In a world of justice and truth, there would indeed be a War Crimes
Tribunal to indict heads of state for their crimes against civilians.
Marauding, murdering politicians would be hauled before the court, the
charges spelled out by the victims and their families, the jury
convened, and the people’s sentence announced.
At last, there would be some constant check on power-mad politicos
who loot and kill their citizens and those of other nations. And who can
doubt, at least initially, that there would be a full caseload? But
after politicians got the message that they at last would be held
personally accountable for their actions, the world would be a more
But there is risk in such a scheme. The Tribunal could be controlled
by governments, which is to say, by the war criminals themselves.
Clearly, then, it would lose all legitimacy. It would cease to be a true
court of law and become a propaganda organ and a means of enhancing
imperial power and even covering up war crimes.
Here’s a for instance. Let’s say the world’s only superpower — with
a military budget bigger than all the other developed nations put
together — aggresses against a poor nation halfway around the world,
kills a thousand-or-so civilians, demolishes schools and hospitals,
blows up civilian infrastructure like electricity generators and water
pumps, and generally brings about sickness and misery. But this criminal
state also controls the Tribunal, so, lacking all sense of shame, it
further indicts the head of state it bombed.
What then? We’ll soon find out.
So far, no one outside the upper reaches of the U.S. and British
regimes is taking seriously the claim that aggressors against a
sovereign country can have Slobodan Milosevic arrested as a war
criminal. Russia has rightly pointed out that this would doom any chance
for a negotiated settlement (precisely why the Clinton regime is
celebrating). France has decried what this could mean for the prospects
of peace (which the Clinton regime opposes). China points out that this
is not the U.N. speaking, but only officials on the U.S. payroll (hence,
in an endless search for enemies, the U.S. demonizes China).
Sure enough, the U.S.’s fingerprints are all over the actions of the
International War Crimes Tribunal. And the indictment came on the same
day that a former president of the U.S. effectively accused the Clinton
regime of war crimes. In a morally courageous article, Jimmy Carter, the
only decent ex-president in my lifetime, decries Clinton’s “decision to
attack the entire nation” as “counterproductive, and our destruction of
civilian life has now become senseless and excessively brutal.”
The U.S. bombing, he writes, “has resulted in damage to hospitals,
offices and residences of a half-dozen ambassadors, and the killing of
hundreds of innocent civilians and an untold number of conscripted
troops. Instead of focusing on Serbian military forces, missiles and
bombs are now concentrating on the destruction of bridges, railways,
roads, electric power, and fuel and fresh water supplies. Serbian
citizens report that they are living like cavemen, and their torment
War crimes? Certainly. The former president’s indictment against the
regime includes rejecting diplomatic means of peace and flouting
international law. We could also add that Clinton has ignored public
opinion (which favors stopping the bombing by 82 percent) and domestic
law (he broke the War Powers law), and systematically lied to the
And as for the crimes of Milosevic himself, no one claims that he
personally ordered “ethnic cleansing” in Kosovo, whereas no one doubts
who’s been ordering the bombing of civilians. Moreover, objective
international observers have noted that many claims of Serbian evil have
proven wildly exaggerated, while verifiable cases of atrocities can be
attributed to a civil war made much worse by bombing.
If justice and truth reigned, Milosevic might indeed be hauled before
a War Crimes Tribunal. But so would Clinton, Albright, Blair, and all
the others who are prosecuting this war on civilians. They are guilty of
the very crimes of which they accuse others.
At Nuremberg, the U.S. and Britain pressed charges against Nazi
leaders for waging aggressive war, points out former Nuremberg
prosecutor Walter Rockler. Now, he writes in the Chicago Tribune, “We
have engaged in a flagrant military aggression, ceaselessly attacking a
small country primarily to demonstrate that we run the world. The
rationale that we are simply enforcing international morality, even if
it were true, would not excuse the military aggression and widespread
killing that it entails. It also does not lessen the culpability of the
authors of this aggression.”
Culpability? The U.S. and Britain have already announced they are
above that law. Hard to believe? On May 17, NATO spokesman Jamie Shea
was asked, “what will happen if NATO is brought before the International
He answered, “As you know, without countries there would be no
International Court of Justice, nor would there be any International
Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia because NATO countries are
in the forefront of those who have established these two tribunals, who
these tribunals and who support on a daily basis their activities. We
are the upholders, not the violators, of international law.”
By definition, mind you. NATO is the judge and jury because NATO pays
the bills. It doesn’t submit to international law; it is international
law. This is as clear a rendering of totalitarian-imperialist thinking
as you can find in the history of international politics.
So much for the legacy of the great 17th-century Dutch jurist Hugo
Grotius, who codified a very old concept of international law, with its
origins in the birth of Christendom. The idea was that moral custom
would govern relations between states and that the Doctrine of the Just
constrain states when their interests conflicted. It applied to
In contrast, a War Tribunal controlled by the Evil Empire is not
justice. It is a trick and a lie. By all means, let the Tribunal hear
the case again Milosevic. Let teams of researchers collect details about
his treatment of the Kosovars. But no verdict will have credibility
unless evidence is also
presented against NATO, which means the U.S., detailing its aggressive
destruction of a whole civilization.
That will have to do until a real People’s Court can convene.