What are the key differences between the roles of perpetrators in Nazi Germany and Rwandan Genocide?


Genocide and Mass murder do not just happen overnight, although each case has its own uniqueness, there are always underlying reasons that can be attributed to the reasons perpetrators of genocide commit such horrific atrocities. The Rwandan and the Holocaust genocides are two of the most disturbing human tragedies of modern times, in terms of the scale of the killings, and the way in which they were carried out. The essay question asks about the key differences of the roles of perpetrators, in this case Rwanda and the Holocaust genocides. I feel that this essay will not make sense if I only look the differences only, so rather than exploring their differences only, the essay will explore their differences as well as what they have in common.

Furthermore, it would not be right just to examine the key differences of the perpetrators of these two cases without first knowing the underlying causes of their crimes. First, this essay examines the crises that led the genocide in Rwanda and Nazi Germany respectively; than the essay will identify the perpetrators in each case study and point out the role they played in implementing the genocide. And finally, the essay examines the key differences and similarities of the two perpetrators in my case studies

Crises that led the genocide in Rwanda and Nazi Germany

There are many explanations and interpretations of the root cause of the Rwandan genocide, namely demographic and ethnic conflict, economic and socials crises, and colonialism (Hintjens, 1999, p.243). My argument is that, although all these crises were facilitating factor, the root cause of Rwandan genocide can directly be attributed to German and Belgian colonial policies (Man, 2005). The Hutu and Tutsi lived peacefully side by side for generations (Valentino, 2004) , it was the colonial policies of ‘divide and rule’ that encouraged and paved the way for the ethnic hatred and conflict that led the 1994 genocide. The Belgian colonialism favoured and elevated the Tutsi and marginalized the Hutu, (Man, 2005, p.443) this led to a ‘political struggle after the colonialist have gone’ (Valentino, 2004, p.178) this further led Hutus believe that their salvations will not be achieved without the extermination of their Tutsi country men. (Barnett, 2002)

Further, Belgian colonialism introduced identity cards that showed each individual’s ethnicity; this system clearly identified who is Hutu and who is Tutsi. This led the racialization of the two groups (Valentino, 2004, p.178)

Gourevitch explains how “The identity cards made it virtually impossible for Hutus to become Tutsi, and permitted the Belgians to perfect the administration of an apartheid system rooted in the myth of Tutsi superiority” (Gourevitch, 1999, p.57) Therefore the ethnic separation is a major factor that contributed the genocide of Tutsis. Mahmoud Mamdani states that before one tries to eradicate his enemies, one needs to define and identify it (Mamdani, 2001, p.9). It was the colonial policy of identifying one’s ethnicity on ID cards that allowed many Tutsi victims to be easily identified and got killed. Mamdani further argues that ‘the Rwandan genocide thus needs to be thought of within the logic of colonialism’ (Mamdani, 2001, p.9)

While I emphasised the importance of colonial role in Rwandan genocide, another valid view that one cannot ignore is the notion that economic crisis contributed or paved the way for the genocide. The austerity measures imposed by the IMF and World Bank precipitated the population into poverty (Kamola, 2007) furthermore, the fall of coffee prices in international market has deteriorated the nation’s economy this further ‘exacerbated simmering ethnic tension and accelerated the process of genocide’ (chossudovsky, 1999, p.938).

In contrast there were no ethnic conflict in Germany, Jews did not fight with the German people, nor did they perpetrate a mass murder (lemarchand, 2008). The motive behind their mass murder was deep rooted and premeditated (Lemarchand, 2008). None the less, there were series of crisis that paved the way for the making of the holocaust, for example the social and economic crises that followed immediately after the defeat of the WW1 (Hintjens, 1999, p.242), and the growing resentment against Jews by the Nazis and their sympathisers. ‘Historians have offered increasingly complex analyses of economic and political forces that preceded the Holocaust and presumably contributed to it’ (Staub, 1989, p.32).

Although Hitler’s hatred for Jews is evident in his Book Mein Kemp, there are arguments amongst historian whether such hatred is adequate enough to explain the holocaust (Kershaw, 2000) ‘given a background of widespread racial anti-Semitism and ideological hatred of Jews in Germany’ (Kershaw, 2000, p.103) But, ultimately it was the Nazi ideology that led to the making of the Holocaust. (Valentino, 2004, p.169) Unlike Rwanda where the genocide was based on ethnic hatred between Hutu and Tutsi, the Nazi Genocide was motivated by ‘ideological rooted in an illusionary world of Nazi imagination, where an international Jewish conspiracy to control the world was opposed to a parallel Aryan quest’ (Bauer, 2002, p.48)


To perpetrate is ‘to carry out or commit a harmful, illegal, or immoral action’ (Oxford Dictionary, 2011) perpetrators in both Rwanda and the Nazi Germany did exactly the same but in different ways. But who are these perpetrators who committed these heinous crimes? A clear explanation of this question requires a theoretical explanation; Functionalism and Intentionlism offer such explanations.

Functionalist states that the Rwandan genocide was not premeditated as perpetrators ‘did not plan genocide policies until several months before the genocide’ (Wienerlibrary, 2011) also the Arusha Peace agreements was a factor in carrying out the genocide because the ‘ potential loss of power felt by the Hutu dominated government following the signing of the agreement’ (ibid) whereas intentionlist argue that the mass murder of the Tutusi was planned well before the 1994 genocide. Unlike Nazi Holocaust the Rwandan perpetrators were easy to identify, because they did not try to hide their intentions. The political role played by the late president Habyarimana was clear, his ‘redefinition of national identity along the racial and ethnic lines as well as rallying his fellow Hutu ethnic group against minority Tutsi became the prelude for later implementation of 1994 genocide’ (Hintjens, 1999, p.242)

For the Holocaust, there are different interpretations of identifying the Holocaust perpetrators, Intentionlist theory offers different views from that of functionalist, it identifies perpetrates as the Nazi elites. They believed that it was Hitler’s intention and objective to exterminate the Jews as early as 1919 (Kershaw, 2000). In other words it was an order from the highest ‘evil elite’. Other interpretations say that ‘there was no extermination plan by Hitler, but the plan of annihilation of the Jews gradually developed institutionally and in practice out of individual actions down to early 1942 and gained determinative character after the construction of the concentration camps in Poland’ (Kershaw, 2000, pp.40-42) in contrast, the functionalist spreads responsibility rather than blame the ‘evil elite’ as main perpetrators. They see Nazi policies as a ‘series of ad hoc response of splintered and disorderly government machinery’ (Kershaw, 2000, p.96)

The difference

The Rwandan and Holocaust genocides are two of the most heinous crimes against humanity of modern times (Lemarchand, 2002). Each of them is important in its own right; however they differ in many ways. The genocide in Rwanda is indeed different form that of the holocaust, because Rwandan genocide is a product of ethnic conflict, but most importantly a product of a civil war in which Hutu wanted to settle a score with their Tutsi country men, this is a unique to Rwanda.

The perpetrator’s motive in Rwandan genocide can be regarded as ‘retributive’, because the Hutu felt that the political process that was negotiated Tanzanian town of Arusha could threaten their interest. (fein, 1999, p.160) (Newbury, 2003, pp.135-45) There are several factors that make this genocide ‘retributive’ one factor is the historic victimization of Hutus by the colonial rulers as well as the Tutsi monarchy in the past helped contribute the Hutu’s transformation from being victims to perpetrators. Another factor would be the economic and political crises the regime faced in early 1990s; the structural adjustment placed by IMF further exacerbated the situation of the country (Lemarchand, 2002). But most importantly, the Tutsi dominated RPF’s (Rwandan Patriotic Front) troops which marched into Rwanda from Uganda increased the hostilities between the two groups and certainly, resulted anti-Tutsi campaign (Lemarchand, 2002). (Lemarchand, 2002a) therefore, ‘Their mutation from victims to killers is inscribed in the complex history of Tutsi domination and colonial rule’ (Lemarchand, 2002a, p.307).

