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GODFATHERLY GLOBAL JUSTICE: MILOSEVIC, SHARON AND SUHARTO


Herman

The

politicization of the system of global justice has reached new heights over the

past decade, with the U.S. Godfather asserting his firmer hegemonic position

with an arrogance that is a throwback to Secretary of State Richard Olney’s

statement back in 1895 that "the United States is practically sovereign on this

continent, and its fiat is law upon the subjects to which it confines its

interposition." Today, by U.S. fiat, a U.S. target anywhere on the earth is

almost automatically put under the siege of sanctions, bombing and/or invasion,

and possible incarceration of the demonized leader (Manuel Noriega and Panama,

Saddam Hussein and Iraq, Slobodan Milosevic and Yugoslavia). On the other hand,

a U.S. ally can commit really massive human rights violations and war crimes and

be entirely free from penalty, receive economic and military aid and diplomatic

support and be treated as an honored leader (Suharto, until May 1998, Croatia’s

Franjo Tudjman till his death in 1999, Ariel Sharon today), and can retire in

comfort (Haiti’s Cedras, El Salvador’s Guillermo Garcia, Indonesia’s Suharto).

The

new system reached its post-Orwellian peak of politicized "justice" on May 24,

1999, when the prosecutor of the International Crimes Tribunal for the Former

Yugoslavia (ICTY), Louise Arbour, announced the indictment of Yugoslav president

Milosevic and four associates, for their role in the Racak massacre of January

1999 and the expulsions of thousands of Kosovo Albanians and killing of some 350

of them following the beginning of NATO’s bombing on March 24, 1999. The

indictment was cobbled together hastily, Arbour mentioning that the

investigation was still in process, and expressing her gratitude to the NATO

powers for their generous provision of information on Serb war crimes. The

indictment was timed perfectly to offset the growing criticism of the NATO

bombing, which was increasingly attacking the civilian infrastructure of

Yugoslavia in order to hasten that country’s surrender. As this NATO policy was

in clear violation of the Nuremberg principle barring targets not dictated by

"military necessity," the Arbour-ICTY action offered the amazing spectacle of a

war crimes tribunal literally servicing the commission of war crimes.

The

NATO powers had arranged a cease-fire in Kosovo with Yugoslavia in October 1998,

but NATO not only failed to limit the activities of the KLA in the ensuing

period, it is now known that the United States had been busily training and

arming the KLA and in effect underwriting KLA provocations that would induce the

Serbs to attack the KLA and its supporters (Peter Beaumont et al.,"CIA’s Bastard

Army Ran Riot in Balkans’ Back Extremists," Observer [London], March 11, 2001).

The German Foreign Office described the Serb actions in Kosovo prior to the NATO

bombing as not a case of "ethnic cleansing" but rather brutal policies targeting

the KLA and its support base. The numbers killed on all sides in the year before

the NATO bombing were in the order of 2,000, and would have been fewer if the

NATO powers had put in place their allowable quota of international observers

and had not supported the KLA’s provocative actions. The one pre-bombing

incident mentioned in the indictment, the Racak massacre, has been called into

serious question; and at present the most credible among the competing claims is

that the "massacre" was a KLA-staged event organized following a fire fight, and

quickly accepted as authentic by William Walker, the U.S.-head of the OSCE, and

his NATO allies. (Up to this day, the OSCE has refused to release the forensic

report on Racak which it hastened to arrange in January 1999). The other events

listed in the indictment followed the NATO bombing and were a consequence of the

war, hence of the NATO decision to resort to war.

It is

also clear that the numbers killed and expelled in Kosovo before March 24, 1999

were not in the same league with the numbers victimized in Turkey’s

counterinsurgency war against the Kurds in the 1990s (over 30,000 killed,

several million made refugees) or the East Timorese victimized by Indonesia in

1999 (probably over 6,000 killed, several hundred thousand made refugees). But

Turkey and Indonesia have been U.S. allies and clients, so not only were no

tribunals called for or put in place, Turkey was even mobilized as a participant

in the war against "ethnic cleansing" in Kosovo, and both Turkey and Indonesia

have continued to receive economic and military aid from the Great Power(s).

Ariel Sharon, under whose authority over a hundred civilians were slaughtered at

El-Bureig and Qibya in 1953, many thousands were killed in the invasion of

Lebanon in 1982, with between 700 and 3,000–mainly women and

children–butchered at Sabra-Shatila in that year, is the Israeli head of state

today, treated as an honored statesman. (The civilian casualties at Qibya, El-Bureig

and Sabra-Shatila alone, are conservatively estimated at more than ten times the

lifetime killings of the feared terrorist Carlos the Jackal, now housed in a

French prison).

It

goes without saying that the Godfather’s own war crimes and support of

genocidists are exempt from punishment, and in recognition of global "realities"

they are rarely even mentioned. He may be responsible for a million Iraqi deaths

from "sanctions of mass destruction," but he will not be troubled by any threats

or even audible accusations from the New Humanitarian keepers of the global

conscience like Vaclav Havel, Bernard Kouchner, Susan Sontag, David Rieff, or

Michael Ignatieff. In the Yugoslavia case, he is safe from any charges for

bombing hundreds of civilian targets, or for his failure to prevent a massive

REAL ethnic cleansing in Kosovo under NATO authority after June 10, 1999, by his

de facto control of the ICTY agenda. Not only is his collaboration with the

Croatian army in the killing of hundreds of Krajina Serbs and expelling 200,000

of them beyond prosecution, his refusal to supply information on the Croatian

army’s actions precluded any ICTY prosecution of these U.S.-supported killers

(Raymond Bonner, "War Crimes Panel Finds Croat Troops ‘Cleansed’ the Serbs," NYT,

March 21, 1999). The Tribunal did, however, bring two indictments for misconduct

in Krajina, but both of them, Radoslav Brdjanin and Momir Talic, were Serbs,

indicted back in 1991.

