Ellen Taylor: War Crimes, From Nuremberg to Ukraine

Ellen Taylor: War Crimes, From Nuremberg to Ukraine

Telford Taylor giving his opening remarks at the judges trial, Nuremberg, 1947.

Ellen Taylor

June 12, 2022

I was in Nuremberg during the war crimes trials which followed WWII. My father, Brig. Gen. Telford Taylor, was Chief Prosecutor during the  second,  American phase.  The French, Russian and British staffs had gone home to  continue trials at home, but the US stayed longer, and  scheduled about 400 additional  defendants. They were divided into twelve  categories: judges, doctors, industrialists, etc. There were 142 convictions and ten death sentences.

I remember the  high spirits of the occupying  troops and  tribunal staff,

The joy of triumph and victory. I  danced with them in the ballroom of  the Grand Hotel, where the  officials and court lawyers spent their evenings.  I scared myself by looking  into seemingly-bottomless bomb craters, played in the war-shattered  wreckage of  our commandeered  townhouse, and listened to stories told by the servants, who were tearfully glad to be fed and sheltered during the hunger-stricken post-war years.

And, without paying much attention or expressing any precocious interest, I grew up convinced of  the axiomatic importance, however difficult it might be to maintain universal accountability, of  international law for human survival.

Originally published by Counterpunch on June 3, 2022

Although war crimes continued to flourish, the Nuremberg  tribunal slowly drifted into the dustbin, often disparaged as victor’s justice.  My dad, in his   book about the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, was pessimistic about the enforceability of its precepts.  The International Criminal Court, established in 2002, seemed to concentrate mostly  in Africa, and  the ghost of colonialism was in attendance at all the special  tribunals. Books were written accusing the US of   war crimes  in Iraq, which created a mere ripple in the public consciousness.

However, as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, this year, journalists have taken up the subject of war crimes with enthusiasm. Even my local paper published an editorial demanding that  a  war crimes tribunal be organized to hang Putin, as the Nuremberg  war criminals were hanged.   Karim Khan, chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC),  is on site conducting investigations. Vladimir Putin is accused of waging aggressive war.

At the Nuremberg tribunals, four charges were brought against defendants:  premeditated conspiracy to commit the crimes against the peace, the  crime of initiating aggressive war,  war crimes, and crimes against humanity. The  judges asserted that  waging aggressive war was the gravest crime of all: it was “essentially an evil thing” and “not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole”.

To my knowledge, since  then, no one has been charged with the first two charges: conspiracy to instigate a war, and  the  initiation of a war of aggression. However, many influential voices are now accusing Russian President Putin of committing these crimes.

Russia invaded  Ukraine on Feb 24th 2022. By  describing this assault as a “special operation”  instead of an act of war, Russian President Putin avoided  legal interface with a document for which he  confesses great respect, the United Nations Charter.  This document, like the Nuremberg Charter, has been  frequently dismissed by state actors as obsolete, and is nonchalantly violated  by many nations including  the US. Although he distinguished the invasion as a special operation, Putin has referred to the document in the context  of Russia’s actions:

Chapter 2  article 4 states that “All Members…shall refrain from the threat or use of force” against another nation. Chapter 7 Article 51, however,  states  that “nothing… shall impair  the inherent right of… self-defense if an armed attack  occurs against a Member”.

The OSCE (Organization for Security and  Cooperation  in Europe), an intergovernmental  organization with  Observer status in the United Nations, addresses the issue of the limits of security: ”States will not strengthen their security at the expense of other states…every state has an equal right to security, with comparable levels of security for all”.

The OSCE Charter  was designed  expressly to contribute to the formation of a common and indivisible security space in the OSCE area, free of dividing lines.

Russian efforts  to achieve  peace in Europe  and  security for the Russian people were exemplary and extensive since the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the subsequent dissolution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.  President  Michael Gorbachev had been euphoric when the Berlin Wall went down in 1991. He himself had  barely escaped WWII : only three out of a hundred  boys, just a little older than he, survived. He nevertheless suffered  heavy personal  losses, from the war, and under Stalin.