And finally unlike, the Holocaust, Rwandan genocide was engineered by the regime and its elites, it was facilitated by the ‘local authorities’ and executed by the public. It was highly planned in its implementations and it was retributive in this sense (Nash, 2007) And as Valentino (2004) pointed out, there two explanations as to way ordinary Hutus turned into perpetrators and took part the mass killing of their fellow Tutsi, the first reason is thought to be ‘obedience to authority’, and second is ‘Rwanda’s unique system of peacetime civilian mobilization campaigns for public works’ (Valentino, 2004, p.37)

Indeed the Rwandan genocide was unique in its own right, because the scale of the killing was more shocking than might have been anticipated. In spite of the “Never Again” pledge by international community to prevent genocide following the Holocaust, such pledges did not materialise (Jones, 2010). Unlike the Holocaust, there was clear evidence that the international community was aware of the tell-tale signs of the Rwandan crisis, because ‘numerous warnings of impending genocide were transmitted’ through NGOs and UN organizations. (Jones, 2010, p.346) (Amnesty international, 1992).

Not only are the ‘roles’ of the perpetrators of both cases are different in some respect, but that the perpetrators themselves are different, for example although the Nazis may have initiated the killing of the Jews, there were people who were not Nazis that contributed the mass killings of the Jews, for example the Jews in France would probably never have been sent to their deaths, were it not for the decision of the then French government to agree the deportations of its Jews population (telegraph.co.uk, 2009) We cannot call these people bystanders nor can we call them victims, indeed they were perpetrators even though they did not shed any blood. Evidence suggests that ‘the Nazi officials did not force them to betray their fellow citizens, but that anti-Semitic persecution was carried out willingly’ (telegraph.co.uk, 2009).

Coincidently, it was the same government that was accused of ‘playing an active role’ in the Rwandan genocide (BBC, 2008). Because France was aware of the worsening condition of Rwanda both pre-genocide and during the genocide. France ‘maintained good relations with the elites that eventually perpetrated the genocide’ (Kroslak, 2007, p.4) therefore ‘government documents and interviews support the arguments that the French government bears responsibility for its inaction in relation to the prevention and suppression of the genocide’ (Kroslak, 2007, p.4) therefore, although France did not actively took part the killing of the Tutus in this case it was both a bystander and a perpetrator.

Unlike Rwandan Genocide the Holocaust was not retributive in nature, nor it was caused by ethnic conflict and certainly the Nazi perpetrators were not victims which turned perpetrators, it was deep rooted Nazi belief to wipe out the Jews of Europe it was deep rooted Nazi racist and anti-Semitic ideology (Lemarchand, 2002). Unlike The Rwandan genocide, the holocaust was all about ideology rather than retributive. Intentionlist argue that it was Hitler and his elites that planned and perpetrated the genocide, (Kershaw, 2000, p.98) however Daniel Goldhagen argues that anti-Semitism ideology was deeply embedded in the German culture and it was the same ‘anti-Semitism that led the perpetrators to consent to killing Jews’ (Goldhagen, 1996) in other words Goldhagen targets the entire German populations rather than the few elites.

Unlike Rwandan genocide, the mass killings of the Jews was physically carried out by German ‘military, its police’, and even military of friendly countries and none German populations (ibid) this makes the holocaust a unique in its own right. Because it was state led policy to ‘annihilate physically every man, woman, and child belonging to a specific people’ (Roth, 2009, p.27) furthermore, whereas the RPF rebels invaded Rwanda before the genocide took place with the support of a neighbouring country namely Uganda, the Jews in Germany did not ‘invade Germany with the military support of any country’ (Lemarchand, 2009, p.91) a conclusion one can draw here is that, the Tutsis along with the RPF were more threatening than the Jews of Germany.

Other key differences between these two cases are; the Tutsi population in Rwanda was roughly 14 per cent, in comparison to Jews in Germany which were a much smaller. All the killings against the Tutsis and moderate Hutus took place within Rwanda, whereas most of the killing of Jews took place outside Germany. What is particularly unique about Rwandan perpetrators is the scale and speed of their killings, and of the Hutu’s determination to wipe out the entire Tutus population. Nearly a million Tutsis were killed in hundred days, whereas the six million holocaust victims lasted up to four years. (Straus, 2009, p.279) And the ‘The relevant social, economic, and political structures of Rwanda—in terms of class structure, industrialization, economic activities, education, polity, political party formation, and political leadership, were all varied fairly considerably’ (Straus, 2009, p.279)

In Rwanda the perpetrator’s method of killing was simple but effective. Unlike the industrial killings of the holocaust, it was ‘low-tech’ in nature (Straus, 2006). The mass killing was not as organized as that of the holocaust, this is because most of the killing took place different parts of rural areas of the country, simple tools such as machetes and hoes were used to kill almost a million people within short time (Straus, 2006), compared to the millions killed in the holocaust. Furthermore, the killing was carried out in public, it was ‘crowd-enforced and neighbour sometimes killed neighbour’ (Straus, 2006, p.1)

Common similarities

The Rwandan and Holocaust genocide cannot be easily compared as each case is unique in its own right. However they do have something in common, in both cases propaganda played a major factor for the preparation and implementations of the genocide. In both cases, international community failed to protect the Jews and Tutus, despite clear sings of impending genocide (Amnesty international, 1992). And in both cases the roots of genocide can be linked to the combination of revolution, war and economic and political crises prior to the genocide (Lemarchand, 2002), But most importantly, their major similarities are ‘the extent of ideological and military preparation prior to genocide, and in the systematic use of conspiracy theories and myths to justify covert plans for slaughter’ (Hintjens, 1999, p.2)0

In conclusion, this essay has argued that, it is not simple task to just state the differences of Rwandan and Holocaust genocides without first understanding and examining the underlying causes that led some of our fellow human beings to commit such heinous crimes under the watchful of the so called international community. Having acknowledged other factors such as social and ethnic hatred between Hutu and Tutsi that contributed the Rwandan genocide; this essay argued it’s the policies of colonialism, and IMF’s neoliberal economic structural adjustment that paved the way for 1994 Rwandan Genocide.

Similarly, economic and social crises are also factors that contributed the Holocaust genocide, but the Nazi policies towards the Jews outweigh these factors, because social and economic crisis alone cannot justify the heinous crime against the Jews of Europe. The essay further argued that whereas the Rwandan genocide was retributive, the Holocaust was an ideology ‘rooted in an illusionary world of Nazi imagination, where an international Jewish conspiracy to control the world was opposed to a parallel Aryan quest’ (Bauer, 2002, p.48).

Although Both Rwandan and Holocaust genocide are unique in their own rights they share similarities and at the same time greatly differ. One important aspect of their similarities is the role of perpetrators played in the both genocides. France as a perpetrator (though not directly took part in the killing) collaborated with the Nazis by deporting and handing over hundreds of Jews to Nazi. Coincidently, it’s the French government that also played an important role in the Rwandan genocide by giving diplomatic support and military aid to the Rwanda government whose soldiers and agents perpetrated a crime against humanity. Despite the international community’s never again pledge, mass murder and genocides continue to take place under watchful eyes of international community.


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To what extent did US foreign policy after 9/11 undergo a radical shift?