In

the case of Indonesia and East Timor, there has been no pressure from the Great

Power(s) or "international community" to establish a tribunal to bring General

Wiranto to book for his crimes in East Timor in 1998 and 1999 that were more

serious than those spelled out in the May 24, 1999 indictment of Milosevic, or

to deal with the triple genocidist General Suharto. This was to be left to the

Indonesian authorities, partly on the ground that external intervention might

"destabilize" Indonesia! The Godfather and his loyal cronies knew that this was

tantamount to granting impunity to the Indonesian war criminals, but these were

OUR war criminals and impunity was the aim. By contrast, Milosevic is to be

brought to book at all costs, and there is no concern that blackmailing the

Yugoslav government into turning him over to the ICTY might destabilize

Yugoslavia. Having virtually destroyed the country, why would there be any worry

over political destabilization?

The

Great Power(s) use of money and bullying tactics to manipulate the affairs of

small states is hardly new. The United States intervened in the Nicaraguan

elections of 1984 and 1990 with financial and technical aid to the side it

favored, and in 1990 it also used a blackmail threat, warning that only a

Sandinista defeat would end sanctions and proxy warfare via the contras.

Similarly, the United States intervened with financial aid in the Yugoslav

election that ousted Milosevic, and in a rather crude process it and its allies

have made economic aid contingent on turning Milosevic over to the Hague

Tribunal. The sums that Yugoslavia will get will be tiny in relation to the

damage the NATO bombings and sanctions caused that country, the action violates

the Yugoslav constitution and due process ("cannot be considered legal or

constitutional," as President Kostunica himself stated on June 24 [he allegedly

favored a trial within Yugoslavia, but was overridden]), and it represents a

humiliating and unwarranted admission of national guilt, but the politicians

funded by NATO were determined to please the Great Power(s) at any legal and

moral cost.

And

the illegal methods employed in bringing Milosevic to The Hague fit well the new

system of global justice, with Sharon treated as a respectable leader and

Suharto exempt from prosecution for war crimes, and only the Godfather’s targets

subject to New World Order "law." There is a small debate on the left as to

whether we are dealing here with a "double standard" or single standard.

Actually, it is both: it is a double standard in the sense that the

theoretically applicable principles are applied differently to friends and

enemies, with enemies held to a standard that the Godfather himself as well as

his allies could never meet and never have to meet. It is a single standard in

that the Godfather is very consistent in dealing with his friends one way–

granting them immunity for crimes–while treating targets with unrelenting

hostility.

Beyond the selectivity in target, it should be recognized that the ICTY is a

kangaroo court that has not performed much more judicially than the Stalinist

courts of the 1930s. Its hyper- politicization was dramatically displayed in the

rush indictment of Milosevic to meet the pressing public relations need of NATO

in May 1999, as well as in its followup blanket exemption of NATO’s numerous war

crimes. But there have also been numerous detailed demonstrations that in its

day-to-day legal work the ICTY has violated virtually every accepted Western

standard of good judicial practice–among other things, accepting hearsay

evidence and the testimony of anonymous witnesses; permitting double jeopardy;

dispensing with juries; and rejecting the notion of innocence till proven guilty

(for summaries and details, Christopher Black and Edward Herman, "An Unindicted

War Criminal: Louise Arbour and the International Crimes Tribunal," Z, Feb.

2000; Mirjana Skoco and William Woodger, "War Crimes," in Hammond and Herman,

Degraded Capability: The Media and the Kosovo Crisis).

Some

have argued that as Milosevic is a bad man we should not be troubled by his

being brought to The Hague and tried. If we can’t get all the bad guys, why

shouldn’t we be satisfied with some? This is a seriously mistaken argument. For

one thing, biased justice is no justice at all. Apart from making a fair trial

for the bad man extremely unlikely, this biased process is the counterpart of

exoneration of the NATO villains and others within Yugoslavia that they favor

(e.g., the Croatian managers of the Krajina massacres and expulsions). Clinton,

Albright, Blair, Schroder and company bear very heavy responsibility for the

breakup of Yugoslavia, having done this is a manner that encouraged ethnic

cleansing instead of seeking modes of conflict resolution, and in Kosovo

resorting to war instead of working out a negotiated settlement. This was a war

of aggression and vengeance by imperialist bullies that culminated their

destabilizing interventions in Yugoslavia throughout the 1990s, with no

constructive end or result. (See David Chandler and Diana Johnstone in Degraded

Capability; Robert Hayden, Blueprints for a House Divided.)

As a

supposedly independent tribunal has honed in on their targeted villain, the

indictment and trial of Milosevic vindicates a false NATO-apologetic view of

Balkan history as a product of a demon out of control, and it helps portray

Clinton, Blair and company as humanitarian warriors, managing a humane

imperialism. It also deflects attention from the Godfather’s support of equally

or more murderous allied villains in Indonesia, Turkey, Colombia, and the Middle

East, and his own criminal operation in Iraq, all of which are tribunal free. In

short, it provides the moral basis and sets the stage for further imperial

interventions under the guise of protecting human rights. (See David Chandler,

Human Rights and International Intervention: The Ethical Assault on Democracy,

forthcoming from Verso; Noam Chomsky, The New Military Humanism: Lessons From

Kosovo.)_

 

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