Now, as the wall fell, his anxiety  evaporated, and in his elation he dared to speak of “Our Common European Home – from the Atlantic to the Urals”. He had formed friendships  with most of  Europe’s leaders. He believed that his acceptance of German reunification would lead to an age of peace,  and that the heretofore hostile military organization, NATO, would cease its aggression.

He had been assured of this, over and over, by US Secretary of State, James Baker (NATO will move “not one inch eastward”), German Vice-Chancellor Hans-Dietrich Genscher (“ the changes in Eastern Europe and the German unification process must not lead to an impairment of Soviet security interests”), Helmut Kohl, German Chancellor( “We believe that NATO should not expand the sphere of its activity”), Baker again (“Before saying a few words about the German issue, I wanted to emphasize that our policies are not aimed at separating Eastern Europe from the Soviet Union. We had that policy before. But today we are interested in building a stable Europe, and doing it together with you”),French leader Francois Mitterrand (“The West must…. create security conditions for you, as well as European security as a whole”), Margaret Thatcher ( “We must find ways to give the Soviet Union confidence that its security would be assured…. CSCE could be an umbrella for all this, as well as being the forum which brought the Soviet Union fully into discussion about the future of Europe.”), G. H.W. Bush ( “So what we tried to do was to take account of your concerns expressed to me and others, and we did it in the following ways: by our joint declaration on non-aggression; in our invitation to you to come to NATO; in our agreement to open NATO to regular diplomatic contact with your government and those of the Eastern European countries; and our offer on assurances on the future”), NATO Secretary General Manfred Woerner (“We must not  permit the isolation of the USSR from the European community…the fact that we will not place a NATO army outside of German territory gives the Soviet Union a firm guarantee”), and  President G.H.W.Bush ( “We have no intention, even in our thoughts, of harming the Soviet Union in any way”). He believed that  that a bright new world was at hand.

The author and Mikhail Gorbachev in 2016, during an expedition with the Center for Citizen Initiatives. Photo courtesy of Ellen Taylor.

Because of the terrors of its history in the last centuries, Russia was unwilling to give up this dream expressed by Gorbachev. Therefore, its  expressions of indignation were muted  when the United States  began almost instantly to meddle in Russian affairs, transmitting information acquired through the NSA to  help Boris Yeltsin’s rise to power. When the Soviet Union collapsed, Russian assets were sold off,  many to foreign conglomerates, and the economy was pillaged.

Russian protest, also, was mild, when, in 1999, the West definitively broke its word, and a procession of  countries, whose borders  extended 800 miles to the east of the 1991 lines, began to make their entrances into NATO. By 2007, fourteen countries had been added to NATO since the Wall had  fallen.

George Kennan was a well-known historian and diplomat,  and ambassador to Russia through the  Stalinist  period. He greeted this next step, the expansion of NATO to include the previous Warsaw Pact  countries, with disbelief and  disgust:

“I think it is a tragic mistake. There is no reason for this whatsoever. No one was threatening anybody else. I was particularly bothered the references to Russia as a country  dying to attack Western Europe. What bothers me is how superficial and ill-informed the whole Senate debate was. Russia’s democracy is as far advanced, if not farther, than any of these countries we’ve just signed up to defend from  Russia.

But something of the highest importance is at stake here. Perhaps it is not too late  to advance the view that, I believe, is not only mine alone but is shared by  a number of others with extensive and in most instances more recent experience in Russian matters. The view, bluntly stated,  is that expanding NATO would be the most fateful error of American foreign policy in the entire post-Cold-War era.”

Vladimir Putin, who came to power in 2000, exhibited the same  reluctance to give up the Dream,  expressed by Gorbachev,  of a “Common European Home”. In 2000, he asked  then-US- President  Clinton if Russia could join NATO. This was not a novel idea: Krushchev had made the same request in 1954, and Boris Yeltsin in 1991. Both requests were dismissed.

As for Clinton, he bluntly retorted  that if Russia were part of NATO there would be no reason for it to exist.

Putin’s life, like Gorbachev’s, had been devastated by  WWII: his brother killed, his family destroyed by the terrible siege of Leningrad.

The spectacle of  military installations bristling  with missiles in an ominously strengthening cordon surrounding Russia, and the  tramp of thousands of boots, as NATO conducted military exercises on its borders (estimated at about four simulated battles a month, with Russia in the role of  enemy force) finally woke up Russia’s historical memory of invasion.  At the Munich Conference, in 2007, addressing the 43rd Munich Conference of Security Policy, an alarmed  President  Putin delivered a  powerful and now famous speech, addressing the noose he perceived, tightening around Russia.

 He  began by quoting FDR, “security for one is security for all”  and denouncing the unipolar world which had resulted from  the Soviet Union’s collapse: a world with only  one master, which is destructive of that security “pernicious not only for all those within this system, but also for the sovereign itself because it destroys itself from within.”

Observing that unipolarity does not bring peace and alluding to the wars in the Middle East,  he noted that “more people are dying than ever before” due to the “uncontained use of hyper-force in international relations”.

“No one feels safe!” he repeated. “No one can feel like international law is like a stone wall which will protect them!” and, after addressing the ring of NATO bases and  missiles surrounding Russia, he asked, pointedly,

“I think it is obvious that NATO expansion does not have any relation with the modernization of the Alliance itself or with ensuring security in Europe. On the contrary, it represents a serious provocation that reduces the level of mutual trust. And we have the right to ask: against whom is this expansion intended?”

The audience of diplomats and statesmen and women exchanged glances and were silent.

Then he presented a visual picture of a new architecture of global security which called to mind Gorbachev’s “Common European Home”. He detailed the need for  bringing about a fairer system of global economic relations to replace the current one in which donor countries “deliver charity with one hand and collect profits with the other.”

He lamented the stagnation of disarmament efforts and the billions spent on nuclear weapons. He decried the  US withdrawal from the ABM treaty, and announced he had brought a proposal to the conference, to end the  threatened  US militarization of space.  He embraced the UN Charter as a cornerstone for  the new  security architecture and a foundation with which to replace the unipolar system with multipolarity.

Putin did not mince words in his speech.  He was earnest and unambiguous. But, two months later, with a proverbial poke in the Russian Bear’s eye, in Bucharest, at the NATO ministerial summit, NATO welcomed Ukraine’s and Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations for membership in NATO.

Since then, Russia has made every possible effort to express its alarm at the spectacle of  NATO’s armed might on its borders.

It has watched,  as NATO’s military exercises have increased: battalions from the different countries are deployed on Russia’s borders and engage “the enemy” in various scenarios, including nuclear, an estimated forty time a year. One such script envisioned atrocities being committed against Estonia, a NATO country, by conventional invading  Russian forces. Enacted responses practiced the use of low-yield nuclear missiles deployed from US submarines.

There are military bases well-supplied with weapons in every NATO country on Russia’s borders, including trillion-dollar missile shields in Romania and Poland. The ABMs can be converted to offensive weapons by merely inserting a disc.

“Europe 2020” was designed to be the largest military exercise in 25 years. It deployed 125,000 troops from NATO  countries. US  troops brought  20,000 pieces of equipment from  home,  and rushed toward previously established storage positions around Europe to deploy more weapons as swiftly as possible and meet 9000 troops already in Europe on Russia’s border. As a sort of psyops feature, the exercise was to have consummated on the 80th anniversary of Operation Barbarossa, the Nazi invasion of Russia in 1941, a deeply traumatic and resonating catastrophe in Russian history. The exercise had to be aborted because of covid.

In the  face of this menace, Russia’s General Gerasimov stated he was convinced that NATO was  preparing for war. And indeed there is no way these exercises can be described as nonthreatening. But the US views them  differently. In the words of  former Army Secretary  Ryan McCarthy, “The last  18 years of conflict built muscle memory in counterinsurgency, but with this came atrophy in other areas.  We are now engaging these other muscle groups.”

US diplomats , clearly not expecting to be believed, claimed that missiles positioned on Russia’s borders were intended for Iran. Jack Matlock, former ambassador to Russia,  practically laughing as he spoke, told Putin that  NATO’s  line of fortresses was merely a jobs plan, intended to decrease the US unemployment rates.

General Tod Wolters, Commander of US forces in Europe and Supreme Allied Commander Europe, favors a “flexible first-use policy” regarding nuclear weapons.

As General Mark Milley , chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, observed, “the character of war is changing frequency”. Our nation is bent on an aggressive upgrade of  existing weapons systems, and purchase of  new technology: hypersonic weapons capable of 15,000mph speeds, artificial intelligence surpassing the imagination of science fiction, autonomous systems and platforms, 5G, “low-yield” nuclear weapons, dramatic advances in cyberspace with microelectronics swifter by many orders of magnitude. For outer space we have developed what former President Trump described at their unveiling as “some of the most incredible weapons the world has ever seen”.

The new National Defense Strategy embodies the same spirit as its predecessors going back to the Plan for the New American Century of 1996. It requires full-spectrum dominance. It prepares for a high-end, “near-peer” war. Its goals are” integrated deterrence, campaigning  and actions that build enduring advantages”. “Integrated deterrence”  here means, engaging the contributions of all branches of the military,  the above-described  forward motion of weapons and bases toward enemies, exercises, and adventures such as the provocative entrance of guided missile-carrying destroyers with aerial escort, sailing (as they did)  into the Barents Sea, to “enforce freedom of navigation”.

 “Campaigning” includes  infiltration, use of special forces, the media, disinformation  dissemination, cyber  sabotage, sanctions, and other  tactics to  achieve the objectives of full spectrum dominance.  “Build enduring advantages”  means unwavering attention to and purchase of  the latest  weapons technologies.

The word “Competitor” is used in the document  interchangeably with “enemy”.

Over the years, in preparation for  furthering this dominance, in spite of entreaties from the UN, allies, and Russia and China themselves, the US has withdrawn from multiple treaties:  ABM(2002),Iran Nuclear Deal (2018), UN Human Rights Council(2018), INF (2019), the Nuclear Nonproliferation treaty (2020), and the Open Skies Treaty (2020).

Neither Russia or China  is eager for the role of US adversary, the “near-peer” enemy which  will help  the US to “reactivate atrophied muscle groups”. They have had to be teased, baited and tortured, like reluctant bulls in a bullfight, into responding. The Ukraine catastrophe is part of the result.

Russians are deeply attached to the Ukraine, which was part of Russia for  far longer than the US has existed: indeed, for most of Ukraine, from the 9th century until 1991. This love has been dismissed as mystical nonsense by  editorials in the New York Times and other  opinion-forming media. Naomi Klein has described it as  “toxic nostalgia.”

Nostalgia occupies  an enormous realm in human nature. It is the deep and  ever-stirring  nursery for  human creativity. It sometimes motivates self-defense, as in the American indigenous peoples’ resistance to assimilation, or the Russian kulaks’  resistance to  Stalin-imposed collectivization. It is toxic when it drives military or cultural aggression.

However,  nostalgia notwithstanding, Russia  did not resist Ukraine’s bid for independence in 1991, nor did it interfere with the illegal coup  of 2014, only taking the critically  self-protective  step of reclaiming its   naval base in Sebastopol and liberating  Krushchev’s gift to Ukraine, Russian Crimea.

 To be sure, there is nostalgia, just as the people of my  bioregion dream of the mighty salmon runs and giant trees of their childhood. Ukraine and Russia have what might be called a  chthonic relationship, one relating to the earth, the rivers, the spirit. Students of Russian history, culture and literature, begin their educational journey with immersion in the life and  events of Rus, what is now Ukraine. The Russian Orthodox Church had its origins in  Ukraine.

The action of Russia’s great epic poem, “The Song of Igor’s Campaign,” occurs in present-day Ukraine. It is, is, in beauty and profundity,  comparable to the Shanameh of Persia, the Kalevala of Scandinavia, the Mesopotamian Gilgamesh, or the French Song of Roland. It  is beloved in Russia and  memorized by Russian schoolchildren. Many of Russia’s and the world’s favorite authors are  Ukrainian: Nikolai Gogol,  Mikhail Sholokov,  Mikhail Bulgakov, Isaac Babel, Taras Shevchenko. Aleksander Solzenitsyn’s mother was Ukrainian.

