my pissant two cents

Friday, November 26, 2004

crime and punishment

is it just a coincidence, or are the republicans in congress doing everything they can to insulate bad actors from their crimes? the first step was slackening the ethics rules that would prevent sen. tom delay from keeping his leadership position in the event that he faces prosecution for a laundry list of campaign finance laws in texas. as house minority leader nancy pelosi (d-ca) points out, the first post-election act of the republican majority in the house was to lower ethical accountability.

but what is in the works now is a far greater lapse in republican standards, the widely proclaimed values of a party that professes love of the rule of law and personal accountability. continuing a long-running move to undermine the international criminal court, the gop took money away from where its mouth is. tucked into the $338 billion government spending bill is a provision that restricts international aid to countries that do not give u.s. war criminals a "get out of jail free" card.

the international criminal court was created in 1998 as a permanent body to investigate and prosecute war crimes and their perpetrators. the body would effectively remove the taint of winner's justice from war crimes tribunals. from the nuremburg trials following ww2 to the milosevic trial following the slaughter in bosnia-herzegovina, those put in the dock have claimed that they are victims of vindictive prevailing armies. with a permanent mandate from the international community, the i.c.c. would hold those accountable for crimes against the peace and humanity without regard to their status in the win/loss column.

but the bush administration has never been held in high regard for its respect for an unrigged game. though president clinton approved the treaty in 2000, president bush reneged, "unsigning" it in 2001. the sticking point was whether u.s. nationals should be subjected to the court's jurisdiction. the bush administration further upped the ante, signing into law the american servicemembers' protection act, which authorizes the president to use all force necessary to free american personnel held to answer to the court; in essence, it's a license to invade the hague. the a.s.p.a. also prohibits cooperation with the court and participation in peacekeeping missions unless u.s. forces get a pass on the i.c.c.'s authority.

the new measure goes further, banning aid to countries that fail to sign outside agreements not to submit americans to the i.c.c. only those countries that succumb to u.s. pressure and/or are national security allies can receive a piece of the $2.5 billion international assistance fund. according to human rights watch (, of the 139 countries that signed the treaty, 96 have agreed to the u.s. waiver.

the state department has naturally voiced its opposition. the economic strong-arm interferes with diplomacy, causing countries to hold back in helping fight international terrorism and drug trafficking. according to the washington post, state department lawyers are going over the bill to find out just what it means to diplomatic spending.

with credible reports of the massacre of unarmed civilians in fallujah, the torture and abuse of detainess in abu graibh, guantanamo and less well known prisons in u.s. occupied iraq and afghanistan, it's little wonder that bush and his henchmen in congress want insulation from the ugly, and sometimes criminal, business of war. even a war for freedom and democracy, if you buy that rationale.

credibility is a fragile thing. it's very difficult to instill respect for your position when you rage about the human rights abuses and war crimes of saddam hussein even as you are abusing humans and committing war crimes. it is far more difficult when you are twisting arms to prevent your ever having to answer for your actions. it is hardly relevant whether the method is holding frightened people at the end of a gun or holding the pursestrings before poor people; coercion is coercion.

president bush has already declared himself above the law against torture and excused from the geneva conventions. he refuses to submit to the international community in criminal investigation of the acts of u.s. servicemen and -women. now he seeks to bribe developing countries to ratify this arrogance.

fortunately for the president, there is no international law addressing his presumed right to be a bully. not that he would let that stop him.


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