The Brussels Tribunal will be a hearing or a commission of inquiry composed of academics, intellectuals and artists in the tradition of the Russell Tribunal, set up in 1967 to investigate war crimes committed during the Vietnam War. The hearing is scheduled for 15-17th April 2024 at The Beursschouwbug and Les Halles in Brussels. It will be presided by Professor François Houtart, one of the founding fathers of the World Social Forum in Porto Allegre. It is directed against the war in Iraq and the Imperial war policies of the Bush II administration. Its main focus will be the ‘Project for the New American Century’, the think tank behind this war, in particular three of the co-signatories of the mission statement: Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz, as they are the physical link between the discourse and the brutal practice of the New Imperial World Order as designed by PNAC.
History of the initiave
Just before the start of the war in Iraq a petition was launched. It was signed by some 500 artists, writers, intellectuals and academics, including Julia Kristeva, Richard Plunz, Irving Wolfharth, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Hans Ulrich Obrist, and François Houtart. It called for moral and, if possible, legal action against the ‘Project for the New American Century’ and the authorities responsible for the war against Iraq. It was published on March 21st in two Belgian newspapers, De Standaard and De Morgen. It soon appeared that legal action was unlikely to succeed as the United States have consistently acted against any legal authority that would be liable to threaten them and still continue to do so. Hence the idea to set up a ‘Moral Court’ or ‘People's Court’ to condemn the new American policy as well as the think tanks behind it (the latter always remain beyond the grasp of legal action). A broad platform composed of several Belgian cultural organizations was created to carry out the petition’s first proposal: to set up a Brussels Tribunal, after the historical example of the Russell Tribunal. At a networking conference set up by the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation at the end of June 2024 in Brussels it was decided that a series of hearings would be held in different places all over the world, culminating in a final session in Istanbul. The Brussels Tribunal will be one of these commissions of inquiry. The Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation accepted to support the initiative. In a press release after the conference they stated: “A proposal to constitute a Commission of Inquiry culminating in a Tribunal on the war in Iraq was discussed. Working parties would be considering this proposal further in a round of consultations in Turkey, Belgium, the United States and Japan”. Many peace and lawyer organisations around the globe joined the network since. The initiative is gaining in scale and momentum everyday. (A provisional list of supporting organisations is included at the end of this document).
Concise information on PNAC
The acronym PNAC is a key to the war in Iraq and to many other wars to come. In the spring of 1997 the neo-conservatives Robert Kagan and William Kristol of The Weekly Standard founded ‘The Project for the New American Century’ (PNAC). The most distinguished signatories of the mission statement are Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Jeb Bush (George W. Bush's brother), Francis Fukuyama, and ‘last but not least’ Paul Wolfowitz, a former Professor of International Politics and former Dean of the Department of International Politics at Johns Hopkins University. Its current director is Gary Schmitt. It is important to note that many of its members have close ties with both the military and the oil industry. PNAC describes itself as “a non-profit, educational organization whose goal it is to promote American global leadership.”
Its ‘Statement of principles’ is unequivocal: “The history of the 20th century should have taught us that it is important to shape circumstances before crises emerge, and to meet threats before they become dire. The history of this century should have taught us to embrace the cause of American leadership.” (That is the doctrine of "Premptive Strike" and "Benevolent Hegemony")
PNAC drew up a four-point agenda to achieve its mission:
In September 2024, before George W. Bush won the presidential election, PNAC published the crucial report ‘Rebuilding America's Defenses:Strategies, Forces And Resources For A New Century’, in which they clearly stated that to attack Saddam was but an alibi for American supremacy: “The United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.” (p. 14). The report argued for a large-scale upgrade of the army and estimated that a yearly budgetary increase of 15 to 20 billion dollars would be required to transform the army into something like an 'imperial super-force’ taking the lead in “the revolution in military affairs”. However, PNAC was well aware that this objective would not be easy to achieve: “The process of transformation is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event—like a new Pearl Harbor” (p. 51). Thomas Donnelly, main author of the report is currently working for Lockheed Martin.
