We can try who we like, but don't anyone try to try one of ours.
June 16, 2000 8:15 AM   Subscribe

We can try who we like, but don't anyone try to try one of ours.

From the article: "The Clinton administration is offering a "Get Out of Jail Free" card to future Saddam Husseins and Slobodan Milosevics, simply in order to pander to the Pentagon and the Republican right on Capitol Hill. American diplomats are fighting a rearguard action in New York, in tandem with Congress in Washington, to emasculate the International Criminal Court that was established by the United Nations last year in Rome.

"Why does the United States oppose a way to punish the world's greatest villains? In short -- and in no uncertain terms -- congressmen such as Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms demand that no such court have jurisdiction over potential American criminals."

Silly me, I thought the law was supposed to apply to everyone or to no-one at all. Am I just being old-fashioned, or is anyone else bothered by the hypocrisy at work here?
posted by lia (13 comments total)
The US also took an amazingly long time to ratify the international treaty against genocide, for the same reasons.
posted by Mocata at 8:28 AM on June 16, 2000

"embarrassing, pathetic and nefarious."

Waitaminnit. They're talking abotu *us*.
posted by baylink at 8:48 AM on June 16, 2000

Helms is a notorious rule-of-law guy. Problem is, he thinks of that as rule-of-American-law. Bothered, yes; suprised, no.
posted by Freakho at 9:06 AM on June 16, 2000

What astounds me is how one decrepit redneck can singlehandedly dictate U.S. foreign policy.

And the Clinton administration's entire foreign policy, from day one, has been just godawful.

Ugly America waves its baton again...
posted by solistrato at 9:14 AM on June 16, 2000

A World Court? Like we don't have enough problems with lawyers in America and a slow system of justice. I for one would take this to the Supreme Court and find it unconstitutional, wait that would mean a court is higher than our Supreme court wouldn't it?

If you don't like the Saddam Husseins and Slobodan Milosevics in power, eliminate them. I still believe the US has some intelligence, resources, and abilities left to find the criminals. If you don't like Clinton in power let's see the Rwanda's try and eliminate him.
posted by brent at 10:51 AM on June 16, 2000

Perhaps, if we don't want other countries to tell us how to run our country, we should consider not trying to compel them to run theirs to our advantage.
posted by harmful at 12:50 PM on June 16, 2000

Keep in mind that redneck has the support of the majority party in both houses of Congress. It's a frustrating problem and as much as I like the idea of the ICJ (not the same as the already existing World Court in the Hague, but a related one with a specific mission), and having binding decisions with the force of international law, it's similar to the reasons that many (presumably MeFi-sympathetic) protestors worry about the WTO. Whose law? Whose standards? While you and I may feel it's worth entrusting Americans to the Solomonic oversight of a judge in order to have a way to bring offensive genocidal maniacs to justice, American soldiers may not be so sanguine about it.

It's a very high-minded idea whose time may not have come.
posted by dhartung at 1:53 PM on June 16, 2000

While there's no such thing as "international law" (it's an abstract term for an accumulation of sometimes contradictory treaties and practices) there's enough enforceable stuff out there to warrant this court. And isn't it customary among certain groups of US politicians to demand "a day in court" for whomsoever desires it?

As for Jesse Helms: well, the World Service's report on the address he gave to the UN General Assembly last year was embarrassing. You'd get sounder treatment of foreign affairs from Socks the cat. But then again, the separation of powers has always meant that most legislators (and governors) are ignorant of what goes on outside DC or their state. Which means we can look forward to further enlightened commentary on world affairs should Governor Bush... well, I don't even want to think about it.
posted by holgate at 7:29 PM on June 16, 2000

The problem is, this is unconstitutional. The Constitution does not give the Federal Government the power to allow foreign courts to try our citizens.

Please keep in mind, I in no way support Jesse Helms. He embarrases me every time I go overseas. And I certainly don't want to see genocide engaged in anywhere, not even the US. But it bears saying that I suspect that this country, an isolationist nation of old (we forget that in our past half-century of foreign adventuring how novel that role is to America) will never sit back and allow other nations to try our citizens. It won't happen.

