Saturday, October 13, 2001

Yesterday I got on the anti-war movement for their projection of their own critique of globalization onto Osama bin Laden. Today I want to point out another side of their naivete, regarding the World Court.

In several places now I've seen suggestions that the correct way to pursue terrorists in general, and Osama bin Laden in particular, is through the legal process. Several well-meaning progressives (and I consider myself a progressive as well) have suggested bringing charges against bin Laden in the World Court.

First of all, the International Court of Justice (as it's formerly known), which is headquartered in The Hague, Netherlands, is only for disputes between nations. Further, it is only for those nations that are signatories to the treaty creating the Court. So, as an individual, Osama bin Laden could not be either charged by a crime by the US, or bring charges against the US (as I've also seen suggested) in the World Court. I also don't believe that Afghanistan (at least under the Taliban) is a member nation, so they also cannot be tried or bring charges in the World Court.

Another problem with the World Court is that they have no power to enforce their decisions beyond the "opinion of nations." This is easily ignored, as the US proved when we were found guilty of crimes against Nicaragua in the early 1980s. Our mining of harbors and covert assistance to the right-wing rebels fighting the government of Daniel Ortega was found to be a violation of international law. We were fined, but we never paid, or even acknowledged the decision.

So, if their decisions are so easily ignored, what makes anybody think that Osama bin Laden, or anybody who's willing to fly commercial jets into civilian targets, would give a damn about the opinion of this or any court?

Even if there were an international court where charges against an individual could be brought, there would still be the problem of taking that individual into custody to face trial. Which would bring us right back to the situation we were in: Demanding that the Taliban turn over bin Laden and being refused.

Once again, for those first-time readers who may think I'm a war-mongering right wing fanatic: I'm horribly disappointed at the extreme measures that the US has taken over the last week. I think it weakens our coalition and greatly increases the chances of escalation into a world war. I would have preferred working through the intelligence communities of partner nations, and using targeted small unit special operations to covertly destroy the terrorist network.

While I agree with many (if not most) of the criticisms of US policy brought up by my friends on the left, and would like to see it change over time, we have to admit that we were viciously and offensively attacked and we must respond with force. The question, for me, is how little force we can get away with.

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