August 01, 2002
Stupid letters from Florida

Since I am in Florida, not in Washington, I am reading the Florida papers. While southwest Florida is much more conservative and sedate than the Seattle area, they have their cranks here, as evidenced by this letter from the Fort Myers News-Press:

Now that President Bush has repudiated the international treaty establishing an International Criminal Court (which would act only if national courts did not,) signed by the previous president, one wonders how this act will be viewed in the schools and slums of the Third World. Will other nations follow our example and repudiate international agreements on anti-terrorism? In an environment of hatred and envy for United States, how many more terrorists and terrorist supporters do you suppose this act will create? Our country’s arrogance smacks of colonialism.

I have a couple of thoughts on this.

Firstly, the ICC is already being exploited as an anti-Israel/Anti-US tool, precisely as feared by the Bush administration. (If you don't recognize the conflation of the two countries in the minds of terrorist extremists, you are too stupid to walk the streets and should be committed immediately.) That is one of the reasons the US won't be a party to the treaty, and it is interesting that Clinton waited until AFTER the election was decided to sign it. If it was so important to him, why did he wait so long? The treaty was over two years old at that time; in fact, Senegal ratified it 2 February 1999. I wonder if the treaty would have been signed if Gore had won the election.

Secondly, the ICC violates the fifth and sixth amendments to the bill of rights. It contravenes three sections of each amendment. (The Cato Institute has a nice analysis here; while four years old, the information is still pertinent.) The rights guaranteed by the U. S. Constitution cannot be negotiated away, treaty or no treaty; the Clinton administration refused to acknowledge this when Clinton signed the treaty on the last day of the 20th century.

Mr. Bellamy references anti-terrorism agreements. While a few codicils are attached to UN charters, the nations that sponsor or knowingly harbor terrorists are not signatories to the treaties in any case, so there is little to fear from threats to withdraw from agreements that they don't recognize. Further, despite the agreements in place and extradition treaties negotiated between countries, most EU nations will not extradite criminals to the US if they might be subjected to the death penalty. France has already refused to extradite two murderers to the US on the grounds that their civil rights are endangered by following the terms of the extradition treaty negotiated between the two countries. (This isn't a sweeping multilateral agreement, this is an agreement between the two countries). What is to stop other countries from doing the same?

"Our arrogance smacks of colonialism". I think not. Unlike most of Europe, and Japan, we had only two colonies, one of which was granted independence four years after our acquisition (Cuba). The other was scheduled for independence in the early 1940's, but the Second World War pushed back the timetable a few years (the Philippines). Neither of these territories was raped by the US in the colonial fashion Mr. Bellamy implies, and holding our constitution above the whims of international opinion is not colonialism in any case. One may make the argument that it is provincial (or parochial, perhaps), but I hardly believe that contravening our constitution on the altar of world opinion is a trivial matter.

posted on August 01, 2002 09:37 AM


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