I’ve been increasingly unhappy with Biden’s new habit of getting up on his moral high ground, because it’s hardly high ground, or even a “bump.”
Biden has a pretty substantial history of committing war crimes so I suppose “trust me – I know what war crimes are, because Barack Obama and I did a bunch of them” is a sort of an argument. But it’s a bad argument.
I’m not saying that Putin’s not committing war crimes. War is a war crime. The US victors’ court decided that at Nuremberg – waging offensive war is a crime punishable by death. There are a lot of words thrown around about offensive warfare, pre-emptive warfare, defensive warfare but the fact is that anyone involved in starting a war has advance knowledge that there will be incidents, however regrettable, in which civilians will be killed, prisoners taken and abused, areas bombarded, etc. In fact there are many aspects of modern warfare that are inherently criminal, e.g.: the use of weapons of mass destruction, chemical warfare, or biological warfare. The US, headed by Biden (right now) is the global master of hypocrisy in this matter – were not the tons of dioxin dumped on Vietnam chemical warfare? And is not the US the world’s dominant deployer of nuclear weapons? Even recently the US was using chemical warfare in Iraq in the form of CS gas and white phosphorus artillery (used against hospitals) It seems almost insignificant to mention the ground-breaking work Obama and Biden did regarding the use of mechanical assassination drones, ignoring the lines where conflict was happening, to personally assassinate “terrorists” weddings full of civilians.
The American drone-presidents made the entire world a conflict-zone in which faceless bureaucrats and a president can mete out death at any moment, with no recourse or defense. Then, it turns out the death was undeserved; someone committed the mortal crime of driving the same color car as some other person who was a target. Wrapped up in that is the implicit assumption that the other person was also a legitimate target (which is a violation of the Westphalian principle that a state has jurisdiction within its borders and other nations are specifically prohibited from carrying out military or police actions within those borders.) The US has literally elected itself “global cop” and then incessantly complains “we aren’t the world’s police.” No, we’re criminals; the world’s police are the ICC which we explicitly hold ourselves above.
President Joe Biden on Monday called for evidence to be gathered to put Russian leader Vladimir Putin on trial for war crimes related to his nation’s invasion of Ukraine.
“He is a war criminal,” Biden said of Putin, on the heels of reports of mass killings of civilians by Russian-controlled troops in the town of Bucha, northwest of Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv.
“This guy is brutal, and what’s happening in Bucha is outrageous and everyone’s seen it,” Biden told reporters, a day after video and still images revealed the town’s streets littered with dead bodies.
“I think it is a war crime … He should be held accountable.”
This is the same jackass who immediately forgave US forces for shooting a hellfire missile at an aid worker (“well, he looked like a bad guy!”) in Afghanistan after an ISIS suicide bomber triggered a gigantic cluster-fuck that featured terror-crazed US Marines pouring automatic weapons fire into a crowd of civilians. Biden has no right to talk about accountability for others.
“Accountability” means something like – “capable of being brought to account for their actions” i.e.: defend what you did. Putin recently withdrew Russia from the International Criminal Court’s jurisdiction, but the US has never accepted the International Criminal Court’s jurisdiction. In fact, the US has done some really sketchy, ridiculous things to place itself beyond the ICC’s reach – including passing legislation that requires the US to commit a war crime by using military force to retrieve any Americans that are brought in front of the ICC in The Hague. In other words, the framing is: war criminal who holds himself as having impunity from criminal court calls for accountability for another war criminal who just also maneuvered to hold himself as not being subject to the criminal court.
I’m going to say it: the US’ attitude, and Biden’s specific statements, serve only to erode the legitimacy of the ICC, and to demolish the US’ presumed high ground in these matters. The US has no politician who can say, with a straight face, that someone is a “war criminal” because its politicians have placed themselves above having to respond to the same charge. You don’t get to blather about holding people responsible in a court that you claim you’re not subject to.
One final point on that last sentence: one of the popular defensive moves made by the nazi leadership at Nuremberg was “this court has no jurisdiction over me!” And the court’s response was, “you may believe that we don’t, but we believe that we do.” That same argument ought to apply to Putin and Biden and Obama and Bush and Cheney and Clinton and every goddamn one of them: it doesn’t matter if you believe the court has jurisdiction over you, it’s the court’s beliefs that matter. A student of history, which Biden is not, would be at least somewhat red-faced to assume the same defensive line as Hermann Göring. It’s a bad look. Everyone in the world should be pointing this out, constantly and loudly, every time Biden or Putin approach a microphone. Wouldn’t it be great, if someone always asked Biden that same question, “when will the US acknowledge that it is subject to the ICC?” every time he appeared in public? We should treat these contemptible hypocritical bastards with the contempt they have earned. [icc]
At present 123 nations have ratified the Rome Statute and are members of the ICC Assembly of States Parties. While the United States played a central role in the establishment of the Rome Statute that created the ICC, the United States is not a State Party. Building upon positive developments at the end of the George W. Bush administration, the US-ICC relationship significantly progressed during the Barack Obama administration, with the US providing varied and important support to the Court to the fullest extent allowed under existing US law. However, the policies of the Donald Trump administration highlighted a much more complicated relationship between the Untied States and the ICC.
That’s diplomatic language. But let’s follow Biden’s lead and speak frankly. My version:
At present 123 nations have ratified the Rome Statute and are members of the ICC Assembly of States Parties. While the United States played a central role in the establishment of the Rome Statute that created the ICC, the United States is too fond of committing war crimes to ratify the statute. The United States, a rogue superpower, insists that it is above the law but, in fact, 123 nations agree that it does fall under the ICC’s jurisdiction in accordance with the precedents set at Nuremberg.
Putin should promise a full and impartial investigation, wait 10 seconds while looking at his watch, and then announce that a special court had cleared the Russian soldiers of any wrongdoing. More or less what the US DOD does.