Too much independence

Posted: Jul 05, 2002 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- There he goes again. He just doesn't get it. President George W. Bush simply refuses to "go along to get along." This week, having just returned from the G-8 summit in Canada, where he declined to back down on his call to rid the Palestinians of Yasser Arafat's corrupt and despotic "leadership," our "cowboy" president insisted, once again, on astonishing our "allies" and dismaying diplomats from every clime and place. Let's face it, our president is becoming a planetary party pooper. Kofi and his cronies -- the rock band running the U.N. -- had just hoisted their champagne glasses to toast the inception (they called it "the birth") of the International Criminal Court, when George Bush sent John Negroponte, our ambassador to the U.N., to dump ice water down their stuffed shirts. The message: "either immunize U.S. personnel serving on so-called U.N. peacekeeping operations from prosecution by the ICC, or we're not going to play." From the howls emanating out of European capitals and the U.N.'s New York headquarters, one might think the president wanted U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to pay his illegal-parking fines. Those who are now loudly decrying the president's decision -- and they are legion -- should know better. During his White House campaign, Bush made clear his opposition to the 1998 Treaty of Rome that created the world's first permanent court with global powers to prosecute war crimes, genocide, crimes against humanity and the yet-to-be-defined crime of "aggression." Last April, when Ireland, Jordan, Mongolia and a handful of other countries "simultaneously" ratified the Treaty -- giving the U.N. the 60 ratifications necessary to bring the ICC into being -- Bush again clarified that, despite Bill Clinton's last-minute decision to sign the treaty, he had no intention of sending it to the Senate for ratification -- or subjecting U.S. military personnel to the court's jurisdiction. And now that the court has been created, he has again reaffirmed that "I'm not going to have U.S. diplomats or military men dragged into that court." ICC defenders -- like liberal Sens. Joe Biden, D-Del., Chris Dodd, D-Conn., and Pat Leahy, D-Vt. -- who can't find time to confirm judges for the U.S. bench -- say that the president's fears are unfounded. They are joined by the likes of Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, who told my Radio America audience and I that "the rest of the civilized world has signed on. We're out in the cold on this." He continued, "All the protections necessary are there to safeguard our servicemen." Wrong on both counts. First, "the rest of the world" hasn't "signed on." China and Japan haven't signed the treaty, and neither has India, the world's most populous democracy. Russia and Israel regret doing so. In fact, two-thirds of all world governments, representing about five-sixths of the world's 6 billion people, are not party to the global court treaty. Second, the ICC is little more than an international star chamber under the auspices of the U.N. that claims criminal jurisdiction over every person in the world, regardless of whether their nation has ratified the treaty. No individual or group brought before the tribunal will enjoy the protections of the fourth, fifth, sixth or eighth amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Under the treaty, U.S. peacekeepers, CIA officers and diplomats serving in any one of 15 different U.N. peacekeeping missions are subject to apprehension by local authorities for offenses, real or imagined, and can be turned over to the ICC and flown to the Hague to rot for months awaiting trial -- without the benefit of what we consider due process. No speedy trial; no confronting accusers; no protection from double jeopardy; not even the unanimous verdict of a jury is required for conviction. The ICC metes out justice by majority vote -- of the foreign judges presiding at trail. Articles 15, 42, 53, 54, 86 and 87 of the treaty grant the ICC prosecutor global authority to bring charges anywhere, against anyone. The prosecutor can collect secret evidence that's never revealed to the defendant -- only to the jurists hearing his or her case. But it's not only "citizen soldiers" who are subject to the whimsy of this system. Article 27 of the Treaty grants the ICC jurisdiction over "heads of nations, legislators, parliamentarians and other officials." Military officers don't even have to know that a crime has been committed by the most junior members of their units to be investigated and tried. Article 28 demands the prosecution of commanders who "should have known" that their subordinates "were committing or about to commit" crimes. And then there is the matter of money. Who is going to pick up the $100 million annual price tag for a prosecutor and 18 judges? It may be hard to raise this amount of money without the United States and Japan, who supply nearly one-half of the U.N.'s annual budget. Anticipating a "cash-flow-crunch" of "Enronesque" proportions, the International Criminal Court Coalition is urgently calling for donations from organizations, entities and individuals. Ted Turner, call your office. ICC supporters would have us believe that the ICC is necessary to deter tyrants, dictators and war criminals from committing atrocities, and will hold them accountable for their crimes. I'll believe that when I see Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, Saddam Hussein or Yasser Arafat standing in the dock in the Hague. Until then, George Bush did what our president is supposed to do -- he stood up for U.S. sovereignty and independence. He did what our commander in chief is supposed to do -- he stood up for the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines he leads. The only trouble is, if he keeps this up, he'll never get a nice op ed in The New York Times pontificating on "how he's grown in his job."