Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law in many ways offers nothing new to those who have been following the politics and policies of the current administration. The book, written by President of the National Lawyers Guild, looks at the US War/Occupation of Iraq, the issue of torture, treatment of detainees in Cuba, the NSA spy program, and a general refusal by the Bush Presidency to follow the law. However, after reading this book it became clear that such a book was useful in two ways. First, it provides a nice overview of the major crimes of the current administration, and secondly, it does it in such a way that you don’t need to be a lawyer to understand it.
The book is also timely, as the government gets ready to decide on whether or not to give Bush the additional funding to prosecute the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. People will be reminded of the illegality of the initial US invasion of Iraq, the constant violations of international law, the disregard for the Geneva Convention in promoting torture in detention centers in Iraq and Cuba, the slaughter of innocents in Fallujah, Haditha and numerous other cities, and the deporting of “terror suspects” to foreign torture chambers known as extraordinary rendition. Considering that the corporate news has a short memory on these things, this book is an important reminder of what atrocities have been committed in the name of the “war on terror.”
At the same time, Cowboy Republic, has some significant shortcomings. First, the book pretty much lets the Democrats off the hook on these matters. In the introduction she says, “Congress passed a bill that would bring the troops home from Iraq by 2008, but President Bush vetoed it.” This is a true statement, but she provides no analysis of how the Democrats have pretty much supported the ongoing US occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, the torture centers, the NSA spy program, and the failure to prosecute high-ranking officials for torture, extrajudicial executions and violations of international law. The other failure of this book is that it provides no real call to action. There is no organizing component and not even a sense of urgency about what the American public can do to stop the ongoing war crimes being committed by the US government. This is unfortunate since Richard Falk, in the forward to this book, provides some framework for accountability. Falk speaks about international law and provides the example of Lt. Watada, who disobeyed orders to deploy to Iraq. Watada understands what he is obligated to do and is following the provisions laid out in the US Army Field Manual, which states that a soldier must disobey an unlawful order. For Watada, participating in an illegal war would violate his legal obligations to international law, even as a US soldier. Falk also cites the American prosecutor at Nuremberg, Robert Jackson who clearly understood that the only reason that US Generals and policy makers were not tried for war crimes is because they were the victors. However, the rulings in Nuremberg have universal application that must be advocated for today. Jackson says, “We must never forget that the record on which we judge these defendants today is the record on which history will judge us tomorrow. To pass these defendants a poisoned chalice is to put it to our lips as well.” While Cowboy Republic, provides readers with the information necessary to see the current administration’s war crimes it does not forcefully advocate for the prosecution of those crimes.
Marjorie Cohn, Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law, (PoliPoint Press, 2007).