CNN Asks If Bush Officials Should Be Tried for War Crimes

A CNN headline during Tuesday's 11 a.m. hour of Newsroom asked, "Should Bush officials be tried for war crimes?" CNN legal analyst Lisa Bloom argued that the U.S. should submit to the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court for the mass murder of Iraqis that far exceeded the 9/11 atrocities.

Bloom downplayed the 9/11 terror attacks in the face of the Iraq War. When anchor Ashleigh Banfield noted that America responded to 9/11 with force and not in a "sanguine" manner, Bloom compared it to the Iraqi casualty count: "And that was 4,000, not 100,000, not 10 years."

Bloom added this gem about Bush being held accountable for "murdering" Iraqis: "if someone invaded our country based on false premises and murdered 100,000 to a million of our people, as we are accused of doing in Iraq, depending on whose estimate you believe, would we be so sanguine? Would we be so forgiving? Or would we demand some accountability?"

Anchor Ashleigh Banfield lended to Bloom's cause: "And we didn't go to court, we want to war. We didn't go to court," she remarked.

Yet Bloom was so far out in left field, the liberal Banfield sounded rational giving the argument for not tangling with the ICC. Bloom responded, "But isn't that interesting, because if we want others to be held accountable for war crimes, why shouldn't we accept jurisdiction of the same court?"

Only at the very end of the segment did Banfield nix the prospect of a trial: "I think it's also critical to say to our audience that the International Criminal Court can prosecute for genocide, for war crimes, for crimes against humanity, but this incursion, this action in Iraq is actually qualified as a crime of aggression, and that that doesn't come – that's not covered."

Bloom has jumped off the deep end before, once implying that supporters of Proposition 8 were "lunatic-fringe bigots" and in a 2008 CBS report on police brutality, comparing police officers to murder convicts and suspects.

During Tuesday's segment, she also compared the deaths in Iraq to U.S. atrocities in Vietnam:

"In Vietnam, there is an American war crimes museum, where you can look at all of the terrible things that the United States did, like dropping Agent Orange in Vietnam. There are many countries in the world where we are not welcomed. We are not seen as this wonderful, wonderful force. And I want to emphasize Americans are welcomed in Vietnam, but what we did there is remembered and it's acknowledged. And I think the same thing is going to happen in Iraq."

A transcript of the segment, which aired on CNN Newsroom on March 19 at 11:36 a.m. EDT, is as follows:

[11:36]

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD: The Bush administration went to war in Iraq 10 years ago today for two main reasons.

[HEADLINE: "Legacy of Iraq War: Should Bush officials be tried for war crimes?"]

BANFIELD: They claimed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and could possibly use them against the United States, and that Saddam Hussein was involved with al Qaeda prior to the 9/11 attacks. Well, today, we know both of those claims proved to be false. Since the war, there have been demands that Mr. Bush and members of his administration, including former Vice President Dick Cheney, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and former CIA director George Tenet, be tried for war crimes. But can they be or should they be? There is one very famous man who says yes. Bishop Desmond Tutu, a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, and the Anglican Church Archbishop of South Africa says they should, they should be tried. Our legal analyst Lisa Bloom, here in New York with me, is an expert on the International Criminal Court. There are so many issues, Lisa, when it comes to this kind of a thing. It is a sticky issue, it is a difficult issue, but a lot of people think why hasn't there been any litigation?

LISA BLOOM, CNN legal analyst: And when you think about it more broadly, there have been a number of world leaders who have been prosecuted in international criminal courts. In South Africa, which of course had the Apartheid regime for many, many years, a brutal regime responsible for the deaths of many of its own people, no one was prosecuted, ironically. In fact, they had the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which encouraged everybody, essentially, to talk to each other in commissions, acknowledge responsibility, and forgive. And yet Bishop Tutu, as you say, a very respected world leader, is now calling on President Bush to be prosecuted.

BANFIELD: So we are not signatories here in the United States of the International Criminal Court, and for good reason, Americans don't want to be prosecuted in criminal court.

(Crosstalk)

BANFIELD: We don't want our soldiers hauled off of battlefields and thrown into international criminal courts.

BLOOM: But isn't that interesting, because if we want others to be held accountable for war crimes, why shouldn't we accept jurisdiction of the same court?

BANFIELD: Let me ask you this, too. Isn't it a fair defense to say, it was a mistake? It was not intentional, it was not reckless. It was not -- aren't these fair defenses, if this were, in fact, the case?

BLOOM: Think of it this way, if someone invaded our country based on false premises and murdered 100,000 to a million of our people, as we are accused of doing in Iraq, depending on whose estimate you believe, would we be so sanguine? Would we be so forgiving? Or would we demand some accountability –

BANFIELD: Well, someone did come to our country and murder 4,000 people on September 11, and we weren't sanguine about it. We were very offended by it.

BLOOM: And that was 4,000, not 100,000, not 10 years, and not –

(Crosstalk)

BANFIELD: And we didn't go to court, we want to war. We didn't go to court.

BLOOM: That's right. And not under the aegis of a foreign government. So I just returned from a trip to Vietnam. In Vietnam, there is an American war crimes museum, where you can look at all of the terrible things that the United States did, like dropping Agent Orange in Vietnam. There are many countries in the world where we are not welcomed. We are not seen as this wonderful, wonderful force. And I want to emphasize Americans are welcomed in Vietnam, but what we did there is remembered and it's acknowledged. And I think the same thing is going to happen in Iraq.

BANFIELD: I think it's also critical to say to our audience that the International Criminal Court can prosecute for genocide, for war crimes, for crimes against humanity, but this incursion, this action in Iraq is actually qualified as a crime of aggression, and that that doesn't come – that's not covered. So unfortunately, it just can't be. I have to leave it there, but it is such a somber occasion. And I'm glad you were here to mark it on the legal side of it all. Lisa Bloom, thank you.
 

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014