The US continues to oppose the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court in the Hague, established under the Rome Statute to prosecute war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. Small wonder, the cynic might conclude. The US has an inglorious history of complicity in torture (e.g., the infamous School of the Americas, the more recent contracting-out of torture in its "extraordinary rendition" program, and the abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo), overthrowing democratically-elected regimes as in Chile and Haiti, and flouting international law, as in its misuse of "enemy combatant" status to sidestep the Fourth Geneva Convention. America, in fact, has nothing to teach the world about human rights, and plenty to fear from vigorous international prosecution of human rights abuses. It's right up there with Israel, China and Zimbabwe, perhaps not-so-strange bedfellows when you come to think of it.
But, not content with simply proclaiming its rogue superpower status, the US has once again adopted its time-honoured custom of bullying other nations, in this case those that have signed on to the Rome Statute:
- In 2002, Congress passed the American Servicemembers' Protection Act. This law mandated the refusal of military aid to any country daring to ratify the treaty establishing the ICC. Exempted were members of NATO and other US allies such as Egypt, and nations that entered into bilateral agreements (see below) with the US to shelter suspected US war criminals by refusing to turn them over to the Court. As for US military personel being held under the jurisdiction of the Court, this Bill authorized the use of military force by the US to free them.
- In 2002, the US threatened to use its Security Council veto to block a number of peacekeeping mandates unless US citizens are held exempt from the Treaty. This led to a compromise that permitted annual exemptions by the Security Council. Canada, to its credit, opposed the legality of this move. After the revelations of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, it became clear that a majority of Security Council members for renewal in 2004 was not to be had, and the US withdrew its application for exemption.
- "Article 98" agreements, bilateral impunity agreements between the US and a number of other countries permitted under Article 98 of the Rome Statute (although the legality of this interpretation has been challenged) effectively permit the sheltering of suspected US war criminals from the authority of the ICC, . States have been pressured into signing these agreements by US threats of withholding military and economic assistance. In 2003, the US stopped military aid to 35 countries, including nine European countries, who refused to be bullied. By 2005, approximately 100 states had signed agreements, some in secret.
- The US has cut aid and development funding for a number of countries for cooperasting with the ICC, including, according to the Wikipedia article just referenced, Brazil, Costa Rica, Peru, Venezuela, Ecuador, South Africa, and several other Latin American and African countries.
Now, there are none so blind as the blinkered ideologues who run the Bush administration. But this latest move makes one positively nostalgic for the clear, predictable Realpolitik of Henry Kissinger, a fellow, by the way, who would have had his own reasons to fear the long reach of the ICC were it not for the non-retroactivity provisions of the Rome Statute. At least there is a logic, if a nasty one, to the self-interest of states. But what are we to make of this utter destruction of the rational actor model?
Mexico, after all, shares a 3,141K border with the US. It is obvious that terrorists and drug lords don't see Mexico as either a place to fly hijacked aircraft into buildings or a good market for narcotics. Pay in the maquiladoras couldn't buy one fix a week, real wages in Mexico have dropped by two-thirds over the past two neoliberal decades, and al-Qaeda has not yet, to my knowledge, designated that country as a Great Satan. The purpose of this military spending, in fact, was to protect--you guessed it--the interests of the United States.
One can only wonder at the closed delusional system inhabited by the policy-makers and enforcers in the Administration. "There," I can hear them saying, "that'll teach Mexico a thing or two." Reason as collateral damage in the continued ideological offensive.
In my nastier moments, I have to say that I find myself wishing the Bush regime success on this front. Canada remains a strong ICC supporter, ratifying the Rome Statute in 2000. We are, however, exempt from US sanctions as a NATO member. But suppose that we were to call for the end of this exemption, demanding that we be treated like Chile and Brazil and now Mexico? Who knows? The US might respond by refusing point blank to permit us to join on with missile defence, demanding that we get our troops out of Afghanistan, maybe even boycotting our water.
One can dream.