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March 10, 2010

Splitting the Sky vs. George W. Bush

Scott Stockdale

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When Splitting the Sky, a Mohawk activist from Six Nations, was arrested for obstruction of justice while attempting a citizen's arrest of George W. Bush, in Calgary on March 17th 2009, he was acting as part of a global phenomenon, according to Anthony Hall, professor of Globalization Studies at the University of Lethbridge.

Splitting the Sky's trial - expected to last at least five days – beginning Monday March 8 in Calgary.  

According to legislation enacted in 2000, the Crimes Against Humanity & War Crimes Act bans all who are credibly suspected to have committed war crimes or crimes against humanity from entering Canada or, if they have managed to get in, to arrest them on the spot. This law is supported by international laws to which Canada is signatory.

“This (attempt to arrest George Bush) is part of a vast global movement that includes some of the top jurists in the world ... Crimes against humanity are not just individual; it involves all of mankind,” Prof. Hall said.

He mentioned Bagram, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay and extraordinary rendition, as examples of places where agents of the U.S. Executive branch of government have been implicated in torture.

In the weeks prior to Mr. Bush's arrival in Calgary, Prime Minister Harper, Minister of Immigration Jason Kenney and the head of the RCMP were presented with submissions from Prof. Hall, Gail Davidson, representing Lawyers Against War (LAW), and former U.S. Attorney-General Ramsay Clark, containing credible accusations of crimes against humanity and war crimes perpetrated by George Bush.

After Canadian law enforcement officials refused to arrest former president Bush in Calgary, Splitting the Sky was charged while attempting a citizen's arrest. It's not clear whether Splitting the Sky suffered a concussion and painful injuries to his mid-section during his arrest or during the 24 hours he spent in incarceration.

Noting that the Nuremburg Principles established rules of law for war, Prof. Hall said there have been a lot of developments since then and, modern technology has made war crimes more devastating.

“Depleted uranium shells cause genetic deformitories which get into the gene pool and become perpetual. They go on forever.”

Prof. Hall said Splitting the Sky's trial will be an opportunity to put forth the Calgary Principles: a new set of juridical rules and protocols put forth to combat crime at the highest levels of government.

“Whatever happens in the crown's case, Calgary will be the site of a people's process aimed at delivering some measure of justice in a world too often starved of it.”

He added that governments must also play a vital role in this process.

“All of the world's peoples and governments must recognize our shared interest in expressing forms of universal jurisdiction when dealing with the highest order of criminality.”

Prof. Hall said Canadian Prime Minister Harper also stands credibly accused of war crimes for, along with George Bush, ignoring child soldier laws in the case of Omar Khadr, who was 15 at the time of his arrest, after a firefight in Afghanistan.

“Canada is a signatory to the International Conventions and Protocols against indicting child soldiers. The law says they should not be punished.”

He also criticized the local media and the CBC for their coverage of Bush's visit and their silence on Splitting the Sky's arrest.

The CBC portrayed the protest against Bush's visit as an anti-Bush protest, while Prof. Hall said it was really about state involvement in international crimes, including the Canadian government, which allowed George Bush into Canada and refused to arrest him upon his arrival.

He lodged a formal complaint with the CBC ombudsman Vince Carlin for its decision to ignore Splitting the Sky's arrest and the issues surrounding it.

Prof. Hall doesn't believe it's just a coincidence that Bush chose Calgary – the political home base of Prime Minister Harper and several cabinet ministers - as his first public speaking engagement, after leaving office, in what Prof. Hall said is the beginning of a public relations campaign to rehabilitate his image into that of a legitimate political commentator.

“A key point of the trial will be why he (Bush) chose Calgary. Is it a colony of Houston, integrated into the military-industrial complex? We felt we had to counter that. Is Canada a sovereign country? Do we really have a neutral judiciary? We think of ourselves as sovereign, but do we take our orders from elsewhere?”

Former U.S. Congress woman Cynthia McKinney has been invited to Calgary to serve as a witness in Splitting the Sky's trial. 

Ms. McKinney will comment on the case some have dubbed:  Splitting the Sky vs. George Bush, at a town hall meeting at the University of Calgary on the evening of March 9. Ms. McKinney was the Green Party candidate in the most recent U.S. Presidential election and she is currently the only juror from the United States on the Russell Tribunal on Palestine.

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