Let Milo Go
The U.N. would love to see some present and former American officials tried for the same sort of crimes as Milosevic.
by MICHAEL LEDEEN
July 3, 2001 8:25 a.m.
I hate Slobodan Milosevic, and I was all in favor of marching into Belgrade and removing him from power. But I do not revel in his arrest and his impending trial in The Hague at a "war crimes tribunal" created by the United Nations, because I know that lots of folks at the U.N., on bad days even a majority of the Security Council, would love to see some present and former American officials tried for the same sort of crimes in the same docket.
I would hate that, even if it were Bill Clinton and Madeleine Albright, hauled up for aiding and abetting genocide in North Korea. And I would hate it even more if it were, as some of the America-haters are urging, George Bush the Elder and his evil henchmen Powell and Cheney, for genocide in Iraq. If you think such events are utterly fanciful you're not spending enough time online with the new New Left. If that crowd has its way, one A. Greenspan will stand trial for mass murder.
That's why all those folks who are gushing and cooing over the wonderful expansion of the "rule of law" had best remind themselves that dreams-come-true often have unintended consequences, although in this case they are certainly not unimagined. The United States refused to sign the Genocide Convention for more than a generation precisely because of such fears, and those resisting included some fairly cautious souls from both parties, from Hubert Humphrey to Jacob Javits and Clifford Case, for example. When we finally signed, we stipulated reservations strong enough to convince several of our close allies that we hadn't really agreed to anything. We insisted that no American can stand trial without the formal approval of the U.S. government, and that in no case can any American be tried for something that is not criminal according to the Constitution. The wise Americans who insisted on such reservations had the same nightmare visions I do. And they insisted that the "rule of law" is best exemplified by the Constitution, and we're not going to expose American citizens to somebody else's view of what is criminal.
The kidnapping of Milosevic and his delivery to The Hague tribunal seems to me utterly unnecessary, because he was going to be tried by his own countrymen (the Genocide Convention, for example, requires enforcement by the nations involved, and permits the creation of special tribunals only when the law is flouted). The seizure of Milosevic was probably carried out to favor one side in the intense internal political struggle between Milosevic's successors in Serbia and the virtual country called "Yugoslavia" (Serbia plus Montenegro), and, more ominously, to show the world that the U.N. — or, in this case, the countries offering financial aid to Serbia — can enforce its will.
Never mind that Milosevic was removed from power by the Serbs (you may recall that, as in Iraq, we shrank from the dirty deed, preferring to leave the scene and hope that good things would happen), and that a duly elected Serbian Government has insisted on its authority over the former tyrant. This is quite different from the situation in Africa, where Rwanda simply lacks the resources to try their own mass murderers; Serbia is able and willing to try Milosevic. We are denying Serbia the same rights we have claimed for ourselves, and it's quite remarkable that so few chatterers and, so far as I can tell, not a single member of the American government, has spoken against the clear violation of Serbian sovereignty. Richard Holbrooke, in a remarkable essay in the Washington Post, regrets only that this happy turn of events was produced by Congressional meddling in foreign policy. Not even Henry Kissinger, who is likely one day to be indicted by one of these self-righteous tribunals (if Lou Lapham and Christopher Hitchens have their way), has denounced it. Is no one concerned that the U.N. — the same bunch that declared Israel guilty of racism, and that removed us from their human rights institutions — may kidnap our citizens and drag them before some self-appointed judge?
The current trend toward trying fallen dictators is thus far limited to the former rulers of small countries, and has a distinct political tinge to it. No one is clamoring for the trial of former Communist tyrants from the Soviet Union or Central/Eastern Europe. The fashionable intelligentsia cheers when Pinochet gets gobbled up, but no one demands that Gorbachev or other Soviet Communists stand trial, as simple intellectual consistency demands. And don't hold your breath waiting for the International Court of Justice to indict Fidel Castro or the vicious regime in Beijing (although you may recall that Fidel was so upset by the indictment of Pinochet that he cut short a trip to Spain and hightailed it back to Havana before some local judge brought charges).
All this is simply one more example of the global victory of the legal class. The lawyers and judges are asserting their supremacy over all possible competitors for power, from the businessmen to the politicians and the generals and colonels. They have claimed the authority to decide who gets indicted, and who enforces "the rule of law," here and everywhere. The politicians, who mostly come from the legal class, aren't inclined to contest the issue. The military, at least north of the Equator, accepts civilian rule. Who is left to defend us against the impending assault of politicized lawyers with a grudge against America?
Maybe we should enlist the trial lawyers. Somebody should tell them that if this trend continues, all the fees from the "patients' bill of rights" boondoggle will go to some attorneys in Brussels or the Netherlands. Then we might get to see a real fight.
I agree and it would be very scary if the United States signed on to this damn international court. But the government has never had too much regret when they go against the Constitution.