Whats good for the goose is good for the gander
The conviction of Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic shows that no one is above the law, says the UN Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein.
Karadzic was just sentenced to forty years in jail for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
"No matter how powerful they are, no matter how untouchable they imagine themselves to be, no matter what continent they inhabit, the perpetrators of such crimes must know that they will not escape justice," Al-Hussein said.
But is that really true?
Make no mistake: Karadzic’s crimes were horrific and he deserves to be punished severely for what he did. But can we really talk about 'international justice' when those responsible for far more bloodshed than Karadzic are still at liberty and are most unlikely ever to be prosecuted?
Exactly a year ago this week, a report called Body Count, compiled by international physicians, revealed that at least 1.3m people had lost their lives in the US-led ‘war on terror’ in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
As I wrote at the time for RT in a piece entitled "Causing genocide to protect us from terror":
"The findings are devastating: the in-depth investigation concludes that the ‘war on terror‘ has, directly or indirectly, killed around 1 million people in Iraq, 220,000 in Afghanistan and 80,000 in Pakistan. As awful as that sounds, the total of 1.3 million deaths does not take into account casualties in other war zones, such as Yemen - and the authors stress that the figure is a “conservative estimate”.
To this truly appalling death toll we must add the numbers of people killed during and after the NATO bombing of Libya (over 50,000 people), the deaths from privation and starvation, of refugees from the Iraq war, and those killed in Syria by terrorists armed and funded by the West and their regional allies.
The reality, as I wrote in 2015, is that western neocons and their ‘liberal interventionist’ allies are responsible for the greatest amount of death, destruction and human misery on this planet since the dark days of the Third Reich and Adolf Hitler - whose “illegally invade a different country every couple of years”foreign policy they have emulated.’
But do we see any leading neocons or liberal interventionists on trial at The Hague? And is there any imminent prospect of them being arrested? If it really was true that no one was above the law, as the UN Human Rights chief says, then we would surely be seeing the likes of George Bush, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Tony Blair and Hillary Clinton in the dock, and not just a leader of the Bosnian Serbs.
What makes things even worse, is that the Western war lobby have tried to use the crimes of Karadzic to justify their own bloodstained ‘interventionist’ policies.
The war in Bosnia was an example, so the neocons told us, of what happens when the ‘benign’ west does not intervene. In fact, the Bosnian war was caused by too much meddling by the west.
We’re all expected to concentrate on the evil Karadzic and his crimes- and not delve too deeply into how the secessionist wars in Yugoslavia started and who it was who lit the blue touchpaper.
For the US and its allies, Yugoslavia was the ‘expendable’ country in the 1990s. The west supported those who wanted the break-up of Yugoslavia, such as the nationalist Croatian leader Franjo Tudjman and the Bosnian Alija Izetbegovic. These men were actually more extreme in their politics than the ‘Officially Designated Bad Guy’ Slobodan Milosevic, who wanted Yugoslavia to stay together, but Tudjman and Izetbegovic got a ‘good press’ because their secessionist cause suited elite western interests.
In 1992, an agreement was made at Lisbon for the peaceful division of Bosnia. Radovan Karadzic was one of the signatories. But the agreement was effectively sabotaged by the malign intervention of the US Ambassador Warren Zimmerman, who urged the Bosnian Muslim leader Izetbegovic to renege on his acceptance.
Of course this doesn’t in any way excuse what Karadzic went on to do. But without Zimmerman’s intervention it's likely that war in Bosnia could have been avoided. Yet while we all know the name of Radovan Karadzic, Ambassador Zimmerman’s key role in the Bosnian bloodbath has quietly - and conveniently- been forgotten. And instead of its legacy being one of peace, the Srebrenica genocide, in which around 8,000 Muslim men and boys were massacred, has been used by western neocons and ’liberal interventionists’ to justify even more wars, as I detailed here.
Far from proving that no-one is above the law, the trial and conviction of Karadzic proves the opposite.
Commit genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity and be a member of the western alliance, or an ally, and you’ll get off scot-free. Commit genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity and be on the opposing side to the west- then you most likely will be held to account for what you’ve done.
If Karadzic had been serving the interests of the US in the Balkans, does anyone seriously believe he would now be facing a forty-year prison sentence? The Indonesian dictator General Suharto unleashed not one, but two genocides in his murderous career, with a death toll of well over 1m, yet he died a free man at the ripe old age of 86.
But unlike Radovan Karadzic, General Suharto was a State Department favourite.
International courts have up to now shown a glaring pro-western bias. The ICTY has been very good at convicting Serbs, but ruled out indicting NATO leaders and officials for war crimes committed during the illegal bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, crimes which included the bombing of a passenger train, a television studio and a convoy of Kosovan Albanians.
"On the basis of the information reviewed, however, the committee is of the opinion that neither an in-depth investigation related to the bombing campaign as a whole nor investigations related to specific incidents are justified," the ICTY declared in its ‘whitewash’ report.
When I asked Carla Del Ponte, the chief prosecutor at the ICTY, why NATO crimes were not being considered by the court, she replied that what I was after was "perfect justice". But in fact what I was after was that everyone - be they Bosnian Serbs or leaders of the world’s most powerful military alliance - should be treated equally under the law.
The International Criminal Court has been just as biased as the ICTY. Overall it has indicted 36 people so far, and all of them have been black Africans. White war criminals (so long as they’re not Serbs, of course) don’t really have to worry.
Part of the problem regarding the indictment of western leaders has been that the ICC still hasn’t amended its Rome statute to allow ‘wars of aggression’ to fall under its jurisdiction. So the what the International Military tribunal at Nuremburg declared in its judgement to be ‘the supreme international crime’ cannot be investigated.
How very convenient for Bush and Blair!
What we’ve got now is a system of international justice whereby those who commit war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide on the ground are prosecuted - if they are ‘official enemies’ of the US - but the people who start the wars in the first place are immune from prosecution.
So Karadzic, who killed thousands is put in jail for the rest of his life, while those who have caused the death of millions by starting wars of aggression remain free to accumulate more wealth and push for fresh military conflicts.
After watching the judgment being handed out to the latest ’Official Enemy’ of the West to stand trial at The Hague, and witnessing the nauseating, hypocritical, self-righteous moralizing by those who supported conflicts and leaders who have killed far more people than Karadzic, I could not help thinking of that wonderfully cynical anti-war Charles Chaplin film 'Monsieur Verdoux' - which, perhaps unsurprisingly, doesn’t get much television play these days.
"Never, never in the history of jurisprudence have such terrifying deeds been brought to light. Gentlemen of the jury, you have before you a cruel and cynical monster. Look at him! Observe him, gentlemen", the prosecutor tells the court in a memorable scene from the film.
Verdoux is sentenced to death for his murders but in his final remarks to the court says:
"As for being a mass killer, does not the world encourage it? Is it not building weapons of destruction for the sole purpose of mass killing? Has it not blown unsuspecting women and little children to pieces? And done it very scientifically? As a mass killer, I am an amateur by comparison.
However, I do not wish to lose my temper, because very shortly, I shall lose my head. Nevertheless, upon leaving this spark of earthly existence, I have this to say. I shall see you all, very soon. Very soon."