The President’s Lawyer and Fallujah’s Hospital

Revolutionary Worker #1259, November 21, 2004, posted at

Just hours before the main attack on Fallujah, Green Berets stormed Fallujah’s main civilian hospital. They had several reasons for targeting the hospital. It sits near a strategic bridge across the Euphrates River. And, in the coming battle, the flood of injured civilians into that hospital was expected to produce images that the U.S. high command wanted to prevent from reaching the world’s TV screens.

An embedded New York Times reporter describes how U.S. officials made "little secret of their irritation" at the civilian casualty figures that had come from that hospital over the last year, providing "propaganda, they believe, for the Fallujah insurgents."

So, to prevent the world from seeing the injured and dying people of Fallujah, the U.S. Army seized that hospital at gunpoint—before this round of fighting even started—and are holding it under tight U.S. control. Squads of armed men broke in and took over the hospital. There were no armed fighters in the hospital, and the Green Berets encountered no opposition.

The U.S. refused to allow the hospital’s doctors to move into Fallujah to serve the people there —and it was reported that not a single surgeon remained in the city.

Such attacks on civilian hospitals are highly illegal under international law - for obvious reasons. The Fourth Geneva Convention, in particular, is very clear: "Civilian hospitals organized to give care to the wounded and sick, the infirm and maternity cases, may in no circumstances be the object of attack but shall at all times be respected and protected by the Parties to the conflict."

The U.S. government signed these international treaties which govern the treatment of prisoners, the protection of hospitals, the forbidding of torture, and so on. But the U.S. military now has high-level permission to ignore them.

Alberto Gonzales, Bush’s White House counsel, produced a now-famous memo that called these Geneva Conventions "quaint" and said they were outdated for this "war on terrorism."

The Gonzales memo was part of a discussion, at the highest levels, over allowing torture of prisoners captured by the U.S. This memo created the conditions for Abu Ghraib. And it helped form the legal justification for this pre- emptive attack on Fallujah General Hospital.

While the doctors of Fallujah were hog-tied and terrorized by armed commandos, while severely injured patients were interrogated at gunpoint—this same Alberto Gonzales was being nominated to become the new U.S. Attorney General.

Gonzales (who so far faces no serious challenge from Democrats) would now be put in charge of the FBI and federal prosecutions of the U.S. government. He will be in an excellent position to decide which laws and legal rights within the U.S. are now "quaint," outdated and should simply be ignored.