Who Will Hold America Accountable for Its Crimes?

The website WikiLeaks has been garnering attention recently due to its publication of sensitive material that many in government (and elsewhere) would rather be kept private. Information on the site includes secret intelligence documents and studies commissioned by the U.S. government, which does not seem to appreciate the disclosure of such information, for fear of a public outcry over the content.

WikiLeaks was founded by human rights activists, journalists and experts in the intelligence field, with the aim of exposing intelligence agencies and governments that violate international law.

One week ago, the site published the video “Collateral Murder,” a tape whose images have since been shown on television networks around the world. It shows American military personnel in a helicopter carrying out the cold-blooded killing of twelve Iraqi civilians. WikiLeaks states that the incident occurred in 2007.

By publishing the video, the website has exposed the incident as a crime committed by the U.S. military in Iraq, as the camera mounted on a U.S. Apache military helicopter recorded the actions of the crew. Naturally, WikiLeaks has not disclosed the source that provided them with the tape, but the sound and visuals are so clear that there is no possibility of the U.S. Department of Defense refuting the fact of a crime having taken place or making skeptical remarks about the video being a fake.

The U.S. public has not questioned the authenticity of the tape, not just because the founders of WikiLeaks include human rights activists and journalists who are clearly confident about their evidence, but also because one of the victims was an Iraqi journalist working for the British news agency Reuters, and another was the journalist’s driver.

The tape shows how the crew of the Apache helicopter amused themselves by killing innocents. They came across a group of eight Iraqi civilians, doing nothing that would provoke suspicion. However, on the audio, one of the pilots is heard reporting to his superiors that he has found a group of insurgents and requesting permission to quickly open fire so as not to waste the opportunity to carry out his crime. Permission was granted.

After one minute, a large car approached to help move the wounded. The American helicopter opened fire again, this time focusing on the car. Unfortunately, children were inside the vehicle and were severely wounded in the attack. One U.S. officer can be heard saying stupidly that they (i.e. the Iraqis) were responsible for their children’s injuries: “Well it’s their fault for bringing their kids into the battle.”

The Reuters journalist who was killed, Namir Noor El-Deen, and his driver, Saeed Chmagh, are two of a growing number of journalists killed since the beginning of the war in March 2003. That number currently stands at 139, among them 120 Iraqis. A comment on the WikiLeaks site read that the tape shows that the U.S. Army has killed civilians in cold blood — an action that not only violates its laws, but also its principles.

Shortly after the release of the video, WikiLeaks staff voiced their objection to harassment they received from the U.S. administration. America is now among the list of countries that harass and threaten its citizens, along with Russia, China, North Korea, Vietnam, Zimbabwe and, of course, Israel.

Observers believe that this crime (which was exposed by chance) is the tip of the iceberg, and could be just one of many crimes committed in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Last Thursday, the German newspaper Junge Welt reported what it called an assassination order authorized by President Obama. It quoted U.S. media stating that Obama (who was the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010) authorized U.S. intelligence to kill an American citizen of Arab origin, Anwar Al-Awlaki. Al-Awlaki is a 38 year old imam who was born in New Mexico, though his family is from Yemen. According to the New York Times, he is accused of calling for attacks on the United States and also threatening to participate in them himself.

The American has also been accused of being a member of al-Qaida, and that his speeches influenced American psychiatrist Nadal Malik Hasan, who killed 13 soldiers at Fort Hood army base in November 2009. Al-Awlaki is also accused of influencing Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian accused by the U.S. of trying to blow up a civilian airplane originating in Amsterdam and heading for Detroit on December 25 last year. According to U.S. intelligence, Al-Awlaki is currently in Yemen.

Junge Welt reported that this is the first time in American history that a U.S. citizen has been placed on a hit-list with the blessing of the U.S. president. In February, Dennis C. Blair, the director of U.S. national intelligence, told a U.S. Senate Committee: “We take direct actions against terrorists in the intelligence community. If we think that direct action will involve killing a U.S. citizen, we get specific permission to do that.”

The New York Times’ commentary on the assassination order seems to support the notion of killing a U.S. citizen. Perhaps trying to influence public opinion, the newspaper tried to justify the order, saying that international law permits the use of force against individuals and groups who present a threat to the security of the United States. Additionally, people who find their names on hit-lists are enemies of the United States, and therefore do not qualify for protection under the political assassinations ban that was ratified by President Ford.

It is worth pointing out that political assassinations commissioned by governments during the past decade have traditionally been a specialty of Israel. Its most recent victim, Hamas politician Al-Mabhouh, was assassinated by Mossad in Dubai after an order by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

Latin America has also worked against internal opposition through assassinations. The United States followed suit and began working in this way after September 11. Since George W. Bush announced the “War on Terror,” the green light has been given to U.S. intelligence to kill and abduct at will, and they have even formed Special Forces units to this end. The U.S. has permitted itself “authorized” killings and abductions all over the world in cooperation with its allies.

The United States claims that it has fought two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in the defense of freedom and to bring about democracy. However, during these wars, it has also committed crimes that violate international law, putting itself in the same league as countries such as Israel. This policy was apparent throughout the Bush era, and today, during Obama’s presidency, the United States continues these illegitimate actions, despite Obama’s campaign promises to change Washington and U.S. foreign policy. Unfortunately, he continues to work in the same way as his predecessor. So one final question remains: Who in the world has the courage to hold the U.S. accountable for its crimes?

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