Jackson: Try those guilty of war crimes

www.malaysianbar.org.my, 22 April 2009

  Civil rights leader Rev Jesse Jackson Sr said today that US leaders guilty of torture or war crimes need to be brought to justice.

Jackson, who was giving a public lecture here, was responding to news that a Spanish court would try six top officials from President George W Bush's administration over allegations of giving legal justification to torture in Guantanamo Bay.

The six Bush officials are former Attorney-General Alberto Gonzales; former undersecretary of defense for policy Douglas Feith; former Vice-President Dick Cheney's chief of staff David Addington; Justice Department officials John Yoo and Jay S Bybee; and Pentagon lawyer William Haynes.

"We cannot keep covering murder by calling it war," said Jackson, who then proceeded to link the Guantanamo Bay torture allegations with protests against the US invasion of Iraq.

Jackson's lecture on Building a culture of peace and development in a globalised world was part of the ongoing Bridges – Dialogues Towards a Culture of Peace, which brings Nobel laureates and global leaders on speaking tours to Southeast Asia.

The Bridges programme is facilitated by the International Peace Foundation. The foundation's advisory board chairperson, Prince Alfred of Liechtenstein, was also present at the talk.

Questioned about US troops remaining in Iraq, Jackson said although the US should have never invaded the country, American troops would need to remain in Iraq a while longer.

He said that in invading Iraq in 2003, the US had caused severe damage that it was now "burdened" to fix.

"It's like if you break a piece of glass in a shop, you have to pay for it," said Jackson, who fielded numerous questions on US foreign policy from the floor after his 30-minute talk.

To another question, Jackson warned that the global economic collapse could drive nations towards war as peoples and governments embrace protectionist values in a panic.

He also pointed towards the existing gap between societies and individuals who are technologically equipped and those who are not, and between the rich and the poor.

"We have certainly advanced technologically, but our social consciousness has not been able to keep up with this technology," he said.

 "US should have participated"

During the Q&A session, Jackson also admitted that he wished the US had participated in the recent United Nations (UN) summit on race, held in Geneva.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon had already berated the US, Israel and other EU governments that had boycotted the conference in protest of Iran's participation.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad triggered a mass walkout during his speech on 20 April at the summit in which he called Israel "the most cruel and racist regime".

Ban was equally disappointed in Ahmadinejad, saying he had used the platform to "accuse, divide and even incite".

To this, Jackson said he hoped the summit would be reconvened and that the US would participate.

"However, there should not be any pre-packaged, incendiary resolutions that will kill the dialogue before it even starts," said Jackson, alluding to Ahmadinejad's outburst..

The Bridges series of talks in Malaysia got off to a rocky start in October 2008 when one of its key speakers, Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi, had her invitation revoked upon pressure by Malaysia's Foreign Ministry.

Ebadi, the first Iranian and Muslim woman to win the Nobel prize, claimed that this was due to pressure from the Iranian embassy in Malaysia.