Claim that war criminals have nowhere to hide, self-serving claptrap of big powers

by Stephen Gowans
In a report on Western countries preparing to offer more than a billion dollars to Yugoslavia at an international donors' conference, one newspaper blamed Yugoslavia's faltering economy on " a decade of civil war and corruption under (former Yugoslav President) Mr. Milosevic,"  as if the NATO "bombing missions that left the country's industrial and economic infrastructure in ruins," and the "western economic embargo," both of which the newspaper acknowledged, were of no consequence.
Holding two contradictory views but blithely carrying on as if no contradiction exists, the paper went on to say that public sentiment had turned against Mr. Milosevic, while pointing out that the new government "had to deal with 10,000 pro-Milosevic protesters outside his jail earlier this week."
Apparently, ordinary Yugoslav citizens can massively rally in defence of Milosevic, while still turning against him.
Apparently, industrial and civilian infrastructure can be devastated by outside forces, and the resulting economic ruin can be further exacerbated by an economic embargo, and still Yugoslavia's economic trials are entirely the fault of civil war and internal corruption.
And apparently, Western countries can offer $1.3 billion in loans that Yugoslavia will be expected to repay in full, with interest, to rebuild the economic and civilian infrastructure that Western governments themselves destroyed, and the loans are still "aid money" and a "reward."
Destroying civilian infrastructure, by the way, is a war crime, a point the newspaper failed to mention.
Imagine the bank destroyed your house, and when you applied for a mortgage to rebuild it, they called the mortgage a reward, demanded you sell off all your assets and insisted you turn over a son as a condition of receiving "aid." With the West's role in the ruin of Yugoslavia overlooked, and all blame laid on Milosevic, is it any wonder that the Western-backed and controlled Hague tribunal is, as one newspaper puts it, "widely seen by Yugoslavs as a biased 'kangaroo court'"?
Another newspaper says that no one who massacres civilians or commits crimes against humanity can be confident he will escape the reach of the law,  Slobodan Milosevic, offered as a prime example. But the claim is massively contradicted by the continued freedom of dozens of leaders who've committed crimes against humanity and continue to do so with impunity, while others, Milosevic again, are indicted on trumped-up charges.
It would be more accurate to say that no one who breaches humanitarian law while in power and doesn't enjoy the favour of a Security Council member, or isn't the head of a Security Council government itself, is beyond the reach of the law. Who controls the law, is vital.
While the UN War Crimes Tribunal at the Hague is one way of denying some who commit crimes a place to hide, it gives Security Council members, through their veto, a perfect place to hide. Since they control the tribunal, and have a veto over it, heads of Security Council governments,  and their allies, can commit war crimes aplenty, without the slightest fear they'll be indicted. That's why lists of leaders who are accused of  committing war crimes and now have nowhere to hide, a list which includes Milosevic, doesn't include a single head of a Security Council country, or any of its strategic allies, though strong  cases of war crimes and crimes against humanity can be made against Bill Clinton (Sudan, Afghanistan, Kosovo), Tony Blair, Gerhard Shroeder and other NATO leaders (Kosovo), Russian President Vladimir Putin (Chechnya), Israel's Ariel Sharon (the Sabra and Shatilla massacres for starters) and former Indonesian dictator Suharto (East Timor and the slaughter of up to a million Communists in Indonesia.)
When these leaders are indicted, the claim that war criminals can't hide may mean something. Today, the claim is no more than the self-serving clap-trap of big powers.

Mr. Steve Gowans is a writer and political activist who lives in Ottawa, Canada.


by courtesy & 2001 Steve Gowans

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