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Warming up to the ICC

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Warming up to the ICC
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The International Criminal Court (ICC) is one of those well-meaning but unrealistic organizations created by well-meaning but unrealistic people. As evidence, one of the ICC's founding fathers declared in 2000 that the court "is needed to achieve justice for all ... end impunity ... end conflicts ... [and] deter future war criminals." Ten years later, mankind is no closer to realizing any of those noble goals, yet it seems the United States is edging closer to the ICC. Given the ICC's current record and future plans, one wonders why.

Among those currently under indictment and/or investigation by the ICC are warlords in Uganda, genocidal generals in Sudan, and, apparently, U.S. troops trying to rebuild Afghanistan. According to a Wall Street Journal report, ICC prosecutor Luis Ocampo is conducting a "preliminary examination into whether NATO troops, including American soldiers, fighting the Taliban may have to be put in the dock."

"We are investigating whoever commits war crimes," Ocampo told The Wall Street Journal. "I prosecute whoever is in my jurisdiction."

When the ICC was born, its U.S. critics voiced concerns about the court doing this very thing and urged the Clinton administration not to sign on. Non-signatories, it was thought, would be safe from the ICC's reach. Apparently not.

Even though the U.S. has not ratified the treaty that spawned the ICC, Ocampo believes he has the authority to investigate anything and anyone in Afghanistan because Afghanistan ratified the treaty.

This helps explain why former President Bill Clinton tried to include special safeguards in the ICC treaty; why former President George W. Bush expunged America's name from the treaty; and why a bipartisan majority in Congress passed the American Service-Members' Protection Act, which authorizes the president to use "all means necessary and appropriate" to free U.S. personnel from ICC arrest.

Revisionist media accounts notwithstanding, Bush wasn't alone in his opposition to the ICC. Concerned about American troops being falsely accused, Clinton ordered representatives to the treaty-writing conference to vote against the final document. The Clinton administration also worried that the ICC could be flooded with spurious claims that would "embroil the court in controversy, political decision-making and confusion."

To remedy both concerns, Washington proposed that permanent members of the UN Security Council be granted the power to veto ICC prosecutions. However, that commonsense compromise was rejected. Never mind that the U. S. has earned special safeguards because its troops play a special role around the world as first responders and defenders of last resort.

Although Clinton ultimately signed the treaty, he pointedly declared, "I will not and do not recommend that my successor submit the treaty to the Senate for advice and consent until our fundamental concerns are satisfied." Those concerns were still unaddressed when the treaty came into force in mid-2002, which is why Bush disavowed the treaty. A State Department official noted that, "There is a real possibility that someone will use the ICC for political purposes [and] exploit the process."

Within a year, Washington's worries came to pass - a handful of Iraqis tried to take Gen. Tommy Franks to the ICC for war crimes, and Greek lawyers filed suit in the ICC against Tony Blair over the Iraq war. All told, there were more than 500 complaints brought before the ICC in its first year, 40 of which accused the United States of leading a coalition of "aggression" against Iraq. One wonders where the outrage was when a bona fide war criminal ruled Iraq.

And now we have the case of Afghanistan. Given Ocampo's expansive view of his own mandate and the ICC's subjective definitions of war crimes, Americans should brace for the worst.

According to the treaty that created the court, war crimes include "extensive destruction and appropriation of property," depriving "a prisoner of war ... of the rights of fair and regular trial," launching an attack "in the knowledge that such attack will cause ... injury to civilians," and employing weapons intended to cause "unnecessary suffering."

How difficult would it be for a motivated prosecutor to convince a panel awash in moral relativism and anti-Americanism that U.S. troops caused "extensive destruction" of Afghan property, or launched raids knowing that civilians would be injured, or dropped munitions that caused "unnecessary suffering" or deprived detainees of their rights?

The answer is not difficult at all, especially at The Hague. Yet, the Obama administration seems to be warming up to the ICC.

"That we are not a signatory," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said of the ICC, "is a great regret." UN Ambassador Susan Rice has called the ICC "an important and credible instrument."

With U.S. forces engaged around the world, this is no time to cozy up to the ICC and thus make it easier for ICC prosecutors to hamstring U.S. troops and military commanders with worries of international indictments and show trials.

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Dan St. John

May 11, 2010 - 1:00pm

We are already doing that. In the war on terror, it has never been our policy to deliberately target civilians or any of the things ICC is looking for. On the other hand Bin Laden, the Islamic thugs that run the Taliban, Iran, Hezbolla etc all engage in those activities as a matter of policy! So the question becomes why doesn't the ICC issue warrents for Bin Laden, the leaders of Iran etc.? Iran alone has been exporting Islamic terror for the past 40 years. You would think they should be on the ICC's radar screen by now. The hall mark of the far left seems to be a complete inability to evaluate any situation in context or prospective and weigh the situation accordingly. To them a Navy Seal punching a murdering terrorist is on the same plain as crashing air liners into crowded buildings. Jesus & Budda tried to put humanity on the right path & failed. Till we figure it out-support our troops!

Jim_in_MI

April 17, 2010 - 2:40pm

"To preserve the memories and incidents of our associations in the Great Wars; To inculcate a sense of individual obligation to the community, state and nation; To combat the autocracy of both the classes and the masses; To make right the master of might; To promote peace and good will on earth;"... So now, extensive destruction and appropriation of property, the value agsint "depriving a prisoner of war ... of the rights of fair and regular trial," launching an attack "in the knowledge that such attack will cause ... injury to civilians," and employing weapons intended to cause "unnecessary suffering." is what YOU consider "un-American"? I got news for you. I- am an American, 21 year military veteran, and a member of the Legion. And I think extensive destruction, deprivation of rights, injury to civilians, and un-necessary suffering to be the greatest crimes of all. I support the ICC- maybe then they could have indicted Bush and Cheney for their war crimes.

dlmarlow

December 12, 2010 - 9:58pm

Well if they indicte Bush and Cheney won't they have to indite Obama also? He's lauching attacks using the preditors.

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