Undoubtedly most of world’s political commentators agree that, the 9/11 attacks on the US have drastically changed how it views the rest of the world and how it conducts its foreign policy. But in order to understand the extent of this radical change, one needs to glance back to where US’s foreign policy stood before 9/11. Although America has been involved in various wars since its inception, there were period that it adopted a policy of “none intervention or isolationism”. This is due to combination of the 1930s depression and the disastrous loses of World War I (US department of State, 2011). During this period the US seemed to choose not to get involved with European and Asian conflicts and ‘non- entanglement’ in international politics (US department of State, 2011). It’s also important to point out that there are other arguments which reject the notion of US isolationism and called it a ‘myth’ (Rubin, 2002, p.29) and they support their arguments by claiming that “American policy up to World War I was always filled with messy diplomatic and military disputes with European powers, China and Japan” (Rubin, 2002).

During the end of the Second World War and subsequent international politics the US foreign policy was aimed at containing the Soviet communism, and when Bush junior took over the white house in 2001, his administration mainly focused on domestic issues and some of his major foreign policies was the implementation of the “missile shield” programme to be installed in Eastern Europe (Crawford, 2004). But after the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, President Bush adopted a radical shift in his country foreign policy and how it interacts international community. ‘A decisive policy shift from pre 9/11 strategy of containment to post 9/11 strategy of regime change’ (Litwak, 2007, p.xiii)

This essay argues that, although the principal US foreign policy always stays the same, because it always puts its national interest first before anything else, and ‘very much in keeping with the vision of America’s founding generation and the practice of the statesmen in the Early Republic’ (Owens, 2008, p.1) it has undergone a radical shift in many ways since 9/11. Nevertheless, the post-9/11 strategies of Bush Administration do mark a radical shift in U.S. foreign policy objectives. Specific areas such as unilateralism, pre-emptive attack, regime change, human rights violations and George W. Bush era are the main objective this essay is going to focus. But before I talked about these radical shifts one need to understand the theories and school of thought that has affected and shaped American foreign policy making process.

W. R Mead In his book (Special providence: American foreign policy and how it changed the world) argues that, there are four distinct school of foreign policy that shaped US foreign policy. (Mead, 2001, p.xvii) These schools have established as Mead further put it “Basic ways of conducting US foreign policy” (ibid). “Hamiltonian” for example gives emphases to relationship between US government and corporations domestically and internationally. “Wilsonians” advocate the spread of American values, further emphasizing the importance of international cooperation. (Mead, 2001) Jeffersonian seems to be radical in their foreign policy in comparison to ‘Hamiltonians’ and ‘Wilsonians’ unlike these two schools of thought, Jeffersonian focuses on protecting American interest in an anarchic world. (ibid) and finally, Meeds ends his list that “Jacksonians believe that the united states should not seek out foreign war, but when other nations start wars with US, Jacksoinian opinion agree with that of Gen Douglas MacArthur that “there is no substitute for victory” (Mead, 2001) these four schools have therefore guided US foreign policy from its inception to present.

So now I have pointed out the theories behind US foreign policy and how such theories guided and influenced its relationship with the rest of the world. Than the question is what is the radical shift that has taken place in US foreign policy? One of the major foreign policy shifts the US has undergone since 9/11 is, under President Bush’s (junior) administration, is the US has retreated from multilateral involvement and adopted ‘unilateral imperialism’ approach (Crawford, 2004, p.686). And this was clearly evident with respect to 2003 Iraq invasion, whereby the US and its coalition of the willing went to war without UN authorizations.

Since 9/11 US foreign policy has undergone a major shift to a particular direction, the direction of pre-emptive attack due to the influence of the ideology of ‘unilateral imperialism’ theory led by neo-conservative elements within Bush administration such as Dick Cheney (Rogers, 2008). Furthermore, Bush made it clear that the United States would hunt and destroys what he called the terrorist training camps wherever they might be and thus pursued a robust and hostile foreign policy. This clearly implies that the US would carry out unilateral attack on terrorist suspects within sovereign states without asking for permission, and example of this would be the recent killing of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan which was allegedly carried out without the consent of Pakistani government. Therefore the traditional approach to US foreign policy such as deterrence, containment and sanctions seems to be inadequate or had no place in Bush’s form of foreign policy (Owens, 2008, p.4)


9/11 undoubtedly changed US direction which saw US aggressively involved internationally, invading Afghanistan and Iraq ‘following an either you are with us or against us foreign policy (Kaufman, 2010, p.140)’. Therefore as result of this policy shift Iraq was invaded, an invasion that was not ‘legitimate defensive move’, by the US, but rather an illegal war that the then UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan explicitly said violated the UN Charter and international rule of law. (Kramer & Michalowski, 2005) In this respect a crime was committed, and the crime was the violation of international law by the US and its allies (Kramer & Michalowski, 2005).

The underlying claimed that Iraq possess Weapon of Mass destruction ‘that might eventually be used against the United States, either directly or through terrorist networks’ was not substantiated, therefore President bush pursued a policy of democratization in the Middle East and Iraq in particular, because as Toby Dodge argued, “the realist approach embraced by his predecessors which openly supported dictators because they were allied with the US was abandoned instead, the aim was to implement force democratisation in the Middle East” (Dodge, 2008) Therefore George W. Bush’s foreign policy particularly his rhetoric to spread democracy in the Middle East signifies a radical shift in comparison to his previous Administrations (Owens, 2008, p.2) because unlike George W. Bush, the previous predecessors accepted the status quo in the Middlesex East, partly because the region is ruled by dictators that are loyal or friendly to the US, and partly because there was and is the fear that democratic Middle East is most likely going to result the rise of Islamist governments. The leading liberal democracy nation, the United States’ Democracy promotion has always been its foreign policy goals but, the post 9/11 Democracy rhetoric and the way in which it is being talked about and pursued suggests a radical shift from policies of previous Administrations. (Ehteshami, 2008)

This new approach has demonstrated a shift from traditional foreign policy built on the realist approach to a new “unilateral imperialism” foreign policy (Crawford, 2004). Thus, the consequence of these polices has resulted the death of thousands of Iraqi who otherwise would not have been killed if the invasion did not take place. Thus, despite the use military force, a ‘realist characteristic’, Bush’s foreign policy shift which emphases on spreading freedom and democracy in the Arab world is ‘inherently idealist in perspective’ (Kaufman, 2010, p.141). ‘Even before the attacks on September 11, 2001 the George W. Bush administration had demonstrated a unilateralist and ultra-nationalist approach to most foreign policy issues, including human rights’ (Crahan, 2005, p.77)

However, the consequences of the shift in foreign policy were far-reaching, as the US’s eagerness to establish itself as a world leader, ended up pursuing policies and illegal wars that angered many of its traditional allies, such as France and Germany who opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq (BBCnews, 2003). The foreign policy approach favoured by Bush administration seems to be headed to a more ‘unilateralist approach characterised by US action consistent with what the president perceived to be in the national interest of his country’ although some realist scholars such as Mearsheimer see this as ‘miscalculation driven by ideology’ (Dodge, 2008, p.233), rather than national interest as believed by president Bush. Nonetheless it was the neo-conservative’s vision that was behind theoretical foreign policy of the Bush Administration (Kaufman, 2010, p.140) this clearly indicates a post 9 /11 foreign policy shift in comparison to Clinton Administration.

Furthermore, the post 9/11 US foreign policy was not limited to unilateral approach to American foreign policy only; the administration also advocated and carried out a policy of regime change. Following the 9/11 attack the Bush Administration’s foreign policy has been very clear about its aim of global dominance a military power so strong that no country can challenge it (Lieberfeld, 2005). During a speech at graduation ceremony, President Bush declared that ‘America has, and intends to keep, military strengths beyond Challenge’ (Bush, 2002). Given this offensive objective, Bush’s new foreign policy can be interpreted as an “effort to enhance U.S. reputation and symbolic power beyond challenge, particularly after post 9/11 attacks that might have made the U.S. appear vulnerable” (Lieberfeld, 2005) By risking his ‘reputation’ to achieve one of his major flagship objectives such as regime change in Iraq. Therefore the invasion of Iraq was ‘unavoidable due to the national security interest in protecting that reputation’ (Lieberfeld, 2005, p.3) one reason that explains why the US became a war mongering nation since 9 /11 is that its less constrained than it was during the cold war, because following the collapse of the Soviet Union the US remained the only Super Power left in the world that can do whatever she likes with impunity.

