FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

John Howard and War Crimes

by BINOY KAMPMARK

The International Criminal Court, active since 2002, is getting busier, though much of its activity still remains buried in preparatory paperwork.  It has begun fielding petitions on a growing list of war criminal suspects with some regularity. The first sign that more work would be coming its way came in March 2003 when the invasion of Iraq took place.  The war crimes dossiers in the hands of activists and non-government groups began thickening.

Such activity was given a push by a collection of outraged and eloquent statements on the invasion by a few prominent people, none more distinguished than Harold Pinter.  Pinter’s speech on the occasion of receiving the Nobel Prize of Literature in 2005 bears remembering.  ‘The invasion of Iraq was a bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law.’  The lie of emancipation came packed in the forms of cluster bombs, depleted uranium and torture networks.

The candidates as potential bench warmers for the Hague dock are of course, President George W. Bush, and ex-Prime Ministers Tony Blair (Britain) and John Howard (Australia), an Anglo-centric, some might even say Anglospheric cabal that is now receiving the attention of innovative jurists and enterprising activists.

The latest update in the prosecution machine lies in a brief compiled by activists based in Australia on the subject of charging John Howard with an assortment of crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC.  This should not come as a surprise to Howard.  As early as  March 20,  2003, he was put on notice by 41 affiliates of the Victorian Peace Network, acting through the Australian firm Slater and Gordon, that government ministers would, in the event of an invasion of Iraq, be ‘investigated and, if appropriate, prosecuted for being complicit in excessive and unjustifiable loss of civilian lives and devastation of non-military infrastructure.’

Howard is more used to regarding the ICC as an acronym of cricket rather than crime.  But a legal brief to a body more versed in punishing crimes of politics than code violations of a one-time imperial sport was lodged (June 14) by Melbourne-based activist Tim Anderson and John Valder, former Liberal Party National President.  Other members of this eclectic group backing this move are Senator Lyn Allison of the now defunct Australian Democrats, prolific cartoonist Michael Leunig, renowned classical guitarist John Williams and American anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan.

The alleged war crimes, noted in the brief to the ICC, centre around ‘the unwarranted and excessively lethal armed attack and invasion of Iraq’ with specific war crimes against specific persons detailed in various annexes to the document.  Pictures are appended, and the names of victims attached.  John Howard, through his ‘express personal executive decision and action’ is alleged to have perpetrated ‘war crimes by ‘the conduct’ of such an unwarranted, excessive and disproportionate use of force.

Anderson and his colleagues had been active in compiling a list of petitioners to back a series of charges against the former prime minister.  The charges in one specific petition are hefty.  Complicity in the killing of civilians in Baghdad, Basra, Khormal, Babel, Nassariya, Najaf, Karbala and Anbar in March 2003 through an assortment of weapons comes first, followed by complicity in the killing of ten members of the Sabri tribespeople in Afghanistan in May 2002 and the killing of prisoners after the US-led ‘Anaconda’ operation in Afghanistan’s Shah-i-Kot in March 2002.  Involvement in the attacks on the civilian population of Fallujah (April and November 2004) is also alleged; as is Howard’s connections with the international torture network established under the directives of the ‘war on terror’.

Such a process of investigation is necessary, if for no other reason than to overcome the vicious normality such acts as the Iraqi occupation have assumed.

The ICC is, however limited in how it can reach into the throes of politics.  While the days of state impunity are seemingly numbered, much international law remains a creature of contract and diplomacy, rather than civics and morality.  It is, for instance, curtailed by the ratification process – countries reluctant to participate don’t have to, and the Bush administration is a notable absentee, amongst other countries, from the process.  We are then left with the heroic, if vain antics by concerned citizens, who cite the violation of local laws as the basis of their actions.  But if the ICC does, as the Nuremberg trials were intended for, put forth a record, to indelibly memorialize the uncatalogued dead, to not merely unearth the mistakes but the crimes of a conflict, then it would have gone some way to achieving its purpose.

BINOY KAMPMARK was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, University of Cambridge.  Email: bkampmark@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

Weekend Edition
April 29-31, 2016
Andrew Levine
What is the Democratic Party Good For? Absolutely Nothing
Roberto J. González – David Price
Anthropologists Marshalling History: the American Anthropological Association’s Vote on the Academic Boycott of Israeli Institutions
Robert Jacobs
Hanford, Not Fukushima, is the Big Radiological Threat to the West Coast
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
US Presidential Election: Beyond Lesser Evilism
Dave Lindorff
The Push to Make Sanders the Green Party’s Candidate
Ian Fairlie
Chernobyl’s Ongoing Toll: 40,000 More Cancer Deaths?
Vijay Prashad
Political Violence in Honduras
Pete Dolack
Verizon Sticks it to its Workers Because $45 Billion isn’t Enough
Richard Falk
If Obama Visits Hiroshima
Margaret Kimberley
Dishonoring Harriet Tubman
Deepak Tripathi
The United States, Britain and the European Union
Eva Golinger
My Country, My Love: a Conversation with Gerardo and Adriana of the Cuban Five
Peter Linebaugh
Marymount, Haymarket, Marikana: a Brief Note Towards ‘Completing’ May Day
Moshe Adler
May Day: a Trade Agreement to Unite Third World and American Workers
Paul Krane
Where Gun Control Ought to Start: Disarming the Police
David Anderson
Al Jazeera America: Goodbye to All That Jazz   
Rob Hager
Platform Perversity: More From the Campaign That Can’t Strategize
Pat Williams
FDR in Montana
Dave Marsh
Every Day I Read the Book (the Best Music Books of the Last Year)
David Rosen
Job Satisfaction Under Perpetual Stagnation
John Feffer
Big Oil isn’t Going Down Without a Fight
Murray Dobbin
The Canadian / Saudi Arms Deal: More Than Meets the Eye?
Gary Engler
The Devil Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Is Washington Preparing for War Against Russia?
Manuel E. Yepe
The Big Lies and the Small Lies
Robert Fantina
Vice Presidents, Candidates and History
Mel Gurtov
Sanctions and Defiance in North Korea
Howard Lisnoff
Still the Litmus Test of Worth
Dean Baker
Big Business and the Overtime Rule: Irrational Complaints
Ulrich Heyden
Crimea as a Paradise for High-Class Tourism?
Ramzy Baroud
Did the Arabs Betray Palestine? – A Schism between the Ruling Classes and the Wider Society
Halyna Mokrushyna
The War on Ukrainian Scientists
Joseph Natoli
Who’s the Better Neoliberal?
Ron Jacobs
The Battle at Big Brown: Joe Allen’s The Package King
Wahid Azal
Class Struggle and Westoxication in Pahlavi Iran: a Review of the Iranian Series ‘Shahrzad’
David Crisp
After All These Years, Newspapers Still Needed
Graham Peebles
Hungry and Frightened: Famine in Ethiopia 2016
Robert Koehler
Opening the Closed Political Culture
Missy Comley Beattie
Waves of Nostalgia
Thomas Knapp
The Problem with Donald Trump’s Version of “America First”
Georgina Downs
Hillsborough and Beyond: Establishment Cover Ups, Lies & Corruption
Jeffrey St. Clair
Groove on the Tracks: the Magic Left Hand of Red Garland
Ben Debney
Kush Zombies: QELD’s Hat Tip to Old School Hip Hop
Charles R. Larson
Moby Dick on Steroids?
Alice Donovan
Cyberwarfare: Challenge of Tomorrow
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail