The definition of a crime against humanity is often a question of politics. It depends upon which side of the class divide one stands. Take the question of Palestine. Capitalist politicians are convinced that the killing of Israeli citizens in Tel Aviv is such an act. Yet they are silent when it comes to the murder of Palestinians at a market in Jenin by Israeli soldiers. Acts aimed at overthrowing oppressive regimes are defined as “criminal” and “terrorist,” while acts intended to maintain those regimes are “justified” and “lawful.” This also applies to war. The atrocities of the victor are “collateral damage,” whereas those of the loser are “war crimes.”
The One Nation faction of the Liberal Party, following the lead of the U.S. fundamentalist Right, has worked itself into a lather over the International Criminal Court (ICC), blithering about threats to Australian sovereignty and “our solidiers in Afghanistan” being hauled off before demonic “foreign” judges. They wanted Australia to opt out of the ICC treaty, but Australia’s ratification of the ICC was a done deal long ago. Howard has had the same briefings as other heads of government. He is fully aware that, rather than run “politically motivated” trials against the U.S. and its allies, ICC supporters worry that it will rarely hear a case.
The Bush Administration’s opposition to the ICC is tied up intricately with the newly announced “first strike” policy. On his say-so, U.S. forces will illegally enter other countries and commit mayhem and murder. Bush is opposed to the ICC, because the U.S. intends to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity with the impunity that comes from being the world’s last “superpower.” What court can bring it to account? While mobs and thugs and units of regular militias are the perpetrators of atrocities, they are not the architects of those atrocities. The Taliban was a vicious dictatorship. But what of the senior Pakistani and U.S. military officials who organised and armed them, or the Saudi government officials who funded them?
There are any number of living politicians, from British Prime Ministers, to U.S. Presidents and Cabinet members, to Middle Eastern dictators and African despots, who are guilty of ordering acts of mass murder, genocide, torture and terrorism. Global politics dictates that without a systemic overhaul, they will die untried. The ICC is a noble idea, but short of a global socialist revolution, it’s doomed to failure.