The accumulation of ludicrous moves by the United States and its pawns over the past few months has reached a stage that would be risible if it were not so dangerous. The danger is exacerbated by the insistence of American media on, first, ignoring the most provocative and reckless moves, then proposing explanations for them that can’t withstand three minutes of critical thought. The object is to keep the American public ignorant, make it stupid, and maintain the national-security state’s prerogative to do anything it wants.
High on the list, of course, is the sabotage of the Nord Stream pipeline and the various attempts to divert attention away from the obvious culprit. The US and its poodles’ initial story—that Russia blew up its own pipeline—was put forward under the correct assumption that compliant media would report it as implied fact and then forget about it.
Seymour Hersh’s detailed and plausible account of a Biden-ordered sabotage operation, combined with the public statements of Biden and other administration officials announcing their intention to destroy the pipeline and celebrating its destruction, made it necessary to say something seemingly apposite. The result—a tale of five guys and a gal (fans of Ukraine but totally freelance) in a sailing yacht, which happened to appear in U.S. and German newspapers right after a hurried meeting between Biden and Scholz—elevates the diversion(ary discourse) from the ridiculous to the comic.
Garland Nixon suggests that this story—which I doubt a single sentient adult in the world believes—must have been concocted by deep-state dissidents and masters of irony, who wanted to undermine the Biden administration and the media by having them tell it. I can’t—and as a fan of irony, don’t want to—rule that out. But I tend to see it more like Dan Ackroyd’s classic, precognizant, SNL spoof ad for the three-bladed razor: “Because you’ll believe anything.” The tragedy is that Western—certainly U.S.—media do pretend to believe it, search engine algorithms will be adjusted to promote it, and the U.S. government, ostensibly non-governmental Western media, and impartial international organizations will refuse to investigate it. You are meant to believe it, whether anyone thinks it’s true or not.
But the epitome of delusional and dangerous gestures was reached with the International Criminal Court’s arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin.
To be more precise, in the ICC’s legal terms, it’s a warrant for the arrest of Putin and his Commissioner for Children’s Rights, Maria Lvova-Belova, on the “war crime” charge of “the unlawful deportation and transfer of Ukrainian children from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation.”
To be more precise, in real terms, as articulated by Finian Cunningham: It’s a “cheap political stunt” that demonstrates “the ICC is a Kangaroo Court and a political plaything that Western imperialism uses to pursue political enemies.”
Whatever its intention, I think this cartoon from the Washington Post makes that point quite nicely.
Suffer the Children
It is useless to debate questions of jurisdiction (Russia, like the U.S., is not a member of the ICC) or the specifics of the charge, but one should understand how prima facie flimsy the case is.
Of course, Russia claims it is relocating orphaned children from war zones in what it now considers Russian territory for their own safety—particularly the Donbass, in which Kiev has been creating orphans with constant shelling for 9 years. And of course, there are going to be mistakes made in that process, even if done with the best intent. All of this has happened before, to the complete disinterest of the ICC, as we’ll see below.
The ICC apparently based its indictment on a report produced by Yale University’s Humanitarian Research Lab (HRL). Max Blumenthal and Jeremy Loffredo (who visited and filmed one of the “camps” in question) have an excellent piece in The Grayzone (GZ) demolishing that report. The HRL is funded by the State Department, and headed by Nathaniel Raymond, a technologist who describes his previous job as “count[ing] tanks from space for George Clooney.” Raymond says he came under “a lot of pressure” from the US National Intelligence Council to go after Russia for “mov[ing] citizens from eastern Ukraine to the Russian Federation.”
As the GZ says, “the ICC and all other official Western sources referred to these youth simply as ‘Ukrainian,’ as though they were forcibly extracted from pro-Kiev communities occupied by Russian forces and subjected to brainwashing inside Russian internment camps.” It’s “exactly what Hitler did” (Lindsey Graham), straight out of “Hitler’s playbook” (Fareed Zakaria).
