Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

The "Good ol’ Days" of American Principle and Ideals

Remember when America wasn’t trying to avoid international law but was actively involved in creating it? Remember when we agreed with most of the world that starting a war was wrong?

Who said: “Our position is that whatever grievances a nation may have, however objectionable it finds the status quo, aggressive warfare is an illegal means for settling those grievances or for altering those conditions.”? Kofi Anan, right? Some French wimp? Cindy Sheehan? Oh, I know, one of those America-hating Hollywood elites–Michael Moore, Sean Penn, or Susan Sarandon, right? Wrong, O short-memoried ones, my conservative critics. That quote was from U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson when he served as the American prosecutor during the Nuremberg Trials. You may remember that the Nuremberg Principles that came out of those trials of Nazi generals and judges and politicians (all now firmly embedded in international law) divided international crimes into 3 categories: 1)War crimes–atrocities committed during the prosecution of a war (e.g., the destruction of Fallujah, Israel’s mass bombing of Qana, any of the beheadings, etc. being done by insurgents in Iraq, etc.); 2) Crimes Against Humanity such as torture (Abu Ghraib, the Guantanemo Bay imprisonments, the secret detensions and “extraordinary renditions” would all count) and 3) Crimes Against Peace–such as starting a preemptive war. Hmm. No wonder the Right doesn’t like U.S. courts acknowledging international law these days. If sanity ever returns, will we live to see members of the current U.S. administration on trial in the Hague for these kinds of Nuremberg violations? Or is justice meted out only to international criminals like Hussein whose nations are conquered first?

Thanks to Marty on the Homefront for reminding me of Jackson’s quote.


August 24, 2006 - Posted by | human rights.


  1. So did we get the trifecta there?

    Comment by Dan Trabue | August 24, 2006

  2. Sadly, yes.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | August 24, 2006

  3. This reminder of good ol’ American ideals and principles is well said and makes me extremely depressed. What happened?! I’m sorry I taunted America with one huge brush stroke in the “global warming” post.

    The issues we tackle in this country are how long have we got and how can we conserve, be responsible and try to stop or slow down global warming from its current snowballing rate – we are aware of the problems intelligent Americans have with those in authority who continually deny the existence of global warming and our effect on the planet.

    America has a president who should be on trial.

    Comment by steph | August 25, 2006

  4. If we live long enough, he might be put on trial. There are no statutes of limitations to Nuremberg crimes. If a different administration has the guts, Bush may be tried here in the States or even by the ICC in the Hague one day. But right now it is more important to stop the crimes being committed and remind and renew this nation of values we once held dear.
    We are not the only nation that abandoned principles (and we’ve never lived up to them perfectly). Repentance and renewal can happen.

    Consider how many centuries of wars happened between Germany and France including 2 in the 20th C. that drew in most of the world. Yet, today, the most that happens is rival soccer/football matches. No one can even imagine Germany and France going to war today.

    Once Scandinavians were feared as Vikings. Today Norway, Sweden, and Denmark are leading peacemaking nations.

    When I was young, I saw the U.S. turn from the evils of legal apartheid, the Vietnam War, and hold Pres. Nixon accountable for his Watergate crimes. My father saw us shake off the evil days of McCarthyism. We have the capacity to renew our democratic and human rights traditions–if we can only awake from the fear that has been sold to us since 9/11.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | August 25, 2006

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

%d bloggers like this: