A trap for President Bush

By Cliff Kincaid
web posted April 16, 2001

A foreign policy trap has been laid for President Bush that has serious implications for our own liberties. Consider the fact that the U.S. Government formally opposes an International Criminal Court to prosecute Americans, but wants to see a U.N. criminal court go after people from other countries.

Slobodan Milosevic

The President recently decided to permit financial assistance to continue to the new democratic government of Yugoslavia, after it arrested former dictator Slobodan Milosevic, but is still insisting that Milosevic be eventually turned over to the U.N.'s international criminal tribunal on Yugoslavia, based in the Hague.

This approach, also supported by the editorial board of the Washington Times, is a critical mistake. The operations of the Yugoslavia tribunal violate American constitutional principles. It is illegal even under the international law the U.N. claims to be enforcing.

In an article in the Ottawa Citizen newspaper in Canada, former Canadian Ambassador to Yugoslavia James Bisset points out:

"...[Yugoslavian] President Kostunica has serious misgivings about the independence and impartiality of the Hague Tribunal. He is not alone in this. From its inception there has been doubts about the legitimacy of the Tribunal. It was not established by treaty or by the General Assembly of the United Nations as would normally be required for such a court...Certainly the performance of the Tribunal so far has displayed more of the characteristics of a medieval Star Chamber than an independent judicial body. A number of those who have been secretly indicted by the Tribunal have been kidnapped by armed thugs and transported against their will to The Hague to wait in detention for months or years for trial without benefit of bail. They are then required to face unknown and often hidden accusers before a Tribunal that acts as both prosecutor and judge. There is no jury. If the prisoner confesses while in custody, the confession is presumed to be voluntary. The trial may even be held in secret."

Contrast those facing this tribunal with the fate of President Clinton, who launched the illegal and unconstitutional war on Yugoslavia over Kosovo. He's free as a bird giving speeches at $100,000 a pop. Clinton's CIA-supported allies, the Islamic Kosovo Liberation Army, have launched a new war on Macedonia which should prove beyond doubt to those who supported the Kosovo war that we were indeed on the wrong side.

Remember that Milosevic was once Clinton's partner, participating in the Bosnia peace negotiations on U.S. soil. In order to force Milosevic to the so-called peace table, Clinton had approved the Croatian military offensive against the Serbs in the Krajina region of Croatia. That was the biggest example of ethnic cleansing in the Balkans wars. But Clinton won't get prosecuted for that, either.

Now, President Bush has been maneuvered by the State Department and the media into making demands on Yugoslavia that we as Americans would never accept ourselves. A trial of Milosevic by this illegitimate U.N. court could make him into a martyr and destabilize the country's democratic government. Prosecuting Milosevic before a foreign tribunal could result in his supporters coming back to power in a backlash that could spark another war. Milosevic might even beat the rap because some of the war crimes charges against him, such as involvement in the so-called Racak Massacre, are clearly fabrications. That was a stage-managed event designed to give Clinton and NATO the excuse to bomb people.

The conservative Washington Times supports a U.N. trial of Milosevic, as does the Washington Post and the New York Times. But the Post and New York Times also support an International Criminal Court.

I would rather see our media promote a U.S. Justice Department prosecution of someone like Moammar Gadhafi of Libya, a real dictator who is still in power and who has a long and bloody record of killing Americans. But Gadhafi made a deal with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to escape indictment in the recent Pan Am 103 terrorism trial. And the Washington Times told us that Annan has been doing a good job, has a pro-American record, and deserves another term as U.N. boss. Nonsense.

This is not an insignificant issue. All of the principles and values that we hold dear - freedom, sovereignty, justice and human rights - are at stake. The administration and our fellow conservatives coming down on the wrong side on this important issue have to be told they're dead wrong. If they don't reverse course, it will be hard to argue down the road that we should be immune to the operations of an International Criminal Court that could target Americans. If the sovereignty of Yugoslavia doesn't matter, it will be difficult to argue that ours does.

Cliff Kincaid serves as president of America's Survival, Inc., a public policy organization.

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