The Cossack culture which persisted for centuries in eastern Ukraine between the Don and the Dnieper, is a romantic, and  music -and -legend-filled part of  Russian cultural heritage. Though much older and deeper, it has a role  in  art and history not unlike US western movies and literature.

Ukrainians are extensively intermarried with  Russians, statesmen among them. Leonid Brezhnev was Ukrainian, Nikita Krushchev had a Ukrainian wife and was raised in the Ukraine, where he was Governor for many years. Dmitri Medvedev’s wife is Ukrainian.

Although there were separatist revolts after WWII in Ukraine, mainly instigated by western Ukrainians who had fought with the Nazis, the fact that Krushchev  gave Crimea, home of  the Russian Navy for  almost 250 years, to Ukraine, in 1954, is evidence that he had not the slightest doubt of its intimate relationship with Russia.

Ukraine was the trusted  repository for  a large quantity (one-third!) of  the Soviet Union’s nuclear arsenal, and an important nuclear research facility was located in Kharkov. However, it  did not have command and control powers over these weapons and the preplanned launch codes remained in Russia. Therefore, after 1991 they were returned to Russia in the name of nonproliferation.

 Thus, the destruction of this arsenal was in reality  a destruction of Russian weapons. The Ukraine received assurances. It was inconceivable at the time that one day  Ukraine would request their replacement with US weapons, to be pointed at Russia.

In the last decade Ukraine has been the flashpoint of NATO aggression. In 2014 the United States engineered “the most blatant coup in history” as George Friedman, CEO  of Stratfor, the “shadow CIA”, described it. The US  subsidized it with 5 billion dollars, and engineered it through,  among others, Assistant Secretary  of State Victoria Nuland, whose clearly recorded conversation with the US Ambassador to Ukraine, was hacked and revealed to the world. The coup was led by the Svoboda (Nazi) Party, and also recorded on tape and video as it violently  overthrew democratically-elected Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovich and his government.

Since then, Ukraine has been swiftly developed into a theatre for potential military operations. NATO has conducted exercises. Scripts such as Rapid Trident, involving thousands of Ukrainians and foreigners, have been carried out at Yavoriv, a military base  in Ukraine, in the Black Sea, and elsewhere. The Ukrainian military has become skilled, versatile, flexible and, with the help of NATO countries, especially the US, extremely well- armed. Academi, a private military company  formerly infamous as Blackwater, has been training Ukrainian soldiers  since 2015, especially in city warfare. Ukraine  has developed  a first-class military.

Over the past  two decades  Russian diplomats have exhaustively conveyed their objections to the ever-nearing shadow of NATO in Ukraine, but, after Maidan, Russian troops started to appear in greater numbers on  Ukraine’s eastern border.

As President  Putin observed, “For the US,  Ukraine is a matter of geopolitical dividends. For Russia, it is a matter of life or death”.

Vladimir Zelensky campaigned for President of Ukraine in 2019 on a platform of peace, promising to end the fighting in eastern Ukraine where 14,000  eastern Ukrainians had died in the previous five years resisting the coup-imposed Ukrainian regime. He promised to implement the Minsk accords which entailed withdrawal of troops, meaningful dialogue, amnesty for participants in the fighting, release of prisoners, foreign aid withdrawal, special status for autonomy for Luhansk and Donetsk,  Ukrainian control of the borders, and monitoring by the OSCE, the  European Security and Cooperation organization.

He did not fulfill these campaign promises. Instead, he repeated Ukraine’s intentions to take back the Crimea and suppress the eastern oblasts, in March 2021. Russia’s consternation was expressed in the immediate deployment of tens of thousands of troops to the Ukrainian border.

For the next nine months  Russia attempted to negotiate, without success. And, while NATO and US weapons and expertise  continued to flow into Ukraine, the Russian standing army  grew bigger and bigger on Ukraine’s eastern frontier. Putin reported, “Russia has been forced to respond at every step. The situation keeps worsening and deteriorating. And we are here today, in a situation when we’re forced to resolve it somehow”.

Accompanying  Russia’s final  negotiations proposal, in December 2021, Putin emphasized that he had “a knife at his throat” and “nowhere further to retreat to”.

His proposal again fell on deaf ears.

