People’s Strategies for Blocking U.S. Presidents from Waging Pre-emptive (Aggressive) War

July 1, 2004

[NOTE: The following is a letter sent on July 29, 2004 to members of the Arcata, California City Council alerting them to the dangers of having two major presidential candidates, each of whom has declared their commitment to the dangerous policy of waging pre-emptive attacks on other nations, grotesquely violating the U.S. Constitution, the Nuremberg Principles, and international law. The letter asks the council to support a resolution for impeachment, or in the alternative to urge legal entities to seek a restraining order prohibiting any executive officer from waging pre-emptive (aggressive) wars.]

TO: Members of Arcata, California City Council:

RE: An Explanation of the Nuremberg Principles and Obligation, and Impeachment, as it Relates to Arcata Residents and their City Council

U.S. Senator and Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry recently declared his willingness to launch "pre-emptive" war, thereby mimicking Bush II’s dangerous illegal doctrine. In essence, these two major presidential candidates have each openly declared themselves as proud war criminals. They both are committed to continuing the illegal interventions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, and have promised that other nations are likely to be victims of aggressive intervention via this same pre-emptive attack doctrine.

Nearly 60 years ago, the Charter for the International Military Tribunal (IMT), Nuremberg, Germany, in response to the egregious crimes committed during World War II, declared three categories of offenses whereby individuals are punishable under international law: crimes against peace (i.e., aggression), crimes against humanity, and war crimes. Under the Nuremberg Principles as reformulated in 1950 by the International Law Commission of the United Nations, individuals, including leaders and their subordinates, have international duties which transcend the obligations of obedience imposed by the nation-state, especially when asked to commit offenses they believe are in violation of these international laws.

"Planning, preparation, initiation or waging a war of aggression" was judged "the supreme international crime." Chief U.S. American prosecutor at Nuremberg, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, declared that "launching a war of aggression is a crime that no political or economic situation can justify…" and "if certain acts in violation of treaties [e.g., the U.N. Charter] are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or Germany does them…We are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us."

Despite this step forward, since World War II an estimated 170 million people have been murdered in armed conflicts, both overt and covert, the majority due largely to aggressive U.S. policies, but no one person or leader has been held criminally accountable. There is promise this might change with the recent creation of the International Criminal Court.

The U.S.-led military invasions and bombings of Iraq and Afghanistan are excellent examples of crimes against peace (aggression) as prohibited by Nuremberg and a number of international laws, including, therefore, our own U.S. Constitution. Current statistics reveal nearly 160,000 total casualties so far–murdered, killed, and wounded.

I first became conscious of Nuremberg and its historic meaning for international law as a child. I grew up respecting Nuremberg prosecutor Robert Jackson because he retained his local residency. He had practiced law in a small town just a few miles from my farming community before going on to become a U.S. Supreme Court Justice. In addition, I had an uncle who, as a U.S. Army captain, worked as a war crimes investigator at Nuremberg. Many years later, ignorance led to my own participation in crimes against peace (illegal, aggressive intervention in Viet Nam), despite having learned "The Law of Land Warfare" in the U.S. Army Field Manual, which incorporates the Nuremberg Principles and Obligation. The atrocious war crimes I witnessed in Viet Nam (mass murder and maiming of civilians) so distressed me, I have spent much of my subsequent life documenting ongoing U.S. violations of international and domestic justice laws, including torture, committed with virtual impunity.

Like so many U.S. Americans, I was led to believe that we live in a constitutional democracy where government is instituted as a practical device to carry out the will of the people–all the people. But democracy requires participation of and by the people, for the people. Its building blocks, and its power, reside in the people at the base–those living at the local level in 33,000 cities, villages, and towns in over 3,100 counties throughout this country. The most important dynamic is found in what people do and say on a daily basis in these popular building blocks that enable and determine the health of a democratic society. Unfortunately, as materialism has come to consume much of our society, the quality of political participation at the local level has often been deferred to a national oligarchic structure in which policy-makers are beholden to the privileged rich, rather than to the whole body politic and necessary eco-ethic. This skewed top-down power scheme has terribly hurt the quality of local governments and their services, as funds have been dramatically diverted upward and outward to military spending and other costs associated with protecting the interests of a few. This has directly contributed to a severe fiscal crisis that often produces a dark psychological side effect as well – a sense of hopelessness and depression. To the extent we accept limitations imposed from the top, we in effect choose to mute the expression so necessary for assertion of people power over the power elite.

How can we as a people, including you and I here in Arcata, maintain faith in our constitutional democratic process when the two major presidential candidates each have resolved to continue the "planning, preparation, initiation or waging a war of aggression" against unnamed enemies, as well as continuing an egregious illegal occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq? Whomever is likely to be president, we are told in advance, intends (with malice and forethought) to commit the supreme international crime of aggression against other states. By so doing these men totally undermine their oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution.

Where does this grotesque lawlessness stop? It must stop with us, the people, with people like you in locally elected bodies representing people like me. If the people of this country are not willing to utilize the people’s constitutional mechanism of impeachment of our executive officers for their continued commission of egregious crimes against peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity, then what remedy is left to us? Can we seek legal restraint in advance to prevent a president from carrying out his vow to commit pre-emptive, criminal war in violation of his constitutional oath?

I urge the City Council of Arcata to resolve the need for impeachment proceedings, or in the alternative, urge appropriate legal bodies to seek a restraining order to prevent current U.S. president George H. Bush, and candidate/possible president John F. Kerry, from carrying out their announced plans to launch pre-emptive strikes against anyone, anywhere, as they so determine. Please act in the name of your citizenry, your consciences, and your oath to uphold the constitution. Our very future is at stake.

Albert Camus’ poignant essay, Neither Victims Nor Executioners (1946), declares that "there is no suffering, no torture anywhere in the world which does not affect our everyday lives." He suggests that people of conscience who identify with victims of injustice and war must recognize the manner in which their own political loyalties and beliefs either legitimate or resist murder and injustice. Those who wish not
to be victims of murder must also refuse to be executioners. Camus concludes: "All I ask is that, in the midst of a murderous world, we agree to reflect on murder and to make a choice. After that, we can distinguish those who accept the consequences of being murderers themselves or the accomplices of murderers, and those who refuse to do so with all their force and being" (Translated by Dwight Macdonald). Let us refuse to be complicit with murder with all our force and being!

Thank you for considering the historical importance of preserving accountable government by being vigilant over national policies that deleteriously affect all of us, including you and your constituents in Arcata. Please, consider resolving support for impeachment and spread the word widely, or in the alternative, publicly urge the filing of a restraining order in an effort to prevent further crimes against peace.


S. Brian Willson, M.A., J.D., LL.D.
Executive Committee, Humboldt Bay Veterans For Peace, Ch. 56

One Comment

  1. Posted September 15, 2018 at 4:30 am | Permalink

    I always was concerned in this topic and still am, thanks for posting.

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