Why US pursued waging war and regime changing foreign policy and target Iraq? There are number of theories that explained this, for example some realist would point out Iraq’s strategic location, which could be used as military bases in order to protect US’s interest in the Middle East and its vast oil reserves (Lieberfeld, 2005). Marxist scholars also point out that the logic behind the regime change in Iraq was primarily oil (Dodge, 2008, p.233) Another motive for the regime change in Iraq from realist viewpoint would be to destroy any military threat in the Middle East that would threaten the security of Israel, a country regarded to be American ally, but some would say  American Master (Lieberfeld, 2005, p.4). Furthermore, Bush’s administration saw its attack into Iraq as a ‘substitute for a diplomatic strategy that would spread democracy to the region and to Iraq in particularly and to facilitate an Israeli-Palestinian agreement on terms that favour Israel’ (Lieberfeld, 2005, p.5). Regardless of what the US motive was, ‘the neo-conservative “discourse” was remarkably effective. Seemingly out of nowhere, Iraq was represented as an immediate danger to America’ (Halper & Clarke, 2004, p.203) ‘Furthermore, the neo-conservatives linked their pre-existing agenda, which is to attack Iraq to the events of 9/11 and thus created an entirely new reality’ (Halper & Clarke, 2004, p.203)

But the idea that the ‘road to Jerusalem goes through Baghdad’ that transforming Iraq into an American ally and promoting a democracy in the wider Middle East ‘would help rise to regional democracies supporting peace with Israel proved to be an illusion’ (Hadar, 2009) instead the Bush administration’s policies helped Iran and its allies mainly Hezbollah to become major players in the region (Hadar, 2009). Given the illegal war the US has waged, and given the lack of respect to international law, the conclusion that can be drawn from the radical shift in US foreign policy after 9/11 attacks is that it has ignored the opinion of international community, abandon multilateral approach to foreign policy and chose ‘unilateral imperialism’ instead.

Another radical shift in foreign policy after 9/11 is the policy of extraordinary rendition. ‘Extraordinary rendition dates back to the Reagan years and was first used against suspected Islamists in the late 1990s’ (The guardian, 2011) but the Bush Administration used it excessively and illegally (Kenndy-Pipe, 2008). The term itself applies to moving around terrorists suspects around the world by the CIA (The independent, 2006). These suspects are not only moved around for the sake of moving around, but they are moved around to be tortured, in some of the most appalling human rights abusing countries in the world such as Morocco, Syria and Egypt to name but few. “The evidence of torture by the Bush administration is overwhelming. Bush publicly admitted that in two cases he approved the use of waterboarding and authorised illegal CIA secret detention and renditions programmes” (Human Rights Watch, 2011) such practices violate the Universal Declaration of Human rights which the United States of America is a signatory.

In the human Rights context, it’s important to mention that although I am critical to President Bush’s Human rights violations, there is evidence that he did attempt to promote human Rights in some respect. (Neier, 2005, p.137) For example, Bush Administration did spoke out against human rights abuses that are taking place in countries such as Uzbekistan, Zimbabwe and Sudan (ibid). The Administration even went a step too far to label the killings in Darfur in Sudan as “genocide” this is stark contrast to President Clinton’s administration refusal to describe the atrocities in Rwanda as “genocide” instead they use the term “genocidal incidents” (Cohen, 2001, p.162), (Neier, 2005, p.137) But, why is the US is seen as a violator of human rights rather than champion of human rights? The actions Bush Administration took in response to 9/11 attacks explains this. Torture in Guantanamo Bay camp, extraordinary rendition and Abu Ghriab prisoner abuses resulted grave human rights violations and the US is viewed around the world as human rights violator rather than Human rights champion as it would like to be seen (Neier, 2005, p.140).

Therefore, the post 9/11 US foreign policy, especially during George W. Bush’s Administration appears to turned blind eye to the promotion and protection of human rights, partly because it was itself human rights violator and partly to enhance its interest and security (ibid).

In conclusion, this essay has argued that the US has always been involved in wars and invasions since its inception. Although the primary goals US foreign policy always stays the same, because it always puts its national interest first before anything else, and very much in keeping with the vision of America’s founding fathers, the event of September 11- 2001 drastically changed how the United States of America views the world, the Muslim World in particular, and how the response of President Bush led his administration to deviate from multilateral foreign policy to unilateral approach. Therefore the radical shift that the US foreign policy after 911 can only be understood by looking at the competing theories and school of thoughts that have shaped America’s domestic and foreign policy.

The event of 911 saw the US aggressively invading sovereign nations and waging illegal wars under international law. It also saw, the US working closely with dictators and authoritarian regimes whose human rights abuses are well documented. Additionally, the post 9/11 US foreign policy change was not limited to adoption of unilateral approach to its foreign policy only; the administration also pursued a robust and aggressive foreign policy towards Islamic world and carried out a policy of regime change in Afghanistan and Iraq.

One of the products of the radical shift of the US foreign policy is the violations of human rights in the hands of its soldiers and agents. The evidence of torture by the administration is overwhelming; President Bush publicly acknowledged that in two cases he permitted the use of ‘waterboarding’ and sanctioned illegal CIA secret detentions and extraordinary renditions programmes. Such human rights violations by the world’s most powerful nations resulted grave human rights violations which further damage the credibility of the world’s most powerful nation.


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Ehteshami, A., 2008. http://dro.dur.ac.uk. [Online] Durham University Available at: http://dro.dur.ac.uk/4121/1/51687.pdf?DDD35+DDC69+dgi4lh [Accessed 24 October 2011].

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The guardian, 2011. Extraordinary rendition: a backstory Used since the Reagan era, extraordinary rendition was stepped up after 9/11 to extract intelligence from suspected terrorists. [Online] Available at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/aug/31/extraordinary-rendition-backstory [Accessed 24 October 2011].

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Has US prompted democracy in Latin America since 1970? Evaluate the experience of Chile and Nicaragua

“The promotion of democracy is inherently not imperialist; on the contrary, it is inherently revolutionary, progressive and wonderful! But…What the United States is promoting is not a democracy it is…Inherently imperialist”

(Robinson, 2005)

The essay question asks whether the United States has helped or supported the advancement of democracy in Latin America since 1970 and to assess the experience of two case studies. There is no doubt there was some attempt by the US to spread democracy in the region but, the form of democracy it has promoted or still promoting is questionable. The argument is that, the United States did not promote a genuine democracy, but undermined genuine democracy in the region. Although in recent times particularly after the end of the cold war the US showed some signs of promoting ‘low intensity democracy’ (Robinson 2006).

The aim of this essay is to show how the US contrary to its claim of democracy promotion, destroyed democracy and supported authoritarian regimes in the region, and how such policies negatively damaged the Latin American nations such as Chile and Nicaragua. The essay than continues to assess the experience of two Latin American countries namely Chile and Nicaragua.

“Democracy” is extremely challenging to define, and there is no agreed definition thus, this lack of agreed definition makes democracy a much contested subject. Academics have defined it differently. Philippe Schmitter and Terry Karl suggest the following definition: “Modern political democracy is a system of governance in which rulers are held accountable for their actions in the public realm by citizens acting indirectly through the competition and cooperation of their elected representatives” (Schmitter & Karl, 1996). Other scholars have define it as ” a system in which no one can choose himself, no one can invest himself with the power to rule and, therefore, no one can abrogate to himself unconditional and unlimited power” (Sartori, 1987, p.206) The differences between modern concept of democracy and Athenian democracy shows how complex is its meaning. “Classical Athenian democracy was based on the ideals of full political participation of all citizens” (Finley, 1973) In contrast citizens do not have full political participation in modern democracy; instead they elect people who would represent them and speak on behalf of them.

