What’s the definition of war criminal?

At a Monday lecture in Los Angeles, Bush presidential advisor Karl Rove was given a very, very warm welcome. Audience members called him a war criminal and yelled that he would "rot in hell." One member of activist group Code Pink even approached him with handcuffs to make a citizen’s arrest. This is not the ...

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

At a Monday lecture in Los Angeles, Bush presidential advisor Karl Rove was given a very, very warm welcome. Audience members called him a war criminal and yelled that he would "rot in hell." One member of activist group Code Pink even approached him with handcuffs to make a citizen's arrest.

This is not the first time Rove's been greeted by a less-than-friendly mob. In March, 2008, Rove spoke at the University of Iowa in front of more than 1,000 people. (Full disclosure: I was a member of the University of Lecture Committee, which invited Rove, and planned and hosted the lecture.) There were a few Rove-sympathizers among the crowd, but the vast majority took the opportunity to scream at him, attempt citizen's arrests, etc., etc., for over an hour. The fracas was later made the first chapter of Paul Alexander's Machiavelli's Shadow: The Rise and Fall of Karl Rove.

But onto the real question: Is Karl Rove a war criminal? The Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 reads:

At a Monday lecture in Los Angeles, Bush presidential advisor Karl Rove was given a very, very warm welcome. Audience members called him a war criminal and yelled that he would "rot in hell." One member of activist group Code Pink even approached him with handcuffs to make a citizen’s arrest.

This is not the first time Rove’s been greeted by a less-than-friendly mob. In March, 2008, Rove spoke at the University of Iowa in front of more than 1,000 people. (Full disclosure: I was a member of the University of Lecture Committee, which invited Rove, and planned and hosted the lecture.) There were a few Rove-sympathizers among the crowd, but the vast majority took the opportunity to scream at him, attempt citizen’s arrests, etc., etc., for over an hour. The fracas was later made the first chapter of Paul Alexander’s Machiavelli’s Shadow: The Rise and Fall of Karl Rove.

But onto the real question: Is Karl Rove a war criminal? The Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 reads:

Art. 146. The High Contracting Parties undertake to enact any legislation necessary to provide effective penal sanctions for persons committing, or ordering to be committed, any of the grave breaches of the present Convention defined in the following Article…

Art.147. Grave breaches to which the preceding Article relates shall be those involving any of the following acts, if committed against persons or property protected by the present Convention: wilful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, including biological experiments, wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, unlawful deportation or transfer or unlawful confinement of a protected person, compelling a protected person to serve in the forces of a hostile Power, or wilfully depriving a protected person of the rights of fair and regular trial prescribed in the present Convention, taking of hostages and extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly.

Given that Rove, a political and communications strategist, was in no position to authorize any use of military force, and had no authority to order detention or interrogation policies, it’d seem that he does not in anyway qualify as a war criminal. Looks like these protesters need to get a new line.

Andrew Swift is an editorial researcher at Foreign Policy.

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