The warrants are being drawn up, and the people are all a buzz. The seats on the buses are being reserved to converge on Ottawa, Ontario in the northeastern half of Turtle Island to meet American President George W Bush. People whose passport reads as Canadian -- every bit as affected by the recent election in the United States but like the rest of the planet were denied a vote -- have other means and methods to express themselves dancing in their heads now. It has been almost exactly seven years since the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation arrived in Vancouver, in what later came to be known as “Spraypec”. Though you could be forgiven for thinking that the only thing that happened was the pepper-spraying of a bunch of kids, in actuality General Suharto (then “leader” of Indonesia) was a participant in the days of discussions, and activists who were opposed to his record in Indonesia and East Timor (circa: 1,000,000 killed) drew up a warrant and attempted to arrest him. This was problematic on several levels. One: Bill Clinton, the president of the US, was in attendance after sending troops into Bosnia; Chinese President Jiang Zemin was in attendance, and the list goes on. Further, beyond domestic law and the “theory” of international law, there was little in the way of a case to arrest the General.
Cross the continent, and move ahead to September 9, 2002. Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attempted to saunter onto university campuses and was blocked by students and other protesters -- again, with a warrant for his arrest. The case was clearer: the hypocrisy of Canada notwithstanding, there were no other leaders present that day and the warrant was (as in the case of Suharto) based on the application of law. But Canada still had no real recourse to do anything about this. After Bibi was sent packing, this unarrested war criminal told people in Montreal that it was time to “clean up”. Well, a clean up has happened in this nation-state. In the ensuing years, what has been cleaned up are all the messy distinctions around Canadian law, domestic application and international responsibility.
In late March 2003, the World Criminal Court opened in the Hague (Netherlands). To be a signatory of the WCC, a state takes on the responsibility to make domestic law conform with international law in the areas of human rights and alleged war crimes. The concept of the WCC, supported by Canada in principle for decades, is essentially that international law must be supreme, and that no country or human being is above the law. Such theory can be problematic -- in a world with rich and poor, weak and powerful states, it's a genuine concern that the WCC not become yet one more weapon for the tyranny of power -- such as the UN: originally supported by smaller states as a counter-balancing measure, the UN has been manipulated many times over to attack the vulnerable at the behest of the impenetrable. Nonetheless, in the case of the UN and the WCC, the powerful do not like the idea of opening even a rhetorical alleyway of vulnerability. The United States has declared its total opposition to the project of the WCC, and out of step with much of the world, has not signed on.
Beginning on November 30, 2004 George W Bush will be in a country that has endorsed the WCC. Despite certain protestations to the contrary, Canada is legally obliged to arrest George W Bush for war crimes. Going all the way back to Nuremberg, the precedent for the WCC, the number one crime -- the crime that got the Nazis hanged -- is to launch “aggressive” war. All other crimes, such as torture at Abu Ghraib, murder of wounded prisoners, targeting of hospitals during war, denying basic medicines -- stem from the primary crime against humanity, the crime against international peace. It is of little consequence how many of these crimes can be proved to involve Bush's direction. What matters is he launched illegal aggressive war. If Canada does not arrest him, it means Canada is in breach of their international obligations as a signatory in the Hague.
Sometime in the upcoming months, presumably next May, another alleged war criminal will be making his way to Canada, and this time right in the heart of Montreal. Ehud Barak, former Prime Minister and “leading dove” from Israel, will attempt to give a speech to a private, selected crowd on the campus of Concordia University. The Canadian government will, if their hypocritical excuses are even made public, in all likelihood tell us that George W Bush cannot be arrested for two main reasons. He is a sitting head of state (unfortunately, some lawyers have incorrectly stated this position). If that false protection gains any credence, then the back up is simply that the US never signed onto any treaty, International Court of Justice, WCC or otherwise. However, Israel did. Attempts to get Ariel Sharon arrested in Belgium forced his cancellation of a state visit (and he was indeed sitting PM at the time). The reasons for this were that his legal team told “Dear Arik” that Belgium had a solid case.
The Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip is internationally recognized as illegal. This past summer, the ICJ wrote that into a decision that recognized the wall being built by Israel as illegal as well. Again, illegal war and occupation (a form of warfare) is the primary crime: the fact that Ehud Barak's term saw the doubling of the number of illegal settlements on Palestinian land, that Amnesty International has documented the targeting of unarmed protesters, or that the former PM was also a war criminal in his own right as a soldier are all of no matter. Ehud Barak must be arrested in order for Canada to live up to its obligations. Anything else would be a dereliction of duty.
Well, November 30th will soon come and go. We, the people of the world, will be there in Ottawa to arrest this war criminal Bush. Whatever means one must use to do this has yet to be determined. Much of that will be the responsibility of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. After all, when I was a little boy, I was taught of the duality of the supremacy of law as well as its neutrality. I was told that the law is what protected us from delving into oblivion, a state of total chaos where nothing but the rule of the mighty mattered. When such chaos ensues, it is truly near impossible to control the population at large, as they feel the right to do pretty much anything they desire. When the law fails the people, the people fail to understand the law -- and they right the wrongs committed themselves. Such a situation certainly isn't what is in the best interests of those who want an orderly afternoon at the end of November. Nor is it in the interests of those, around every corner of this threatened planet, who work, struggle, live and breathe every breath they take, so that they might be able to resist these war criminals from Washington and Tel Aviv. Justice, as they say is supposedly blind. It will not be muted. And we will not be silenced.
Macdonald Stainsby is a freelance writer and social justice activist living in Montreal, Quebec. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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