by Alexander Cockburn
to Bill Clinton and his accomplices, Slobo is a piker when it comes to war crimes. Take Iraq. The sanctions imposed by the United States in 1991 have had a notoriously devastating effect on Iraq's civilian population, particularly the children.
By the end of 1995 alone, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization said that after careful investigation, it had determined that as many as 576,000 Iraqi children have died as a result of sanctions. Using figures from Iraq's Ministry of Health, the World Health Organization estimated that 90,000 Iraqis were dying every year in Iraq's hospitals, over and above those who would have expired at the normal rate. In sum, it is beyond argument that the United States has engineered a program of enforced scarcity that has caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians.
In the final months of World War II, the Nazis tried to delay the advance of the Allies by opening the dikes in Holland. The man issuing this order was the German high commissioner in Holland, Seyss-Inquart. By the end of 1944, about 500,000 acres of land had been flooded, leading to what historian Gabriel Kolko called "the most precipitous decline in food consumption any West European country suffered during the war." Of the 195 Nazis indicted at Nuremberg, Seyss-Inquart was one of 24 sentenced to death.
I don't have the trial transcript at hand, but no doubt Seyss-Inquart was asked why he had opened the dikes. Perhaps he answered in the same words used by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. In 1996, Albright was asked the following question on CBS' "60 Minutes" by Lesley Stahl: "We have heard that half a million children have died (in Iraq). I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And you know, is the price worth it?" Albright infamously replied, "I think this is a very hard choice, but the price -- we think the price is worth it."
So, back in Nuremberg time, Albright would certainly have been condemned and maybe hanged, if the standards applied to Seyss-Inquart had been leveled against her and if she had been on the losing side. So would her commanding officer, Bill Clinton.
The protocols of the Geneva Convention of 1949 prohibit bombing not justified by clear military necessity. If there is any likelihood the target has a civilian function, then bombing is forbidden. NATO's bombers have damaged and often destroyed hospitals and health-care centers, public housing, infrastructure vital to the well-being of civilians, refineries, warehouses, agricultural facilities, schools, roads and railways. If Slobodan Milosevic goes on trial before the International Criminal Court, Clinton, Albright and Defense Secretary William Cohen should have their place on the court's calendar, too.
And they may conceivably face that fate. Under the terms of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia -- a body set up by the UN Security Council in 1993 -- anyone can file formal complaints for the Tribunal's prosecutor in The Hague, Justice Louise Arbour, to consider within the terms of the Geneva Convention. Thus far, there have been three serious requests for investigation and indictment against the NATO leaders for their conduct against Serbia.
Lawyers in Canada, Britain and France are now working together. Already, the Canadian team has sent Arbour requests for indictment against 67 persons for war crimes -- said persons ranging from Bill Clinton to NATO spokesman Jamie Shea, whom Canadian lawyer Michael Melman likened in role to William Joyce a.k.a. Lord Haw-Haw, a propagandist for the Nazis hanged by the Allies at the end of World War II.
Professor Melman, who teaches law at Osgood Hall Law School at York University in Toronto (of which, coincidentally, Louis Arbour is an alumna), says, "We have a great case. It will be a good test to see whether the law actually applies to powerful people." Among the indictable war crimes in the complaint prepared by the Canadian lawyers are: the wanton destruction of cities, towns and villages, and kindred devastation, not caused by military necessity; the bombardment of undefended towns; the willful destruction of or willful damage done to institutions dedicated to religion, charity or education (i.e., monasteries, hospitals and schools, all hit by NATO's bombs). "They've admitted publicly the essentials of all these crimes," Melman says.
The suspicion is that the Tribunal is a legislative appendage of NATO's war machine. After all, the indictment of Milosevic had been ardently pressed for by the United States and the United Kingdom, and came at a convenient moment when public appetite in the West for the bombing was waning rapidly. What better way for this intrinsically dubious institution to demonstrate its objectivity than to indict the NATO gang?
June 7, 1999 (http://www.monitor.net/monitor) All Rights Reserved. Contact email@example.com for permission to use in any format.
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