Put the War on Trial: Pablo Paredes and Kevin Benderman

Put the War on Trial: Pablo Paredes and Kevin Benderman
New York City – May 12, 2005

Closing Statement for the Defense
by Michael Letwin
Co-Convener, New York City Labor Against the War (NYCLAW)
Former President, Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW Local 2325

Most people do not want to be sent to war to kill or maim – or be killed or maimed – to make the rich and powerful more rich and powerful. And like all empires, the United States has gotten around that problem by lying.

To steal Texas, California, Arizona and New Mexico, it lied in 1845 about “Mexican aggression.” To conquer Cuba and the Philippines, it lied in 1898 about “Remembering the Maine.” To devastate Indochina, it lied in 1964 about being attacked in the Gulf of Tonkin. Today, to wage war in the Middle East for oil and empire, the Bush administration lies about “Weapons of Mass Destruction,” “Terrorism,” and “Building Democracy.”

But the U.S. has made life in Iraq far worse than under Saddam Hussein. It has killed one hundred thousand Iraqis and maimed thousands of others; wiped out the national infrastructure; poisoned with depleted uranium; destroyed Falluja, Najaf and Ramadi; set up a puppet regime of CIA operatives to bless the U.S. war,
promote ethnic strife, and “Salvadorianize” with death squads of Hussein’s former security forces; holds more than 11,000 political prisoners who are detained, tortured and murdered in hells like Abu Ghraib; and plundered and privitizatized Iraqi’s economy.

Working people in this country have also paid a terrible cost. As of this week, 1,600 GIs have been killed and thousands more wounded; hundreds of billions of dollars have been squandered, while jobs and services at home plummet. And also this week, the Senate voted – unanimously – for another $82 billion to fund this
obscenity.

This war and occupation is indefensible. Legally, they are the same criminal acts for which the Nazis were tried at Nuremberg: (1) Conspiracy to Wage Aggressive War; (2) Waging Aggressive War, or Crimes Against Peace; (3) War Crimes; and (4) Crimes Against Humanity. They also violate Chapter VII of the UN Charter
and the Geneva Convention.

These crimes justify resistance – particularly since Bush’s crimes have been blessed, rather than challenged, by both Democratic Party politicians and the UN.

For those under attack, the right to resist is reflected in Article 51 of the UN Charter, which guarantees “the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence.” It is important to note that this right is not limited to people whose politics we may happen to approve. Today, with the vast majority of Iraqis demanding an immediate end to U.S. war and occupation, the Iraqi resistance is exercising this right by tying down the world’s most powerful military machine.

For soldiers in an aggressor’s army, resistance is not only a right – it is an obligation. The Nuremberg trials specifically rejected the defense of “following orders,” and the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) requires military personnel to disobey unlawful orders.

But the resistance of PO Pablo Paredes and SGT. Kevin Benderman is not only morally and legally justified; it is also effective. The war and occupation in Iraq have given birth to a GI revolt reflected in a huge shortfall of enlistments and reenlistments – especially among people of color; widespread refusal to report for reserve and national guard activation; and nearly 6000 desertions. A mass GI mutiny ultimately ended the brutal and corrupt U.S. war in Vietnam; it can do so today in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Pablo Paredes and Kevin Benderman are guilty only of great principle and courage. They, and all resisters, deserve our admiration and support.

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