When the United States leaders talk about democracy promotion in Latin America, it looks as though they are promoting real democracy, what they are really promoting is what Robert A. Dahl called “polyarchy”. William Robinson describes ‘polyarchy’ as ‘a system in which a small group actually rules, and mass participation in decision making is confined to choosing leaders in elections that are carefully managed by competing elites’ (Robinson, 2006)

The promotion of democracy and freedom will ‘produce peace’, President Reagan declared in a speech he gave in London in 1982 (Doyle, 2010, p.21). He further declared that the US as a liberal democracy ‘exercises restraint and ‘peaceful intention in its foreign policy’ (ibid). Bush Senior similarly declared in 1990 that democracy and respect for human rights are being ‘reborn everywhere’ (ibid).Their declarations though noble and honourable are far from reality, and this is most evident in Latin and Central America particularly Chile and Nicaragua whereby the US rather than promoting freedom and democracy, undermined the very principles its leaders vowed to uphold.

The US has long being involved politically and economically with its Latin American countries. Its relationship with the region has gone through different stages, from military intervention and clandestine operations; to ‘benign neglect’. (Figueiredo, 2007, p.697) It has adopted democracy promotion policies that suited its national interest politically and economically rather than the interest of the people of Latin America (Smith, 2010). It did this by backing and supporting military dictatorships and dictatorial regimes all over Latin America (Azpuru & Shaw, 2010, p.252). The US democracy promotion can be categorized into two. Destabilising democracy and a ‘low intensity’ interest based democracy. Destabilising democracy was implemented before the end of the Cold War to prevent lefts and communist elements as well as unwanted democratically elected regimes taking power in Latin America, whereas ‘low intensity democracy’ was promoted after cold war to promote free market neoliberal economy for its benefit (Robinson, 2006)

During 70s the US democratization policy towards Latin America was not genuine. Rather it was one that not only supported dictators and authoritarian regimes, but one that was designed to undermine democracy itself. Peter Smith argues that the United States always stated that it’s a paramount importance to promote democracy in Latin America, ‘often invoking notions of hemispheric solidarity and the existence of a ‘Western Hemisphere idea’ (Smith, 2008, p.357) however this does not appear to have happened, as the policy of promoting democracy changed to policy of supporting authoritarian regimes, that are favourable to US economic and political interest (Atkins, 1999, p.141) which further undermined and destabilised many countries in the region.

The US has often spoken of its support for democracy promotion in the region, while at same time it has also been ‘criticised for inconsistency for supporting dictators and authoritarian regimes (O’toole, 2007, p.115) such as Pinochet of Chile, and for supporting and sponsoring insurgencies against existing governments such as Nicaragua. Before the Cold War, promoting democracy in the region was not United States objective, its main priority was economic and security issues (Keen & Haynes, 2004) particularly the fear of the spread of communism in the region that. Robert Pastor (2001) argues that, there are three scenarios that the US has to choose from in relation to democracy promotion in the region. First, a loyal and friendly democratic regime, second an authoritarian regime that is friendly to it, or a social revolution that it would rather not to see in the region. Pastor continues to argue that if the US could not get the first choice, it would go for the second choice in order to avoid the third choice (Pastor, 2001) ‘the worst outcome for the US happened in Nicaragua’ where the third option the US wanted to avoid came into reality, when the Sandinistas overthrew the Somoza dictatorship (O’toole, 2007, p.297).

The Reagan Administration did not like what it saw and therefore begun to back and support anti-Sandinistas rebels, the Administrations further employed strategy known as ‘low intensity conflict’ (Robinson, 1996, p.215) which was design to undermined the Sandinistas government. The Sandinistas begun an agrarian reforms, but such move did not go down well with the Nicaraguan ‘old elite’ and the United States. Robin Williams argues that the economic and political reform embarked by the Sandinistas ‘challenged not only the legitimacy of the old elite but of US domination in the region’ (Robinson, 1996 p.215)

Williams further argued that the Sandinista government policy on property ownership ‘favoured poor peasants’ and unlike the United States implemented ‘ high-intensity democracy’ that is different from the low-intensity democracy of the US (ibid) and it’s this native popular democracy that the US has vowed to undermined. The Sandinistas were far from authoritarian regime it replaced, and far from being Marxist as US thought it would be (Jonas, 1989, p.126). Instead Sandinistas has ‘embarked upon a system which had the potential for constructing a genuine democracy’ (Jonas, 1989, p.126) rather than the law intensity neo-liberal system the US wanted. Sandinista’s revolution setup a political alliance dedicated to the ‘principles of political pluralism’ and (rather than being authoritarian regime), pledged to hold elections by 1984. ‘The openness and fairness’ of the elections that followed was not only accepted by the opposing parties, but was declared free by the international observers ‘not directly linked to Reagan administration’ (Jonas, 1989, p.142) and the price the Nicaraguan paid for choosing their own destiny was clear, The US would ruin the economy and help continue the war against Sandinista, until the exhausted locals get rid of the unwanted regime themselves’. (Chomsky, 1994) And thus, Washington ‘would provide its preferred candidate with a winning issue, ending the impoverishment of the people of Nicaragua’ (Chomsky, 1994)

Therefore, Reagan Administration viewed the Sandinista revolution as threat to its national security, and regional domination and therefore ‘insisted upon a military force’ by backing the Contras rebels (O’toole, 2007, p.300). Reagan Administration adopted a hostile strategy to undermine the Sandinista revolution through economic sanctions, diplomatic and political pressure as well as supporting and financing the Contras rebels. If the United States democracy promotion was genuine, it would have been talking to and working with the Sandinista Government rather than undermining it, and not supporting Contras rebels whose human rights violations is well documented. The aim of Washington was clear; unless you do what we want you to do, the war against the revolution and the economic embargo that choked the country would continue.

The behaviour of United States such as intervention, support for authoritarian regimes, human rights violation and lack of respect for international norms in Nicaragua and in Latin America in general fails to back the idea it has promoted or still promoting democracy in the region. The US even disregarded the verdict of international court of justice, which ruled that it had violated Nicaragua’s sovereignty and demanded that the US to stop the military help it gives to the Contras rebels (Livingston, 2009, p.76)

Despite the US Congress banning military aid for the Contras (ibid), the Reagan administration continued to support it, until the Sandinista revolution was gradually dismantled with military, economic, political, and diplomatic, pressures (ibid). And after years of US antagonism and intervention on this tiny country ‘Nicaragua’s attempt to steer its own course through history had been wrecked’ by a Liberal democracy (ibid). Therefore it can be rightly argued that United States democracy promotion in the region has been ‘one tool amongst many in promoting its interest rather than an end in itself in the region’ (Smith, 2010, p.65) thus, The US’ policies towards the region and in Nicaragua in particular was no way near promotion of democracy it was rather ‘the greatest threat to the development of democratic process in Central and Latin America’ (Jonas, 1989, p.128)

But this period of destabilisation and military intervention came to an end in mid 80s and the US begun to support and promote ‘low intensity democracy’. William Robinson (2006) argues that this move from supporting authoritarian regimes to promoting ‘democracy’ is linked to US desire to implement free market economy and pave the way for neoliberal economic policies (Robinson, 2006) Therefore US’s democracy promotion ‘has become a functional imperative of capitalist globalization’ (Robinson, 2006).

