U.S. War Crimes in Iraq: A Review of In the Name of Democracy

Yet the editors of "In the Name of Democracy" have produced an anthology of documents and articles–from both the mainstream press and various internet web sites– which makes the legal and moral case for U.S. citizens not only to demand that their imperialist government withdraw its military forces from Iraq, but also that they hold U.S. government officials legally responsible for post-9/11 U.S. war crimes.

Part I of this book by Jeremy Brecher, Jill Cutler and Brendan Smith begins by providing readers with "The Evidence" that the Bush Administration’s attack on Iraq was an "illegal war," and that during the war and subsequent occupation "crimes of war and occupation" were committed by the U.S. military forces in Iraq. Another section contains documentation or articles related to the Abu Ghraib torture scandal of a few years ago.

Much of this evidence of international law violations and U.S. military attacks on civilians also can be found on many web sites and is familiar to most U.S. antiwar activists. Still, it’s useful and powerful to have the evidence put together in the form of a book. Included in this anthology, for instance, is a December 2, 2004 article by Jeffrey Sachs, titled "Iraq’s Civilian Dead Get No hearing In The United States", which observes:

"Evidence is mounting that America’s war in Iraq has killed tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians, and perhaps well over 100,000. Yet this carnage is systematically ignored in the United States, where the media and government portray a war in which there are no civilian deaths, because there are no Iraqi civilians, only insurgents."

Reports by the Center for Constitutional Rights [CCR] and Human Rights Watch on the U.S. military’s use of torture methods are also included in Part I of the book.

Part II of the book seeks to determine who is to blame for U.S. war crimes in Iraq; and, as Brecher, Cutler and Smith note in their introduction, "presents evidence that the trail of responsibility for the policies that led to such actions runs to the highest levels of the Pentagon and the door of the Oval Office." Included in this section of the book is CCR’s "Criminal Indictment Against the United States Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld et al" and an article by Marjorie Cohen, titled "The Gonzales Indictment" that begins:

"Alberto Gonzales should not be the Attorney General of the United States. He should be considered a war criminal and indicted by the Attorney General. This is a suggested indictment of Alberto Gonzales for war crimes under Title 18 U.S.C. section 2441, the War Crimes Act." [1]

Part III, titled "Beyond Iraq: The Future of U.S. War Crimes", includes President Bush’s 2002 report to Congress and an article by Seymour Hersh called "The Coming War." [2] If you haven’t previously read either of these documents, you’re likely to be more worried about the world’s future after you do read them.

As the editors of "In the Name of Democracy" observe, the "threat of `anticipatory action’ even in the event of `uncertainty…as to the time and place of the enemy’s attack’ in Bush’s 2002 report directly contradicts the UN Charter and international law’s established prohibition of `preventive war." Furthermore, as an article by Seymour Hersh in 2005 revealed:

"There has also been close, and largely unacknowledged, cooperation with Israel. The government consultant with ties to the Pentagon said that the Defense Department civilians, under the leadership of Douglas Feith, have been working with Israeli planners and consultants to develop and refine potential nuclear, chemical weapons, and missile targets inside Iran."

Part IV is entitled "Perspective on American War Crimes" and includes remarks and essays by several dissident U.S. establishment politicians such as U.S. Senator Robert Byrd and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter. "In the Name of Democracy" then continues with Part V, "The Resisters: `Conscience, Not Cowardice’." In this section, "Breaking Ranks", an article David Goodman describes the growth of anti-war feeling within the U.S. military. [3] Also found here is the text of a 2004 speech by Nancy Lessin, co-founder of Military Families Speak Out, [4]and essays by Daniel Ellsberg and Joseph C. Wilson IV, husband of former CIA operative Valerie Plane.

Ellsberg’s essay encourages dissident Bush Administration officials to leak information to the press which proves even more conclusively that the U.S. "has been misled into a war in Iraq." Wilson’s essay asserts that, according to a pre-war investigative trip he took to Niger, a trip requested and paid for by the CIA, the Bush Administration’s pre-war "charges about Iraqi efforts to buy uranium from Africa" were "not borne out by the facts as I understood them."

In Part VI, "Halting War Crimes: A Shared Responsibility," the editors have printed examples of how some U.S. antiwar activists resisted the U.S. war machine during the Vietnam War Era, and how they are resisting it currently. Toward Freedom readers will likely find Bill Quigley’s article about the antiwar civil disobedience and trial of Ithaca’s "St. Patrick’s Four" of interest. John Humphries’ article about the Connecticut-based antiwar resistance group Reclaiming the Prophetic Voice may provides readers with more creative ideas as to how a more effective U.S. antiwar movement can be built.

Concluding their anthology, Brecher, Cutler and Smith then propose that U.S. antiwar activists now begin to build "a movement against U.S. war crimes" which has the following "four obvious objectives": halting the crimes; bringing war criminals to justice; drawing the lessons; and establishing barriers to future war crimes.

Compared to many histories of U.S. military violence, such as books by Noam Chomsky, "In the Name of Democracy" doesn’t focus on the ways in which U.S. or Israeli war crimes, militarism and state terrorism are logical results of current political and corporate-oriented imperialist economic systems. Instead, "In the Name of Democracy" emphasizes that it is the Bush Administration’s policy decisions to violate international law and constitutional law, not the U.S. imperialist system itself that has produced the U.S. government’s apparent crimes of mass murder in Iraq. The editors of this book also don’t seem to have considered another political strategy to end U.S. war crimes, such as one that would include mass-based non-violent disruption by U.S. antiwar activists of U.S. universities that collaborate with the U.S. war machine or Israeli warfare state, or protest of U.S. media conglomerate television studios that exclude U.S. antiwar voices on a daily basis.

"In the Name of Democracy", however, is a valuable reference book for U.S. antiwar activists who, when debating opponents of immediate U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, need to quickly document some of the war crimes that have resulted from the U.S. military’s attack on and occupation of Iraq. Furthermore, it should be a part of every U.S. citizen’s home library, especially those citizens who don’t yet rely on alternative media web sites for their news of what has been happening in the Middle East since 2001.

Bob Feldman is an East Coast-based U.S. anti-war Movement writer-activist.


1. Originally posted on the www.truthout.org, January 10, 2005.

2. First published in the New Yorker magazine, January 2004.

3. Mother Jones. October, 2004

4. Previously published by the New York Times.

In the Name of Democracy: American War Crimes in Iraq and Beyond Edited by Jeremy Brecher, Jill Cutler and Brendan Smith, (New York, NY: Metropolitan Books, 2005)