Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Welcoming a war criminal

According to the PM's press conference yesterday, General John Abizaid will be visiting New Zealand sometime soon. Abizaid is commander of CENTCOM, responsible for the US occupation of Iraq. He is also, by any reasonable definition, a war criminal. Quite apart from his role in the invasion of Iraq - an illegal war of aggression waged without the authorization of the UN Security Council - Abizaid bears command responsibility for the abuses at Abu Ghraib (and has said as much). There are also credible reports that he ignored warnings that prisoners were being abused in his command. According to Seymour Hersh's book, Chain of Command,

an army officer communicated concerns over abuses at Abu Ghraib both to General John Abizaid, the US central command (Centcom) chief at the time, and his deputy, General Lance Smith.

The officer told Hersh: "I said there are systematic abuses going on in the prisons. Abizaid didn't say a thing. He looked at me - beyond me, as if to say, 'Move on. I don't want to touch this.'" Centcom has disputed the allegation.

This is not someone we should be letting into the country, except for the purposes of arresting them and turning them over to a competent international tribunal for trial (something likely barred by existing treaties with the US). But rather than seeing Abizaid get the justice he deserves, Clark will probably shake his hand - just as she did with Pakistan's President Musharraf.

Update: It seems that Clark's meeting with a war criminal was supposed to be secret, and was not supposed to be announced. Well, that's one way of limiting public critcism, I guess.