FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

John Howard and War Crimes

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

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

April 19, 2018
Ramzy Baroud
Media Cover-up: Shielding Israel is a Matter of Policy
Vijay Prashad
Undermining Brazilian Democracy: the Curious Saga of Lula
Steve Fraser
Class Dismissed: Class Conflict in Red State America
John W. Whitehead
Crimes of a Monster: Your Tax Dollars at Work
Kenn Orphan
Whistling Past the Graveyard
Karl Grossman TJ Coles
Opening Pandora’s Box: Karl Grossman on Trump and the Weaponization of Space
Colin Todhunter
Behind Theresa May’s ‘Humanitarian Hysterics’: The Ideology of Empire and Conquest
Jesse Jackson
Syrian Strikes is One More step Toward a Lawless Presidency
Michael Welton
Confronting Militarism is Early Twentieth Century Canada: the Woman’s International League for Peace and Freedom
Alycee Lane
On David S. Buckel and Setting Ourselves on Fire
Jennifer Matsui
Our Overlords Reveal Their Top ‘To Do’s: Are YOU Next On Their Kill List?
George Ochenski
Jive Talkin’: On the Campaign Trail With Montana Republicans
Kary Love
Is It Time for A Nice, “Little” Nuclear War?
April 18, 2018
Alan Nasser
Could Student Loans Lead to Debt Prison? The Handwriting on the Wall
Susan Roberts
Uses for the Poor
Alvaro Huerta
I Am Not Your “Wetback”
Jonah Raskin
Napa County, California: the Clash of Oligarchy & Democracy
Robert Hunziker
America’s Dystopian Future
Geoffrey McDonald
“America First!” as Economic War
Jonathan Cook
Robert Fisk’s Douma Report Rips Away Excuses for Air Strike on Syria
Jeff Berg
WW III This Ain’t
Binoy Kampmark
Macron’s Syria Game
Linn Washington Jr.
Philadelphia’s Top Cop Defends Indefensible Prejudice in Starbucks Arrest Incident
Katie Fite
Chaos in Urban Canyons – Air Force Efforts to Carve a Civilian Population War Game Range across Southern Idaho
Robby Sherwin
Facebook: This Is Where I Leave You
April 17, 2018
Paul Street
Eight Takeaways on Boss Tweet’s Latest Syrian Missile Spasm
Robert Fisk
The Search for the Truth in Douma
Eric Mann
The Historic 1968 Struggle Against Columbia University
Roy Eidelson
The 1%’s Mind Games: Psychology Gone Bad
John Steppling
The Sleep of Civilization
Patrick Cockburn
Syria Bombing Reveals Weakness of Theresa May
Dave Lindorff
No Indication in the US That the Country is at War Again
W. T. Whitney
Colombia and Cuba:  a Tale of Two Countries
Dean Baker
Why Isn’t the Median Wage for Black Workers Rising?
Linn Washington Jr.
Philadelphia’s Top Cop Defends Indefensible Prejudice in Starbucks Arrest Incident
C. L. Cook
Man in the Glass
Kary Love
“The Mob Boss Orders a Hit and a Pardon”
Lawrence Wittner
Which Nations Are the Happiest―and Why
Dr. Hakim
Where on Earth is the Just Economy that Works for All, Including Afghan Children?
April 16, 2018
Dave Lindorff
President Trump’s War Crime is Worse than the One He Accuses Assad of
Ron Jacobs
War is Just F**kin’ Wrong
John Laforge
Nuclear Keeps on Polluting, Long After Shutdown
Norman Solomon
Missile Attack on Syria Is a Salute to “Russiagate” Enthusiasts, Whether They Like It or Not
Uri Avnery
Eyeless in Gaza   
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraq Then, Syria Now
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail