Defense & National Security

Kerry’s Kangaroo Court

John Kerry was for the International Criminal Court before he was (sort of) against it, and he will surely be for it again after November 2.

This willingness to sell out U.S. sovereignty and the constitutional rights of Americans is another reason Kerry must not be elected.

Kerry himself seems to know how far his views on this issue depart from mainstream America. Try tracking down exactly where he stands on the ICC today and you will find carefully qualified statements designed to obscure, while not necessarily contradicting, his basic underlying position–which is long-standing support for a global tribunal that trumps our Constitution.

Oddly Silent

In the first two debates, President Bush attacked Kerry for supporting the ICC. Yet, Kerry never said a word in rebuttal. This was particularly odd because between the two debates the Boston Globe ran an article entitled “Kerry Opposes Role in Tribunal/US Concerns Not Yet Met, He Says.” It quoted Kerry spokesman Mark Kitchens: “George W. Bush once again chose to mislead the American people about John Kerry’s position [on the ICC].”

So, what precisely is Kerry’s position? The Globe conceded it had a hard time prying it out of him. “Kerry’s statement on the court, e-mailed to a Globe reporter Saturday night,” the paper said, “came after repeated inquiries over the past six weeks and two days after another request the morning of the [first] debate.”

“My No. 1 priority is to protect the servicemen and women who protect America from harm,” Kerry told the Globe. “Therefore, I don’t believe the United States should join the International Criminal Court until our concerns are addressed and the court develops a solid track record of fair prosecutions of the world’s worst criminals.” However, the Globe said, Kerry added (with ellipses inserted by the Globe): “I will not continue the obsessive and self-defeating campaign President Bush has waged against the ICC and the close American allies that support it. . . . All he’s done is to alienate our closest allies and diminish his own authority in the world.”

What campaign did Bush wage against the ICC? “In his statement to the Globe,” the paper said, “Kerry criticized Bush’s attempts to pressure countries, many of which have ratified the treaty, into bilateral arrangements that would prevent them from turning over U.S. citizens to the court. The administration has so far signed such pacts with 94 nations.”

Why on Earth would Kerry resent this excellent and diplomatic defense of U.S. sovereignty?

In 1993, Kerry signed up as one of only eight co-sponsors to a resolution proposed by Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut. It was titled: “A joint resolution calling for the United States to support efforts of the United Nations to conclude an international agreement to establish an international criminal court.”

In a Jan. 28, 1993 Senate speech explaining the resolution, Dodd clearly suggested that the court must have the power to prosecute Americans. “We cannot push for the establishment of an international tribunal and pretend at the same time that we are exempt from its reach,” he said.

On Dec. 21, 2000, ten days before the deadline for signing the Rome Treaty establishing the ICC, Kerry and 17 other senators wrote President Clinton urging him to sign it. The letter, posted online by the American Non-Governmental Organizations Coalition for the International Criminal Court assumed Americans would be tried by the court and rebutted fears they would be tried unfairly.

“The ICC represents an historic step forward in the international effort to punish and deter war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide,” the senators wrote. “Throughout the years of negotiations on the ICC, the United States has secured significant safeguards to ensure that American soldiers are not subjected to politically motivated actions by the court. . . .”

Kerry and the others fretted that the flocking sparrows of this peeping tribunal might clip the wings of the American Eagle–and they counseled appeasement. “The ICC will have jurisdiction over nations that are not party to the treaty whether or not the U.S. signs,” they warned Clinton. “If we do not sign, or even worse, if we seek to undermine the ICC’s authority, there is a strong possibility that the court’s prosecutors and judges will see themselves in opposition to the U.S. and our official personnel.”

Clinton caved and signed the treaty. In 2002, Bush unsigned it.

In announcing President Bush’s decision, Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman explained how the pact created an unchecked prosecutorial power–beyond any constraint imposed by the U.S. Constitution–that could arbitrarily arrest and prosecute Americans. “The treaty created a self-initiating prosecutor, answerable to no state or institution other than the court itself,” said Grossman. “. . . The court, as constituted today, claims the authority to detain and try American citizens, even though our democratically-elected representatives have not agreed to be bound by the treaty.”

When I sent Sen. Patrick Leahy’s (D.-Vt.) office a copy of the Dec. 21, 2000 letter signed by the 18 senators (Leahy was lead signer) to double-check its legitimacy, Leahy’s office sent back a statement by Leahy that reiterated the letter’s arguments, but seemed to contradict what Kerry is now saying as he tries to qualify his basic support for the ICC.

“The ICC is based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, drawn from our Bill of Rights, and our country was instrumental in the court’s conception,” said Leahy. “It is shameful that scare tactics are now being used to distort and politicize basic facts about the institution responsible for enforcing those basic rights. The ICC, which punishes war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, helps the civilized world draw a line in the sand against atrocities like the Holocaust that we all agree should be drawn. That’s why Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was one of the few countries that refused to join the court. In the negotiations on the ICC’s structure and function we achieved nearly all the safeguards we sought to protect the rights of American citizens and soldiers, and the assertion by ICC opponents that it would result in American soldiers being hauled before unaccountable foreign judges without recourse is patently false.”

But earlier this year, Kerry responded as follows to a questionnaire from the group Peace Action: “I support U.S. participation in the International Criminal Court, but also believe U.S. officials, including soldiers, should be provided some protection from politically-motivated prosecutions.”

So, here we have the great debater’s bottom-line on an International Criminal Court whose members already include Venezuela, Cambodia, Colombia and Niger: It can prosecute Americans as long as it does it without political motivation.


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