News Release

Bush, Rumsfeld: War Criminals


On Wednesday afternoon, Secretary of State Blinken released a statement: “War Crimes by Russia’s Forces in Ukraine.”

On Tuesday, Republicans accused Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson of calling George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld “war criminals.” Many media outlets noted inaccuracies in the statements by Republicans, but virtually none examined if the charge was actually true.

Calhoun is author of several books, including We Kill Because We Can: From Soldiering to Assassination in the Drone Age.

She said today: “There is a strong presumption against criticizing retired (or expired) government officials, which seems to be based on a mythical picture of what they are supposed to do, as opposed to what they actually do. To claim that George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld are/were ‘war criminals’ is to condemn them, but it is also the conclusion of a simple inference: if the 2003 war on Iraq was a violation of international law, then its perpetrators were war criminals, and all of those killed in the conflict were victims, whether directly or indirectly, of premeditated, intentional homicide, better known as murder.

“The United States government has been permitted since World War II to invade sovereign nations with effective impunity for the simple reason that they were positioned to crush anyone who disagreed. Unfortunately, U.S. citizens have become inured to mass homicide when inflicted on other states — well, at least some of them. In the current crisis in Ukraine, the government of Russia has blundered ahead with its invasion under the assumption that MAD (mutually assured destruction) logic will prevail, preventing a direct conflict between two nuclear-armed states, just as in the proxy wars throughout the Cold War.

“The question which must be asked is: how much destruction and how many lives will be sacrificed on behalf of power elites unwilling to undertake meaningful negotiations because they themselves stand to lose nothing, while military industry stands to profit handsomely from the conflict? The ghastly war in Yemen and resultant humanitarian crisis continues to be supported by the United States for the very same cynical reasons and yet is nearly never mentioned in the press. Both Ukraine and Yemen demonstrate that, notwithstanding the strident rhetoric of policy makers, the lives of human beings are not a significant factor in crafting U.S. foreign policy.”

See 2006 IPA release: “Bush Administration and Legal Accountability.” See 2009 analysis by the late Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, on prosecution of Bush administration officials. Also see “Farewell to Donald Rumsfeld, Dreary War Criminal” in The Intercept from 2021.