Friday, June 13, 2003

I give you the latest wit and wisdom of Donald Rumsfeld. Here he's speaking on the American response to Belgium's war crimes law, which allows victims of war crimes anywhere to file suit in Belgium:

If the civilian and military leaders of member states can not come to Belgium without fear of harassment by Belgian courts entertaining spurious charges by politicized prosecutors, then it calls into question Belgium's attitude about its responsibilities as a host nation for NATO and Allied forces. For our part, we will have to consider whether we can allow senior uniformed and civilian officials to come to Baghdad . . . to Belgium, I mean. (laughter) Because of the charges flowing out of the activities in Baghdad, which of course would involve other coalition nations as well. Certainly until this matter is resolved we will have to oppose any further spending for construction for a new NATO headquarters here in Brussels until we know with certainty that Belgium intends to be a hospitable place for NATO to conduct its business, as it has been over so many years.

These remarks acquire added bite when you read that they were delivered at the current NATO headquarters, which is, as Rummy says, in Belgium.

Now, as it happens, it's been possible to file suit against foreign dictators in American courts for human rights violations for at least the past 23 years or so, due to a formerly obscure statute called the Alien Tort Claims Act, which was actually one of the first laws passed by Congress, in 1789. But we can't accuse Dubya's crew too much of inconsistency here -- they're trying to gut that law as well, saying that it might get in the way of cordial relations with despots who happen to be useful in the war on Terror.

And of course, this is of a piece with the Dubya crew's continued efforts to evade the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, most lately by pressuring countries dependant upon American military aid into agreeing not to extradite American personnel into the ICC's jurisidiction. As of July first, if they haven't signed such an agreement, the funds get cut off.

And again, we have to ask ourselves what war Dubya is really fighting here. They say foreign despots are useful allies in the war on Terror. But the despots' populations would be more likely to see them as allies of Terror. What Dubya's crew is really trying to squelch is the notion that anyone might try to hold them to account for what they do. And in that sense, it's of a piece with the tenor of Dubya's administration from the moment it began, from the stone silence concerning the activities of Cheney's energy commission to the refusal to release records of his father's term as required by the Presidential Records Act. It's the War on Accountability.

(Some pointers from The Daily Kos).


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home