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If Slobo, Why Not Bill? | The Nation

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Beat the Devil

If Slobo, Why Not Bill?

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I'm no fan of the International Criminal Tribunal, for the reasons Doug Lummis outlined in these pages on September 26, 1994, concluding reasonably enough that such a tribunal was designed to function as a star chamber for the New World Order, nabbing an occasional small fry but impotent to go after the big-time Western perps.

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Alexander Cockburn
Alexander Cockburn, The Nation's "Beat the Devil" columnist and one of America's best-known radical...

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Pose a political threat to Business As Usual and sooner or later, mostly sooner, someone will try to kill you.

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Nor is the tribunal's indictment of Slobodan Milosevic for war crimes any inducement to change my mind. The timing meshed all too nicely with NATO's desperate need to jack up public appetite for continued bombing, with maybe a bracing land war to follow.

Meanwhile, the tribunal's prosecutor, Judge Louise Arbour, has kept a contemplated indictment of those responsible for the single largest ethnic cleansing of the mid-1990s locked in her desk. I refer to Croatia's Franjo Tudjman and his forces--a senior KLA commander apparently among them--who drove 300,000 Serbs from their homes in the Krajina, bombarding and murdering them as they fled. This was carried out under the supervision of the US Ambassador to Croatia, Peter Galbraith, with US personnel offering Tudjman's cleansers targeting advice and appropriate matériel.

Arbour could impart some temporary credibility for the tribunal by indicting the cleansers of the Krajina. She'd do even better by sending up indictments of the NATO gang for war crimes committed during the bombing campaign. Thus far, three formal "complaints and requests for investigation and indictment" aimed at this gang have been lodged with Arbour. One has been filed by a Greek lawyer, with supporting signatures of a thousand Greek citizens. Another, specifically aimed at British Prime Minister Tony Blair, along with his foreign and defense secretaries, Robin Cook and George Robertson, has been filed by a Cambridge lawyer. The third has been prepared by a Canadian team of lawyers, charging sixty-seven persons with war crimes, said persons ranging from Bill Clinton to chief propagandist Jamie Shea.

One of the Canadians, Michael Melman of York University, tells me, "It will be a good test to see whether the law actually applies to powerful people." His team's charges? Willful causing of great suffering and serious injuries; extensive damage to property unjustified by military necessity; employment of weapons causing unnecessary suffering; wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages; damage to, or destruction of, religious, charitable and educational institutions; destruction of historic monuments. The tribunal can consider charges against anyone who plans, instigates, orders, commits or otherwise aids and abets such acts.

"They've admitted publicly the essentials of all these crimes," Melman says. "It's a no-brainer." The American Association of Jurists has joined the Canadian suit as a full participant. The three main groups of complainers are all in touch. Melman urges people to contact the tribunal directly, citing potential war crimes they think have been committed (nikiforov@un.org, or phone 31-70-416-5000). So let's see how Arbour handles these complaints, and how the fourteen judges behave if she hands up indictments. The panel of judges, picked by the UN Security Council, includes five from NATO nations (Britain, France, Italy, the United States, Portugal), and the rest from Australia, China, Guyana, Zambia, Colombia, Egypt, Malaysia, Morocco and Jamaica. The head judge is an American, Gabrielle Kirk McDonald.

Bill Clinton was only the second President to have been impeached. Now he can truly step into history as the first to be indicted for war crimes. Bill could have a busy final year, shuttling between The Hague and another impeachment proceeding in the Senate, this time for flouting the Constitution re warmaking powers. He'll still have time for a few fundraisers for Al Gore.

Either way we win, because if the tribunal refuses to consider NATO's war crimes, all suspicions of this body will be immensely fortified, and the institution properly discredited.

Those Marketplace Bombings

A few weeks ago I mentioned that the Bosnian Muslims had deliberately shelled the marketplace in Sarajevo to draw in NATO. Christopher Hitchens mounted his high horse, shrieking that such assertions had shamed The Nation. Let me assure readers that there was at the time no shortage of serious sources for this view about the mortar shells dropped on Sarajevo markets on February 5, 1994, and August 28, 1995; also the breadline massacre on May 27, 1992. Hitchens claims that authority for all such charges derives from Michael Rose, a British general, and from the Canadian general Lewis MacKenzie, and that both have denied all to him directly. They weren't the sources I had in mind, though it's unclear to me why Hitchens should be so confident that these two politically seasoned officers developed an invincible passion for truth when questioned by him, a noted zealot for the Bosnian cause. And why should he affect such outrage at the notion that the Bosnians would have engineered these lethal provocations? They wouldn't be the first to decide that the higher good--in this case, NATO intervention--justified the sacrifice of some of their own. The fate of the Lusitania and of Pearl Harbor testify to that.

In a good article in The Nation for October 2, 1995, David Binder of the New York Times cited "four specialists--a Russian, Canadian and two Americans" as having "raised serious doubts" about the conclusions of a UN report blaming the Bosnian Serbs for the bombing in August 1995, killing thirty-seven. A Russian artillery officer, Col. Andrei Demurenko, flatly declared the report "a falsification." A Canadian specialist told Binder that he and fellow Canadian officers were "convinced" that the Muslim government dropped both marketplace shells. A US official noted the low trajectory of the 1995 shell, suggesting that it came from an area under Bosnian Muslim control. Other reports--in the Times, the London Independent, on French television TF-1 and from the UN Protection Force in Bosnia--have cited Muslim shootings and bombings designed to compromise the Serbs. The KLA has doubtless studied them with keen attention.

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