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August, 2004

Tribunal Roulette
By Edward W. Miller, MD

" Sentence first, and verdict afterward." The Red Queen directed.

" I'll be the judge and I'll be the jury," said cunning old Fury. "I'll try the whole case and condemn you to death."

from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland By Lewis Carroll (1832-1898)

Since the capture of Saddam on the 13th of December, there has been a maelstrom of media opinion as to when and how and where this "tyrant" should be tried for his supposed " horrendous crimes." Though Washington had planned a special tribunal under our control, world opinion pointed in the direction of a trial in Iraq by Saddam's countrymen. On December 20th the GUARDIAN UNLIMITED reported: "The statute establishing the Iraqi Special Tribunal was approved by the Iraqi Governing Council and signed into law on Dec. 10 by L. Paul Bremer, the top US administrator in Iraq on behalf of the US- led Coalition Provisional Authority." ( Assoc. Press)

On January 19th and 20th, some 5000, mostly followers of the Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr, staged peaceful demonstrations in Baghdad, demanding "US officials allow ousted President Saddam Hussein be tried and executed in Iraq rather than be treated as a prisoner of war." (Washington Post 21 Jan)

On June 28th at 10:26 AM, " in a furtive location, and witnessed by fewer than 30 people" and two days before the planned official turnover, Coalition administrator Paul Bremer handed over his sheaf of official papers including a letter of sovereignty to Judge Midhat Mahmud, head of the Iraqi Supreme Court, in the presence of the newly-appointed Interim Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi. Bremer thus officially dissolved the Coalition Provisional Authority, restoring only a degree of sovereignty to an Iraqi government whose top officials had already been appointed by him and his Coalition.

After the furtive ceremony, Bremer "rushed to a Chinook helicopter for a short flight to the Baghdad airport"Éwhere "... protected by two US-paid security men- their rifles pointed threateningly at the camera crews, and walking backward until the cabin doors of the awaiting American military planes closed- Bremer slipped out of Iraq." (Middle East International, June 2004)

The latest of several "opinion surveys" scheduled in May by Bremer just before he quit Iraq, and involving 1093 people from six Iraqi cities, "was so depressing he ( Bremer ) stamped 'classified' on it." Leaked to the press it showed 92% of those interviewed described Americans as occupiers and only 2%, as liberators. (MEI)

In even worse news, the new Occupation had appointed Salem al-Chalabi, as Chief Justice in charge of the Court to try Saddam Hussein and leaders of his regime. Salem immediately came under international fire, first for being related to the notorious Ahmed Chalabi, international financier, who fled a multi-billion indictment for grand theft in Jordan, to became the Washington Neocon's chief source of misinformation regarding Saddam's WMD, further tarnishing his image in our Capital.

The newly-appointed Salem al-Chalabi, was a young business lawyer with "no experience in trials of this kind" as columnist Joseph Samaha reported ( MEI June. Pg. 28) Salem had returned to his Country to set up, with his partner, Marc Zell, the International Law Group, a company aimed at guiding foreign business investment in Iraq.

Salem's other problem was his partner, Marc Zell, an American-born lawyer who, as Samaha noted "emigrated to Israel, obtained citizenship and became" one of the most prominent spokesmen of the most extreme wing of the Israeli settlement movement." Zell is also tarred by his earlier partnership with American lawyer, Douglas FeithÉ number three man at the Pentagon, and an "active establishing the Office of Special Plans at the Pentagon, which office spread a fantastic number of lies about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and ...links with Al Qaeda." Neither the international community, nor the Iraqis are going to tolerate any Chalabi, especially one with such dirty Zionist connections, to preside over Saddam's trial.

The danger Washington faces with Saddam, is that just as Slobovan Milosevic, defending himself in the Hague, has been exposing the criminal behavior of the Reagan and Bonn governments in the Balkans, so Saddam may make public crimes of the twin Bush and Clinton administrations, including their support of his war with Iran followed by their planned genocide of his people.

