For months this year, the Trump administration dragged its feet in implementing Congressionally mandated sanctions against Russia in response to election meddling. They have no qualms, however, about threatening those involved in an international court concerned with holding war crimes perpetrators accountable with sanctions.
President Donald Trump’s incendiary National Security Adviser John Bolton announced the threat in a speech to the Federalist Society in Washington D.C. He staged his antagonism as a response to concern the court’s prosecutor Fatou Bensouda raised about U.S. activities in Afghanistan that have been proceeding for 17 years and may — in Bensouda’s estimation — involve war crimes.
In response, Bolton asserted:
‘The United States will use any means necessary to protect our citizens and those of our allies from unjust prosecution by this illegitimate court. We will not cooperate with the ICC; we will provide no assistance to the ICC, and we certainly will not join the ICC. We will let the ICC die on its own. After all, for all intents and purposes, the ICC is already dead to us.’
National Security Advisor @AmbJohnBolton: “The United States will use any means necessary to protect our citizens and those of our allies from unjust prosecution by this illegitimate court.” pic.twitter.com/8ke1D4roFp
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) September 10, 2018
It’s striking for Bolton to remain so committed to the cause of “American nationalism” that he refuses to even allow for any legitimacy at all to the concerns Bensouda raised. Instead of responding, perhaps, even with a “we will take care of these things on our own message,” it’s like Bolton puffed up his chest and asserted that no one in the ranks of the U.S. Armed Forces could have done anything wrong, ever. The sanctions he’s proposed would go into effect should the ICC go after U.S. citizens.
The United States is the interest that perpetrated such high profile atrocities as the incidents at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, however — among other serious violations of standards of behavior.
U.S. driven torture has persisted at places like the Guantanamo Bay detention facility that the U.S. maintains in Cuba according to reports that emerged as recently as last year, when special rapporteur on torture for the United Nations Nils Melzer asserted:
‘What matters most, and what cannot be disputed, is that U.S. officials have resorted to systematic torture in the past and that the U.S. has consistently refused to prosecute the responsible perpetrators and policy makers.’
In short, it’s not as though Bensouda is pulling concerns about possible U.S. war crimes out of thin air. There’s a precedent for his comments — but Bolton doesn’t seem to care, opting to place rabid nationalism above concern for holding those who perpetrate violence accountable and keeping the refusal Melzer noted above alive.
Bolton, in his elevation to his current role and opportunity to speak in D.C., got to drag a metaphorical skeleton out of his closet and beat it up (again). He worked for the George W. Bush administration when the U.S. government first sought to distance itself from the ICC. That distance figures into a broader pattern of the U.S. refusing to sign onto major global agreements in the name of “national sovereignty.”
Donald Trump has taken that to extremes including withdrawals from agreements like the Paris Climate Accord and the Iran nuclear deal as part of his ongoing incendiary foreign policy.
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