So Donald Trump’s ‘America first’ means it’s open season on war crimes?
Yonden Lhatoo is dismayed, but not the least bit surprised, by US national security adviser John Bolton’s reprehensible attempt to bully and intimidate the International Criminal Court
So the United States has just declared open war on the International Criminal Court (ICC). Another day, another nail in the coffin of America’s purported role as the champion of global justice and great righter of wrongs.
US President Donald Trump unleashed his nasty raptor of a national security adviser to hiss through its moustache at the world the message that, in the new twilight zone of “America first”, Americans are untouchable, war criminals or not.
Launching a pre-emptive strike at The Hague from the bully pulpit, John Bolton warned it against an expected move to prosecute US soldiers and spies over atrocities in Afghanistan.
“We will not cooperate with the ICC. We will provide no assistance to the ICC. We will not join the ICC,” he declared. “We will let the ICC die on its own. After all, for all intents and purposes, the ICC is already dead to us.”
On the anniversary of September 11, when you would expect America’s new security guru to talk about rallying the globe against terror threats, Darth Bolton was out to intimidate ICC judges, prosecutors and other guardians of international justice, warning they would be slapped with sanctions and travel bans.
“We will prosecute them in the US criminal system. We will do the same for any company or state that assists an ICC investigation of Americans,” he said, taking it a step beyond his long-held contempt for the court established under a UN treaty in 1992 and ratified by 123 countries.
The US has never been party to the Rome Statute, and understandably so because it has started so many wars and wrought so much death and destruction, there would be no limit to cases brought against Americans accused of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Countries such as China, Russia and India have also refused to join the ICC. But while their human rights skeletons – and perhaps even fresh corpses – may explain their aversion to The Hague, they also hold arguably justifiable concerns about being victimised by Western biases and double standards.
Ask the Africans, who have been known to refer to the ICC as the “International Caucasian Court” over the perception that it only goes after people of colour. It doesn’t help that 10 out of the 11 cases currently being investigated by the ICC involve African countries and every single named defendant hails from the continent.
Also, if there was any real justice in this world, Bolton himself would be tried at the ICC for orchestrating the genocidal destruction of Iraq, among other crimes against humanity.
It’s not surprising that he’s urinating all over any concept of globally sanctioned due process even for dictators, when, as we all know, the US would much rather hand them over to mob justice. I’m thinking of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein here, and how he was taunted and tormented by his executioners as he was hanged. Or Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, who was savaged and shot dead by a crazed rabble.
Knowing how Trump operates, could it all have been yet another smoke grenade to draw the focus from Bob Woodward’s new book about insanity at the White House? If one of America’s most revered journalists is to be believed, Trump nearly started a third world war on more than one occasion, among many horror stories.
You never know, but Trump, being Trump, has already moved on to the next big distraction – the fallout over his petty and most un-presidential claim that the official death toll from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico last year was fake news.
Meanwhile, with the ICC’s reputation whittled down from toothless tiger to handicapped hamster by this latest application of the “America first” doctrine, will it be open season on war crimes? Might as well cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war.
Yonden Lhatoo is the chief news editor at the Post