Former US Attorney General brings legal challenge against Iraq War officials

Reuters / Oleg Popov
Members of the Bush administration are being sued for their involvement in the Iraq War by an international team of lawyers, one of whom was former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark. The team was assembled by Sundus Saleh, an Iraqi single mother.

“The invasion resulted in the total destruction of a beautiful, peaceful country,” Saleh told Truthout. “The invasion didn’t destroy only the country’s infrastructure, buildings and heritage; it destroyed millions of families and their dreams.”

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Saleh’s pro bono counsel, San Francisco-based Comar Law, filed an amicus brief on May 27 urging the US Court of Appeals on the Ninth Circuit to review facts and statements of former President George W. Bush, former Vice President Dick Cheney, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other high-ranking members of the Bush administration during the Iraq War.

Former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark told Truthout that Saleh’s case represents a crucial struggle for anyone concerned with human rights.

The lawyers on the team are requesting that the US Court of Appeals hear Saleh’s claim that the US-led Iraq war was illegal under the international system of law created from the Nuremberg trials in the wake of World War II.

“Ms. Saleh alleges that the Iraq war constituted ‘aggression’ as defined by the Nuremberg trials in 1946,” Saleh’s lawyer, Inder Comar, told Truthout. “She is asking the Ninth Circuit to review the holdings of Nuremberg, which it can do, and to apply that law to the facts leading up to the war. She is convinced, as am I, that under Nuremberg, these officials broke domestic and international law in planning and waging the Iraq war.”

An additional amicus brief was filed by the Planethood Foundation, a nonprofit organization founded by Benjamin Ferencz, the last living prosecutor of the Nuremberg trials and advocate for international rule of law.

Clark argues that the lawsuit is important for the US public and for the rule of law – the principle that the United States is based upon.

Saleh’s case asserts that the highest officials of the Bush administration – including former President Bush himself – waged a war of aggression when executing the Iraq War. It claims that they knowingly issued false statements that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and ties to Al-Qaeda to manipulate the public into supporting the war.

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Saleh’s suit was dismissed in December 2014 by the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, ruling that members of the Bush administration had immunity from a civil suit.

Her lawyers are now requesting that the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit overturn that ruling.

Aggressive war was declared as the “supreme international crime” during the Nuremberg trials that convicted the leaders of Nazi Germany for committing such crimes. Out of those trials, which were largely set up by the United States, came a set of international guidelines called the Nuremberg principles, which were created to determine what constitutes a war crime.

There have been numerous attempts to bring lawsuits against President Bush and members of his administration over the war. In September 2005, a German Court declared that the Iraq War violated international law.

In 2006, a criminal complaint was filed in Germany against senior officials, including former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and former CIA Director George Tenet, alleging war crimes. In 2014, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights lodged a criminal complaint against agency heads and high-ranking members of the Bush administration.