- The Washington Times - Monday, August 7, 2000

Bill is an 'assault' on the Constitution

Bruce Fein's concerns regarding potential abuses of a permanent International Criminal Court (ICC) and his strong support for the American Servicemember's Protection Act demonstrate his ignorance of the court, his disregard for the U.S. Constitution and his indifference to the current world demand to hold even political leaders accountable for criminal behavior ("Torching the Constitution," Commentary, Aug. 1).

First, the ICC would not "criminalize warfare." While that may be an excellent idea from the perspective of anyone who understands the full human, economic and environmental consequences of war, the ICC is only structured to deal with the most heinous acts of political leaders, those who hold themselves above decent moral codes designed for war or peace. Specifically targeting innocent civilians in any war, for any reason, should be a punishable crime, regardless of one's title or nationality. The definitions of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide are very clear and unambiguous in the ICC statute. All innocent people deserve, as an inalienable human right, such protection from anyone abusive of political power. In reality, U.S. laws and military courts would handle such criminal behavior by any American, thus leaving the ICC subservient to our own Constitution. Mr. Fein's fears are simply based on ignorance of the Rome treaty.

Second, the bill is, in itself, an assault on the U.S. Constitution. According to David Scheffer, U.S. ambassador at large for war-crimes issues, the Justice Department agrees that if this bill becomes law it would "unconstitutionally intrude upon the president's authority as commander in chief." A Pentagon official, upon listening to Mr. Scheffers' remarks at a hearing on the bill, agreed. Even more disastrous, however, would be this bill's impact on national security and the lives of U.S. service members. According to administration officials, this bill would "prevent the president from participating in United Nations peacekeeping efforts even where he determines that such participation is necessary for the safety of United States forces or the national security, for example, responding to a sudden attack to rescue U.S. forces in danger."

Rep. Tom DeLay and Sen. Jesse Helms, authors of the bill, have let their single-minded dislike for the United Nations get in the way of their oath to uphold the Constitution and protect our nation's security. They even are willing to put American service members at greater risk. It is unlikely to happen, but Mr. Helms and Mr. DeLay should withdraw their bill. In recent hearings on the bill, Rep. Donald M. Payne called it "one of the most ridiculous pieces of legislation" he had ever seen. That was an understatement. The bill is dangerous.

In the words of Mr. Scheffer, if this bill becomes law, it will "achieve exactly the opposite of the result intended and seriously harm our own national security and foreign policy interests. The legislation would cripple our negotiating leverage to achieve the common objective of protection of American service members from surrender to the ICC. Section 5 [of the bill] could make it impossible for the United States to engage in critical multinational operations. Section 7 could weaken essential military alliances."

At best, this bill is a partisan ploy to get a few Democrats on record as voting against "service member protection." Some believe the drafters of this bill mistitled it just for that purpose.

In preventing any level of the U.S. government from cooperating with the ICC, this bill would make the United States a safe haven for war criminals and political leaders who masterminded genocides or other crimes against humanity. Imagine that. Congress prohibiting even local American police and judicial systems from dealing with mass murderers. Now that's torching the original intent of the U.S. Constitution. Messrs. Fein, Helms and DeLay are all playing with matches.

CHUCK WOOLERY

Issues advocacy director

World Federalist Association

Washington

m

The objections raised by Bruce Fein to the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court in "Torching the Constitution" are well-conceived, and his interpretation of post-World War II history is equally credible. Nevertheless, almost everyone else in the world believes the United States is hypocritical or worse for supporting international criminal tribunals against its vanquished enemies in the past while never providing for the possibility that such tribunals could be called into session against the United States itself, even under the most egregious of circumstances.

The international repercussions of America's failure to reconcile this dichotomy are quite destructive because it lends credence to the argument that these tribunals are nothing more than the exercise of ex-post-facto vengeance by a powerful victor over the hapless vanquished.

Ultimately, America's failure to at least continue good-faith negotiations on this issue in whatever forum might be available undermines both the integrity of the ongoing judicial proceedings against Serbia and Croatia, for example, and the moral position upon which the United States originally set its course during the Nuremberg war-crimes trials.

RAY L. HANNA

Washington

Technology package should be put on hold

For the past five weeks, I have been working as a volunteer in a rural area of southern Kenya. My time there exposed me to the extremely arduous nature of life in the Third World and prompted me to think a great deal about what can be done to help alleviate the poverty and suffering in countries such as Kenya.

Therefore, I was very disheartened when, on my return flight, I read about a $15 billion technology package announced by Japan and touted by the Group of Eight at the recent summit in Okinawa, Japan. Yes, supporting the development of communication infrastructures in underprivileged nations is a laudable idea but only after the people in those nations have had their basic needs met.

Technology won't soothe the bloated bellies of those nations' many malnourished children; it won't bring desperately needed water to the farmers' failing crops; it won't slow the rampant spread of AIDS or provide adequate health care to the seriously ill who are forced to walk miles to see a doctor.

So what can the Group of Eight nations do to actually help the people in underdeveloped countries? They can cancel Third World debt. Many underdeveloped nations are sacrificing spending on social programs and therefore compromising their citizens' lives in an attempt to relieve these enormous financial burdens. Countries such as the United States, Japan and Great Britain can more than afford to forgo the income generated when those countries pay off their debts. But, and I know this firsthand from my recent experience, countries such as Kenya simply cannot afford to generate the money for debt relief. Unless, of course, they continue to pay with their citizens' lives.

KELLY HARTOIN

Washington

Reviewer wrong to think Kosovo should have been part of Dayton accords

Janusz Bugajski, in his book review of "Winning Ugly" by Ivo Daalder and Michael O'Hanlon, echoes the common refrain that the Dayton accords should have dealt with Kosovo ("Break up Yugoslavia," Op-Ed, Aug. 1). The West's aim at Dayton was to preserve the territorial integrity of Bosnia-Herzegovina. To have dealt at the same time with Kosovo to the satisfaction of the Kosovars would have involved undermining the territorial rights of Serbia. Such inconsistency would have been too transparent, hence Kosovo had to wait its turn.

Mr. Bugajski then adds his voice to those urging Washington to push for an independent Montenegro because this would pave the way for a similar status for Kosovo. In other words, the end justifies the means. Worse still, he seems unaware that one of the bloodiest of Yugoslavia's World War II conflicts was fought in Montenegro between Tito's partisans, who were assisted by local secessionists and Montenegrin Chetniks loyal to Serbdom.

It would behoove Washington-based analysts to think twice before advocating policies likely to ignite civil wars in faraway places.

ARIANA BEATTY

London

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide