As I was reading an article in Sunday’s New York Times by a former Marine named Elliot Ackerman, an Iraq War veteran, about the battle of Fallujah, I couldn’t help but wonder whether Iraq War veterans would be better off downplaying, rather than highlighting, their military exploits in Iraq.
Why do I say that?
Because no matter how heroic the actions of U.S. soldiers might have been in the battle for Fallujah and other battles in Iraq, the fact remains that they were waging an illegal and unconstitutional war, one against a very weak and impoverished Third World nation.
The war that U.S. soldiers waged on Iraq was illegal under the principles set forth against German soldiers at the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal, which was established after World War II to bring German officials and German soldiers to trial for committing, among other crimes, the crime of waging what the Tribunal called a “war of aggression.”
What did they mean by that term? They didn’t mean that the Germans had waged war too aggressively. What they meant was that Germany had started the war by initiating an attack against another country, a country that had not attacked Germany or had even threatened to do so.
The country that Germany attacked and invaded was Poland, which induced Great Britain and France to declare war on Germany, which set off World War II. To avoid the accusation that Germany had started the war with Poland, Germany claimed that soldiers with Polish uniforms had attacked Germany first and that Germany was simply defending itself. But it was a lie. What Germany had done was dress German soldiers in Polish uniforms and then used them to “attack” German forces.
The U.S. government attacked Iraq, not the other way around. Iraq had never attacked the United States or even threatened to do so. The U.S. regime was the aggressor from the inception. By initiating an attack on Iraq, it was committing the crime set forth by the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal. It was waging a “war of aggression.”
The reason that U.S. officials and U.S. soldiers have never been brought up on charges is twofold: They won the war and, two, the U.S. government is too powerful to be brought up on charges by some sort of new Nuremberg-type tribunal. The U.S. government would never permit itself to be put on trial and no nation-state is powerful enough to bring it to trial.
U.S. officials have said that they were justified in waging war on Iraq because of their belief that Iraq had “weapons of mass destruction” in violation of UN resolutions. That argument, however, is without merit because only the UN can enforce its own resolutions; individual nations have no legitimate authority to do so. Moreover, there is ample evidence indicating that the WMDs were a fraudulent and bogus justification for initiating a war on Iraq for the purpose of regime change.
The reason that the Iraq War was unconstitutional (and, therefore, illegal under our form of government) was because it lacked the congressional declaration of war that the U.S. Constitution requires. The Framers made it clear that the higher law of our nation prohibits the president and his military forces from waging war against another nation without first securing a declaration of war from Congress.
Every U.S. soldier takes an oath to support and defend the Constitution. Every U.S. soldier who deployed to Iraq knew that President George W. Bush had not secured a declaration of war from Congress when he ordered U.S. soldiers to wage war on Iraq. Yet, not one single soldier refused orders to deploy, notwithstanding the oath they had all taken to support and defend the Constitution. Moreover, every one of them knew that Iraq had never attacked the United States or even threatened to do so. Therefore, U.S. soldiers fighting and killing (and torturing) people in Iraq had to have known that they were waging an undeclared war of aggression, a type of war made illegal at Nuremberg and a type of war made illegal under our Constitution.
Is it possible for soldiers to act heroically in an illegal and unconstitutional war? Of course it is. But should soldiers who wage an undeclared war of aggression against a weak and impoverished Third World nation be highlighting their military exploits in such a war?
Suppose a drug gang consisting of ten people unlawfully enters a ranch home in the middle of the night. The family members hear them enter and grab their guns. There is a long gun battle, with gangsters and family members shooting at each other. One of the gangsters steps in front of a fellow gangster to take a bullet in the defense of his friend. Another gangster risks his life in a hail of bullets to circle around the family and hit them from behind. After a fierce 45-minute battle, 5 gang members are dead. But the gang has won the battle because all the family members are dead.
Can we say that the gang members showed great bravery and heroism during the battle? Can we highlight the way they were able to outmaneuver the family? Can we give them credit for winning the battle?
Even if one answers yes to such questions, it just seems unseemly to do any of those things. That’s because the burglars had no right to be in that home in the first place.They were committing criminal acts, not only by burglarizing the home but also by “defending” themselves from the home-owners, who were doing nothing more than defending their home from the gangsters.
By the same token, Iraq War veterans had no moral or legal right to kill any Iraqis, not even in “self-defense,” given that they had no right to be in Iraq in the first place. When recounting war stories in Iraq, Iraq War veterans should bear in mind that they were waging an illegal war under the principles set forth at Nuremberg and an unconstitutional war under our form of government.