Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The International Criminal Court MUST NOT BE Recognized...,

newyorker |  The I.C.C., from its inception, has been impossibly compromised by the simple, definitive fact that many of the world’s most lawless countries, along with some of its most powerful—including the U.S., Russia, and China, the majority of permanent members of the U.N. Security Council—reject its jurisdiction. After sixteen years with no major triumphs and several major failures to its name, it would be easier to make the case for it if there were reason to believe that it could yet become the court of last resort for all comers that it is supposed to be, rather than what it is: a politically captive institution that reinforces the separate and unequal structures of the world. Maybe the best that one can hope for the court, in its current form, is that it can yet inspire some people who seek the rule of law to find a way to achieve it. Bolton rejected the very idea that it could inspire any good, simultaneously exaggerating the power of the I.C.C. as an ominous global colossus and belittling it as a puny contemptible farce. The only historically proven deterrent to “the hard men of history,” he declared, is “what Franklin Roosevelt once called ‘the righteous might’ of the United States.”

So what, really, was the point of Bolton’s speech? Where was the news in this “major announcement on U.S. policy?” He noted that Israel, too, faces the prospect of an I.C.C. investigation and announced that, in solidarity, the State Department was closing down the Palestine Liberation Organization office in Washington. But then he said that the closure wasn’t necessarily about the court but rather a general punishment of “the Palestinians,” because “they refuse to take steps to start direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel.” Beyond that, nothing that Bolton threatened—by way of shutting out, sanctioning, and declaring war on the I.C.C., and treating its personnel or anyone in the world who assisted it as criminals—went much beyond a rhetorical amplification of what he acknowledged has been established in U.S. law since the American Service-Members’ Protection Act. This wasn’t foreign policy. It was swagger.

Bolton has, thus far, enjoyed an absence from the Woodwardian accounts of Trump White House backbiting, subterfuge, and dysfunction. So it is tempting to think that he was deployed to deflect attention from the White House chaos, while his boss spent the day issuing uncharacteristically Presidential tweets about the hurricane bearing down on the Carolinas. Bolton, however, left out one point from his old Journal piece in this week’s speech, and the omission seems telling: “The ICC prosecutor,” Bolton wrote, “is an internationalized version of America’s ‘independent counsel,’ a role originally established in the wake of Watergate and later allowed to lapse (but now revived under Justice Department regulations in the form of a ‘special counsel’). Similarly, the ICC’s prosecutors are dangerously free of accountability and effective supervision.”

So the threat comes from within, after all. The problem is the existence of the prosecutor, who endangers sovereignty, which in Trump-speak means being above the law. The President and the nation cannot be held to account or supervised, so the prosecutor has to be. The President and the nation cannot be criminals, so the prosecutor must be. The prosecutor cannot be recognized. The prosecutor must be disempowered.