Meanwhile Washington finds itself in trouble with two other tribunals: the newly-formed International Criminal Court (ICC) and the older, International Court of Justice, formed in 1947. Both located in the Hague in the Netherlands.

In 1998, the Boston Globe (17 July) reported that after a month of intense debate and after "rebuffing US objections," United Nations delegates from 120 countries meeting in Rome, resoundingly approved a treaty establishing a permanent International Criminal Court (ICC), in what was hailed as an historical step toward ending impunity for the world's most heinous crimes.

Key provisions in the Rome declaration included the Court's power to prosecute individuals accused of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, plus the Court's right to issue both arrest warrants and summons to appear. The ICC , which might accept referrals from the UN Security Council, the Court's own independent prosecutor, and from a country, may not exert a death penalty but may invoke life imprisonment. The Court's 18 judges are overseen by representatives from countries accepting the treaty.

Ironically, after giving lip service to such a Court for almost half a century, when the cards were on the table, the US, fearing such a Court might diminish our so-called "sovereignty," insisted on watering down provisions acceptable to other nationals. Amongst such "safeguards," the United States can block the Court from investigating any American simply by agreeing to conduct its own national investigation. The authority of the Court's prosecutor is narrowly prescribed. Prosecutors must first gain approval from a panel of internationally-selected judges with decisions too confined as to limit "politically-motivated" charges.

With military and civilians on peace-keeping and humanitarian missions in 100 countries, the Bush II administration has been on the defensive, worrying that countries harboring such Americans might refer any who commit crimes on their territory to the ICC. To protect its personnel, Washington has been insisting that countries thus harboring US personnel sign the so-called "Article 98" agreement, guaranteeing not to surrender Americans to the ICC, but be returned to US jurisdiction. Putting muscle behind such requests, the US has threatened countries resisting with withholding both military and economic assistance. As of May, 2004, 89 countries had signed up.

Facing increasing international criticism over abuse of Iraqi detainees, Washington abandoned its plan to seek passage of a Security Council resolution providing "open-ended" exemption for US personnel serving in UN- authorized peacekeeping missions from prosecution by the ICC.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annon urged the Security Council to oppose the resolution saying it would "discredit the UN and undercut efforts to 'promote the rule of international law'." ( C.Lynch, Washington Post 6/23/04) The second tribunal problem involves Israel, that Zionist tail that wags our Washington dog.

The International Court of Justice, in response to a request by the UN General Assembly, ruled on July 9th, 2004, that Sharon's wall was "illegal." The judges were not convinced that there was anything protective about a wall being built on the Palestinian side of the 1967 border which "would effectively bring 975 kilometers of the West Bank into Israel, including fertile agricultural land and much of the West Bank's waterÉ and was in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention against 'annexation of land' taken by force." The Court also attacked cutting off 400,000 Palestinians outside the Wall from their livelihoods, schools, hospitals and any hope of normal life.*

Sharon had immediately rejected the Court's ruling as "politically motivated."

The 191-member UN General Assembly, following up on the Palestinian request, on Tuesday, July 20th, passed a Resolution 150/6 urging Israel's compliance with the World Court ruling.

Responding to pressure from our Zionist lobby, John Danforth, the new US representative to the UN, said the issue "would not be resolved in either the General Assembly or the Court. It needs a political resolution." (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 19 July )*

Washington again finds itself hoisted on its own petard. By picking and choosing tribunals, we're stuck in an untenable international position. We want the world to respect our illegal "International Tribunal" Washington set up in the Hague to indict Yugoslavia's Milosevic for our own NATO crimes, while, at the same time, we wish people wound forget we publicly trashed the International Court of Justice in the Hague when it found us guilty of mining Nicaragua's harbors.

We'd like to appear as champions of freedom and justice, in step with our European NATO allies, but our Republican majority in the House just passed an amendment to the 2005 Foreign Aid Bill, to punish any ally who refers an American citizen to the ICC for crimes committed in their country.

With an isolationist Republican majority, a powerful Zionist lobby and a Religious Right marching in step with Sharon, the world's "Superpower" is beginning to resemble a house of cards.



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