Europe’s Hypocrisy


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



Weekend Edition
October 9-11, 2015
David Price – Roberto J. González
The Use and Abuse of Culture (and Children): The Human Terrain System’s Rationalization of Pedophilia in Afghanistan
Mike Whitney
Putin’s “Endgame” in Syria
Jason Hribal
The Tilikum Effect and the Downfall of SeaWorld
Paul Street
Hope in Abandonment: Cuba, Detroit, and Earth-Scientific Socialism
Gary Leupp
The Six Most Disastrous Interventions of the 21st Century
Andrew Levine
In Syria, Obama is Playing a Losing Game
Louis Proyect
The End of Academic Freedom in America: the Case of Steven Salaita
Rob Urie
Democrats, Neoliberalism and the TPP
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
The Bully Recalibrates: U.S. Signals Policy Shift in Syria
Brian Cloughley
Hospital Slaughter and the US/NATO Propaganda Machine
John Walsh
For Vietnam: Artemisinin From China, Agent Orange From America
John Wight
No Moral High Ground for the West on Syria
Robert Fantina
Canadian Universities vs. Israeli Apartheid
Conn Hallinan
Portugal: Europe’s Left Batting 1000
John Feffer
Mouths Wide Shut: Obama’s War on Whistleblowers
Paul Craig Roberts
The Impulsiveness of US Power
Ron Jacobs
The Murderer as American Hero
Alex Nunns
“A Movement Looking for a Home”: the Meaning of Jeremy Corbyn
Philippe Marlière
Class Struggle at Air France
Binoy Kampmark
Waiting in Vain for Moderation: Syria, Russia and Washington’s Problem
Paul Edwards
Empire of Disaster
Xanthe Hall
Nuclear Madness: NATO’s WMD ‘Sharing’ Must End
Margaret Knapke
These Salvadoran Women Went to Prison for Suffering Miscarriages
Uri Avnery
Abbas: the Leader Without Glory
Halima Hatimy
#BlackLivesMatter: Black Liberation or Black Liberal Distraction?
Michael Brenner
Kissinger Revisited
Cesar Chelala
The Perverse Rise of Killer Robots
Halyna Mokrushyna
On Ukraine’s ‘Incorrect’ Past
Jason Cone
Even Wars Have Rules: a Fact Sheet on the Bombing of Kunduz Hospital
Walter Brasch
Mass Murders are Good for Business
William Hadfield
Sophistry Rising: the Refugee Debate in Germany
Christopher Brauchli
Why the NRA Profits From Mass Shootings
Hadi Kobaysi
How The US Uses (Takfiri) Extremists
Pete Dolack
There is Still Time to Defeat the Trans-Pacific Partnership
Marc Norton
The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution
Andre Vltchek
Stop Millions of Western Immigrants!
David Rosen
If Donald Dump Was President
Dave Lindorff
America’s Latest War Crime
Ann Garrison
Sankarist Spirit Resurges in Burkina Faso
Franklin Lamb
Official Investigation Needed After Afghan Hospital Bombing
Linn Washington Jr.
Wrongs In Wine-Land
Ronald Bleier
Am I Drinking Enough Water? Sneezing’s A Clue
Charles R. Larson
Prelude to the Spanish Civil War: Eduard Mendoza’s “An Englishman in Madrid”
David Yearsley
Papal Pop and Circumstance
October 08, 2015
Michael Horton
Why is the US Aiding and Enabling Saudi Arabia’s Genocidal War in Yemen?