From: Biniam Haile \(SWE\) (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Wed Mar 11 2009 - 11:48:22 EST
The war crimes indictment against Sudanese President Bashir
by Tom Eley
Global Research, March 10, 2009
On March 4, the International Criminal Court (ICC) handed down an arrest
warrant for Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, charging him with
crimes against humanity and other war crimes. The ostensible basis for
the charges is the ongoing conflict in the Sudanese region of Darfur,
which, according to the United Nations, has killed as many as 300,000
people and displaced 2.5 million more.
Bashir is the first sitting head of state to be charged by the ICC since
it commenced operations in 2002.
While Bashir no doubt shares responsibility for the catastrophe in
Darfur, the charges by the ICC cannot be taken as a legitimate exercise
in the enforcement of international law. Rather, the indictment is the
latest in a series of war crimes procedures against leaders of former
colonial nations and lesser capitalist countries who have run afoul of
the major Western powers. It exemplifies the use of war crimes
prosecutions as an instrument of imperialist policy in regions of
strategic importance to the United States and other imperialist powers.
Not since the Nuremburg trials of the defeated German Nazi leaders have
figures from a major imperialist power been tried for war crimes. Since
the ICC's founding, all of its war crimes cases have been brought
against African military or political figures.
The most notorious of the recent war crimes trials was the prosecution
of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic by the International Criminal
Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. That indictment was handed down in
May of 1999, in the midst of the US-led NATO air war that devastated
Serbia and ultimately led to a US-backed "revolution" and Milosevic's
ouster and arrest.
The humanitarian catastrophe in Darfur is a product of longstanding
geopolitical tensions in Sudan and the Horn of Africa, an area of great
strategic importance for the major powers. Sudan holds important oil
reserves in its South, where the Khartoum regime fought a two-decade
civil war against separatist rebels that ended with a truce in 2005.
Sudan is Africa's largest nation by area, sharing borders with ten other
states. It sits astride the Red Sea across from Saudi Arabia, a critical
sea transport lane from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean.
The context of the war crimes charges is an intensified push by the US
and other imperialist and rising powers for domination of parts of the
African continent, particularly those with substantial energy resources.
In recent years Sudan has become the focus of growing competition for
influence between the US and China.
China is the leading recipient of Sudanese oil. In return, it has
provided significant investment and military supplies to Khartoum, and
has defended the regime in the United Nations. The US has responded to
China's growing influence in Africa and intensified activity by other
powers, such as France, by developing its military capabilities on the
continent with the formation of the United States Africa Command, or
AFRICOM, in 2008.
Washington has welcomed the charges against Bashir. The US ambassador to
the United Nations, Susan Rice, declared, "Those who committed
atrocities in Sudan, including genocide, should be brought to justice."
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, "Governments and individuals
who either conduct or condone atrocities of any kind, as we have seen
year after year in Sudan, have to be held accountable."
In the first place, the US has refused to even recognize the
jurisdiction of the ICC over American military and political personnel,
in line with its assertion of a unilateral and unlimited right to
intervene militarily wherever and whenever it chooses. In the 1998 UN
vote that authorized the creation of the ICC, the US, under the Clinton
administration, joined only Libya, China, Iraq, Israel, Qatar and Yemen
in voting "no."
The US has committed war crimes far greater than those of Sudan's Bashir
regime. Since the unprovoked US invasion of Iraq in 2003-launched on the
basis of lies and without UN sanction-over 1.3 million Iraqis have been
killed and approximately 5 million made refugees. In its "global war on
terror," the US has openly committed war crimes such as kidnapping,
detention without trial and torture. It routinely carries out missile
strikes on civilian targets in Afghanistan and Pakistan, openly
violating the territorial sovereignty of the latter with impunity.
There exists more than enough prima facie evidence to try President
George Bush and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair for war crimes
related to the destruction wrought in Iraq. When the Nazi leadership was
tried in the aftermath of WWII, the charges for which they were
convicted were "crimes against peace" and the launching of wars of
aggression-the same essential crime that the US and British governments
carried out against Iraq.
In fact, the US has declared the doctrine of preemptive war-a direct
violation of international law and a justification for launching wars of
aggression-to be a cornerstone of its foreign policy.
The US raises no objections to the innumerable human rights violations
and killings carried out by regimes that have been, and continue to be,
aligned with it. For example, American administrations, both Democratic
and Republican, have systematically blocked every UN resolution
criticizing Israel for its ongoing crimes against the Palestinians.
Charges of war crimes and human rights violations have become part of
the arsenal of imperialist war propaganda. They were used to justify US
and European interventions in the Balkans in the 1990s, aimed at
breaking up Yugoslavia and weakening Serbia, culminating in the 11-week
NATO air war.
In similar fashion, the tragedy in Darfur is being used today to
condition public opinion for new imperialist military aggression. The
call for intervention in Sudan has been picked up and promoted by
various protest groups, celebrities and newspapers, whose role, whatever
the intentions of some of those involved, is to provide a "humanitarian"
cover for the reactionary designs of US imperialism.
There are many indications that the Obama administration is taking a
more aggressive stance toward Sudan than that which prevailed under the
Bush administration. Writing in the Washington Post on March 5, the
former Air Force chief of staff and co-chair of the presidential
campaign of Barack Obama, General Merrill McPeak, called for the
establishment of a no-fly zone over Sudan and hinted that it could be
the first step toward a bombing campaign. Referring to Yugoslavia in the
1990s, he wrote, "[W]e ultimately saw that more vigorous action was
needed to end that conflict. The same conclusion holds now for Darfur."
Tom Eley is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Global Research
Articles by Tom Eley
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