Monday, August 9, 2010

Charles Taylor is on trial - why Isn't George Bush?

Former President of Liberia Charles Taylor is charged with 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for murder, rape, conscripting child soldiers, enslavement and pillaging. This trial has caught the attention of the media with stories of super models and blood diamonds. He has pleaded not guilty.

So what is a war crime?

The concept of a war crime is a relatively recent one. Up until world war II it was generally accepted that horrible things happen during war. But during World War II the murder of several million people - mainly the Jews killed mainly by Nazis, and the mistreatment of prisoners of war by the Japanese, prompted the Allied powers to prosecute the people they believed to be responsible for these crimes.

On wikipedia it is described as:

"violations of the laws or customs of war"; including "murder, the ill-treatment or deportation of civilian residents of an occupied territory to slave labor camps", "the murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war", the killing of hostages, "the wanton destruction of cities, towns and villages, and any devastation not justified by military, or civilian necessity".

So is Charles Taylor guilty of any of these crimes? I don't know. Don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting for one minute that Charles Taylor is innocent of these crimes or a nice man - I personally have never met him. One thing is clear to me though. These war crimes trials that take place seem very unfair and very one sided in favour of the powers that be.

Take George Bush for example; The man who famously led the "coalition of the willing" into war in Iraq. Now I'm no expert but I think we caused some "devastation not justified by military, or civilian necessity" there. It was justified if you believe they had "Weapons of Mass Destruction" but even George Bush himself has expressed that the belief that it was an "intelligence failure".

Let's look at another point - "The murder or ill treatment of prisoners of war." Well, the United States decided rather conveniently that there were no Prisoners of War at Guantanamo bay - only enemy combatants. Because of this the United States decided the Geneva convention did not apply.

So why is one man on trial and another enjoying his retirement? Because one is an American and one is an African? Is mobilizing the worlds most powerful army, dropping daisy cutter bombs and deposing Iraqs leader that different to selling diamonds to buy weapons to fund a conflict in a neighbouring country where people chop each others hands and legs off. I cannot personally see the difference from a moral perspective.

How about we try and and look at it from a mathematical perspective. Iraq Body Count - puts the total number of civilian deaths at around 100,000. Deaths from the civil war in Sierra Leone come to around 75,000.

How about based on the outcome? In fairness both countries seem better off without these leaders and the world a nicer place.

Can anyone present a reasonable argument to me why one former president should be enjoying retirement and another facing the prospect of the rest of his life in prison when both have blood on their hands? I look forward to your responses.


  1. All such war criminals will be tried indiscriminately, only when the people, particularly the American nation, would wake up to realize that enough is enough. How much more blood shed this planet has to see, is anybody's guess. Till that time the struggle goes on.

  2. They still haven't come to a verdict....