First al-Bashir, next ... Bush?
Historian asks what the ICC's indictment could mean for the US president.
Last Modified: 17 Jul 2008 07:31

Mark Levine says Bush is as responsible for the disaster in Iraq as Bashir is for the humanitarian catastrophe in Darfur [GALLO/GETTY]

While there is little chance Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese president, will ever be brought to trial following his indictment by the International Criminal Court (ICC), the charges brought against him nevertheless offer hope for anyone concerned about human rights around the world.

For Americans, however, the ICC indictment should offer a moment of sombre reflection not merely for our relative inaction with regard to years of mass murder in Sudan.

It is equally disturbing that much of the al-Bashir indictment could just as easily be applied to George Bush, the US president.

Here is part of what the indictment says:

"Bashir was directly responsible [for the activities of the militias]. He is the president. He is the commander-in-chief. Those are not just formal words. He used the whole state apparatus. He used the army; he enrolled the militia/Janjaweed. They all report to him. They all obey him. His control is absolute."

In such context, Bush is also directly responsible for the horrific disaster in Iraq.

Bush's imperial presidency, with its "Unitary Executive" and arrogation of the right to declare war from the constitutionally-appointed Congress, has similarly "used the whole state apparatus" to wage the Iraq war. He "enrolled" our soldiers and his military commanders who "all report to him".

For Bush, like al-Bashir, "they all obey him. His control is absolute".

Iraq's chaos

When I was in Iraq in the late winter and early spring of 2004 I saw this clearly, and saw the already huge scale of the war crimes being committed systematically by US forces across the country.

It was clear to most Iraqis that the chaos being reaped by the US in their country was in fact deliberately sown by the US in order to create a situation that would make any US withdrawal almost impossible to pull off.

While the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis - for which Bush, and along with him, the American people who twice elected him, are responsible - is tragic, it should not be understated that the invasion itself was a crime against humanity.

The war and invasion were in clear breach of the UN charter, which prohibits invading other countries except when an attack on one's sovereign territory is about to occur or has just occurred.

Add to that US torturing of prisoners, illegal secret renditions, and a host of other human rights abuses, and you have a long list of actions that are prohibited and outlawed by US federal law.

Ideal America

In an America that still lived up to its founding ideals Bush and his henchmen and women would not be worrying about an ICC indictment because they would be too busy already defending themselves against a US federal indictment for war crimes and other violations of US law.

At least in this imperfect world, Bush and the architects and executioners of the Iraq war can join al-Bashir in suffering the ignominy of being at-large international criminals.

Mark Levine is a professor of Middle East history at the University of California, Irvine and is the author of the newly released Heavy Metal Islam: Rock, Resistance, and the Struggle for the Soul of Islam.

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