Friday, March 20, 2009


There’s an editorial in ‘The Los Angeles Times’ going through the pros and cons of the US participating in the International Criminal Court. It’s well worth a look.

After Nuremberg, the nations of the world largely saw a value in erecting an international tribunal to handle cases of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. Especially when committed by nations or by individuals whose national governments were unable – or unwilling – to prosecute them. A Treaty containing the plan was finally circulated to the nations by the UN in 1998.

Nicely, the piece notes that Clinton wasn’t all that happy with the idea. He waited until the very last days of his Administration before signing the treaty, but then never sent it to the Senate for ratification. Cute. Bush the Egregious, of course, “unsigned” the Treaty in 2002, and then went so far as to get a supine Congress to pass a frakking law authorizing the Executive to invade any country that dared to hold a US citizen on any such charge, and rescue same.

You’d think that any American aware of what went on in World War Two would approve of the whole idea of an International Criminal Court for war crimes and genocide. And whether ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative’. The ‘liberal’ would want one more arrow in the quiver of ‘justice’ for the afflicted, and the ‘conservative’ would want one more arrow in the quiver of law and order.

But no. After all, apparently, in World War Two the world-powers who perpetrated aggressive war and torture for their own enrichment and expansion were the Third Reich and Imperial Japan. But nowadays the world-power is (fill in the blank). Nor do the revolutionistas of the American Left nor the God-authorized invaders of the American Right care to acknowledge any earthly power above their own.

Usually, in the popular American police procedural, when somebody opposes ‘going to court’ the cops and the viewer can conclude with assurance that said person is guilty as sin. Why that is not true in the ongoing soap-opera that national news has become is a subject Rod Serling would no doubt have wanted to present for your consideration.

Saving itself from saying too much, the editorial firmly states that in the matter of countries whose politics preclude prosecution or whose courts are in thrall to the controlling regime, “the notion that this could apply to the United States is laughable”. I would say that “the notion” is certainly open to discussion, but – alas – far too serious for it to be a laughing matter.

And of course, what exposure would it create for Our Israeli ‘ally’ – the one that refuses to sign a treaty of alliance with Us ? The one that killed Our sailors in cold-blood on that bright June day forty-two years ago? The one whose senior military guidance to the troops currently dealing with Gaza is to “take a page from the Warsaw Ghetto”? You recall the Warsaw Ghetto: where the Germans walled up an entire population of Jewish men, women, and children in a very small urban neighborhood , and then attacked it with troops, artillery, planes – and destroyed them like fish shot in a barrel. The most senior German generals were hung – by the Allies – with the memory of that ‘operation’ fresh in everybody’s mind.

The idea of an International Court along the lines of Nuremberg seems to be making a lot of self-proclaimed ‘good guys’ verrrry uncomfortable. In standard police procedure, when apparently ‘innocent’ folk suddenly get verrrry nervous in the mere presence of a police officer, you want to look more carefully at them and what they might be up to. The claim is that the Court might be used improperly, but I’m sure Al Capone would have liked to have voiced the same misgivings about courts and law enforcement in general as his reason for avoiding the subject. If memory serves, several of the defendants at Nuremberg did raise the point – but their prior actions had spoken louder than any words they might have come up with to escape the consequences of their spree.

Like a resourceful vampire, the military JAG Corps keep turning up in these things, trying to find a way in for itself – getting an invitation over the doorstep. A former Navy lawyer-admiral, John Hutson , proposes with sly innocence that perhaps American participation could be vetted by a panel of legal experts “from outside the government”. Say – oh, ummmmmmm – a panel of retired military lawyers. Yah. Oh yeah!

“Outside the government”? These are so-called lawyers who have made a career out of subordinating their responsibilities to truth and justice to their responsibilities as military officers with promotions and careers to keep up. Outside the government? These are the worst form of apparatchiks – at least the outright political appointee is a hack who makes no pretentions about it. The JAGs insist on the respect due to their ‘professional character’ as attorneys committed to ‘justice’, all the while taking their pay and promotions and medals and ribbons and perk-bloated retirement from the hand of their master.

But of course, it would be a great two-fer: JAGs in such a position could protect their official masters while also protecting their own kind. After all* it was only after quite a few years that the JAGs noticed – as if by inadvertence – that baaad things were going on justice-wise and all that; they are in this mess up to their ears. And if you think the depths of JAG participation have now been plumbed, hold that thought – as Stephen Lendman notes, there are a number of Navy ships that serve as “floating prisons”, at sea and in international waters, in whose dark bellies assorted ‘detainees’, ‘enemy combatants’ and other such flotsam and jetsam have been held and mistreated. Lendman mentions USS Bataan, a ship large enough to have its own military lawyer (and doctor and chaplain). But then, Gitmo had its own military lawyer (and doctors and chaplains) too. And We didn’t hear much from them, did We?

Their plan now will be an extension of their plan that has worked so well in the military justice system: in exchange for protecting the bosses (almost no general or admiral has ever been court-martialled) they themselves are protected from courtmartial (the proportion of JAGs courtmartialled is only a bit higher than that of the flag officers).

And not only do they have a mole in the system from the Right - the execrable Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) who is a JAG Reserve general and former military appellate judge - but also from the Left - Joe Biden's kid, whose day job is Attorney General of Delaware where the banks and credit card companies have found a home, is a Reserve JAG, currently facing the rigors of military lawyer life on 'active' duty.

Let Us not be deceived: In this whole 'opening' to the idea of an ICC there is a something-else in sheep's clothing. At this point, just as in so many of the domestic messes (the economy and the consequences of decades of ideological feminism come quickly to mind), there are now numerous Beltway biggies in the Legislative as well as Executive Branches, Democrats as well as Republicans, military officers as well as high officials, who formally qualify for 'war crimes' prosecution (and - hardly improbably - conviction). Yoo, Cheney, Rumsfeld ... they're only the tippy-tip of the huge iceberg of filth that has formed under Our very noses. So, a shrewd and pre-emptive two-fer for the Beltway is to a) agree to participation in the ICC while b) placing upon Our participation the rider that a screening group of 'disinterested' professional worthies will vette every potential prosecution of any American 'citizen' (and that doesn't really mean Joe Six-Pack). And what better bunch for the Beltway to rely on than those bemedalled, sleazy-shrewd, 'loyal' professional ho's of fake-Justice and Empire, the JAGs?

Neat. It's another replay of the JAGs' tried and true Military Justice modus operandi: bray loud and proud that you have an open and honest system, while behind the scenes pulling all the strings and controlling all the outcomes, in the service of your friends and benefactors and bosses.

To the Treaty regarding the International Criminal Court I’d say (as does the editorial): let the President sign it and send it along to the Senate – those PAC-pawed worthies can then show Us how they handle a real hot potato.

To the insidious offer that retired JAGs be the gatekeepers of international justice for war crimes I can suggest no better response than that of the late Brigadier General McAulliffe at Bastogne: “Nuts”.


*There are those few JAGs who, now that the pressure is on, have been suffered to vigorously represent their clients at Guantanamo. But they are allowed to do so by the bosses simply to ‘keep up appearances’ and after the heat dies down these hardy, decent and courageous souls will be dealt with in the same spirit as Stalin dealt with returning Red Army ‘heroes’ who had spent too much time near the West and the Allies.

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