Have we forgotten Nuremberg? Real justice would see Western leaders who start wars end up in jail too, not just Radovan Karadzic
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has lauded Radovan Karadzic’s transfer to a UK prison. But so long as Western leaders who start wars are immune from prosecution, virtue-signalling on ‘international justice’ is misplaced.
“We should take pride in the fact that, from UK support to secure his arrest, to the prison cell he now faces, Britain has supported the 30-year pursuit of justice for these heinous crimes,” is how Raab announced the news that former Bosnian Serb president Karadzic is to serve the remainder of his life sentence for war crimes and genocide in a UK prison.Also on rt.com Former Bosnian Serb leader Karadzic to serve rest of life sentence for genocide in British prison – UK Foreign Office
No one can doubt that the offences Karadzic was convicted of in 2016 by a UN court – namely genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes – were indeed heinous, the worst single atrocity being the Srebrenica massacre, where approximately 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed by Bosnian Serb forces.
However, while we unequivocally condemn such appalling acts – and of course it is right that those judged responsible for them are held properly to account – there was something in Raab’s rather jubilant ‘Aren’t we wonderful?’ tone which jarred.
That’s because if we look at matters objectively, Britain can’t really be said to have been on the side of ‘international justice’ these past 30 years. I write not as a ‘Britain-basher’ but as someone whose father served in the armed forces, and whose godfather was a commissioned officer in the RAF in World War II.
We need to go back to World War II, or more specifically the Nuremberg trial of leading Nazi regime members at the end of the war, to help us understand the current hypocrisy.
Today, many think the Nazis were on trial because of terrible ‘crimes against humanity’ they committed during the war, such as the Holocaust. But the most serious charge against them – as Dr. John Laughland points out in his excellent book ‘A History of Political Trials’ – was that they had started the war.
Opening the prosecution, US attorney Robert H. Jackson said Nuremberg was “the first trial in history for crimes against the peace of the world”, adding that aggressive war was “the greatest menace of our times”. In delivering their sentences, the judges concurred, holding that “war is essentially an evil thing… to initiate a war of aggression therefore, is not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole”.
Jackson and the judges got it right. Starting a war is the supreme international crime because once wars begin, atrocities inevitably follow. The atrocities follow on from the starting of the war, which is why the aggressors need to be held fully to account for their crimes against peace.
James Connolly highlighted very well the hypocrisy of those who cheerlead for wars, but who then complain about the horrible things which happen in them, when he wrote, “There are no humane methods of warfare, there is no such thing as civilized warfare; all warfare is inhuman, all warfare is barbaric; the first blast of the bugles of war ever sounds for the time being the funeral knell of human progress.”
What we can call the Nuremberg principle – that the greatest crime of all is to initiate a war of aggression – generally held sway during the old Cold War, a time of genuine human progress. But after the fall of the Soviet Union, things changed.
With no one to keep them in check, the pro-globalist Western elites no longer wanted to be restricted by ‘little things’ like national sovereignty. They wanted to be able to invade strategically important countries that didn’t do their bidding and whose resources they coveted. So, the Nuremberg principle was quietly forgotten and instead a new justification for war – ‘humanitarian interventionism’ – was born.
No longer was initiating a war of aggression the ‘supreme international crime’. The supreme international crime was now human rights violations in the target country. While the leaders of the target states were routinely compared to Adolf Hitler, in reality, it was those threatening them with attack or invasion who were behaving more like the Nazis, with their arrogant disregard for national sovereignty.Also on rt.com Radovan Karadzic deserves punishment - but what about the Neocons?
That we have an ‘international justice’ system designed to punish the weak, but let the strong escape, is shown by the fact that – as Laughland points out – the international criminal tribunals which sprung up from the 1990s onwards have sidestepped ‘crimes against peace’.
Instead, the focus has been on punishing ‘war crimes’ committed by those not on the ‘Western side’ after wars have started. How convenient for the outside ‘fire-starters’ who help ignite – and sustain – the conflicts such as the one in Syria. The same applies to those who encouraged and supported the violent break-up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. As I wrote in 2015, “While the direct responsibility for Srebrenica lies with those who ordered and carried out the slaughter, it's worth remembering that the massacre did not take place in a vacuum. It was part of a bloody conflict, which would not have occurred in the first place without Western interference.”
But the interferers, the people with the matches who set fire to entire countries, never get arrested. War crimes trials have featured plenty of black Africans and Serbs, but not a single Western leader has been in the dock. How can that be just when we consider the carnage that Western-led military interventions have caused since the 1990s? In 2015, a Body Count report, compiled by international physicians, revealed that up to 1.3 million people had lost their lives in the US-led so-called ‘War on Terror’ in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
In 2003, Iraq, a country which posed no threat to either Britain or the US, was attacked on the fraudulent grounds that it possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMD), which could be assembled and launched within 45 minutes. That illegal invasion led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. No one has been held accountable.
Eight years later came the assault on Libya. A country that had the highest Human Development Index in the whole of Africa in 2009 was bombed back to the Stone Age.
The pretext of the war was ‘humanitarian’: ‘New Hitler/Mad Dog’ Gaddafi, we were told, was going to massacre the citizens of Benghazi. Five years later, after Libya had been destroyed as a functioning state, we were allowed to hear the truth, when a House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee report held that “the proposition that Muammar Gaddafi would have ordered the massacre of civilians in Benghazi was not supported by the available evidence”.
Again, no one has been held accountable. Virtue-signaller Raab, it’s worth noting, voted for the military action against Libya in 2011.Also on rt.com Slave markets in ‘liberated’ Libya and the silence of the humanitarian hawks
In 2017, the International Criminal Court did finally agree to cover the crime of aggression in its jurisdiction, which came into effect in 2018 – but Britain, which had lobbied for a delay, was one of the countries which did not ratify the amendment.
Which brings us back to Karadzic. On the same day that the UK foreign secretary was getting so excited about the Bosnian Serb coming to a British jail, Tony Blair, who took Britain into the Iraq War, and was also at the helm when NATO – without United Nations Security Council authorization – bombed Yugoslavia for 78 days in 1999, was a guest on ITV’s ‘Good Morning Britain’. His interviewer was one Alastair Campbell, Blair’s spin doctor back in 2003.
The cosy ‘inside the tent’ discussion touched on Blair’s Gandalf-style haircut but didn’t – surprise, surprise – mention the ‘dodgy dossier’ claims about Iraqi WMDs. That all seems to have been conveniently forgotten. Far better for the Western power elites that we focus on Karadzic, or some other ‘local’ war criminal, and not zoom out to see the bigger, global picture. Because if we did, and international justice really was a ‘thing’, Karadzic would likely have some company in prison.
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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.