Never mind that, to make this report, HRL in its own words, relied “only” on open source information, “[did] not conduct interviews with witnesses or victims…and [did] not conduct ground-level investigations”; that it found “Many children taken to camps are sent with the consent of their parents for an agreed duration of days or weeks and returned to their parents as originally scheduled” and that “Many of these parents are low-income and wanted to take advantage of a free trip for their child…[or] hoped to protect their children from ongoing fighting, to send them somewhere with intact sanitation, or to ensure they had nutritious food of the sort unavailable where they live.” Never mind that “There is no documentation of child mistreatment, including sexual or physical violence, among the camps referenced in this report.” And never mind that, “nearly all of the children referenced in the … report are ethnic Russians from families and communities that have sided with Russia” (GZ) and that Russia and those families consider the Donbass republics part of Russia.
Never mind, because, according to Raymond (and, I presume, the ICC), “Even if that was true, it’s a war crime.” It’s a war crime because, Raymond says, assuming his preferred answer to the question of what “state” Donbass is part of: “Under the Geneva Convention, one state party to an armed conflict cannot adopt or transfer children from the other state party under any circumstances.”
Well, I bet most of us can think of some circumstance where that might be justified. Maybe one in which these children are being moved to safety from a war zone where for 9 years they have been, and still are being, shelled and killed by a “state party” whose president said, “Our children will go to school, to kindergartens – their children will hole up in basements,” whose pundits say they are “superfluous people” who “must be exterminated,” and whose self-identified Nazi soldiers say, “I wouldn’t call those people Ukrainians…They must be slaughtered.”
But nobody believes that the ICC suddenly found itself conscientiously impelled by a strict-constructionist legal theory (or a U.S. State Department/National Intelligence Council sponsored report that did not conduct IRL—“ground-level”—investigations), to take a deep interest in prosecuting Maria Lvova-Belova, or anyone else, for “unlawful deportation.” The ICC is no more interested in prosecuting this specific “war crime” than the U.S. is interested in bringing “freedom” and “democracy” to the countries it invades.
How do I know? It wasn’t, and won’t be, interested in making a “war crime” of this state party’s “unlawful deportation”:
Advocates who spoke with CNN say the procedures for reunifications with parents who remain in Afghanistan or other countries remain unclear.
No one in the U.S.’s “international community” gives a damn about, nor will the ICC be citing as “war crime” precedent, this case of “unlawful deportation”:
…volunteers—who were not involved in the decision to receive or adopt out children—quickly began to doubt whether every child was without family…
“There are unquestionably children in the airlift who are true orphans,” Jane Barton, a translator from the American Friends Services Committee told the San Francisco Chronicle on April 13, 1975. “But I talked to a number of children who said they are not orphans.”…
Did the U.S. save kids—or steal them? The legacy of Operation Babylift is a deeply complicated one
By the way, isn’t it curious that the ICC issued an arrest warrant for this “war crime” (“unlawful deportation”)? As Cunningham asks: “Is this the best case that the ICC and its Western handlers can really find against Russia?” One would think the ICC might rather indict Putin on the more fundamental charge of which he is so widely accused: starting an aggressive war in violation of the UN Charter. It is impossible not to think the ICC went out of its way to avoid raising that “war crime” because it would have been too blatantly servile to do that while ignoring the elephantine presence of aggressive-war-starting U.S. presidents in the room. Thus, we get Child snatchers!—per Cunningham: “the fallback on an emotively appealing issue of alleged child kidnapping. [And look, we named Maria, too. See, it’s not a vendetta against Putin.] The cringe-worthy sense alone tells you it is a fit-up.”
So, baby love the ICC’s gambit is not. It has one purpose and one target: to support the U.S./NATO war on Russia by further villainizing Vladimir Putin. Nobody in the ICC knows or cares what the details of the “kidnapping” crime are, whether it can or will ever be properly adjudicated, or who the hell Maria Lvova-Belova is. The headlines about Putin-Hitler are all. It’s “a cheap political stunt to bolster badly needed authority for the United States and its Western minions.” Everybody not completely captured in the Western media bubble (and even many who are) knows this.
