Call me a cockeyed optimist if you will, but it’s just remotely
possible that something decent will come of the decision by the vaunted
International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia to indict
Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic on charges of perpetrating war
crimes. Perhaps — just perhaps — it will become apparent to a few more
people that the Tribunal is not some lofty, disinterested body devoted
to the abstract ideal of international justice and mercy but the
embodiment of victor’s justice — to be imposed before victory, which is
far from assured.
And perhaps — just perhaps — people will start to wonder who else
could or should be indicted as a war criminal if such a body really were
independent and devoted to a consistent interpretation of that ad hoc
body of improvised rules and opportunism the gurus of international
relations are pleased to call “international law.”
The International Tribunal is the farthest thing from a “higher
body” with a record of dispassionate jurisprudence that would give it
legitimacy and moral authority. It was formed after the pseudo-peace in
Bosnia by the largest and most successful thugs in the conflict to
inflict further punishment on the lesser and less successful thugs in
The tribunal was formed under the aegis of the United Nations (itself
a body of dubious credibility at best), so it has a shred of
pseudo-legal authority. But it has no more moral authority than the ad
hoc international tribunal convened by dotty philosopher Bertrand
Russell to condemn the United States during the Vietnam non-declared
War. Indeed, it might have less moral authority. Dubious as it was, the
principals of Bertrand Russell’s tribunal were not mass murderers, mad
bombers and proud, self-acknowledged violators of national sovereignty.
Which brings us to who else might be indicted by a genuinely impartial
international war crimes tribunal.
Slobodan Milosevic is held personally responsible in the indictment
for “ethnic cleansing” for driving 740,000 ethnic Albanians from Kosovo
and for the murder of 348 people. Let’s go along with all the war hawks
in violating the first rule of jurisprudence, proclaimed every day to
every jury in the land — that an accused person is presumed innocent
until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt — and assume he is, as
Doonesbury characters might say, Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!
Before the bombing began, it is now acknowledged by nearly all
concerned, top military commanders in the United States and Britain
forcefully expressed deep reservations about the bomb-only plan to which
the political leaders were wedded. They doubted that a compelling
case had been made that anything resembling a legitimate U.S. national
interest was at stake. The urged more use of economic sanctions and
other non-military levers before resorting to air strikes.
They questioned the “domino theory” put forward by Secretary of State
Madeleine Albright. They warned that ruling out ground troops in advance
would reduce the effectiveness of an air campaign. They even warned that
starting a bombing campaign could accelerate the ethnic
cleansing campaign in Serbia and make the humanitarian crisis there even
worse than it would have been in the absence of bombing.
The political leaders listened to the experts and ignored them. They
violated the internationally-recognized sovereignty of a country that
had not violated the borders of any other country and posed no credible
threat of doing so in the near future. They made themselves the allies
of a guerrilla movement financed largely by international drug barons.
They expanded the mission of NATO, formed as a defensive alliance
against aggression, into one of aggression on countries outside of NATO
who incurred the displeasure of NATO’s barons.
They bombed. Oh, did they bomb. NATO — mostly U.S. — warplanes have
flown some 26,000 sorties in the first two months of the mission and
dropped 15,000 bombs or missiles. They destroyed the Chinese Embassy in
Belgrade, setting back relations by decades. They damaged the embassies
of Sweden, Switzerland, Iraq, Libya, India and Hungary. They have hit
“friendly” Bulgaria and Albania. They have hit trains, hospitals, a
refugee convoy filled with the people they were ostensibly trying to
save and other clearly civilian targets, including electric plants and
radio and TV facilities. As predicted, they have made the refugee and
humanitarian crisis in Kosovo worse than it would have been in the
absence of bombing.
They have acknowledged killing 312 people because of bombing
mistakes. They have killed thousands more quite intentionally. They have
strengthened hostile and reactionary forces in Russia and China and
re-ignited anti-American sentiment worldwide. They have made the Balkan
region much more unstable than it was before they started. They have
converted a brutal but localized civil war into an international
conflict whose hostile repercussions will reverberate for decades to
These arrogant ignoramuses haven’t come close to admitting the
magnitude of their miscalculations. Indeed, they are pushing — Mr.
Blair is doing so openly while Mr. Clinton is doing so secretly if the
London Times has it right — for a larger war with as many as 150,000
ground troops (quintuple the original promise) to fight and risk death
to validate their initial folly and amateurish miscalculations. Will the
real war criminals please stand down?