[TODAY]U.S. intransigence and the court

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[TODAY]U.S. intransigence and the court

Samuel Huntington, the author of "The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order," wrote in an article published in Foreign Affairs in 1999 that while the United States regularly stigmatized certain countries as "rogue states," many countries thought that the United States was itself a rogue superpower.

The late 1990s brought pride to the United States, with President Bill Clinton flaunting the economic success of his country in a 1997 summit meeting of developed countries and his secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, speaking of the greatness and superiority of the United States to other countries.

Mr. Huntington gave several examples of when the United States looked like a "rogue superpower" to others: when it pressured other countries to follow American values in human rights and democracy, when it extraterritorially applied U.S. law in other countries, when it ranked other countries according to its standards on drug trafficking, terrorism, production of weapons of mass destruction and religious freedom and when it retaliated against other countries for not following the American lead.

But Bill Clinton actually looks like a tolerant guy next to President George W. Bush. Mr. Bush's administration has added self-righteous arbitrariness to the "roguery" and "arrogance" of the Clinton era that Mr. Huntington pointed out. Among Mr. Bush's foreign affairs policies have been the rejection of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, the withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Russia, the designation of North Korea, Iran and Iraq as an "axis of evil" and now preparations for an attack on Iraq.

But the acme of the Bush administration's high-handedness is the strangling of the International Criminal Court. The court was designed to handle crimes against humanity; it was launched in July after the required 60 signatories of the Rome Statute, which established the court in 1998, ratified it. Korea has signed the statute and is expected to ratify it before the end of the year.

With its fingers deep in so many pies all around the world, the United States seems to think that there is a high possibility of U.S. soldiers and policymakers being prosecuted by the court. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is one of the leading opponents of the court; he has claimed that should the court be launched, American citizens would be exposed to the danger of indictment by people who have no duty to respect their constitutional rights.

America, he added, will protect the interests and the values of its citizens.

During a visit to Britain in 1998, the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet was arrested by the British police at the request of Spanish prosecutors on charges of mass murder; he faced the risk of being turned over to Spanish authorities. The United States worried that its own former senior officials, such as Henry Kissinger, could be subject to similar attacks, so the U.S. Senate refused to ratify the Rome Statute, and the Bush administration then withdrew the U.S. signature.

It is the consensus of those familiar with the issue that the U.S. reaction to the court is based on nothing but self-righteousness and unfounded fears. The International Criminal Court only intervenes when a crime against humanity has taken place and appropriate charges are not brought against those responsible by their national government. Even that was a result of a compromise that the U.S. government obtained through pressure and negotiations.

Why is the Bush administration so opposed to the International Criminal Court? The biggest reason is the conservative Christian movement. Since the Christian right took over the Texas Republican Party in 1994, Mr. Bush has been modeling his policies to their taste. It is no coincidence that he started his 2000 presidential campaign with a speech at Bob Jones University. That university in South Carolina is a symbol of American conservatism.

The philosophy of the Christian right-wingers and that of Mr. Bush are identical. Communism is the devil incarnate and countries that do not tolerate freedom of religion, especially that of Christianity, such as North Korea, should be forced out of existence. Even Mr. Bush's speech on the "axis of evil" was not impromptu. This is also the background as to why Mr. Bush is insisting on a hard-line policy against the North and is reining in President Kim Dae-jung's "sunshine" policy.

The conservatives in the United States are against their government signing any international treaty that would compromise the sovereignty of their country in the slightest way. The British political philosopher Edward H. Carr once said that international organizations such as the United Nations could only function properly within the limits that world powers such as the United States set for them. The shameless threat from the United States that it would stop all economic and military support to countries that join the International Criminal Court foretells a long and tortuous road for the new institution.


The writer is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Kim Young-hie

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