Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! We only shake you down once a year, but when we do we really mean it. It costs a lot to keep the site afloat, and our growing audience, well over TWO million unique viewers a month, eats up a lot of bandwidth — and bandwidth isn’t free. We aren’t supported by corporate donors, advertisers or big foundations. We survive solely on your support.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Europe’s Hypocrisy

by BRENDAN COONEY

It seems strange for European leaders to be celebrating the capture of a war criminal, Radovan Karadzic, so soon after they were shaking hands with another, who so far has not had to go through the trouble of growing out his hair and selling new-age medicine.

“This is a historic moment,” German Chancellor Andrea Merkel said of the arrest of the Serbian, whose body count is thought to be upwards of 10,000. “The victims must know: massive human rights violations will not go unpunished.”

Two weeks earlier she had “a very interesting exchange of view” with George Bush, whose body count is thought to be upwards of half a million and counting. There was no mention of reassurances for his victims.

The Karadzic seizure “underscored Serbia’s European calling,” Merkel said, just a fortnight after she had a greater criminal by the right hand and let him get away.

But wait a minute, you say. Karadzic killed systematically. He targeted innocent people. He killed people because of their ethnicity. Shouldn’t this be factored into our judgment of him? Maybe. Or maybe killing civilians is killing civilians. Maybe the fact that you don’t do body counts, that you slaughtered so many people so indiscriminately that there is no way to precisely tabulate the number, should be weighed as well.

Whether having people lined up before shooting them should carry a different moral valence from dropping bombs on them is a consideration that might be brought up at the International Criminal Court of the United Nations.

There is no reason the International Criminal Court should not adjudicate prima facie cases of aggressive wars. It was wars of aggression, after all, that Nuremberg’s International Military Tribunal found “evil.” A war of aggression, it said, is “not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” It was Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, chief U.S. prosecutor at Nuremberg, who coined the phrase supreme international crime.

The first four of the seven Nuremberg Principles, adopted in 1950, are a seminal attempt to hold individuals accountable for their actions within the larger system of the nation-state: Principle 1 holds that the individual is responsible for his war crimes; Principle 2 says you’re not off the hook just because what you did was okay by the laws of your country; Principle 3 posits that acting as head of state is no defense, and Principle 4 says that following orders is not a defense either.

So what’s an international crime? The Principles lay out three kinds: crimes against peace (such as “planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression”), war crimes (“murder,” “ill-treatment of prisoners of war,” “plunder of public or private property,” “wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages”), and crimes against humanity (“murder…and other inhumane acts done against any civilian population.”)

If we are to mean anything at all as a nation, we must hold the Iraq War up to the light of these principles. We must let an international court decide which of these crimes were committed by whom, and we must hold accountable the individuals responsible for this war.

The Nuremberg trials were open to two main critiques from contemporary observers: they smacked of victor’s justice, because the Allies were not tried for their war crimes, and they were based on ex post facto laws (devised after the crimes were committed). Both points have their validity. And yet putting Bush and company on trial is immune from both charges, because the Principles have been in place for 60 years now, and it is not a question of hauling the vanquished before the victorious. This is the perfect opportunity to establish that no nation is above international law.

Here at home, people are finally starting to talk about impeachment, now that the Administration is in its gloaming. But impeaching Bush is like discharging Timothy McVeigh from the military or kicking Jeffrey Dahmer out of the Boy Scouts. It’s something we should probably do while we’re waiting for the guy to be arrested.

Writing in The New York Times Book Review of March 28, 1971, Times reporter Neil Sheehan argued that the U.S. presidents, generals and advisers who had launched the war of aggression in Southeast Asia should be put on trial. “The cleansing of the nation’s conscience and the future conduct of the most powerful country in the world towards the weaker peoples of the globe demand a national inquiry into the war crimes question,” he wrote. “History shows that men who decide for war, as the Japanese militarists did, cannot demand mercy for themselves. The resort to force is the ultimate act.”