Everybody—certainly everybody in the Global South—knows what the ICC is and what it’s not. It’s another ostensibly impartial international organization that has been intimidated and coopted by the US as a tool against its enemies.
The United States, holding to the principle of American exceptionalism, has always made clear that it will never accede to the principle of equality before the law from the ICC or any international institution.
Here’s how contemptuously the U.S. laid down its law regarding any such foolishness by the “illegitimate” ICC:
So contemptuous has the U.S. been of the ICC that it threatened to ban, “sanction their funds in the U.S. financial system,” and “prosecute in the U.S. criminal justice system” the judges, prosecutors and “any company or state that assists an ICC investigation of Americans.” So important it is that the world know the U.S. “will stop at nothing in its campaign against the court” that it passed a law called The Hague Invasion Act, which authorizes a military attack on the Hague, Denmark—a NATO country—to “liberate any American or citizen of a U.S.-allied country [i.e., Israel] being held by the court.” The U.S. also “effectively blackmailed 100 countries … by forcing them to sign bilateral immunity agreements in which they promised not to turn over U.S. persons to the ICC or else the United States would withhold foreign aid from them.”
All of that, of course, was when the ICC was hinting at investigating U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan or Israeli war crimes in Palestine. Now that it has successfully intimidated the “international community” and rearranged the court personnel, and is involved in a proxy war on Russia (in which no one comes out with clean hands), the U.S., as the Washington Post says, “finally sees the point of the International Criminal Court.”
That point being: to support the U.S./NATO/Kiev war on Russia by villainizing Vladimir Putin.
Even as U.S. government officials and congresspersons were applauding the ICC for indicting Putin, the Pentagon was warning against cooperating with the court, knowing full well that there is no charge that can be brought against Russia that can’t be brought against the United States. But many American pundits and politicians now say (probably correctly): “Not to worry, generals, the ICC knows its place.”
The whole world sees the ICC’s hypocrisy and selective prosecution. This is the culmination of a process that’s been going on at least since the late 90s, in which The United States and its allies have systematically destroyed the already imperfect and fragile architecture of international law based on the United Nations Charter, replacing it with the U.S.-undefined “rules” of the U.S.-selected “international community.” Too many international institutions have now demonstrated they are captured by, and willing to go along with, this obvious imperialist re-arrangement, and have consequently lost all credibility.
Here’s the contempt with which the rest of the world treats the hypocritical and sanctimonious game the ICC is playing:
Vladimir Putin will not be arrested in South Africa. He will not be arrested if he goes to India. He won’t be arrested by any member or non-member of the ICC. He won’t even be arrested if he comes to the United States, so cheap this trick is. Vladimir Putin is never going to be arrested. And he is not meant to be. The point of the ICC warrant, like the Swedish warrant for Julian Assange, is not to adjudicate the ostensible offense, but to leave the “Hitlerite baby kidnapper” charge hanging over his head forever.
No American or Israeli general or politician will ever be indicted by the ICC. All the countries of the world have seen that the ICC has only ever indicted Africans and America’s enemies, and they know the ICC never will indict anyone else.
The ICC has become a court of imperialist injustice.
Everybody knows who blew up the Nord Stream pipeline, and everybody knows who engineered the ICC’s arrest warrant for Putin. The former explosion destroyed the infrastructure of Russian-European economic relations. The latter is a deadly shaped charge that demolishes the remnants of a credible international justice system.
That’s unfortunate, but, as I said in a previous essay, the world is telling the United States and its humanitarian-imperialist allies: You cannot bring questions of international justice to the table because there is no table. If you want to build one, you will have to sit down with everybody, including Russia, China, Iran, etc. And you won’t be at the head of it; it will be round. If you want, with your usual self-righteous hypocrisy, to keep pretending you’re in the seat of judgement, we’ll ignore you.
