"Ain't Gonna Study War No More"

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Right-To-Life Party, Christian, Anti-War, Pro-Life, Bible Fundamentalist, Egalitarian, Libertarian Left

Saturday, June 11, 2005

US Threats to the International Criminal Court

The United States of America is the only state that is actively opposed to the new International Criminal Court. US opposition to the Court can be traced back to the adoption of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (Rome Statute) in 1998, where the USA was one of only 7 states to vote against adoption of the Statute. Reportedly a major reason for not supporting adoption of the Statute stems from the refusal of the international community to grant the United Nations Security Council (of which the USA is a veto holding permanent member) control over which cases the Court considered, instead favouring an independent Prosecutor who - subject to safeguards and fair trial guarantees - would make such decisions.

On 31 December 2000, however, President Clinton signed the Rome Statute, which was a positive step in favour of the Court. However, the US position has changed dramatically since the new administration under President Bush took office in 2001. On 6 May 2002, the US government took the unprecedented step of repudiating its signature of the Rome Statute and began a worldwide campaign to weaken the Court and to obtain impunity for all US nationals from the jurisdiction of the Court.

Amnesty International believes that the US concerns that the ICC will be used to bring politically motivated prosecutions against US nationals are wholly unfounded. The substantial safeguards and fair trial guarantees in the Rome Statute will ensure that such a situation would never arise.

This page provides information on two parts of the current US campaign against the ICC: impunity agreements and Security Council Resolution 1422. For further information on the USA and the ICC, please see the AI USA website, the AMICC website, the CICC website, or the Washington Working Group on the ICC website.

US Impunity Agreements

The USA is currently approaching governments around the world and asking them to enter into illegal impunity agreements. These agreements provide that a government will not surrender or transfer US nationals accused of genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes to the ICC, if requested by the Court. The agreements do not require the USA or the other state concerned to investigate and, if there is sufficient evidence, to prosecute such a person in US Courts. Indeed in many cases it would be impossible for US courts to do so, as US law does not include many of the crimes under the Rome Statute.

On 1 July 2003 the USA announced the withdrawal of military assistance to 35 states who are parties to the Rome Statute and have refused to sign an impunity agreement with the USA. On 8 December 2004, the USA went even further, withdrawing economic support from states that still refuse to sign impunity agreements. The withdrawal of this economic funding threatens to undermine counter-terrorism efforts, peace process programs, anti-drug trafficking initiatives, truth and reconciliation commissions and HIV/Aids education, and threatens states such as Jordan, Ireland, Cyprus, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela and South Africa.

The USA claims that these agreements are legal and in conformity with Article 98 of the Statute. However, Amnesty International has conducted a legal analysis which demonstrates that US Impunity Agreements do not fall under Article 98, and states that enter into such agreements with the USA are in breach of their obligations under international law. This legal analysis (International Criminal Court: US efforts to obtain impunity for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, IOR 40/025/2002) is available in Arabic, English, French and Spanish.

The European Union's legal experts have also analysed the agreements, and have reached the same conclusion "[e]ntering into US agreements - as presently drafted - would be inconsistent with ICC States Parties' obligations with regard to the ICC Statute ... ". The EU has issued guiding principles which Amnesty International analyses in International Criminal Court: The need for the European Union to take more effective steps to prevent members from signing US impunity agreements (IOR 40/030/2002). This paper is available in Arabic, English, French and Spanish.

Security Council Resolution 1422 and 1487

Another strategy being pursued by the USA is to obtain impunity for US nationals through the United Nations Security Council. In July 2002, the Security Council, under immense pressure from the USA, passed Resolution 1422. This resolution seeks to give perpetual impunity from investigation or prosecution by the ICC to nationals of states that have not ratified the Rome Statute, when such persons are involved in operations established or authorized by the United Nations. In June 2003, the Security Council renewed this resolution for another year in a vote of 12-0 (Resolution 1487). Many states made strong statements against the resolution and in support of the ICC in a public debate before the adoption. Three Security Council members abstained from voting - France, Germany and Syria.