However, in late 1980s, the US has ‘changed’ its policy towards Nicaragua and begun to promote a “democracy” so that Nicaraguan people can pursue their own political future. But as Robinson noted this sudden shift was undoubtedly ‘interventionist’ in nature (Robinson, 1992, pp.8-9) the aim was possibly to influence the opinion of the people, so that they might turn their back on the revolution, because the Sandinista according to the US was “the cause of their frustration” (Robinson, 1992, p.13)

Chile is another example where the US undermined and destroyed a genuine democracy in Chile. Successive US Administrations kept denying the role of United States in connection to undermining Chilean democracy, but evidence suggests otherwise. In 2000 the CIA has declassified secret documents relating to the clandestine operation in Chile during Salvador Allende’s presidency. The documents confirmed how the US after failing to influence the 1970 election, undermined and destroyed the democratically elected president of Chile (BBC, 2000) ‘I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country to go communist because of the irresponsibility of its own people’ (Robinson, 1996, p.146) stated Henry Kissinger the then US National Security Advisor, in June 1970 speaking of the election of President Allende (ibdi). The success of Chilean democracy became shock and disbelief to the US. This raises the question that, how can a country that believes democracy produces peace and freedom would react to such a negative way? Because the US only promotes ‘low-intensity democracy’, in this case it was full-blown democracy. And as Noam Chomsky (2011) pointed out the US ‘kept to the well-established principle that democracy is acceptable only insofar as it conforms to its strategic and economic objectives’ (Chomsky, 2011)

‘What followed next was one of the darkest chapters of Chilean history’ says Robinson. (Robinson, 1996, p.146) Because one of the steps taken by the Nixon administration in undermining the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende was that, Chile’s economy was severely destabilised. President Nixon was once quoted saying that “he will make the Chilean economy scream” (Logevall & Preston, 2008, p.278). This is not how a nation that describes itself as liberal democracy behaves, after all ‘governments founded on a respect, liberty’ and freedom ‘exercise restraint and peaceful intention’ (Doyle, 2010, p.21). This was what Reagan said on one occasion the UK. In this case the US did not respect freedom and liberty and certainly did not exercise restraint, and its intention was not peaceful, it was belligerent instead.

Contrary to its claim that it promotes democracy and freedom, the US has played a major destabilisation role in Latin and Central American nations, particularly Nicaragua and Chile. Simply because the ‘external alignments of both countries have been far more important than any notion of democracy promotion. (Smith, 2010, p.66)

In conclusion, this essay acknowledged that although there were some attempts of democracy promotion by the US in Latin America, it has not promoted a genuine democracy; instead it promoted ‘low intensity democracy designed to benefit its economic and political interests. Despite the US’s assertion that it respects democracy and freedom, and despite maintaining that it exercises restraint and its intentions are peaceful, its conducts in Nicaragua and Chile suggested otherwise. The essay further argued that rather than promoting democracy in the region, the US undermined native democracy by destroying the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende of Chile, and undermined the popular revolution of Sandinistas in Nicaragua. Furthermore, the US did not only undermined democracy, wrecked both countries’ economies, but it backed and supported authoritarian regimes and terrorist guerrillas whose human rights abuses are well documented.


Atkins, P., 1999. Latin America and the Carribbean in the International System. 4th ed. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Azpuru, D. & Shaw, C.M., 2010. The United States and the Promotion of Democracy in Latin America: Then, Now and Tomorrow. Orbis, 54(2), p.252.

BBC, 2000. US ‘undermined Chile’s democracy’. [Online] Available at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/1022347.stm [Accessed 10 November 2011].

Chomsky, N., 1994. Democracy Enhancement: part I. [Online] Available at: third world traveller [Accessed 12 November 2011].

Chomsky, N., 2011. It’s not radical Islam that worries the US — it’s independence. [Online] Available at: http://www.chomsky.info/articles/20110204.htm [Accessed 12 November 2011].

Doyle, M., 2010. Peace, Liberty, and democracy: Realist and liberal contest a legacy. In M. Cox, G.J. Ikenberry & T. Inoguchi, eds. America democracy promotion. Oxford: Oxford Univercity Pres. p.21.

Figueiredo, J., 2007. U.S Foreign Policy in Latin America:Time for a Change. reseach. London: Elsevier Limited Foreign Policy Research Institute.

Finley, M.I., 1973. Democracy: Ancient and Modern. New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA: Rutgers University Press.

Jonas, S., 1989. Elections and Transitions: the Guatamala and Nicaragua cases. In J. Booth & M.A. Seligson, eds. Elections and democracy in central america. North Carolina: The University of North Carolina Press. p.126.

Keen, B. & Haynes, K., 2004. A history of Latin America. 7th ed. Mecxico city, US: Charles Hatford.

Livingston, G., 2009. America’s backyard: the united states and latin america from the monreoe doctrine to the war on terror. London: Zed Books.

Logevall, F. & Preston, A., 2008. Nixon in the world: American foreign relations, 1969-1977. Oxford: Oxford Univercity Press.

O’toole, G., 2007. Politics Latin America. Harlow, UK: Pearson Longman.

Pastor, R., 2001. Existing the whirpool. US foriegn policy toward Latin America and the Caribbean. 2nd ed. Boulder: Westview Press.

Robinson, W., 1992. A Faustian Bargain. 1st ed. Boulder, CO: USA: Westview Press.

Robinson, W.I., 1996. Promoting polyarchy: globalization, US intervention, and hegemony. Cambridge : Cambridge University press.

Robinson, W.I., 2005. The United States, Venezuela, and ‘democracy promotion’: William I Robinson interviewed. [Online] Available at: http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-protest/venezuala_2730.jsp [Accessed 06 November 2011].

Robinson, W.I., 2006. Promoting Polyarchy: the New U.S. Political Intervention in Latin America. [Online] Available at: http://alainet.org/active/10601&lang=es [Accessed 06 November 2011].

Sartori, G., 1987. The Theory of Democracy Revisited. N.J: Chatham House.

Schmitter, P. & Karl, T., 1996. What Democracy Is. and Is Not. In L. Diamond & M. Plattner, eds. The Global Resurgence of Democracy. 2nd ed. Baltimore: USA: Johns Hopkins University Press. p.50.

Smith, P.H., 2008. Dynamics of U.S.-Latin American Relations. 3rd ed. Oxford University Press: New York, US and Oxford, UK.

Smith, S., 2010. Us Demomcracy promotion:Critical Qeustions. In M. Cox, G.J. Ikenberry & T. Inoguchi, eds. American Democracy promotion: Impulses, strategies and impacts. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p.63.

Book Review: White Collar Crime by Edwin H. Sutherland

White Collar Crime by Edwin H. Sutherland

Sutherland, E.H., 1983. White Collar Crime: The uncut version. Binghamton, N.Y: Vail-Ballou, Press. £15 at amazon.co.uk

In this Book Sutherland presents a long research he undertook for decades about the conduct and the criminal convictions of 70 largest American corporations and 15 Utility companies, the outcome of this long research astonished traditional criminologist. Sutherland was first to study and published what he called ‘white collar crime, ‘which changed the study of crime in many ways’ (Sutherland, 1983) Sutherland’s approach to the concept of corporate crime was different from what was norm at that time. He rejected the traditional concepts of crime which blamed lower social classes, and mentally ill personalities, rather than ‘persons of the upper socio economic class’ (Sutherland, 1983, p.13) He noted that many of those corporate criminals are affluent upper social class individuals. Therefore Sutherland argues that ‘if it can be shown that white collar crimes are frequent, a general theory that crime is due to poverty and its related pathologies is shown to be invalid’. (Sutherland, 1983, p.7) Thus, Sutherland’ revelation of the extent of white collar crime created some serious problems for traditional criminologist theories.

Having noted and analysed the criminal behaviour of these corporates, Sutherland therefore asked why the term “crime “is not applied to the behaviour of corporates? And why have not criminologist included white collar crime within the scope of criminology? (Sutherland, 1983, p.45) Among the various theories of causation of crime, Sutherland’s theory of differential association is unique. The theory, states that ‘criminal behaviour is learned through interaction with others or associations’ (Sutherland, 1983, p.240) this means criminal behaviour is learned through influence rather than inheritance. That is to say a person without first being trained to commit a crime is not capable of inventing criminal behaviour (Sutherland, 1983) this implies that a person cannot become a criminal without being influence by others.

The theory of differential association, one of his main arguments was designed to explain criminal and none criminal behaviours, particularly individual behaviour. This is stark contrast to other theories that explain the criminality of society including his theory of social organization (Sutherland, 1983, p.255). Sutherland continues to tell us the specific technique and business practice that is being learned as result of differential association. Sutherlands noted that such practices are illegal but are used for ‘fraudulent purposes’ (Sutherland, p.250) in chapter 14, Sutherland states that the corporation’s criminal behaviour has affected many, from consumers, employees, investors as well as the state (Sutherland, 1983). Sutherland is provocative on this point he argues that, these criminal behaviours are not isolated they are ‘deliberate and have a relatively consistent unity’ (Sutherland, 1983, p.227) in other words these acts are professional well executed organised crime. Not everyone agrees Sutherland’s white collar crime concept, some argue that ‘the concept derives from a socialist, anti-business viewpoint that defines the term by the class of those it stigmatizes’ (Heritage.org, 2004) they accused him of interfering in the law and thus ‘perverts the justice system’ for political gains (Heritage.org, 2004).

Sutherland made a number of significant observations which I cannot list here due to word limitation. He noted that people of respectable upper socio economic class commit serious illegal acts which could results loss of life and property and therefore should be considered crime. These acts of crime are committed in the work place. White collar crime is not invented, it’s learned through association and influence with others

This is work by Sutherland, is cutting edge academic research, it exposes the greed and the criminal behaviour of corporations and forces traditional criminologist to accept that white collar crime is indeed a crime. It is a useful tool to force the corporations to implement social responsibility and accept accountability.


Heritage.org, 2004. The Sociological Origins of “White-Collar Crime. [Online] Available at: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2004/10/the-sociological-origins-of-white-collar-crime [Accessed 24 October 2011].

Sutherland, E.H., 1983. White Collar Crime: The uncut version. Binghamton, N.Y: Vail-Ballou, Press.

State-corporate crime:Torture and the war on terror as justification


There are different definitions of torture depending on one’s views; I would define torture as, intentionally causing physical or mental harm on an individual. States commit some of the most horrible crimes in the world, such as torture, mass murder, and genocide. What is more, they don’t do this by themselves “deviant state activities interconnect with the criminal activities of corporations to produce massive human rights abuses” (Green and Ward, 2004: 28). When one talks, or writes about torture, one thinks of human rights, physical abuses, and mass killing perpetrated by authoritarian states and the “bad guys”, such as Saddam Hussein, Slobodan Milosevic etc. But one might surprise to know that, the perpetrators of these acts include the so called liberal democratic nations such as the UK, the US and others.

Since the so called the war on terror, torture and human rights violations have become ‘serious policy options’ for the United States (Roth, 2005). the US and its private military and security companies (PMSCs) use torture techniques to achieve their political and economic motives (Amnest International) (Green and Ward, 2004: 124) Torture is not limited to states and tyrants alone, and as Kramer and Kauzlarich noted “corporations and liberal democracies and their agencies can act together to produce serious criminality including torture” (Kramer and Kauzlarich, 1998: 10)

There are two positions with regard to the use of torture, one position is held by those who take a utilitarian point of view and therefore believe its ok to torture one person in order to save many, and those who totally reject the use of torture (Blakeley, 2011: 1) For the utilitarian position, ‘torture is an unfortunate but essential tool in the fight against terror to ensure a greater good’. On the other hand those who reject the use of torture point out that torture is illegal under international law in times of peace and in times of war and therefore its unethical to torture human beings (Roth, 2005: xix)


A Central argument of the pro-torture group is the ‘ticking time bomb scenarios’ this is where a terrorist attack is imminent and a suspect who is believed to possess crucial information is being held (Felner, 2005) thus, should this suspect be tortured for the information needed to stop the allege attack? The utilitarian position is yes, this person should be tortured in order to get any information that would help thwart an attack. Alan Dershowitz a leading US political commentator argues that if ticking time bomb scenarios comes a reality in the US the government would carry out torture, and since he believes that the authorities would torture, Dershowitz suggest that torture licence is therefore needed be issued by the judicial system of the country (Dershowitz, 2001) in the words Dershowitz is suggesting ways to legalize the ‘pain that can be inflicted on suspects’ (Roth, 2005: xix).


The position of those who reject torture completely is very clear; it’s unproductive, immoral, and illegal under international law. Their position is supported by human rights advocates such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty international, which in turn advocate a total ban on torture, because torture ‘dehumanizes people by treating them as pawns to be manipulated through their pain’ (Roth, 2005: xx) furthermore, the absolutists argue that ‘No ends justify torture as a means’ (amnesty.org, 2011). One might get some information by torturing a suspect but such information is counter-productive as suspect would say or sign anything to make torture stop.

In conclusion, since the start of the war on terror, many states used torture and justify it on the grounds of preventing terrorist attacks; amongst these states are those states that portrayed themselves as liberal democracies. The debate about torture is polarised between two positions; the utilitarian view point and absolutism view point. While the position of the utilitarian is logical, it’s immoral and unethical and therefore should be rejected.


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Crime of the Powerful State Crime: case study

Around the world millions of our fellow human beings face serious human rights abuses including physical, sexual abuses, and force labour, each of which “constitute torture under international law” (UN, 1987). The perpetrators of such criminal behaviours are not limited to traditional culprits such as individual criminals, authoritarian and undemocratic regimes, but also by the so called ‘liberal democracy’ nations. In this case study essay I will examine at the topic of state crime as it relates to the United States and its criminal behaviour in Iraq. The essay aims to in the first instance presents a brief history of state organized crimes, It then goes to defines state crime and looks at international law as it relates to state crime including war crimes. The essay focuses four types of war crime identified by Kramer and Michalowski these are; ‘the failure to protect civilians, indiscriminate killing of Iraqi resistance, resulting in further civilian fatalities the torture and abuse of Iraqi prisoners and the illegal transformation of the Iraqi economy’ (Kramer & Michalowski, 2005, p.452)

Max Weber argued that states are by nature violence entities because of their ‘monopoly on the legitimate to use physical force’ (Fernandez, 2007, p.242). Historical evidence suggests that state crime is neither new nor rare; the state-supported piracy that happened in Caribbean seas between the sixteen and nineteenth centuries is a good example of state-organized crime (Chambliss, 1986). During this period and much later time, piracy and drug trafficking was very common among western imperial states. For example the Portuguese used pirated opium that was ‘stolen from local traders in Southeast Asia’ and traded with ‘tea, spices and pottery’ (Chambliss, 1986, p.296) And when the French occupied Indochina, they also got involved with the same criminal activities as the Portuguese did, the French even ‘licensed opium dens throughout Indochina’ (Chambliss, 1986) the United States too took part this state led crime, William Chambliss pointed out that The US ‘went a step further than the French and others and provided the opium-growers in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia with transportation for their drugs using CIA airline’ (Chambliss, 1986, p.296)

The definition of state wrongdoings as criminal is thought to be ‘fairly modern phenomenon’ (Fernandez, 2007, p.242). For instance, the Nuremberg Tribunal in 1948 stated “crimes against international law are committed by men, and not by abstract entities, and only by punishing individuals who commit such crimes can the provisions of international law be enforced (quoted in Fernandez, 2007). This view has been contested as academics across the spectrum reconsiders the old concept of crimes against international law is committed by a ‘men’ rather than state.

