in place to create more mischief.
The point in a war crimes investigation is not punishment of past wrongs but prevention of future ones. When a police officer takes a life there is an investigation. Why are we holding Presidents, who may be responsible for a hundreds of thousand deaths, to a lower standard?
I’m not sure we could try sitting Presidents because the other side would always want to make charges. But if every President knew at the end of his or her term that all of papers would used as evidence in an investigation of any acts of war, I suspect we might see much more caution when it comes to killing people from other nations.
The article explores Bishop Tutu’s efforts to find out the real causes for the Iraq war and to make sure that if it was fought for a lie, as it appears to have been, that we will not repeat the same mistake.
It took, what, 15 or 20 years to bring charges and extradition requests in the case of Augusto Pinochet, dictator of Chile and mass murderer. He was old and dying by that time. In fact, he died before the trial could begin. Yet the charges were brought because justice demands an accounting. The same should be done in the case of Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld. Heck, do it in the case of Richard Nixon. The new Watergate book says he made a deal with the North Vietnamese not to take the peace deal offered by President Johnson and candidate Humphrey, the result of which was that the war lasted several more years and doubled the American casualties. Nixon’s deal was made just before the election of 1968. Secretly undercutting the President in matters of war is high treason, punishable by death. It is especially egregious since it was done solely for political advantage, since if the deal to end the war had been struck by Johnson and Humphrey, Humphrey would certainly have won the election as a hero. So what if 44 years have passed and all parties are now dead? Justice demands an accounting, and Nixon’s reputation should suffer if he committed treason. The blood of some 25,000 dead Americans and countless more dead Vietnamese is crying out for the truth to be told.