The news media has been framing the resignation of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld as a “sea of change” in Washington. However, all the coverage of Rumsfeld’s announcement omitted any serious review or investigation of his role in War Crimes during his tenure as head of the Department of Defense (DoD). On November 14, the Center for Constitutional Rights will file a War Crimes Complaint against Donald Rumsfeld in a German court. The complaint is brought on behalf of 12 torture victims consisting of 11 Iraqi citizens who were held at Abu Ghraib prison and one Guantánamo detainee and charges numerous high ranking US officials for “authorizing war crimes.” This effort is part of a growing campaign by groups like Human Rights First and War Crimes Watch (a new website devoted to educating people on war crimes and holding those responsible accountable) to hold Rumsfeld accountable for his actions.
The local news media’s response was right in line with the national media in that there was no mention of Rumsfeld’s role in war crimes. In fact, besides running comments from Bush and Rumsfeld the only other voices heard were those of Senator Carl Levin and Representatives Pete Hoekstra and Vern Ehlers. Hoekstra was quoted in the Grand Rapids Press saying he was concerned about the troops. Ehlers responded more directly to the resignation by saying “’It was more than time to get new perspectives in there,’ said Ehlers, R-Grand Rapids. ‘That’s not saying anything against Rumsfeld. He’s a very capable guy. Six years is a long time in a job like that and it really can wear on you.’”
Bush’s nominee to replace Rumsfeld, former CIA director Robert Gates, was also part of the resignation story, but like the war crimes omission for Rumsfeld there was no critical assessment of Gates. Gates was CIA Director under George Bush Sr., a member of the intelligence community in the 1980s, and was implicated in the Iran Contra scandal and the illegal weapons trafficking to Iraq during their war with Iran in the 1980s (see declassified US government documents online at the National Security Archive) Investigative reporter Robert Parry, who broke the Iran/Contra scandal for Newsweek, provides an excellent analysis of Gates’ record in previous administrations as does James Ridgeway writing for Mothers Jones Magazine.
The local Grand Rapids anti-war group ACTIVATE sent out a media release today in an attempt to have these perspectives on Rumsfeld and Gates part of the public discussion, calling on local media outlets to report on both the war crimes lawsuit against Rumsfeld as well as Gate’s history.