Are Americans capable of committing atrocities of the same scale as Germans did under Nazi rule? That is the difficult question that ethics professor Rebecca Gordon and Truthdig Editor-in-Chief Robert Scheer grapple with in the latest installment of Scheer Intelligence. Gordon, author of “Mainstreaming Torture” and “American Nuremberg,” posits that if America’s actions in the Middle East, especially in Iraq, were to be scrutinized the way Nazi Germany’s crimes were probed in the aftermath of WWII, the U.S. would likely also be found guilty of crimes against humanity.
Gordon begins her comparison by exploring the main charge levied against Nazis during the Nuremberg trials, which was committing a crime against peace due to Germany’s breach of the 1928 Kellogg-Briand treaty, which, she explains, “essentially outlawed war.” American prosecutors in the mid-twentieth century insisted that this initial crime was the unlawful act from which all other crimes committed by the Nazis originated.
“By comparison,” the author tells Scheer, “I look at the Bush-Cheney administration’s decision to make an unnecessary and illegal war, both in Afghanistan and especially in Iraq.”
“It’s very clear from the documentary record that exists,” Gordon continues, “that the main reason people were being tortured [by the U.S. before the Iraq War began] was because they wanted to get somebody somewhere to say that Saddam Hussein was in league with Al-Qaeda, so that there could be an excuse for invading Iraq.”
Throughout the so-called War on Terror, the ethics expert says, the U.S. has also violated several rules set forth in just war theory, including what constitutes collateral damage and proportionality, in its slaughter of countless Iraqi civilians.
“We took what had been one of the most vibrant, developed, and cosmopolitan countries in that part of the world---which was Iraq---and we essentially did what they used to say they wanted to do to North Vietnam, bombed it back to the Stone Age,” says Gordon.
Listen to Scheer and Gordon discuss a wide range of moral issues that Americans for several generations have swept under the rug as the government both openly and secretly commits crimes in their name abroad.