Obama Must Prosecute Rumsfeld for War Crimes

If I were Donald Rumsfeld, and what a horrible thought that is, I wouldn’t be traveling abroad any time soon. And I might be out looking for a disguise here at home.

Because Rumsfeld stands before the world as an unindicted war criminal for ordering torture while he was Bush’s Secretary of Defense.

No less a figure that the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Torture said on CNN Monday that “Rumsfeld clearly authorized torture methods.” The Rapporteur, Manfred Nowak, said the United States has an “obligation” to investigate this, and he has passed his recommendation on to the United Nations.

The smoking gun is a December 2, 2002, directive Rumsfeld issued that ordered sensory deprivation, stress positions, isolation, and the use of dogs on prisoners.

He also admitted hiding at least one detainee from the Red Cross, which violates the Geneva Conventions.

And, according to Seymour Hersh, he set up a Secret Access Program “that was given blanket advance approval to kill or capture.” Summary executions constitute a war crime.

Plus, he had “command responsibility” for those under him who were doing the torturing. If he knew about war crimes and did not try to stop them, he’s also guilty of a war crime.

“Rumsfeld was intimately involved with the interrogation of a Saudi detainee, Mohamed al-Qahtani, at Guantánamo in late 2002. General Geoffrey Miller, who later transferred many of his harsh interrogation techniques to Abu Ghraib, supervised the interrogation and gave Rumsfeld weekly updates on his progress. During a six-week period, al-Qahtani was stripped naked, forced to wear women's underwear on his head, denied bathroom access, threatened with dogs, forced to perform tricks while tethered to a dog leash, and subjected to sleep deprivation,” Marjorie Cohn reported for Alternet.

The evidence against Rumsfeld has been on the table for years now.

Back in 2005, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said there was prima facie evidence that Rumsfeld was a war criminal.

And Amnesty International said that if the United States didn’t prosecute Rumsfeld, then foreign governments should. “If anyone suspected of involvement in the U.S. torture scandal visits or transits through foreign territories, governments could take legal steps to ensure that such individuals are investigated and charged with applicable crimes,” Amnesty International USA said.

More recently, the general who investigated Abu Ghraib concluded that the most senior Bush administration officials committed war crimes.

“There is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes," Retired Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba wrote, in the preface to a report by Physicians for Human Rights last year. “The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account."

Taguba believes that Bush himself could be brought up on war crimes. “The Commander-in-Chief and those under him authorized a systematic regime of torture,” he said, in the preface to “Broken Laws, Broken Lives.”

Finally, the Senate Armed Services Committee released a report late last year that implicated Rumsfeld in the abuse of detainees.

“Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s authorization of aggressive interrogation techniques for use at Guantanamo Bay was a direct cause of detainee abuse there,” it said. He also “contributed to the use of abusive techniques, including military working dogs, forced nudity, and stress positions, in Afghanistan and Iraq.”

So why is this man allowed to walk free?

To show that we’re a country of laws, to show that we respect human rights, to show that we oppose torture, Barack Obama must instruct the Justice Department to prepare an indictment against Donald Rumsfeld.

And failing that, it’ll be up to some courageous foreign government to nab this fugitive from justice.