Amnesty International has published a legal analysis of this resolution, which concludes that the resolution is contrary to the Rome Statute, and also to the United Nations Charter (International Criminal Court: The unlawful attempt by the Security Council to give US citizens permanent impunity from international justice, IOR 40/006/2003). Amnesty International is calling on the Security Council not to renew this resolution again when it expires on 30 June 2004.

A summary of this legal analysis is available in Arabic, English, French and Spanish (International Criminal Court: Security Council must refuse to renew unlawful Resolution 1422, IOR 40/008/2003).

On 23 June 2004, the USA withdrew its attempt to renew Resolution 1487 for a further year. In the light of the revelations of prisoner abuse in Iraq and the public opposition to the renewal by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, at least eight members of the Security Council refused to support the renewal of the resolution. Resolution 1487 expired on 30 June 2004, ending the blanket impunity enjoyed by nationals of non-states parties when involved in peacekeeping operations established or authorized by the UN. However, the USA has warned that it will continue its efforts to conclude impunity agreements with individual states. There is also the risk that the USA may try to seek similar exemptions from ICC jurisdiction on an individual basis by blocking any peacekeeping missions that do not contain such protections for nationals of non-states parties. For Amnesty International's press release on the USA's withdrawal, please click here.


U.S. Vets Seek Probe of Israeli War Crimes

Survivors of a U.S. spy ship attacked by Israeli fighters and torpedo boats 40 years ago are pressing the Pentagon for a full investigation into alleged Israeli war crimes for a strike that caused 205 casualties, including 34 killed.

The attack on the USS Liberty occurred in international waters during the Six-Day War in 1967 between Israel, Egypt and other Arab nations. The survivors claim the attack itself was a violation of the Geneva Conventions regulating conduct of war and that further crimes occurred when Israeli sailors fired at rescuers and firefighters on the ship's bullet-riddled deck and into rubber life rafts thrown into the water to pick up survivors.

Gary Brummett, president of the USS Liberty Veterans Association, said the appeal to the Defense Department is nothing more than an appeal for justice for his shipmates. Brummett was a boiler tender aboard the Liberty.

``Politicians will not touch this issue,'' Brummett said. ``All the presidents we have will not touch this issue. It's politically incorrect. All we are trying to do now is to follow the rule of law.''

Their new action, a 35-page, heavily footnoted report demanding a full-scale, new investigation, quotes the laws of war in alleging that Israel didn't honor them.

On the afternoon of June 8, 1967, two days into the Six-Day War, Israeli warplanes began circling the Liberty as its nest of antennas collected intelligence in international waters between al-Arish, Egypt, in the Sinai near the Israeli border, and the Gaza Strip west of Israel. The 7,725-ton Liberty, a former civilian cargo ship refitted into one of the era's top intelligence-gathering vessels, was flying the U.S. flag and bore U.S. Navy markings.

When the attack began, jets made six strafing runs, killing at least 10 and wounding others with gunfire, rockets and bombs. Three torpedo boats joined the fray, firing machine guns and cannon. One fired a torpedo, which missed the maneuvering ship. Another boat loosed its torpedo, which struck on the starboard side, forward of the command areas, caused more casualties, and Liberty began to list to the right. Those left among the crew of 294 officers and men kept her afloat.

Israel said its personnel mistook the ship for an Egyptian Navy vessel. U.S. officials said that ship was far smaller than Liberty and had none of the antennas the intelligence-gatherer had.

Previous official U.S. and Israeli investigations have found Israel guilty of nothing more than making a mistake, possibly by misidentifying the U.S. ship. A contentious State Department-sponsored conference of historians and other experts last year failed to reach consensus.

Israel apologized and paid damages of close to $13 million, some to families of the victims.

David Siegel, spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington, repeated the Israeli position that the attack was in no way premeditated.

``I can state categorically that the Liberty incident was a tragic mistake, a case of mistaken identity,'' Siegel told The Associated Press. ``These are old allegations, discredited years ago by successive U.S. administrations following numerous official investigations, including by the official historians of the State Department, the National Security Agency and other federal agencies.''

The latest move by the Liberty survivors, who have pressed for decades to have the official record changed, was submitted to Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey, who acts as executive agent for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld for such cases.