By now, Russia had amassed an army of over 100,000 troops on its western border with Ukraine. Opposite them Ukraine had itself amassed an army, the advance guard of which had for the previous decade managed to kill an estimated 14,000 eastern Ukrainians resisting the Maidan coup. As a further threat, NATO had sent additional troops and massive armaments to  its member-countries along the Russian border.

Russia repeatedly and steadfastly denied US accusations that it was preparing to invade Ukraine. Ukrainian President Zelensky himself appeared not to believe it.

NATO’s intention was to precipitate an attack. From the legal perspective it was imperative not to be  identified as the aggressor. Russia was aware of  this too. The looming presence of the Russian army on the border was intended be a negotiations tactic,  a forceful demonstration of  Russia’s demand for  security. Russian leadership owed this to its people: the responsibility to protect.

Rather than preparation for attack, the apparition of 100,00  Russian troops was more like a hunger strike. In the case of both, failure is death, and therein lies its strength, but also its weakness. The hunger striker depends on his captor’s interest in his survival, and it  only works if he cares.

By February, U.S. President Biden was fairly dancing with his  news that Russia was on the verge of an attack. On Feb. 15th, the OSCE  reported  that there had been  41  shellings of the Donbas by the Ukranian army. This increased to 756 the next day,  then 316, 654, 1,413, 2,026, 2,026, 1,484, on the successive days. Russia, convinced that an attack was  imminent, despairing of negotiations, persuaded by information contained in a hacked email, and aware of the danger of waiting any longer, launched its “special operation”.

The rest is history as they say. Be it remembered that Russia’s original  casus belli was that Ukraine swear not to become Russia’s official enemy by joining NATO. That was all.

For this, President Zelensky sacrificed his country. In unbelievable images, he armed grandmothers and children( there are pictures of old women being  instructed in the use of  automatic weapons!) to embellish the image of a tiny valiant country  facing a monster. Soon the country was awash with weapons, millions were fleeing,  and  people from other countries were making their way to Ukraine looking for  “profiles in courage”  fighting opportunities.

US congressional backing was practically unanimous. The AUMF had been updated without a murmur. President Biden made  inflammatory comments such as “ This criminal must not remain in power!”  Finland and Sweden asked for NATO membership.

Noam Chomsky, in a May 12th interview by Alternative Radio, condemned Putin’s invasion : “Had Putin been a statesman, would have done something quite different… he would have grasped tentative proposals” made by French President Macron, who since before the invasion had been urging negotiation, and, with them, tried to engage the rest of NATO nations to consider diplomacy  to provide a resolution to  the violence in Ukraine.

Placed in a historical context, Chomsky’s  condemnation is disingenuous.  Macron’s idea for  negotiations  was quickly  suppressed by other NATO members. As above illustrated,  President Putin and  Foreign Minister Lavrov had used every possible  avenue and every opportunity to  negotiate their urgent issues.

And the US and NATO have been on the warpath for decades and were clearly not going to be deterred this time. Biden had stated that he will allow no breaches of US supremacy: “it is not going to happen on my watch”.

China of course is the main enemy: in the words of Anthony Blinken “the most serious challenge to  the long-term US-led world order.” But Russia is a more proximate target. The Administration is fixated on re-election, and war is a time-honored way to gain popularity. Ukraine has  many heart-rending human-interest facets. The facades of ancient ruined buildings, rustic villages with vagrant animals, children with soldiers, are a feast for the media and the armaments industry.

Nancy Pelosi  reassures  President Zelensky that the US will support  Ukraine waging war “until victory”. Other Congress members speak of  persistence “until the last drop of Ukrainian blood”. More and more billions have happily been supplied,  by the US population, to destroy Ukraine. Lloyd Austin makes public the information that a US objective in this co-management of the Ukraine conflict is to “weaken Russia”, a concern which has little to do with the Ukraine, and nothing to do with saving lives. The flow of more and increasingly powerful weapons create a hydra spectacle  confronting the Russians: the more heads are severed, the more grow back.

More destruction, more death.

Our very liberal Representative Huffman urges “we can’t let them win!” in his  weekly radio  interviews.

