International Court: Administration should cease its threats

Dallas Morning News, Aug. 28, 2002 (Editorial)

The Bush administration’s hostility toward the new International Criminal Court is beginning to wear. It should stop before it damages the United States’ vital interests.

The latest manifestation of the administration’s dislike is its threat to change the United States’ role in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization if the European Union refuses its request to sign agreements protecting U.S. soldiers from the court’s reach.

The threat is another in a line of administration overreactions to the court, and the display is making the United States seem heavy-handed. The possibility that the court would act against Americans is slim, but the possibility that beneficial relationships with key allies could be damaged if the administration carries out its threats is very real.

The administration fears that the court would prosecute U.S. soldiers and politicians on politically exaggerated charges.

But the treaty that established the court would prevent that except in the most exceptional circumstances. The court would assume jurisdiction only when U.S. courts do not or cannot. It would prosecute military attacks that inadvertently harm civilians only in the clearest cases of malign intent. It would prosecute genocide and other crimes against humanity only when it could be proved that such crimes were part of a government plan.

The administration failed to stop the court from coming into existence. Later, it failed to win a blanket guarantee of immunity for U.S. troops, winning only a one-year exemption. Later still, it used a provision of the new anti-terrorism law to threaten to withhold military aid from countries that don’t pledge to protect U.S. soldiers. Now it raises the specter of a weakened NATO. On Aug. 1, Romania became the first to pledge. Israel is the only other. Unnerved by Romania’s action, the European Union has warned other candidates for membership to resist until the union takes a common position.

The court is a reality, and not a bad one at that. The administration should stop letting its animosity be the tail that wags the foreign policy dog.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Friday August 30, 2002.
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