I Think We’re Alone Now
The arrest warrant for Putin is not only the ultimate display of the sanctimonious hypocrisy of the U.S. and its captured institutions. More dangerous, in the context of ongoing combat and the imminent threat of nuclear war with Russia, it destroys the possibility of diplomacy. Like the Nord Stream attack, it sabotages the possibility of normal state-to-state relations and cements a confrontation that can only be resolved through capitulation—which means it can never be resolved.
This cannot be unforeseen, unplanned, or unintended. It is the deliberate, desired result of those who arranged it. The ICC arrest warrant—as it was meant to—has created a situation in which nothing but escalation is possible. Once you have augmented your international media Hitlerization of a head of state by having an international judicial authority formally charge him with being a war criminal, there’s no more talking. What can you say to him, except: “Turn yourself in!”? What can you say to other parties, except: “Lock him up!”? What can he say to you, except “Fuck off!”?
You have now put up a wall between yourself and your target that can only be breached by his or your capitulation. You may think that means you have successfully isolated and ostracized your target, but you have definitely painted yourself into a corner. What next move can you make? As more and more parties join the “Fuck off!” chorus, it may dawn on you that you’ve isolated and trapped yourself. It may, if you’re not a delusional neocon American exceptionalist.
This is the culmination of a decade of relentless political, economic, and a dash of military (Syria, NATO expansion) warfare designed to excommunicate and weaken Russia.
Its main tactic has been the cascade of economic sanctions that began in earnest with the ludicrous Magnitsky Act and escalated through a series of “crimes” instantly and irrevocably attributed to Russia—the “invasion” of Crimea, the downing of MH17, the Novichok poisonings, the bounty on American soldiers, the election of Donald Trump—that Russia has not committed, or has not been proven to have committed, or are entirely fictional and have not been committed by anyone at all. These sanctions are effectively impossible to reverse because their expressed goal is to extract confession, repentance, and restitution. We will only stop taking your bank accounts, and remove sanctions, and release you from arrest, and let you play with us if you confess and repent every crime we accuse you of. No questions allowed!
This is not a serious framework for respectful international relations between two sovereign nations. It’s downright childish. It’s the US, playing Pope, ordering its subordinate clerics to forbid the apostate communion. Is Russia ever going to abandon Crimea, confess that it shot down the Malaysian jet, tricked us into electing Donald Trump, murdered the Skripals, bribed the Taliban, et. al.? Is the U.S. ever going to say, “Never mind”?
The unmistakable message to Russia—now well and truly received—is that only regime change and submission will permit your country to re-enter the “international community” of the U.S. and its satellites.
The U.S. thought it would finally achieve that through the military conflict with the most powerful European army it had built up in Ukraine combined with “sanctions from hell.” Instead, it has found itself stuck in a cage of its own creating, scrounging for energy and ammunition, with the most populous and economically powerful countries in the world –China (which it’s also antagonizing), India, Brazil, the Middle East—just walking away. And now, faced with the prospect of nuclear war, the U.S. has, with the arrest warrant for Putin, welded a steel door on its cage that guarantees there will be no communication until and unless there is regime change, based on military defeat, in either Russia or the West. What’s the over and under on that? In Germany? In France? In Manhattan criminal court?
Leopards from Germany, and Challengers from England, and MiGs from Poland, and Abrams from the U.S., and—the epitome of pointless belligerence—the arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin from the ICC are weapons against Russia that do nothing but worsen the disaster being visited on Ukraine, harden the division in the world, hasten the isolation and demise of the United States and its “West,” and increase the likelihood of nuclear war.
We are being driven to Armageddon on a train of unnecessary, self-harming aggressions. The U.S. has put itself in a corner from which it’s going to have to shoot its way out, and it’s used all but its biggest guns already.