Media Lens: US and UK Politicians Overlooked in Crimes Against Humanity
9 July 2001 — Media Lens
Should US and UK politicians be brought to account for alleged crimes against humanity in Iraq, Serbia, Vietnam, Cambodia and elsewhere? Last week’s appearance by Slobodan Milosevic, the former leader of Yugoslavia, in front of the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague, was the spur for an Independent on Sunday ‘Focus’ news report by Raymond Whitaker entitled, ‘Who could follow Slobodan into the dock?’ (8 July). But while the usual suspects of Indonesia’s Suharto, Chile’s Pinochet and Uganda’s Amin were all profiled, there was no mention of the US’s Kissinger, Bush (Sr. or Jr.), Clinton, or Britain’s Thatcher and Blair.
To his credit, Whitaker mentioned that the proposed International Criminal Court has not been ratified in Washington ‘fearing that a president, say, might be indicted for his role in Nato action’. But there was no explanation or context provided for this remark. For example, Nato’s 78-day bombing campaign against Serbia in 1999, in which President Clinton, Prime Minister Blair and other western leaders played a major role, contravened international law. According to Amnesty International, the Nato action represented ‘serious violations of the laws of war leading in a number of cases to the unlawful killings of civilians’.
Amnesty focused in particular on the April 23 1999 bombing of the headquarters of Serbian state radio and television, which left 16 civilians dead, describing it as ‘a deliberate attack on a civilian object’ which therefore ‘constitutes a war crime.’ The report also noted that the requirement that NATO aircraft fly above 15,000 feet to provide maximum protection for aircraft and pilots ‘made full adherence to international humanitarian law virtually impossible’.
Meanwhile, the US and UK are the main proponents of ongoing economic sanctions against Iraq, imposed in the wake of the Gulf War, which according to UN and other authoritative observers, have led to the deaths of over one million Iraqi civilians. Over 4000 Iraqi children under the age of 5 are continuing to die every month. Madeline Albright, then Secretary of State, said that ‘[W]e think the price is worth it’ (60 Minutes, CBS, May 12, 1996), when asked about the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children as a result of the sanctions.
In September 1998, Denis Halliday, the UN Assistant Secretary-General, resigned after 34 years with the UN, declaring the US and British sanctions regime imposed on Iraq ‘genocidal’. Halliday, who ran the UN’s ‘oil for food’ programme in Iraq, continues to openly place blame for the excess deaths of 600,000 Iraqi children under five, as reported by the United Nations Children’s Fund, squarely on the shoulders of the US and British governments. In February 2000, Halliday’s successor as UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq, Hans von Sponeck, also resigned after 30 years with the UN, asking, ‘How long should the civilian population of Iraq be exposed to such punishment for something they have never done?’ Halliday said recently: ‘Washington, and to a lesser extent London, have deliberately played games through the Sanctions Committee with this programme for years – it’s a deliberate ploy. That’s why I’ve been using the word genocide, because this is a deliberate policy to destroy the people of Iraq. I’m afraid I have no other view at this late stage.’
Please ask The Independent on Sunday why, given these accusations of grave human rights abuses – and even genocide – by authoritative voices, they did not name any US or British politician in their article asking ‘Who could follow Slobodan into the dock?’
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The Independent on Sunday article could not be found online at www.independent.co.uk