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Our sympathies, Mr Nahas

Newsday Editorial
Trinidad and Tobago

WE CERTAINLY do not envy the task of any official representative of the United States in having to defend US foreign policy, particularly that of the current Bush administration. So many of the actions of President Bush on the world stage have been riddled with so much hypocrisy, deceit and super-power arrogance that it must take an exceptionally blinkered vision and great capacity in the art of spin for any US envoy to present them as based on the established rules and principles which now guide the international community. Most atrocious, of course, is Bush's illegal invasion of Iraq which history may well record as the most unwarranted, unjustified and destructive act of aggression ever perpetrated by one country against another in our modern civilised age. The devastation of Iraq was the callous and calculated act of an international bully turning suddenly against a petty dictator who, even during his worst atrocities, was once considered a great friend and ally of the United States.

Having to defend the indefensible can hardly be a comfortable task and that is why we must sympathise with the effort of US Deputy Ambassador to Port-of-Spain Albert Nahas in attempting to justify the US refusal to subscribe to the International Criminal Court when he spoke at a seminar on the ICC at the Hall of Justice on Wednesday. It is unfortunate that in presenting his government's position, Mr Nahas apparently could not avoid placing the Court in a most injudicious light, dismissing it in fact as basically flawed, since he claimed it had an "unchecked prosecutorial system" and the power to disregard national courts. The fact is that in condemning the ICC for not having the necessary checks and balances and, therefore, likely to undertake injudicious if not capricious prosecutions, Mr Nahas not only revealed his ignorance of the procedural operations of the Court but, more tragically, he delivered a gratuitous insult to the more than 50 nations which conferred and produced the Court and the 18 distinguished jurists chosen from different countries to preside over its various tribunals. To suggest that the ICC and its officers would be guided by anything less than the highest standards of international law can only be a pretext similar to that of the US President in justifying his aggression against Iraq.

By contrast the Deputy Ambassador praises his country which, he claims, "has clearly demonstrated that it has been and continues to be among the most forceful advocates for the principles of accountability for war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity." Unfortunately for Mr Nahas and the US, that boast now has a hollow ring as we hear no forceful advocates calling on the US President to account for the crimes he has committed against the Iraqi people. After pulverising the country with a massive aerial bombardment, in fact, no section of the American media has seen it fit to seek and present an accurate count of the thousands of innocent Iraqi citizens, including women and children, who were slaughtered in the devastating assault. Instead, US papers, television news channels and other publications have been replete with stories, several of them exaggerated, about the magnificent victory scored by the US and the many acts of heroism performed by the invading and occupying soldiers. Such is the arrogance of the people who run the world's only superpower. We sympathise with Mr Nahas, but the idea of the US submitting to the jurisdiction of an independent ICC was always out of the question. And for obvious reasons.

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