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Posted: July 04, 2001

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Perspective

 
There was never any question that Milosevic was above the law. But is NATO?

by Stephen Gowans
 
The extradition of Mr. Milosevic is a vindication of the whole idea of
international law, declared one newspaper. Another: No one can escape
the long arm of international law.  To which may have been added,
"Except Ariel Sharon, Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, Henry Kissinger, and a
list longer than your arm."
 
As seems to be true with much you read in the newspaper, the exact opposite of what front pages proclaim is closer to the truth. Milosevic being hustled onto a plane to the Hague wasn't a vindication of international law. It was the very repudiation of the whole idea that international law should apply to all, and that no one -- not Sharon, or Clinton or Blair -- stands above it.
 
Mr. Milosevic has been extradited to a court that was largely established, and is controlled, by the same countries that openly violated international law when they bombed Yugoslavia for 78 days in 1999. They will never have to answer for their breaches of international law, or for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in reducing the civilian and economic infrastructure of Yugoslavia to rubble, and neither for the killing of hundreds, if not thousands, of Yugoslav civilians. Nor for the permanent disabilities of thousands of others.
 
The tribunal is the creation of the UN Security Council, whose members, including the US and Britain, the principal NATO countries, enjoy immunity from prosecution, by virtue of the vetoes they wield on the Security Council, and by virtue of the fact that they've appointed the prosecution staff. The proposed International Criminal Court, which would make prosecution of all leaders possible by removing the odious principle that Security Council members stand above the law, has been blocked by the US. Some are above international law, others are not. Washington likes it that way.
 
Despite the strong propagandistic strain that snakes its way through descriptions of Milosevic as a strongman, as heartless, as  the "butcher of Belgrade," the case for prosecuting NATO's leaders is stronger than the case against Milosevic. The tribunal hasn't indicted Milosevic on genocide charges. All the bodies NATO darkly warned of, were never found. Instead, he's been indicted for the murder of 391 people. By contrast, the most conservative estimate of the number of Yugoslav civilians killed by NATO bombs -- made by Human Rights Watch -- is 500. Other groups put the number higher, in the order of 2,000. And that doesn't include the thousands who will eventually die from cancers induced by the terrible environmental catastrophe NATO's air assault wrought. As writer Diana Johnstone put it, "American officials are quoted as urging Serbian authorities to keep searching for some crime committed by Milosevic, since 'he's certainly guilty of something...' No such frantic search is necessary to find the guilt of NATO leaders. They launched an illegal war. They targeted civilian infrastructure, used toxic weapons. "
 
The strategic forecasting group, Stratfor, warns that the tribunal has set the bar so low on prosecution of leaders, that it's now "easy for international courts to try a variety of foreign leaders and military officers, including Americans."  Gasp! Not to worry overly much, Stratfor quickly adds, "No court in the world has the ability to coerce China, Russia or the United States to hand over a current of former leader."
 
Law hardly matters here, a point Stratfor acknowledges, if not the media.  All that matters is who has more power. NATO brazenly tramples international law to attack Yugoslavia because it can get away with it, and the Serb Prime Minister, Zoran Zjindjic, brazenly ignores the federal parliament and the Constitutional Court to transfer Milosevic to the Hague. Djindjic's actions are as outrageous, it's been pointed out, as the governor of Georgia turning over a prisoner to an international tribunal in defiance of the President, the Congress, and the Supreme Court. There's no rule of law here.
 
It's hard not to conclude that the press doesn't exist to serve a propaganda function,  when blatant violations of the rule of law are held up as vindications of the rule of law, or when, in another part of the world, Goliaths, with helicopter gunships and jet fighters and bulldozers, become make-believe Davids,  threatened by make-believe Goliaths hurling stones.  Or when who's called a rebel and who's called a terrorist depends entirely on power politics, and who spoon feeds an ever complicit media their own self serving version of events.
 
One newspaper headline astonishingly missed the mark by proclaiming: Milosevic is not "above the law.' Of that, there was never any doubt. The question is, Is NATO above the law? Sadly, there's little doubt about that either -- expect in newspapers.

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

Source:

by courtesy & 2001 Steve Gowans

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