Tuesday, November 07, 2006

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Two [35]


The first paragraph of this section, summarized in my previous post, was naive nonsense. However, beginning with the second paragraph, Johnstone does confront a real, and serious, issue.

"The experience of the ICTY should give pause even to those who are enthusiastic about the project for an International Criminal Court (ICC). Unlike the ad hoc tribunals, the ICC is intended to be universal. But is this possible? In reality the project raises problems that have yet to be solved satisfactorily."

[as always--underlined words were italicized in the original text]

The first sentence is her predictable jab at the case against Milosevic and the Serb leadership, but the rest of this paragraph addresses a genuine concern--where would the ICC derive its legitimacy and its authority from?

I wrote earlier about Johnstone's implicit belief in the sanctimony of sovereignty. Regardless of her dishonest motiviations, issues of sovereignty and the legitimacy and authority of international actors will need to be addressed if humanity is to craft a new, better world order. If we are to overcome national divisions and craft better solutions to war, racism, religiously motivated violence, terrorism, and environmental catastrophe, we will need to address these issues.

However, conceding that Johnstone has a good point is one thing; discerning any intelligent or reasonable analysis on her part is quite another. And the signs are not good:

"There is no authentic justice that is not applied equally to all."

This might be a lovely slogan for a an idealistic protest march, but this level of sanctimonious absolutism just isn't very useful when trying to create realistic, possible solutions in the current geopolitical climate. It is not cyncial to say so; nor is it narrowly incorrect. If the international community had managed to respond promptly and robustly in Bosnia and managed to fully prosecute war criminals after the end of hostilities, but completely failed to take any action during or after the Rwandan genocide (which is, grievously, essentially the truth)--would the justice served to war criminals in Bosnia be "inauthentic"? Were the Nuremberg trials less authentic because Stalin was getting away with mass murder in the USSR?

For all her pretentions to hard-headed realism, Johnstone is reliably simple-minded and unrealistically fundamentalist in her assessment of the issue, even putting her genocide revisionism aside. She goes on to assert that:

"The Hague Tribunal has already shown that selective justice results from the political bias of the most influential powers, the prejudices created by mass media and finally from budgetary constraints."

This is a statement open to question, to put it mildly. But while we can dismiss that allegation out of hand, the next charge needs to be more forcefully rejected:

"An international tribunal simply lacks the means to judge equitably all the various crimes that may be committed in the course of violent civil strife or war. Serious detective work at a long distance, sifting truth from lies in distant countries torn by civil conflict is a mammoth, not to say impossible, task."

And yet, she has written a book that purports to tell the real story of what happened in places like Trnopolje and Srebrenica. Even if she were to counter with "I don't pretend to know the whole truth, her objections are ridiculous. The anchronistic "distant countries" in an age of satellite communications and internet access is laughable; her assertion that it is impossible to get a reasonable picture of what happened in a country during a time of war is so baldly stated I had to reread it several times to make sure there wasn't some nuance or extra word I was missing. This is simply a ludicrous statement.

Still, she manages to top it:

"It is neither politically nor financially feasible for an international court to prosecute all the dreadful human rights violations that take place around the world."

And since justice cannot be authentic unless it is applied in all cases at all times, the only conclusion one can draw from this is simple: Since we cannot fully and completely carry out justice in every single situatin, we must refrain from attemptint to do so at all. If we cannot have perfection, we must have nothing at all.

Why is this? Why insist on such an impossibly high standard of purity and perfection?

"Inevitably, a few spectacular cases will be singled out by the interests of Great Powers, media attentiona and financial support. In short, an international criminal tribunal is almost certain to turn into an international political tribunal that stages show trials of scapegoats."

You see? It's those damn Western Imperialists again, those turn-of-the 19th-Century "Great Powers" she invokes against so reliably. The dirty hands of politics will soil the purity of the maiden known as international justice; we must not let them get their filthy hands on her. Better to keep her looked up, safe from any threat of becoming soiled with worldly knowledge.

The ICC will continue the ICTY practice of accepting funding from governments and anyone else who cares to fund their work. Johnstone assumes this will guarantee justice for wealthy Western nations; as if no oil-rich autocrat has spare change laying around. She also points out that the UN Security Council will have control over initiatives by the ICC, which she believes will guarantee "Great Power" hegemony. As if Russia and China always work in cooperation with the US, and always will.

She goes on to note that "no court can function without a police force." NATO is the ICTY's police force, and she asks:

"And if NATO were ever to commit war crimes, who could the Tribunal send to arrest NATO?"

Given Johnstone's inability to make qualitative distinctions and reliably interpret quantitative information, we can only speculate on who--individually, or collectively--she might mean when she refers to "NATO" committing war crimes; the leadership, individual soldiers and units, the entire organization as a whole, the nations providing troops and support, etc. She certainly doesn't trust the citizens of the Western democracies--particularly the United States--holding the most power and clout within the organization.

No comments: