Did Somebody Say “War Crime”?

USA Number One in the World in War Crimes and Hypocrisy

Permalink: https://revcom.us/en/usa-number-one-world-war-crimes-and-hypocrisy

On Friday, March 17, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin, charging him with war crimes for the abduction and deportation of thousands of Ukrainian children during the war that started with Russia’s invasion in February 2022. There does seem to be evidence that Russia has carried out such abductions—as well other war crimes and crimes against humanity during the Ukraine war, including targeting and killing tens of thousands of Ukrainian civilians. Russia is denouncing and dismissing the indictments, which the ICC has no power to enforce.1

The scope, timing and public nature of the ICC arrest warrants for Putin (along with another top Russian official) raised questions among legal experts. One British expert on international law, for example, said, “No doubt there will be many questions about why this particular crime and why the decision to make this public now.” The New York Times wrote that legal experts have “noted that the court [ICC] had been under intense pressure to act against Mr. Putin.”2

Who’s Calling Who a War Criminal?? The 2003 U.S. Invasion of Iraq

But wait. This ICC arrest warrant and indictment for war crimes is being issued on the 20th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq!

U.S. ”Shock and Awe” bombing of Baghdad, a city of nearly six million people, March 2003.    Photo: AP

See also:

That invasion and the occupation that followed were a textbook case of war crimes and crimes against humanity—carried out by the U.S.—on a massive scale!!

The U.S. invaded Iraq—without provocation—based on the bogus claim that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq presented a “threat” to the U.S. because it had “weapons of mass destruction” and was linked to Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda and therefore involved in the attacks of 9/11.

The U.S. rulers knew these justifications for war were baldfaced lies. Their invasion was a blatant and naked act of imperialist aggression—the supreme war crime of aggressive war.3

As if that wasn’t criminal enough, the U.S. carried out further war crimes and crimes against humanity during its years of occupation, including widespread torture, and massive toll of 300,000 or more killed directly in the fighting (and indirectly over 600,000 deaths from the destruction caused by the war). Just one example of these horrendous crimes: the massive air and ground assault by U.S. troops on Fallujah, a densely packed city of 300,000 people.4

Fallujah, Iraq, November 2004.    Photo: AP

And the U.S. troops, military police (MPs) and CIA agents routinely carried out torture against Iraqi prisoners. Pictures that later came out showed Iraqi men at the Abu Ghraib prison, usually naked with suffocating hoods over their heads, being brutalized and humiliated by MPs, who posed in these trophy pictures with wide grins, mocking the prisoners. In one photo, a hooded Iraqi is shown balanced on small box, with wires attached to his fingers—he was forced to stand for hours, told that if he fell over from exhaustion, the wires would electrocute him. Some prisoners died from the torture. Nearly 4,000 prisoners were crammed into Abu Ghraib at one time, most living in tents in the prison yards. Iraq Prison Abuse Scandal Fast Facts, CNN, March 10, 2023; see also, Seymour Hersh, Torture at Abu GhraibThe New Yorker, May 10, 2004

Torture at Abu Ghraib: a hooded Iraqi prisoner, forced to balance on a small box, with wires attached to his fingers—he was forced to stand for hours, told that if he fell over, the wires would electrocute him.    Photo: AP

A recent post by author and historian Paul Street (“Shooter Nation,” March 195), gives a vivid sense of the depraved, criminal savagery of the U.S. torture in Iraq (citing the testimony of Vincent Emanuele, a former U.S. Marine):

I think about the hundreds of prisoners we took captive and tortured in makeshift detention facilities. … I vividly remember the marines telling me about punching, slapping, kicking, elbowing, kneeing and head-butting Iraqis. I remember the tales of sexual torture: forcing Iraqi men to perform sexual acts on each other while marines held knives against their testicles, sometimes sodomizing them with batons. … [T]hose of us in infantry units … round[ed] up Iraqis during night raids, zip-tying their hands, black-bagging their heads and throwing them in the back of HUMVEEs and trucks while their wives and kids collapsed to their knees and wailed. …

[W]hen they were released, we would drive them from the FOB (Forward Operating Base) to the middle of the desert and release them several miles from their homes. … After we cut their zip-ties and took the black bags off their heads, several of our more deranged marines would fire rounds from their AR-15s into the air or ground, scaring the recently released captives. Always for laughs. Most Iraqis would run, still crying from their long ordeal.

