E PLURIBUS UNUM
"If the Nuremberg laws were applied, then every post-war American president would have been hanged." - Noam Chomsky
Following the Second World War, a US Army Commission sentenced Japanese General Tomayuki Yamashita to be hung for atrocities committed by troops under his command in the Philippines. Yamashita had not ordered the atrocities, but it was held by the Commission that the senior commander was responsible for not stopping the actions of his troops, and Yamashita was hung. In 1971, Telford Taylor, the chief US prosecutor at the Nuremberg Tribunal, cited the "Yamashita" case as grounds for indicting General Westmoreland, senior commander in Vietnam, for war crimes committed by US soldiers under his command. General Yamashita had argued quite convincingly, in his defense, that he had been cut off from his troops and was unaware of their actions, but as Taylor pointed out, given the capabilities of modern communications technologies, Westmoreland would not have had this problem. One may wonder why Taylor stopped at Westmoreland and had not logically moved up the chain of command, but accompanied with the facts of 60 years of US foreign policy, while using the case of General Yamashita as precedence, we can speculate on how our presidents may have faired if accused of war crimes before an impartial jury (or at least the kind of impartiality that Yamashita faced). But perhaps even more importantly, it should be noted that insofar as our “commander-in-chief,” is indeed a representative of the public (and one could certainly argue to the contrary) then perhaps so to should the public, or at least the enfranchised political classes, be viewed as accomplices in the crimes of elected officials.