There are various definition of state crime, William Chambliss defined state crime as ‘acts perpetrated by states or government bureaucrats in the pursuit of their job as representatives of the governments’ (Chambliss, 1986) (Chambliss, 1993, p.291) however, as any other definition, this one has limitations, it does not include violation of international law within the list of state crimes Chambliss stated in his earlier book. Furthermore, Green and Ward (2002) have proposed different definition; their definition includes ‘violations of human rights, and state organizational deviance that would be subject to widespread censure if it were known’ (Green & Ward, 2002) Kramer and Michalowski argue that ‘violations of international’ law by the US and its subsequent invasion of Iraq in 2003 is therefore a form of ‘state crimes’ (Kramer & Michalowski, 2005) ‘that is why such unprovoked invasion is not only a violation of the international law and US domestic law but also a Nuremberg-type “crime against peace’ (Kiernan, 2003, p.846) the US has perpetrated four types of war crime in Iraq

The failure to secure public safety and safeguard civilian rights

First, the US ignored the will of international community and wage an illegal war, its conducts directly contributed the subsequent sectarian war that followed the invasion, and as result ‘failed to secure public safety and protect civilian rights’ (Kramer & Michalowski, 2005, p.452) Under the Geneva Conventions, it is a war crime to launch indiscriminate attacks affecting the civilian population, if it’s clear that such attacks will likely cause death amongst none combatant (Kramer & Michalowski, 2005, p.451). A key responsibility of occupying power is that it must restore and maintain law and order, including the safety of the occupied people; it must also respect the basic human rights of the said people. Rather than meeting these requirements the US violated them, hence ‘insecurity have characterized the reality of occupied Iraq’ (Kramer & Michalowski, 2005, p.452) thus, violating these international obligations is a crime.

Not only did the US dishonour these rules, but it committed undoubtedly war crimes. Because, the US indiscriminately bombed Iraqi towns and cities killing and injuring many thousands of its civilians. International humanitarian law forbids that parties to armed conflict to harm civilians, it requires that they are to ‘limit the methods that are permissible during the conflict’ and they obey the ‘rules governing the behaviour of occupying forces’ (ohchr.org, 1949) it’s the violations of these rules that make the US guilty of war crimes.

The crime committed by the United States and its allies in Iraq is far reaching, thousands of Iraqis are killed, thousands others arrested without probable cause, thousands others abused in US run detention centres not to mention the human rights violations of those held at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, in clear of violations of international human rights principles (Amnesty International, 2004) Article 2(4) of the United Nations Charter which states that ‘All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state’ (United Nations, 1945) The US and its coalition of the willing ignored the United Nations charter and invaded a sovereign nation despite the charter’s clear prohibition of illegal wars and without Security Council approval. Thus, the ‘invasion and occupation of Iraq would certainly appear to fit within Green and Ward’s definition of state crime’. (Green & Ward, 2002)

The torture and abuse of Iraqi prisoners

Second, a report commission by the US itself has uncovered “numerous incidents of sadistic, blatant, and cruel criminal abuses in Iraqi prisons by the US forces ” (Antonio, 2004) the report further found that the Iraqi prisoners were intentionally mistreated ‘forced to commit sexual acts were threatened with torture, rape or attack by dogs, and were hidden or not allowed access to Red Cross visits’, (Taguba, 2004) (Davies, 2010, p.187) thus, the conducts of US forces not only violates international law, but it is act of war crimes. Maj. General Antonio Taguba who compiled the report agrees; he wrote that ‘there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account’ (Taguba, 2004) While it’s understandable for any nation to defend itself or to seek and detain those suspected of engaging criminal activities, there are no justification for the US or any other nation engaging in torture, even if the legal arguments were clear the moral case against torture is difficult to ignore and violate international law (Davies, 2010) And according to Green and Ward (2002) such conducts by the US and its agents (its troops, CIA) amounts to war crime. (Green & Ward, 2002).

Furthermore, while the public exposure of abuses and torture in Iraq created a ‘brief furore’ in the US, the ICRC, Amnesty international and other human rights organisations documented far reaching, widespread, and systematic crimes perpetrated by the US troops, (Davies, 2010) the conclusion they have drawn is that, such crimes and wrongdoings ‘extend to the highest levels of the US governments and its agents’ (Davies, 2010, p.187)

Indiscriminate responses to Iraqi resistance

Third, the ‘basic principle of humane warfare that is the avoidance of unnecessary destruction to civilians and properties has been repeatedly violated in Iraq’, (Haas, 2009) The US’s aerial bombing has repeatedly hit civilian targets, caused unnecessary distraction of government and private properties, this is because as Michael Haas (2009) argues to ‘minimize American military casualties’ (Haas, 2009, p.34), But the lives of thousands of Iraqi civilians has been sacrificed for the sake of the lives American soldiers. And under International humanitarian law ‘the failure to secure public safety and protect civilian rights is war crime’ (Kramer & Michalowski, 2005, p.451) ‘A basic principle of human rights law and indeed most domestic legal systems is that the state is legally responsible for the actions of its agents (Crawford, 2002). Therefore, the US troops as well as the CIA as an agents of the US government has perpetrated a crime against humanity.

The illegal transformation of the Iraqi economy

Fourth, there is no doubt the invasion of Iraq by the US was motivated by its desire to control its oil wealth. Upon conquering the country the US scraped longstanding Iraqi laws that protected Iraqi properties from foreign ownership which in turn paved the way for neoliberal economic policies. The role of the US an occupying power should have been to restore order, protect civilians, but still respect and apply the country’s existing laws. The fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 explicitly forbids the US from reforming the economy of Iraq in accordance with its ideology and economic system, (Kramer & Michalowski, 2005) in defiance of such clear international laws, the US ‘sought to transform Iraq’s state dominated economic system into a market economy committed to free trade (Kramer & Michalowski, 2005, p.452) thus, economic reforms ‘that promote neo-liberal structures as the universal norm manifest what might be seen as a new or emerging colonial strategy’ (Mcculloch & Pickering, 2004, p.472)

In conclusion, this essay has pointed out that state crime and state organized crime is neither new nor rare, the although the authoritarians and none democratic regimes commit some of the worst state sponsored crimes, the liberal democracy nations perpetrate similar crimes but in industrial scales, this was demonstrated in the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

I have therefore argued that the actions and the conducts of the US in relations to invasion of Iraq amount to war crimes. The essay pointed out the violations of international agreements in relation to the conducts of and the respect of human rights was violated by the US, hence committed war crime. The essay agreed the four examples of war crimes highlighted by Kramer, and Michalowski (2005) which are; the failure to protect civilians, the indiscriminate killing of Iraqi resistance, resulting in further civilian fatalities the torture and abuse of Iraqi prisoners and the illegal transformation of the Iraqi economy.

Works Cited

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Antonio, T., 2004. Taguba Report. findings and recommendations. Washington, USA: US Govenment:available at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/3684825.stm US Govenment.

Chambliss, W., 1986. State-Organized Crime. Criminology, 27(2), pp.183-208.

Chambliss, W.J., 1993. Making law: the state, the law, and structural contradictions. Indiana, USA: Indiana University Press.

Crawford, J., 2002. The International Law Commission’s Articles on State Responsibility: Introduction, Text and Commentaries. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Davies, N.J.S., 2010. Blood on Our Hands: The American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq. Ann Arbor, MI USA: Nimble Books LLC.

Fernandez, E.K., 2007. Book Review. International Criminal Justice Review, 17(DOI: 10.1177/1057567707306013), p.242.

Green, P. & Ward, T., 2002. State Crime, Human Rights, and the Limits of Criminology, Social Justice. British Journal of Criminology , 27(1), pp.101-15.

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