Abu Ghraib prison, Iraq: In 2003 it came out that U.S. personnel had been systematically subjecting Iraqi prisoners to sexual torture and other gruesome practices. This went along with policies of torturing prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay base and at various unknown “black sites” in countries around the world. A veritable empire of torture, all run by “the good ‘ole USA,” with approval from the highest levels of government.      Photo: AP

All these, and more, would fully justify indictments and convictions of the U.S. rulers—Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell, Rice and the rest—for war crimes for their leading roles in the Iraq war!

How Did America’s Rulers React When THEY Were Faced with Investigations for War Crimes?

As soon as the ICC arrest warrant was issued for Putin, Biden declared it was “justified.” First of all, aside from the great crimes committed by the U.S. in Iraq as spoken to above, there is the unprecedented hypocrisy of Biden and the U.S. rulers in accusing others when the U.S. has been and continues to be Number One in the World in war crimes and crimes against humanity through its history. (Readers can see for themselves at revcom.us in the American Crime series and in other articles like The United States of Atrocity: When It Comes to War Crimes, USA Is “Number One”.)

And then there is the “inconvenient truth” that the U.S. itself has never agreed to be part of or respect the full authority of the ICC. In fact, the U.S. has attacked the ICC for decades.

How did the U.S. government react when the very same ICC said that its prosecutor could investigate allegations of American war crimes? The ICC reportedly had concluded in 2017 that it had enough evidence to show that U.S. forces had “committed acts of torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity, rape and sexual violence” in Afghanistan in 2003 and 2004, as well as in secret CIA “black sites” around the world where waterboarding and other torture was carried out.6

Iraqi prisoner of war comforts his 4-year-old son.    Photo: AP

U.S. officials attacked this ICC accusation with indignation and fury! It revoked the visa of the court’s chief prosecutor. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo denounced the ruling as a “truly breathtaking action by an unaccountable, political institution masquerading as a legal body” and called it a “renegade, unlawful, so-called court.” In September of 2021, Prosecutor Karim Khan of the ICC announced that the court was ending its investigation into U.S. war crimes. (Coincidentally—or not—this prosecutor is now the chief ICC prosecutor who announced the arrest warrant for Putin.)

And this was not just a one-time thing. In the context of moves by ICC and others to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity carried out by the U.S. in its “war on terror” (which, in reality, was a war for empire), President George W. Bush signed into law the “American Servicemembers Protection Act” in 2002, authorizing the use of military force to “liberate” any American or citizen of a U.S.-allied country being held by the ICC.7>

Yet now, Biden and others find this international court to be a legitimate forum to pursue charges of war crimes—against a rival imperialist power, Russia, that the U.S. and its NATO allies are fighting a proxy imperialist war against in Ukraine.



1. Unlike typical legal proceedings, the ICC issues arrest warrants before evidence has been presented in a court and subject to legal challenge. [back]

2. It should be noted that this warrant came out right as there was an announcement that China’s leader Xi Jinping was going to Russia next week to meet with Putin. It is certainly possible that the ICC move was consciously timed to embarrass and take the air out of the U.S.’s main imperialist rival, China—and to put obstacles in the way of closer relationships between China and Russia, another top imperialist rival of the U.S. [back]

3. See American Crime Case #70: “Operation Iraqi Freedom,” 2003, revcom.us, December 5, 2016, for a fuller account of the invasion. [back]

4. American Crime Case #94: November 2004—War Crime Fallujah, revcom.us, June 6, 2016; American Crime Case #23: The Afghanistan and Iraq War Logs and the Persecution of Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange, and WikiLeaks, revcom.us, April 15, 2019. [back]

5. Shooter Nation, Reading a Pathological Memoir 20 Years After the Invasion of Iraq, The Paul Street Report, March 19, 2023. [back]

6. U.S. to Penalize War Crimes Investigators Looking Into American TroopsNew York Times, June 11, 2020. [back]

7. USA: The “Laws” on War Crimes Apply to Everyone—Except the US, of Course, revcom.us. April 18, 2022. [back]