When supping with the devil...

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“If I may say so, this is not a court set up to bring to book Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom or Presidents of the United States."

Robin Cook, now late, made this brutally frank admission on BBC Newsnightwhen he was the United Kingdom’s Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary.

Cook had been asked if the UK’s political elite were unafraid of being dragged to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for their invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq on the basis of blatant lies as regards terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.

Those invasions led to the murders of tens of thousands of citizens of those countries and have left them grossly unstable some 20 years on.

Cook’s admission was refreshingly bold, if not downright arrogant.

The ICC, in the eyes of the British establishment, does not exist to administer international law and justice as regards the actions of Western powers.

If anything, Cook’s statement shows that there is indeed a huge chasm between law and justice.

And the recent decision by the United States government to slap sanctions on senior ICC officers - both of whom happen to be Africans - is just another reminder of Cook’s revelation all those years ago that the court was not created to try British prime ministers and American presidents.

President Donald Trump, who we are told has some very nasty things to say about a champion of justice and peace called Nelson Mandela, is livid that the ICC has the temerity to investigate American war crimes.

Evidently, these uppity Africans at the ICC did not get Robin Cook’s message, or they have forgotten it, and the US has taken it upon itself to issue a timely reminder that there is a vast gulf separating law and justice in international affairs.

The US has never hidden its disdain and militaristic animosity towards the ICC.

Of course, throughout the 1990s American lawmakers debated and passed a number of resolutions supporting the creation of an international criminal court.

As with all things Americans as regards international affairs, there was a catch: while supporting an international court to pursue criminals in other parts of the world, the institution should never be allowed to investigate and/or prosecute an American citizen.

America, quite clearly, was aware of its sordid history as a butcher of other peoples and was equally alive to the fact that going forward, it wanted to carry on butchering other peoples in perpetuity.

Bill Clinton was quite involved in the negotiations leading to the 1998 Rome Statute that established the ICC in 2002.

Needless to say, Clinton’s frenzied interest in the Rome Statute was to protect American interests and ensure that the US and its citizens would not be hauled before this court.

As he was leaving office, Clinton reportedly remarked: “I will not and do not recommend that my successor submit the treaty to the (US) Senate … until our fundamental concerns are satisfied.”

That successor was to be George W Bush, killer of thousands under false pretenses.

Like his father Bush Sr, he chose not to go the way of law and justice and instead went to the Middle East with Reaper, Predator, Cruise, Pershing and Hellfire.

But worse was to come.

Disregarding the ICC was not enough and has never been enough for the United States.

Bush roped in a dyed-in-the-wool neo-conservative proponent of American exceptionalism called Senator Jesse Helms to steer through a law called the American Service-members’ Protection Act.

That law is more appropriately known as the Hague Invasion Act.

It is an amendment to the National Defence Authorisation Act and its purpose is "to protect United States military personnel and other elected and appointed officials of the United States government against criminal prosecution by an international criminal court to which the United States is not party".

It gives the president of the United States the authority to use “all means necessary and appropriate to bring about the release of any US or allied personnel being detained or imprisoned by, on behalf of, or at the request of the International Criminal Court”.

What the Americans are telling the world with the other corner of their mouth that isn’t preaching the ideals of democracy and justice is that Washington will bomb the ICC headquarters at The Hague.

(Remember, The Hague is also home to other international courts and tribunals and is the seat of the government of The Netherlands.)

The Hague Invasion Act threatens war against anyone who tries to bring an American to justice outside of America.

The Hague Invasion Act makes it clear that the US will not co-operate in any pursuit of justice that seeks to bring an American to book.

The Hague Invasion Act prohibits the extradition of Americans to any international court, and seeks binding bilateral agreements with nations party to the Rome Statute so that they are barred from to bar prosecuting Americans or handing them over to any international court or tribunal.

At the same time, the US is preaching rule of law, democracy and justice to other nations, including to gullible Africans who believe Washington serves their wretched interests.

Addressing the UN General Assembly in 2018, Donald Trump said the “United States will provide no support or recognition to the International Criminal Court. As far as America is concerned the ICC has no jurisdiction, no legitimacy, and no authority”.

Now they have effectively put sanctions on the court, in addition to wielding the ominous axe of The Hague Invasion Act over the ICC.

The inescapable conclusion is that America will not hesitate to put its own interests first, and Africa would do well to start doing the same in its engagements with foreign powers.

Africa would also do well to appreciate that when it comes to dealing with US, as with the devil, to sup with a long spoon.

 

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