Until there actually is an international law code, sanctioned by and signed by at least a two-thirds majority of the nations of the world, I doubt very much the US Government would ever simply surrender a citizen to the Hague (or wherever the ICJ ultimately hangs its hat) for trial. And as long as the UN depends on US troops to enforce its will, they will never be able to force the issue.
posted by Ezrael at 9:37 PM on June 16, 2000

brent said, "If you don't like the Saddam Husseins and Slobodan Milosevics in power, eliminate them. I still believe the US has some intelligence, resources, and abilities left to find the criminals. If you don't like Clinton in power let's see the Rwanda's try and eliminate him."This is just the sort of retarded uninformed imperialist statement that makes the rest of us look warily at people from the U.S. I mean, honestly, do you think throwing your military and political weight around makes you any different from an overgrown immature schoolyard bully? A loud voice, not to mention plenty of influence or money, doesn't mean you're right.
posted by lia at 12:39 AM on June 17, 2000

Ezrael: the way to finesse it, and honour treaty obligations, is probably to render international courts as something other than "foreign". There's an odd irony here, I think, because some of the best international lawyers in the world -- the ones who would conduct these trials -- are (you guessed it) US citizens, often lecturing at US colleges.

Yep, I know that that sort of challenge to the Blessed Constitution isn't going to happen, but something similar will take place in October, when the European Convention on Human Rights becomes British law, and the jurisdiction of the European Court (as a final appeal) extends to the UK.

If it's possible, after ten years, to get the trial of the Lockerbie suspects running, under Scottish law, in a former US base in the Netherlands which is, for the length of the trial, Scottish territory... well, where there's a will.
posted by holgate at 6:54 AM on June 17, 2000

dhartung and Ezrael pretty much nailed this. And for those that need it put even more bluntly: It's called "Realpolitik." The way things actually work in this world usually isn't the way that would make us feel all warm and gooey inside.

Also remember: History is written by the victors. It went mostly unreported, but Slobodan set up his own little goofball "war crimes tribunal" to go after those who "committed atrocities" against the Yugoslavs. Amazingly, the leaders of the US and NATO forces did not end up being dragged screaming and kicking to answer the charges put against them. Guess why.
posted by aaron at 10:54 AM on June 17, 2000

Holgate: The real difference is that the US isn't likely to become an EC nation anytime soon. We're like that guy you occassionally invite to parties...he's wild, maybe a little too into the booze or what have you, friendly most of the time...you might want him around on occassion, but you'd never want him to move into your group home.

Basically, I get a little frustrated both with American ideas of how to handle these kinds of things and the assumption that everybody here is some kind of nutcase isolationist (nobody here has so much as hinted this, but I do get it on occassion from other directions, and here's a good place to address it) who hates and fears the world. I know and love the metric system, admire the hell out of European and Asian culture, wish my country would stop messing around with Latin America, and find the boondoggle in Africa deeply saddening.

But America simply is not ready, emotionally or developmentally, for membership in any Meta-National organization. The last thing we need is another League of Nations debacle, with the congress rejecting something our president negotiates. The US, sometimes with good reason, does not trust the attitudes of other nations towards its people. We're kinda hyper-sensitive to this image we have as the "Great Satan" or "American Running Dogs" or whatever you want to call us. It hardens our attitudes.

Well, if they're gonna say that kinda shit about us, well fuck them, then. I have tried on many, many occasions to explain to people that you can't act like the largest, most aggressive bully in the world and not irriatate a few people. It isn't much different than the way Britian was seen during the height of the Victorian Era...the difference being that Britain, or at least England, was far more settled as a nation. We're a teenager who suddenly was told Son, you're the man of the house now.

We don't know how to deal with it, and so we stick out our chest and try and remember all those John Wayne movies we saw, when really, we'd just like it if you all would go away and let us alone. (Metaphorically speaking.) Since that's not going to happen, we need to learn how to deal with other nations from a less adversarial stance.

But we aren't there yet.
posted by Ezrael at 12:05 PM on June 17, 2000

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