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19 January 2015


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if US governments (present and future) aren't ready to follow the rulings of ICC or if they are hoping not to follow a unfavorable ruling, then US should not join ICC.

That would just create a embarrassing situation if US choose the ignore ICC after joining it.


The point is that, since the US want to protect Israel, and that is established US policy, they cannot choose to ignore the ICC. Revived US interest is IMO due to Palestine potentially joining the ICC.

The US 'being there without being a member' can shape outcomes in that regard in ways an absent US cannot. IMO that's what the Obamaites will try.

There is latent deterrent in the mere the existence of the ICC and the sope of its subsidiary jurisdiction. Call it a 'court in being'.

The point that the Palestinians want to enter and that the US maneuver to shape the court suggest that there now is a view in DC that the ICC cannot be ignored.

And inded: It isn't really as if attacking and raiding a NATO ally over an American in the dock at the Hague (seat of the ICC) is a viable option for people other than raving lunatics in the mold of Dick Cheney and John Bolton.

Also, considering the US torture program, American actors engaged in the program are likewise exposed to the court. If they travel abroad into ICC-land they risk getting arrested.

Here the same reasoning about US options applies.

The US is not happy about the ICC. Bush, with particular fervour, blocked the court totally. IMO Obama will try the same, albeit in a 'clever and smart' way that just doesn't look as coarse without much difference in substance.


Honi soit qui mal y pense

Wouldn't that be a great motto to place in wrought iron at the gates into Gitmo?


What about "the truth shall make you free"? That's meant to be more orwellian than cynical.

For one it is part of a CIA motto - and is it not apt for an interrogation & torture facility?

William R. Cumming

P.L> A great post and very informative. The ICC IMO is part of the anticipated fallout from the post-WWII Nuremberg Trials. The writings of Teleford Taylor are relevant.

And if memory lapses try watching now [perhaps again] JUDGEMENT AT NUREMBERG with Maxmillian Schell and Spencer Tracey [1961]! Of all the German FRG officers I met while on active duty in the FRG from 1968-1970 none had seen it.

But there was a mandatory formation every July in FRG military units commorating the July 1944 attempt to assassinate Hitler.


How about 'To you who enter this house of lamentations, abandon all hope!' Self generated but, given the history of Gitmo prisoners, it feels right.


I think the problems associated with ICC is threefold:

First, no matter what the legalists might insist, ICC is, like all judiciaries, a fundamentally political body that operates on the basis of the interactions among its members. From the US perspective, this quickly becomes a "damned if you do, damned if you don't situation," as reflected in CP's point above. If US does not join in, we shall have no (direct) influence in its inner workings because we are not a member. If US does join in, our influence will be limited because we shall be only one member among many in a body that putatively operates on the basis of equality among its members (unlike, say, IMF or UN that allow some members to be "special"--and we have trouble enough with UN given our disputes with other "special" members.)

Second, for what it is worth, ICC is an organization that is respected among many people in many parts of the world. Its actions and decisions, whether one likes them or not (I personally don't--it strikes me as a sort of "colonialist" body that seeks to impose self-important Western interverntionist morality where it doesn't belong.) While US or Israel, having no formal legal obligations to it (as non state-parties), cannot simply ignore them if we want to keep using the rhetoric of self-important Western interventionist morality, as Clinton, GWB, and Obama have been eager to.

Third, related to both problems above, is that we are not really trusted by many people around the world. We might say that it's their problem and none of our business, but it does matter if we do keep insisting on using the lingo of self-important Western interventionist morality to justify our actions, but we don't subscribe to the international consensus on what this self-important Western interventionist morality is, embodied in the workings of the ICC. We wind up being a rogue superpower, with our actions justified only by our self-claimed sense of morality, which often seems erratic and overly convenient, and power, which cannot be readily checked.

The solution to all these might just be to quit the pretense of bothering with this self-important Western interventionist morality. Let the world be what it is and keep doing what it does and not try to impose "western" values on them. If we have nothing to do with such nonsense, we have no obligation to give pretense of paying it even de forma lip service through ICC or whatever. But our "internationalist" leaders love such things and we have trouble ridding ourselves of such entanglements.


"Important for this post is that ICC jurisdiction is by definition a surrogate for national jurisdiction."

As clarification: Assuming the US had an interest in living up to their treaty obligations under the convention against torture (CAT), they could just prosecute the culprits in the Bush administration for their crimes.

The Bushmen were just unwilling to prosecute themselves into jail, denying loudly if implausibly that whatever they did was not criminal (and many Americans continue to believe them).

It is felt by the Obamaites to not be politically feasible to prosecute the Bushmen since then the R's would go full bore bonkers.

So, it is by now abundandly clear to even the really slow kids that the US is unwilling to prosecute the acts of torture that took place during the Bush era.

It is only because of this circumstance that the ICC's surrogate jurisdiction kicks in and that the ICC may accept cases involving some of the culprits.

i.e. the US had it in their hand to avoid that from happening, but to do so they'd had to eat crow domestically, and they are unwilling to do that.


On the other hand, what's the problem of committing the US to maxims like 'we don't torture' and lend out surrogate jurisdiction for such cases to an international court just to show they are serious about it?

The US pushes such agreements with various commitments and international courts on the world every forthnight when it gets to matters of trade.

Charles I

Surely a huge elephant in the room is the drone campaign.


Sure. It is a serial violation of national sovereighty of the targeted states.

The US (yes we can!) in this are blissfully oblivious the the fact that the precedent they are so setting will not only be emulated by others, but may be used against the US itself.

It's mindless and shortsighted.


Dr. Michael Brenner comments:

"This is an out of context comment re. Paris. There is some pertinent information that has come my way that seems worth sharing - and I was unsure when we might get back to the subject.

I've had the opportunity to speak to two very knowledgeable people in France who have first-hand or reliable second-hand information about what went down two weeks ago and the background.

1. As to the supposed intelligence failure. The Kourachi brothers were on a short list of potential terrorists that earned them close attention. They were tracked 24/7 for three years. The reason for its discontinuance last spring was due to an administrative foul-up. The organization set-up there involves close working relationships between national intelligence agencies and local ones. The Paris prefecture is supposedly top-notch. It dates back to Louis XIV and Colbert). The Paris people collaborate routinely with the police of the ring of near suburbs that surround Paris - meeting face-to-face. Last spring the Kourachis moved from the 19th arrondisement to one of those suburbs. The Paris authorities informed the police there of the monitoring record up to the date they left and the fact that they were not physically active back in their old haunts. The responsibility for surveillance was passed to the suburb authorities who somehow never picked it up - i.e. no decision was ever taken by anyone to discontinue surveillance. The number of people under 24/7 surveillance is in the dozens or scores.

What happened with Coulibaly is less clear.

2. Kourachi's invitation/stay in Yemen. French intelligence was well aware of the visit. Their estimate, then and now, is that Kourachi did not pass muster with AQAP. This judgment is based on past experience. If volunteers (especially from Europe) are seen as ill-suited for the rigors awaiting them (drugs, personality, physical attributes), they are sent back home with the admonition that it is Allah's wish that they do some mayhem there. No instructions, no direct help. They French believe that Kourachi was one of these. They put him under surveillance nonetheless. As to the alleged Awlaki connection, a farcical story concocted by the American intelligence agencies to justify assassinating Awlaki.

3. Kourachi, like most second generation Algerian immigrants, - could speak only some pidgin Arabic which does not even rise to the level of kitchen Arabic. The French colonial authorities did such a good job of deArabizing the population that even his parents' knowledge of Arabic was most likely imperfect - a sort of Arabic-French "creole." So to communicate with anyone in Yemen he would have needed an interpreter.

4. Further incidents of this nature are possible - that depends not on new laws or procedures but the avoidance of mishaps.

5. French prisons are the main long-term problems since they are incubators of Islamist radicals. Penal officials are lax in dealing with the situation because the Islamists impose order in the prisons, keep drugs under control, and reduce the level of manifest psychiatric behavioral problems. That must change but probably won't.

An excellent essay by Alain Chouet on the terrorist threat in Europe can be found at

Chouet is former head of counter-terrorism at France intelligence agency DGSE and their senior Middle East analyst"

robt willmann

Off topic, but there appears to be some "kinetic" action going on in Yemen, as people popped some caps at the presidential palace; allegations are it is Houthi folks doing it--





"The responsibility for surveillance was passed to the suburb authorities who somehow never picked it up"

Sounds about real to me. I can vividly imagine the dialogs in the place. 24/7, Staff, Shift, Planning. ... They did this for 3 years and nothing interesting showed up?


kao_hsien_chih, I responded pessimist too, when I first encountered a firm international law perspective on Mondoweiss. Initially I only admired his patience, his voice of reason among a lot of white noise. It felt most of it was "love's labor's lost". ...


Yes, no doubt, the professionals that wrote the torture memos were all promoted into their respective jobs. Weren't they? I am a little hesitant about at least one European ICC prosecutor too. You never seem to be able to get a real feeling below polished surfaces. And if there was smoke, there must have been fire. Minor people don't have a voice, they fade into oblivion.

In the end his voice of reason convinced me. After all there is a developing international law frame. And that is pretty transparent. It won't go away. And strictly PR is helpless in that realm. Ok, if you look at it, like Pat did here. Isn't what now is called: "incriminating evidence" in the Shaffer case similar to what Pat comparable to what he calls: "strong impression of a comprehensive strategy to pre-emptively deal with" here?