Col. Thomas Collins, Harvey's spokesman, said he could not discuss the matter because the secretary had not received it as of Thursday. The document, shipped Tuesday by courier service, was dated Wednesday, the 38th anniversary of the attack.

Brummett, of Grand Cane, La., said the association has no idea what Harvey will do.

``He will look at this and will say, `Hey, OK, we've got to investigate it.' Or he will turn it down. Whatever they want to do.

``If future is like the past, if politicians get involved, they will certainly turn it down.''

Associated Press Writer

On the Net:
USS Liberty Veterans Association report: http://www.usslibertyinquiry.com/Report/Report.pdf

Until There is a Reckoning.

After Downing Street

The Minutes now stand as irrefutable proof that the road to war in Iraq was paved, with absolute intent, with lies and deceit and misdirection and fraud.

Intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. Bush had already made the decision to invade. That's what the leaked secret British intelligence document now known as the Downing Street Minutes tells us from back in time to July of 2002, before discussion of an Iraq invasion had made its way anywhere near public discussion. The decision to invade Iraq had already been made in the summer of 2002, and in order to make that decision a reality, intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy of invasion.

It is interesting. The occupation of Iraq has lasted more than 800 days, and debate over the invasion has been going on for more than a thousand days. In that time, revelation after revelation has been put forth exposing the lies and manipulation used by the Bush administration to make this war happen. The first accusations of Bush administration mendacity on this issue were revealed six months before the invasion took place, in an October 8, 2002, article by Warren Strobel and Jonathan Landay titled "Some Administration Officials Expressing Misgivings on Iraq."

While President Bush marshals congressional and international support for invading Iraq," reads the article, "a growing number of military officers, intelligence professionals and diplomats in his own government privately have deep misgivings about the administration's double-time march toward war. These officials charge that administration hawks have exaggerated evidence of the threat that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein poses - including distorting his links to the al-Qaida terrorist network - have overstated the amount of international support for attacking Iraq and have downplayed the potential repercussions of a new war in the Middle East.

They charge that the administration squelches dissenting views," continues the article, "and that intelligence analysts are under intense pressure to produce reports supporting the White House's argument that Saddam poses such an immediate threat to the United States that pre-emptive military action is necessary. 'Analysts at the working level in the intelligence community are feeling very strong pressure from the Pentagon to cook the intelligence books,' said one official, speaking on condition of anonymity. A dozen other officials echoed his views in interviews. No one who was interviewed disagreed. None of the dissenting officials, who work in a number of different agencies, would agree to speak publicly, out of fear of retribution. But many of them have long experience in the Middle East and South Asia, and all spoke in similar terms about their unease with the way US political leaders are dealing with Iraq.

Since the publication of that article, we have learned about the Project for the New American Century, about its powerful advocates in Washington - Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Bolton among them - and about their plans from 2000 that centered around an invasion and occupation of Iraq, based upon whatever pretext was available, to establish a permanent military presence in the Mideast and to gain ultimate control of petroleum management in the region.

We have learned about the secretive Office of Special Plans and its deliberate manipulation of Iraq weapons intelligence, about deliberate pressure put on analysts in the CIA by powerful men like Dick Cheney to manufacture reports of an Iraqi threat that did not match the facts, we have heard the details of this deliberate manipulation from government insiders like Paul O'Neill, Richard Clarke, Tom Maertens, Roger Cressey, Donald Kerrick, Greg Thielmann, Karen Kwiatkowski, Rand Beers and Joseph Wilson, whose wife's CIA career was shattered by the White House through the very breed of retribution those anonymous sources from the October 2002 article were worried about.

We have watched our government use the attacks of September 11 to terrorize the American people into supporting the invasion of Iraq, we wrapped ourselves in plastic sheeting and duct tape while handling our mail with oven mitts so as not to be infected with the anthrax we were told was in the hands of Saddam Hussein, we were told that they knew the weapons were there, that they knew where the weapons were, we were told by Bush himself his January 2003 State of the Union address that the 26,000 liters of anthrax, 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin, one million pounds of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent, 30,000 munitions to deliver the stuff, mobile biological weapons labs and uranium from Niger for use in a robust nuclear weapons program were waiting in Iraq to be given to terrorists for use against us, and that this was the main reason, the central reason, the absolute fact which required immediate action.

