June 25, 2003
Should the United States permit Gen. Tommy R. Franks, head of the
U.S. Central Command, to be prosecuted in a court in Belgium for
alleged war crimes during the Iraq war? Most Americans would say, you
have to be kidding; that could never happen.
But little Belgium, trying to be a player on the world stage, has
adopted what it calls a universal-jurisdiction law. It purports to
give Belgium jurisdiction over war crimes committed anywhere in the
world and give Belgian judges the authority to hear complaints brought
Already on file is not only a complaint against Gen. Franks, but
also against former President Bush, retired Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf,
Secretary of State Colin Powell and Vice President Cheney, for alleged
war crimes against civilians when they bombed a Baghdad bunker during
the first Gulf War; and against both Israeli Prime Minister Ariel
Sharon and Yasser Arafat.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld properly and publicly lowered
the boom on uppity Belgium last week. He said the United States will
provide no funds for the new NATO headquarters unless Belgium repeals
Brussels has been host to NATO since 1967. NATO (which long since
completed its genuine mission of keeping Soviet troops out of Western
Europe) is now kept on life support in order to continue channeling
U.S. taxpayer funds to Europe.
NATO is planning to pretend it has a reason for existence by
building a $352.4 million futuristic headquarters in Belgium. U.S.
taxpayers are expected to pony up a least 22 percent of the cost.
In Brussels last week, Secretary Rumsfeld said, "If the civilian
and military leaders of member states cannot come to Belgium without
fear of harassment by Belgian courts enforcing spurious charges by
political prosecutors, then it calls into question Belgium's attitude
about its responsibilities as a host nation."
Rumsfeld said the Belgian law "has turned its legal system into a
platform for divisive politicized lawsuits against her NATO allies."
He added that it doesn't make sense for the U.S. to build a
headquarters in Belgium if U.S. officials can't come to Belgium without
fear of being arrested, and "I've just stated a fact."
Meanwhile, the Netherlands is trying to move to the center of the
world stage with the International Criminal Court (ICC), headquartered
in the Hague. The ICC bureaucrats, who are pseudo judges pretentiously
asserting the power to enforce pseudo law, assert jurisdiction over
U.S. citizens even though we are not and never will be a party to the
treaty and no international law can bind a country that didn't sign a
treaty consenting to be bound by it.
One of President Clinton's last official acts was his New Year's
Eve signing of the International Criminal Court (ICC) Treaty, but it
was never ratified by our Senate. President George W. Bush
courageously stood up for American sovereignty when he took the
unprecedented step of "unsigning" the treaty.
Last year, the United Nations Security Council reluctantly deigned
to grant the United States a one-year grace period from the risk of
having U.S. soldiers on overseas peacekeeping missions arrested for
prosecution by the ICC. Our so-called allies were worried that they
would have to take over the costs of peacekeeping in Bosnia if U.S.
troops pulled out.
The Bush Administration has been trying to cajole separate nations
into signing promises that they won't arrest Americans stationed on
their territory. So far, 38 such agreements have been signed but that
doesn't include most of the major governments.
The one-year exemption granted by the UN last year just expired,
and the UN Security Council reluctantly approved a one-year extension.
France, Germany and Syria abstained, 17 countries spoke out against us,
and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan undiplomatically sneered at the
Our so-called European allies, whom American blood and treasure
have again and again protected against military aggression and economic
ruin, deserve a prize for impertinence. We should nip in the bud the
heady hopes of the pompous bureaucrats in the Hague and Brussels, who
were not elected by anybody yet dream they can exercise global judicial
U.S. officials don't need to pussyfoot around with the niceties of
diplomatic language. They should say, "Bug off. America already
enjoys the rule of law that best protects human rights, our Bill of
Rights is not up for negotiation with foreigners, and we will not
subject our citizens to rules or judges in foreign countries."
Fortunately, we have moved on from the era of President Clinton,
who told the United Nations in 1997 that he wanted to put the United
States into a "web of institutions" to set "the international ground
rules for the 21st century." We now have a President who will stand up
for American sovereignty.
Phyllis Schlafly is the author of "Feminist Fantasies" (Spence
Pub. Co., 2003)