As well as being providers of weapons, we are active. US intelligence and weapons guidance were complicit in the murders of 12 Russian generals, and in the sinking of the Moskva, star ship of the Russian Navy.

President Biden  wrote on June 1st that “ If Russia does not   pay a heavy price for its actions  it will send  message to other would-be aggressors…”

Of course, Russia has already paid a very heavy price, an especially cruel part of it being that it has destroyed part of itself, its soul, its history. But Biden’s  pronouncement is certainly a warning against crossing NATO or the US, and it is  similar to statements of purpose and objectives, made by  prosecutors  at  the Nuremberg tribunals.

The ICC is in Ukraine  collecting evidence of war crimes. No evidence is needed to charge President Putin of waging a war of aggression. It is worthy of note, however, that the aggression of which the Nuremberg defendants were convicted occurred in the context of vastly different circumstances. They did not have to confront  the mightiest military power the world has ever seen. None of their victims were remotely ready.

Ukraine was very ready. It was a set-up, and Putin lost his balance first.

The ICC is no doubt discovering  facts about crimes against humanity and  crimes violating the laws of war. Much depends here on the integrity of the investigators, as  there is evidence that some of the alleged crimes were staged, or mistaken identities (mobile crematoriums, etc.)

The Nuremberg-formulated crime, the crime of conspiracy to commit a war of aggression, however, has to be laid at the feet of NATO and the US.  Only eight of the original 22 Nuremberg defendants were convicted of this charge. The judgment found that there was a premeditated conspiracy to  commit crimes against  peace, whose goals were “the disruption of the European order as it had existed since  the Treaty of Versailles”, later narrowed to “a conspiracy to wage  aggressive war”.

In the present case, the often-repeated claim that  Russia’s  aggression was unprovoked, is preposterous. The  US assertions of its rights to dominance  are substantiated by  an ample supply of statements such as

“We seek to network our efforts across domains, theaters, and spectrums of conflict to ensure that the US military, in close cooperation with the rest of the US government and our allies and partners, make the folly and costs of aggression very clear”- Kathleen H. Hicks, Assistant Secretary of Defense.

The  oppressive presence of this  bustling and officious dominance,  deliberately provocative, around the world, and  embodied in the  menacing line of military bases and missiles along Russia’s border, is a conspiracy, a threat, to commit the crime of aggressive war.

A cost citizens pay for this kind of totalitarian  assertiveness is also expressed in the Nuremberg judgment: “It was really the recoil of the Nazi blows at liberty that destroyed the Nazi regime. They struck down freedom of  speech and press and other freedoms which pass as ordinary  civil rights with us, so thoroughly that not  even  its highest officers dared to warn the people  or the Fuehrer that they were taking the road to destruction. The Nuremberg trial has put the handwriting on the wall for the oppressor as well as for the oppressed to read.”

Indeed. Many active  and respected  commentators,  experts  and  former members of the military have had their access  to media  outlets  terminated, contracts broken, positions lost, because they have  not jumped on the bandwagon of war.

We must listen to all voices. Putin has   urgently proposed  a remodeled  security architecture,  rapid diminution of weapons,  and multipolarity  in decision-making, collectively designed under the auspices of the United Nations, to replace the current unipolar dominance of the planet. The consequences of such a transformation would be monumental and, if engineered wisely, extremely therapeutic. His ideas  might well improve our chances of survival as we are forced to face the climate, disease and ecological  catastrophes which may lie ahead.

Ellen Taylor can be reached at ellenetaylor@yahoo.com.

Originally published at Counterpunch on June 3, 2022

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3 Responses to "Ellen Taylor: War Crimes, From Nuremberg to Ukraine"

  1. T   June 18, 2022 at 7:31 am

    Does anyone have the source for the allegedly hacked e-mail?

    Reply
  2. psjessen   June 17, 2022 at 4:28 am

    such a gifted article – much appreciated!

    Reply
  3. bruknovi   June 14, 2022 at 11:45 am

    this is the sort of thinking that should be widely discussed and promoted. it is grounded in historical fact, it is clear and not beholden to trends or dogma. it is precisely why it is unfounded to accuse Russia of breaches in international law and war crimes.

    Reply

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