I have to admit, that I only looked closer into the Yugoslav war, when I was served "Operation Horsehoe", or Serbia's intentions: genocide.


Our politicians couldn't keep their faces as straight as the narrative suggested, it felt. Before that I didn't want to listen, how could I dare to be able to differ between the propaganda of either side? Later I met witnesses for the trials, the victims, and they were hyper-paranoid, I can tell you. If I recall correctly, 'only' two American soldiers died. ... Superior precision (thus more humanitarian) bombing war tools air power took care of that.

David Habakukk linked to an article by one of the larger security-power-chess-gamers on visit in Russia, maybe on Adam Silverman's thread. Visibly this type of expert vision is void of victims. Collateral damage. Although, his futurology no doubt contains a high dose of "national interest" as perceived or suggested by their branch the larger security industry. Or American power as they see it now and then. Why?

The trauma of the kid of survivors? Yes, I looked the author up. The only thing he seems to deeply enjoy is America's power. The save heaven? While apparently it does not matter much if Europe disintegrates into little ethnic or political enclaves. "Serves them right, those antisemites over there?"

But the larger picture that arose in between his lines, reminded me of a rather naive but ardent Israel supporter, much less bright than Hostage, the former US soldier, mentioned above, the supporter of International Law.

Israel, the purely emotional, in-no-way-hawkish-supporter* wrote, offered his own future made up (it felt at the time) vision too:

In the end the different ethnicities will all follow Israel's approach. His case in point was, you guessed it, Yugoslavia. Well, he could have chosen the Czechs and the Slovaks too. In both cases there are historical roots. But one didn't need war.

* What I found interesting: Some of his best friends apparently are settlers. They can't be all bad. In fact as a hippie, he once wanted to settle with his friends land along the West-Coast somewhere, I forget, too. No, I am pretty sure it was Oregon. In any case in the US it didn't work, but his friends, the settlers in Judea and Samaria raise organic vegetables. Honestly, would Palestinians do that? Would they honestly treat the land so well?

International law: goosesteps in the right direction.

The Beaver

There is a book coming out today: Guantanamo Diary.


The Guardian has been publishing some bits and pieces since Jan 16, 2015:


I missed that point. Also forgot the fact that US (policy makers)care lot (even more than they care about US in some instances) about Israel.

Charles I

Seems to have boiled over after this:


Charles I

You all know me as bleeding heart legalistic type, but I almost posted something to this effect yesterday.

Ya know can ya really blame the pathetic leaders of the guardians of freedom and democracy, world's policeman, the indispensable state, vanguard of the GWOT, benefactor to all mankind, etc, etc, for imagining they can and should seek to establish a big warm all-embracing SOFA immunity covering all its exceptional citizens all over the world? What is the point of empire if not to benefit the Citizen? Wtf are we dying for? We owe no allegiance to any life, limb or law but our own and our God's.

Not that that's how to win friends and influence people in the long run.

Charles I

"The number of people under 24/7 surveillance is in the dozens or scores."

So apparently the Paris Prefecture were keeping up other with other files.

The guy who attacked our Parliament last year was on a some radars, but there simply are not enough resources - dozens of agents per 24/7 target - to cover them all all the time.

Our RCMP talking head appeared and stated that hundreds of officers tasked to mafia, drug, and major frauds basically abandoned those fields to attempt to investigate and manage known threats, numbered at about 90 or so people. They wouldn't say how many 24/7 ops they do.

Tho hundreds of thousands were still charged with simple possession here last year.

Police up here never tire of simultaneously bemoaning staffing/cash shortages combined with the documentary labor intensity democratic justice requires for the Record. Apparently particularly so in the intelligence field where onerous legal punctiliousness is sold as balancing opacity and unaccountability. CSIS recorded over hundreds and hundreds of hours of wiretaps investigating the Air India Bombing that killed over 300 Canadians decades ago because, they said at the time, they couldn't afford more tape. It was a fairly big kerfuffle.

On the other hand, 3600 Canadians kill themselves yearly, 2400 go out in car accidents, that's about 70 and 40 deaths respectively per week, week in week out, year in year out.


Charles I, CP,

In some sense, that is how things have usually been and what we would prefer things to be in the US of A: wanting to abide by no law or morality other than our own. As long as we insist on mucking around with moralistic crusades around the world, we cannot stay in the world where we owe, as say, no allegiance to any law other than our own. The folly of the Bushmen was that they felt that they could have their crusades without having to abide by "international" moral supervision. Obamaites would rather continue the moralistic crusades under "international" supervision (although they would still like to be the ones writing the international code of conduct themselves, according to their own beliefs--in some sense, even more ambitious than the Bushmen.) rather than quit the whole nonsense so that we can abide only by our own laws and morality, which, I think, a majority of Americans would prefer.

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