- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 12, 2001

The "trial" of former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic at a United Nations "war crimes tribunal" is an act of hypocrisy that is fraught with danger for law and national sovereignty. Mr. Milosevic's trial is a perfect example of raw force pretending to be law.

Begin with the fact that there is no legal basis for the trial. The charges are brought by a non-sovereign the U.N. against the former president of a sovereign nation for what were acts of state, regardless of whether we agree with them.

Then consider that it is the U.S., in effect, that is handing Mr. Milosevic over to the U.N. We did not declare war on Serbia, and Mr. Milosevic is not our prisoner. We purchased Mr. Milosevic from Serbia in exchange for promises of foreign aid to rebuild the Serbian infrastructure that our bombs destroyed along with lives of innocent civilians. "Collateral damage," as Timothy McVeigh would say.

The current Serbian president, Vojislav Kostunica, has disassociated himself from Mr. Milosevic's coerced extradition. He has publicly stated, "My attempt to have our citizens tried only in our own country was prevented by pressure from Washington."

Consider, also, that there is no precedent for Mr. Milosevic's trial. He will be the first head of state to be tried in the U.N. court for war crimes.

Not that there has been a lack of candidates. Six-figure tribal genocides are routine in Africa. And no action has been taken against communists responsible for mass murders in the former Soviet empire or against Fidel Castro. Robert Mugabe, the current head of Zimbabwe's government, is responsible for murders of white farmers and black political opponents. Even his own Supreme Court has come out against him.

In this sea, Mr. Milosevic is a small fish. He is being tried not for crimes, but in order to create a court that can override national sovereignty. And here lies the danger for us and every other country.

With our power and money, we have established the precedent of bringing a head of state before an extralegal, extraterritorial tribunal. This is an odd thing for a country to do that routinely bombs other sovereign states and inserts its armed forces into their territory without a declaration of war.

We are comfortable with might makes right because we have the might. But sooner or later demands will be made for American war criminals to be turned over. Our troops involved in "police actions" and the presidents that authorize them will find themselves charged as war criminals.

Indeed, we are already experiencing international interference in our judicial affairs. Two weeks ago the International Court of Justice charged the governor of Arizona and the U.S. solicitor general with willful disregard of its binding court order to stay the execution of a German national convicted of murder. If the World Court had might behind its injunctions, the Arizona governor and U.S. solicitor general would be held accountable under the Vienna Convention.

Nothing more clearly illustrates the hypocrisy of our position. We ignore international courts, but when it suits us we use them to punish those we dislike.

It is a mistake to believe that the role of prosecutor will forever be ours. Like Mr. Milosevic, we will one day lose a propaganda battle and a popularity contest. For reasons not yet explained to the public, the Clinton administration sided with separatists who began the conflict with Serbia by murdering and raping Serbs in Kosovo, a historic Serbian province. Instead of demonizing the drug-running separatists, we seized on Mr. Milosevic, who is guilty of replying to ruthlessness with ruthlessness.

Our choice of villains only makes sense as a precedent-creating venture to permit heads of states to be dragged before international tribunals. The fools responsible for this mindless decision have opened Pandora's Box. Settling a score with Mr. Milosevic is not important. Preserving the concepts of law and national sovereignty is.

General Wesley Clark, who commanded NATO's unprovoked attacks on Serbia, says Mr. Milosevic's trial "is a clear signal that governments cannot attack, torture and murder their citizens." Does this mean we can look forward to Bill Clinton and Janet Reno joining Mr. Milosevic in the dock for attacking, torturing and murdering their citizens at Waco?

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