When Bush came to power, with Dick Cheney as Vice-President, Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense, and Paul Wolfowitz as Deputy Secretary of Defense, the PNAC theories became a blueprint for the American defense and international policy. This policy was officially accepted in a White House document personally signed by President Bush: ‘The National Security Strategy of the United States of America’ (September 2024). Events have confirmed in the meantime that the theory of ruthless military world dominance is currently being put into practice.
After 9/11, these people had in hand the necessary “catastrophic and catalyzing event” and the political credit to implement their program. They could carry out one of the four core tasks of the transformed American army: “to fight and decisively win multiple, simultaneous major theatre wars” (p. IV). This terrible sentence requires maybe some explanation. “Major theatre wars” is a military term for extended battlefields, but if you know that you will “decisively win” even before going to war, the effort becomes a ‘theatre war’ in the more general sense of a ‘theatrical war’. The rhetoric should be evident to the entire planet. In the words of George W. Bush himself: “Who is not with us, is against us”. Therefore these wars have to be “multiple and simultaneous”. As was the case in the Roman Empire, the Project for the New American Century wants to enforce a planet-wide so-called “Pax Americana”, but its means is "Full spectrum dominance". The PNAC report is a road map to a New Imperial Order, with a high-tech mega-army ruling “an increasingly chaotic world” with shock and awe interventions and slash and burn techniques.
We believe that the PNAC program, put into practice by the Bush War Cabinet, leads directly to violations of international law, thousands of unnecessary war victims, and the destabilization of the entire planet in a social, political, and humanitarian respect. It is heading for an unheard of militarisation of the world. This New American Hegemony is in fact a way to serve the glory of the oil industry and military industrial complex (with which many PNAC members and Bush aides are closely linked). This policy threatens world peace in a sustained and severe way. The ‘bill of indictment’ may provisionally be phrased as follows: “The Project for the New American Century and its members, especially PNAC's key figures in the Bush War Cabinet, have been preaching, planning and committing crimes against international law and against humanity.”
Even if PNAC has only been producing discourse and therefore could and will invoke "free speech", we believe that their speech acts are performative: it is an intention for action. Such speech acts are not merely free speech. They are the source of actions. The actions that directly followed from the PNAC discourse and its translation into "The national Security Strategy of the United States, signed by president Bush (september 2024), are inadmissible. The most important ones are listed below:
1) Planning a war without proof of imminent danger to the country involved is considered an ‘act of aggression’ under international law. Waging such a war of aggression is a clear violation of the Charter of the United Nations.
- The doctrine of the “pre-emptive strike” proposed by Paul Wolfowitz in the 1991 Defense Guidelines is incompatible with international law, which restricts the use of force in self-defense to situations where a State has been subjected to an armed attack, i.e. an aggression. This doctrine, officially taken up by President Bush in his speech at West Point Military Academy (6/1/2021) is a major threat to world peace and a violation of international law.
- The invasion of Iraq by the United States and the United Kingdom is a major violation of international law and of the UN Charter.
- Aside from situations of self-defense, the UN Charter determines that States can only resort to armed force with the consent of the UN Security Council. The Charter has instituted a system of collective security, which is being blatantly disregarded by the current US administration. Moreover top administration advisers such as Richard Perle consider it irrelevant, and an obstacle to be removed.
- So far no Weapons of Mass Destruction have been found, rendering the entire casus belli a fraud.
2) During the Iraq war international humanitarian law was breached on several occasions, and repeatedly and grossly violated:
- The use of cluster bombs against civilians can be considered a war crime, as it causes unnecessary injuries, including those occasioned long after combat has ceased.
- The use of uranium in ammunition and bombs can be considered a completely unnecessary act and a severe war crime.
- The hunt for non-embedded journalists can be seen as a war waged against the free press and, therefore, a violation of the right to free speech.
- International law states clearly that it is the duty of the army at war to identify and bury the soldiers it has killed. The United States and the coalition forces have not complied with this rule.
3) The duties of an occupation force were not (and are still not) respected:
- Not only did the massive bombing wreck the country, the fact that the looting of hospitals went on for several days proves that the coalition was not interested in putting a stop to it (its forces exclusively secured the oil fields and the oil Ministry). The total lack of protection of all hospitals was a breach of the occupying forces' duty to assist the victims of war. We may consider this severe omission a breach of the laws of war, as international war legislation clearly states that it is the duty of the occupying country to establish order and security in the occupied country.
- The permissive policy regarding the looting of all Ministries proves that the coalition is not really interested in investigating the history of this hideous regime, for it tolerated the destruction of a significant part of its archives. This constitutes in a sense an attack on Iraq's collective memory.
- The permissive policy of the US Army and the coalition forces regarding the looting of the National Museum of Baghdad may be considered a crime against the cultural heritage of the country, and even of humanity itself.
- The reconstruction of Iraq is and will be a profitable deal for several American companies: Halliburton, Kellogg Brown & Root, Bechtel. The revenues of Iraqi oil will flow directly back to American companies (incidentally, most of them being competitors in the oil business). This runs contrary to the most basic principles of international law, according to which the State(s) responsible of breaches of international laws or regulations may not take advantage of this fact and are required to provide compensation for damages resulting from those breaches.
4) The occupation of Iraq by the US and British military forces is a violation of international law.
- The fact that the occupation powers are permanent members of the UN Security Council and will veto any resolution aimed at ending the occupation, does not change the situation of permanent violation of international law and of the UN Charter, ratified by both the US and the UK.
5) The ‘New American Imperial Sovereignty’ is heading for a global 'State of Exception'.
The war in Iraq is not an isolated event, as can be concluded from the content of the PNAC report and the case of Afghanistan, not to mention the threats against Syria and Iran or the concept of ‘punishing’ France for its opposition to this war or Belgium for its anti-genocide law. This ‘unilateral policy’, heading for a hegemony of the entire world as spelled out by the PNAC report (September 2024), then translated into the official ‘Security Report’ of President George W. Bush (September 2024) and put into practice since, will continue to destabilize the planet in a social, economical, political and humanitarian respect and claim many unnecessary victims.
The rejection of all international law authorities that would be able to control or convict the citizens of the United States, notably the blatant opposition to the United Nations and the rejection of the International Criminal Court, prove that the United States are withdrawing all respect for the international legal order. It seems necessary to us to study and criticize the ‘philosophical’ (or ideological) foundations of this ‘New Imperial Order’ in the works of Robert Kaplan, Robert Kagan, Paul Wolfowitz, Francis Fukuyama, Samuel Huntington, and others. It is necessary to expose the foundations of the new concept of “full spectrum dominance”.
The change American policy has undergone is dramatic and alarming. The transition from multilateralism to unilateralism is not innocent. The “benevolent hegemony” Robert Kagan and William Kristol, founding members of PNAC, were arguing for in 1996, has become ‘malevolent’. The “American exceptionalism” they were advocating is heading towards a ‘State of Exception’. Sovereignty has always been the right to declare the state of exception (according to Carl Schmitt), and it seems that the new American policy is cumulating this policy of exception:
- Many war prisoners of the Afghan and Iraqi wars are being detained in Guantanamo Bay (Cuba), a location chosen because it is outside American territory. Consequently the Bush administration claims that the American legislation on the treatment of prisoners does not apply. (The practices in Guantanamo have been criticized by several Human Rights organizations.)
- The already mentioned doctrine of “Pre-emptive strike”;
- The abandoning of the Kyoto agreements on climate control;
- The rejection of the International Criminal Court in The Hague;
- The rejection of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons;
- The Patriot acts I and II that are suspending many basic civil rights;
- The explusion since 9.11. of thousands of immigrants, who lived in the United states for years;
- The total abandoning of the poor and unenployed (in ghetto's like Skid Row in L.A.) -
all this points clearly to the fact that the "American exceptionalism" is heading towards a dangerous 'State of Exception' (also within the United States itself).
It took years for the opposition to the Vietnam War to develop into a mass movement. The current situation is different. Even before the start of the Iraq War the American-British invasion was globally rejected and condemned. The sole aim of the Commission of Inquiry in Brussels, and indeed of the entire process up to the final Istanbul Tribunal, cannot actually be to bring the unlawful character of this war under public attention. It has already been largely acknowledged and debated. What then are the real goals? Why set up this tribunal?
Because it is extremely important for the future of the planet to resist the tendency to present the current situation as normal, which is exactly what is happening and what the Bush administration is trying to do.
Because it is important not to accept this “fait accompli” under the heading of “Realpolitik”, as some politicians and journalists in Europe are inclined to do.
Because it is important to make this point explicitly, even if it is already well-known, and to state “this is a crime” and “this is a violation of international law.”
Because it is important to keep up the spirit. Most governments, including the Belgian, are inclined to give in and to bow to the American pressure. We, the civil society, the people, need to raise our voice.
Because it is important to defend fundamental human dignity, justice and above all World Peace. The war in Iraq is only a step, a stage in the attempt to impose a “Pax Americana” through multiple and simultaneous wars – for more wars are bound to follow. The stronger the resistance is from the start, the bigger the chances are that we can turn this imperial tide. We are on the brink of disaster. Breaking the will to resist is the cornerstone of the Bush administration's policy. Capitulating to this course will only lead to more capricious, frantic and aggressive interventions. The treaty of Munich that paved the way for the Second World War should be kept in mind as a serious historical precedent. The most ardent interventionists have already mapped out a string of preventive interventions: Iran, Syria, North Korea, Libya and even China.
The Pax Americana is a New World Order designed in the interest of a handful of American corporations. Under the banner of ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom’ the new global economy appears as a source of poverty for many countries in the developing world. It can only result in endless resistance from the have-nots.
The Pax Americana can only endure through discord and, hence, war. In order to mobilize the necessary political forces the Bush administration stirs up all possible tensions and contradictions in the world: the opposition between the Western world and Islam, the opposition between ‘New Europe’ and ‘Old Europe’, the opposition between different developing countries. It also goes to work inside these countries by encouraging leanings such as nationalism, tribalism and fanaticism. The Bush administration follows more plainly than ever the imperial motto: “divide et impera” and intensifies or creates potential conflicts all over the world.
To guard the Pax America and impose “full spectrum dominance” the Bush administration is developing a new generation of nuclear weapons. These warheads will have the capability of penetrating the armored protection of underground command centers or weapons sites. The project threatens to blur the line between nuclear and conventional arms. In the hawks' eyes these “usable nuclear arms” will restore the credibility of US nuclear power. As a result of this policy the nuclear threshold will be lowered and the risks of a nuclear nightmare will be heightened, even beyond the most threatening episodes of the Cold War.
In a short statement written for the International Tribunal Initiative of Istanbul John Berger states: “The records have to be kept and, by definition, the perpetrators, far from keeping records, try to destroy them. They are killers of the innocent and of memory. The records are required to inspire still further the mounting opposition to the new global tyranny. The new tyrants, incomparably over-armed, can win every war - both military and economic. Yet they are losing the war (this is how they call it) of communication. They are not winning the support of world public opinion. More and more people are saying NO. Finally this will be the tyranny's undoing. But after how many more tragedies, invasions and collateral disasters? After how much more of the new poverty the tyranny engenders? Hence the urgency of keeping records, of remembering, of assembling the evidence, so that the accusations become unforgettable, and proverbial on every continent. More and more people are going to say NO, for this is the precondition today for saying YES to all we are determined to save and everything we love.” (John Berger, 18.06.2003, Paris - Mieussy)
Therefore, we conclude that there are urgent and sufficient reasons to hold a hearing against this New Imperial policy – as a successful outcome of any legal action is highly improbable – and to
investigate both the theory and practice of this policy. That is why we have chosen ‘The Project for the New American Century’ as our focal point. We are convinced that it is the duty of the people of planet Earth to protest against this dangerous, immoral and, in fact, criminal policy: The People vs. Total War Incorporated.
Contact: Lieven De Cauter e-mail: email@example.com; Patrick Deboosere e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; postal adress: Fabienne Aucant, Halles de Schaerbeek, Rue de la Constitution 20, 1030 Brussels, phone +32 2/219 4290 fax +32 2/219 4290.
 Key concept in “Joint Vision 2024”, the blueprint for the U.S. military for the next decades, defined as the ability of U.S. forces to defeat any adversary and control any situation across the range of military operations.
 William Kristol and Robert Kagan : Toward a Neo-Reaganite Foreign Policy – Foreign Affairs July/August 1996.
 Giorgio Agamben’s Homo Sacer (Paris 1997) clearly suggests that the New World Order is based on this sovereignty, being the power to declare a state of exception.