What defense would we hear from lawyers for the Bush Administration and his henchmen (or puppeteers, let the evidence determine)? That the Iraq War was self-defense? One argument for putting Bush and Cheney in the dock of an international court is that judges there might not swallow that line as easily as did the U.S. press and public.

BRENDAN COONEY is an anthropologist living in New York City. He can be reached at: itmighthavehappened@yahoo.com

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

September 29, 2016
Robert Fisk
The Butcher of Qana: Shimon Peres Was No Peacemaker
James Rose
Politics in the Echo Chamber: How Trump Becomes President
Russell Mokhiber
The Corporate Vice Grip on the Presidential Debates
Daniel Kato
Rethinking the Race over Race: What Clinton Should do Now About ‘Super-Predators’
Peter Certo
Clinton’s Awkward Stumbles on Trade
Fran Shor
Demonizing the Green Party Vote
Rev. William Alberts
Trump’s Road Rage to the White House
Luke O'Brien
Because We Couldn’t Have Sanders, You’ll Get Trump
Michael J. Sainato
How the Payday Loan Industry is Obstructing Reform
Robert Fantina
You Can’t Have War Without Racism
Gregory Barrett
Bad Theater at the United Nations (Starring Kerry, Power, and Obama
James A Haught
The Long, Long Journey to Female Equality
Thomas Knapp
US Military Aid: Thai-ed to Torture
Jack Smith
Must They be Enemies? Russia, Putin and the US
Gilbert Mercier
Clinton vs Trump: Lesser of Two Evils or the Devil You Know
Tom H. Hastings
Manifesting the Worst Old Norms
George Ella Lyons
This Just in From Rancho Politico
September 28, 2016
Eric Draitser
Stop Trump! Stop Clinton!! Stop the Madness (and Let Me Get Off)!
Ted Rall
The Thrilla at Hofstra: How Trump Won the Debate
Robert Fisk
Cliché and Banality at the Debates: Trump and Clinton on the Middle East
Patrick Cockburn
Cracks in the Kingdom: Saudi Arabia Rocked by Financial Strains
Lowell Flanders
Donald Trump, Islamophobia and Immigrants
Shane Burley
Defining the Alt Right and the New American Fascism
Jan Oberg
Ukraine as the Border of NATO Expansion
Ramzy Baroud
Ban Ki-Moon’s Legacy in Palestine: Failure in Words and Deeds
David Swanson
How We Could End the Permanent War State
Sam Husseini
Debate Night’s Biggest Lie Was Told by Lester Holt
Laura Carlsen
Ayotzinapa’s Message to the World: Organize!
Binoy Kampmark
The Triumph of Momentum: Re-Electing Jeremy Corbyn
David Macaray
When the Saints Go Marching In
Seth Oelbaum
All Black Lives Will Never Matter for Clinton and Trump
Adam Parsons
Standing in Solidarity for a Humanity Without Borders
Cesar Chelala
The Trump Bubble
September 27, 2016
Louisa Willcox
The Tribal Fight for Nature: From the Grizzly to the Black Snake of the Dakota Pipeline
Paul Street
The Roots are in the System: Charlotte and Beyond
Jeffrey St. Clair
Idiot Winds at Hofstra: Notes on the Not-So-Great Debate
Mark Harris
Clinton, Trump, and the Death of Idealism
Mike Whitney
Putin Ups the Ante: Ceasefire Sabotage Triggers Major Offensive in Aleppo
Anthony DiMaggio
The Debates as Democratic Façade: Voter “Rationality” in American Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Punishing the Punished: the Torments of Chelsea Manning
Paul Buhle
Why “Snowden” is Important (or How Kafka Foresaw the Juggernaut State)
Jack Rasmus
Hillary’s Ghosts
Brian Cloughley
Billions Down the Afghan Drain
Lawrence Davidson
True Believers and the U.S. Election
Matt Peppe
Taking a Knee: Resisting Enforced Patriotism
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail
[i]
[i]
[i]
[i]