We have seen all this and more, we have seen torture, we have seen murder, we have seen the grinding of a civilian population in Iraq that was no threat to us or anyone else, we have seen hundreds of billions of dollars funneled into the bank accounts of administration cronies under the camouflage of this "War on Terror," we have seen 1,684 American soldiers die and be returned home in transfer tubes, we have seen 10 times that number wounded grievously, and we have seen more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians killed in their homes and on their streets, the uncounted dead whose innocent blood stains us all.

And now, after all that, it comes down to these Downing Street Minutes, to this small document released at the beginning of May by a British official looking to throw sand in Tony Blair's election hopes. After a roomful of Deep Throats and a dozen different kinds of Pentagon Papers were exposed before withering on the media vine, the Minutes now stand as irrefutable proof that the road to war in Iraq was paved, with absolute intent, with lies and deceit and misdirection and fraud.

For a time, it seemed as though these Minutes would join the rest of the Iraq revelations, discarded in the media gutter, run off the road by earth-shattering stories about Michael Jackson and Paris Hilton and Robert Blake and Martha Stewart and American Idol. Lately, and with a concerted push by activists and a number of members of the House of Representatives, the Downing Street Minutes are beginning to garner deserved and focused attention.

Dan Froomkin of the Washington Post wrote on June 8th that "After six weeks in the political wilderness, the Downing Street Memo yesterday finally burst into the White House - and into the headlines." USA Today reported on the same day that, "A simmering controversy over whether American media have ignored a secret British memo about how President Bush built his case for war with Iraq bubbled over into the White House on Tuesday."

Descriptions and condemnations of the Minutes have begun appearing in most of the major newspapers, and the document has become contentious fodder for debate on the cable and network news stations. White House apologists are out in force, and the spinners are spinning, but the simple facts of the matter dwarf the flaccid excuses and explanations petering out of the administration.

The Minutes were thrown into the faces of Bush and Blair during a joint press conference on June 7th. The two leaders were asked, "On Iraq, the so-called Downing Street memo from July 2002 says intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy of removing Saddam through military action. Is this an accurate reflection of what happened? Could both of you respond?"

Bush replied, "Well, I - you know, I read kind of the characterizations of the memo, particularly when they dropped it out in the middle of his race. I'm not sure who 'they dropped it out' is, but - I'm not suggesting that you all dropped it out there. And somebody said, well, you know, we had made up our mind to go to use military force to deal with Saddam. There's nothing farther from the truth."

The rest of his answer was a lame rehash of the old lies, that the decision wasn't made before the facts were in, that the facts weren't manipulated, that war was the last option. Bush was visibly angered by the question, and not long after, brought the press conference to an abrupt end.

The record is clear, the evidence piled before us, treachery after stacked treachery. Plenty of powerful people would like this document to go away, not excepting the folks in the news media, because the document provides a capstone exposure of just how flawed, biased, shabby and ultimately deadly their coverage of this issue has been. Don't doubt for a second that the scions of our journalistic realm would like the Minutes to fade, because as long as the document stands in the light, their complicity in this catastrophe is all too clear.

It isn't going away. A massive coalition of activist groups have come together to form the After Downing Street Coalition, which seeks coverage of this issue in the media and accountability on this issue from Congress and the administration. Rep. John Conyers and 88 other House members have delivered a letter to Bush demanding answers, and nearly 200,000 Americans have signed their support for this letter. The number of signatures grows by the day.

This moment is described as the tipping point. Large majorities of Americans, in every poll, believe the Iraq invasion was unnecessary and the casualties thus far inflicted to be unacceptable. For the first time, the poll numbers show that a clear majority of the American people no longer believe that George W. Bush is keeping them safe. Bi-partisan coalitions are forming in Congress to demand that the US withdraw from Iraq and give that nation back to the people who live there, and those coalitions are edging towards majority-sized numbers. Legislation has been presented demanding withdrawal, and more is in the offing.

And now, the Minutes. Tomorrow, the Minutes. Every day, the Minutes, until there is a reckoning.

William Rivers Pitt is the author of "War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know" and "The Greatest Sedition Is Silence."