Congratulations to George W.
Bush! He is a lucky man. The vote for our new President was so close that
victory could be claimed by almost any group, from parakeet owners to
absentee landlords at Forest Lawn.
But the newest pressure group
in American politics can make an unusually strong claim for the credit.
Millions of Arab-American and Muslim voters supported Bush by a huge
margin, and a single Arab-American citizen, Ralph Nader, was the real,
though unintentional, swing-and-kingmaker of the election. The Jewish
vote, of course, went overwhelmingly to the Democrats as usual, and
Arab-Americans are expected to outvote them by the year 2010.
So one might expect the new
administration, with oilman Bush at the helm, to tilt towards Arabia. But
Bush has selected of veterans of the Iraq war for VP and secretary of
state, giving the Arab world more cause for pause than joy. The new
line-up signals business as usual - the USA will go its own way, the UN,
the EU and any other alphabets be damned.
Yet according to one minority
view, today’s underdogs may have the last laugh someday. If world
organizations ever break away from American domination, the US could truly
have hell to pay.
Already our closest allies,
the British, are a problem. They are known for their perennial soft spot
for animals, good on bank holidays even for children. UK public opinion is
queasy about the cold-blooded massacres of the young by US-armed troops in
the old Palestine mandate, and the devastation of a generation by economic
warfare on Iraq. The UN has definitively voted our client state Israel
guilty of crimes against humanity, or genocide as defined by the Nuremburg
In 1998 virtually the entire
world voted to set up a permanent war crimes tribunal, the ICC, or
International Criminal Court. Only half a dozen "rogue" regimes
voted Nay - and the only Western "reticent old gentleman" was
Uncle Sam, with Israel in tow. On behalf of the US foreign policy
establishment, Sen. Jesse Helms instructed the Senate to "veto"
the treaty, as it would limit our officials' "liberty of action"
in repressing rebellion if Israel attacks its neighbors again. With such
memos around, our ruling elite might someday succumb to the fate of
Hitler's henchmen, hung at Nuremburg by their own detailed paper trail.
The American establishment
obviously thinks that "combating terrorism" is an end that
justifies absolutely any means, no matter how brutal. Recently a
mainstream British newspaper, The Independent, published an indignant
editorial against the recommendations of the CSIS, the Center for
Strategic International Studies. This Washington-based, taxpayer-supported
establishment think tank aired a "draft" document detailing
criminal tactics like torture expected of Arafat's Palestinian Authority
to prove its sincerity in "combating terrorism".
The USA is surely the nation
that most insists on extraterritoriality, the application of our laws
abroad. For example, foreign branches of US firms must obey US laws
against bribery, even in regions where corruption is endemic. You can sue
a foreign government in your state or federal courts for equal protection
abroad. But can you sue the US for bombing you offshore? This "clean
hands at home - dirty tricks abroad" syndrome is a glaring
contradiction to our precedents of extraterritoriality, and that could
backfire in a big way.
What is there to keep American
relatives of a kid killed in Gaza from filing murder charges against the
US and Israeli governments in their county court, or banding together in a
class action suit? For the moment, the laws on sovereign immunity take
precedence, but law is evolving and the trend is for basic rights to
How ironic that on New Year’s
eve, Mr. Bush got a nicely wrapped present to match his gift of a throne
from Arab-Americans. It is a Sword of Damocles from Bill Clinton: the US
signature on the International War Crimes Treaty.
Make good use of your gifts,