In defense of Justice & Truth

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On Sunday, November 3, 2002, six men, packed into a sedan, rolled east of Yemen’s capital through the sparse desert of Marib province, where they were struck and killed by a hellfire missile sent to meet them from a U.S. Predator drone. The U.S. targeted killing program was in its infancy—only one other strike had reportedly ever been conducted—and this was a precedent-setting success.

The strike targeted and killed Qaed Salim Sinan Al-Harithi, who was believed to have devised the 2000 terrorist attack on the USS Cole that killed 17 American sailors and wounded 39. The five other passengers, though not the original target, also perished—one of which was an American citizen.

Since that strike, the United States has killed more than 1,000 people in counterterrorism operations in Yemen.

This isn’t a question of equivalency.  Omar didn’t bring up equivalency.  She asked, “Where is justice?”

Sadly, Sec. Blinken really didn’t answer that question.

Blinken: Thank you.  First, let me say at the outset that it is hard to not be profoundly moved by, not just the loss of life the recent violence and conflict but especially the children whose lives were lost. We all tend to throw statistics and numbers out there but we’re talking about boys and girls, Israelis and Palestinians, men and women, and I think none of us whatever perspective we can come, lose sight of that. So that’s one thing that’s very important.

You know our views on the ICC and it’s jurisdiction, we continue to believe that absent a security council referral or absent a request by the state itself.  With that, that’s not appropriate.  I continue to believe that whether it is the United States or Isreal both of us have the meetings…

Omar: Mr. Secretary, I do understand that point, I’m asking what mechanisms of justice are available to them?

Blinken: I believe that we have, I believe that we both have mechanisms to make sure that there is accountability in any situations where there are concerns about the use of force, and, uh, human rights etc. I believe that both of our democracies have the capacity, that we’ve demonstrated.

And in the case of Afghanistan, if it’s our objection, as you know, it was to the assertion of jurisdiction over the United States in the absence of a council referrel and I believe that we have the means if there are any cases to adjucate them to find justice.

So if you can discern a clear message from that, you have my envy. The key problem is that neither the U.S., Isreal or Afghanistan are current members of the International Criminal Court.

The United States (US) historically has been and continues to be an an ardent supporter of international criminal justice, having played critical roles in the establishment and operations of the United Nations (UN) War Crimes Commission, the World War II tribunals at Nuremberg and Tokyo, and the modern UN ad hoc and hybrid international tribunals for the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Cambodia, Lebanon and others. The International Criminal Court (ICC), the only permanent international criminal tribunal with a mandate to investigate and prosecute the international atrocity crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and aggression, is the cornerstone of the system of international criminal justice.

At present 123 nations have ratified the Rome Statute and are members of the ICC Assembly of States Parties. While the United States played a central role in the establishment of the Rome Statute that created the ICC, the United States is not a State Party. Building upon positive developments at the end of the George W. Bush administration, the US-ICC relationship significantly progressed during the Barack Obama administration, with the US providing varied and important support to the Court to the fullest extent allowed under existing US law. However, the policies of the Donald Trump administration highlighted a much more complicated relationship between the Untied States and the ICC.

If the US were the join the issue of drone strikes and weapons sales promoting the war in Yemen and Somalia just might come up as an issue.

And Ilhan Omar was technically born in Somalia so she just might be familiar with those particular atrocities.  Not everything she has to say is Anti-Semetic or Anti-American, frankly it takes a stronger patriotism to point out where America has failed to live up to it’s ideals and require that we all… do better.  America has a long history of atrocities from the Trail of Tears, to Lynching, Jim Crow and Segregation, Japanese Internment,  COINTELPRO, Iran-Contra, Iraq War II and more.

It’s well past time that when we demand that Hamas and Taliban end their War Crimes, we can do so having already faced up to our own shameful past and present.

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