Justice only for Arabs?
by Aijaz Zaka Syed / Arab News
What about the victims of war crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan though?
Serves him right. That was my instant reaction to the International Criminal Court’s warrant for Muammar Qaddafi. The whole country has been on fire and on its feet demanding the demented colonel’s departure for nearly six months now. And all the Libyans have got in return for their demand for freedom is death and destruction from the man who has all these years claimed to be the savior of the Arabs and Muslims.
The ICC move against the Libyan dictator is therefore as justified as can be. Indeed, it should have come sooner; maybe it could have saved hundreds of precious lives. More important, it could have thrown fear of God — and retribution — into Qaddafi’s fellow travelers.
Look at the endless carnage in Syria. It’s the same story there. In fact, it’s even worse. At least in Libya’s case, the international outrage and condemnation of the regime has been led by the rest of the Arab and Muslim world. On Syria though there’s been a deafening silence across the region. The only exception has been Recep Tayyip Erdogan who has not just opened Turkey’s borders for the deluge of Syrian refugees but repeatedly confronted Damascus.
The Arabs clearly fear that any weakening of Syria, the largest country of the Levant, could end up helping Israel and its friends in high places. Their fear isn’t entirely without basis given the long history of Israeli machinations against Arab neighbors including Damascus. But should the fear of Israeli and Western plots blind us to the suffering of Syrian people and the interminable slaughter of innocents by their own troops?
A nation is made and defined by its people. What is Syria without its people who are being gunned down for demanding what is their right and is taken for granted around the world? We, therefore, ought to take heart from the fact that wheels of justice have finally started turning. No one can now sleep easy in the smug belief that he can get away with murder.
I have a question for the ICC though. Does international justice work only in the case of the Arab and Third World dictators? After Sudan’s Omar Bashir, accused of being the architect of the genocide in Darfur, Qaddafi is the second Arab “leader” to have been charge-sheeted by the ICC.
There have been others of course — from the butchers of the Balkans to the mass murderers from Rwanda, Congo and Cambodia. They rightly deserve nothing but swift and toughest retribution for their awful crimes against humanity.
The question is, why is international justice blind to similar crimes perpetrated by Western powers and their long pampered bully in the neighborhood?
Israel killed thousands of civilians, including women and children, in just one offensive on Gaza in 2009. God only knows how many more it has killed in its myriad wars and perpetual onslaught on a defenseless and besieged people. Not to mention the political and material dispossession of the Palestinians and the incalculable price they have paid in economic, physical and emotional terms.
Yet, we haven’t heard a single word of warning from the ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo against Israel’s “democratic” leaders. Why Uncle Sam wouldn’t even allow a perfunctory condemnation of Israeli actions in the UN Security Council, let alone pass an ICC warrant against the Frankenstein created by the West.
And what has monsieur Ocampo done so far to bring justice to the Afghan, Iraqi and Pakistani victims of similar atrocities? Their suffering is little different from that of the Libyan people. Indeed, it’s far worse.
Bush, Blair and others of the coalition of the willing are not just enjoying their retirement, they are making big bucks by writing million dollar books about how they planned and executed the whole circus. Unlike Bashir and Qaddafi, they are not afraid of flying or visiting distant friends.
A million people and more have been killed for a lie. So what? Saddam Hussein’s much trumpeted Weapons of Mass Destruction are not to be found. So what? Stuff happens, as Rumsfeld would put it with a smirk on his face. And so what if Iraq after all had no links to the 9/11 attacks, as claimed by the Bible-thumping president and his zealot followers?
And so what if two countries have been totally ravaged — and a third is unraveling fast — as the US war continues to expand across the Muslim world, from Central Asia to Middle East to Africa?
People are being killed like flies on a daily basis, from Afghanistan and Pakistan to Yemen and Somalia and no one, including their worthy leaders, so much as raises an eyebrow. What justice, what accountability and what due process? Uncle Sam is the judge, jury and executioner. America’s word is the law. The international criminal court, yet to be recognized by the sole superpower, knows this and so does its chief prosecutor. Some are clearly more equal in the eyes of international justice.
Last week, around the time monsieur Ocampo was unveiling the Qaddafi warrant with a relish, an extraordinary piece of research titled The Cost of War was released in the US by the Eisenhower Study Group offering new estimates of America’s wars ostensibly provoked by the 9/11 attacks.
The wars have already cost Washington $3.2 trillion dollars and are soon expected to cross $4 trillion. No wonder the US economy — and the world economy — are still teetering on the brink despite the constant oxygen supply provided by the Chinese. More than 6,000 US soldiers have been killed and nearly half a million of have lost limbs and carry the severe scars of war, and not just on their bodies.
But what about those who were at the receiving end? Will we ever get to know the real costs of these wars for their victims? The study, carried out by some two dozen anthropologists, economists and political scientists, for the first time also examined the deadly effects of the 12-year long crippling UN sanctions imposed on Iraq killing tens of thousands, many of them young children, long before the 2003 US invasion.
The most cautious estimate of the war dead, according to the study, is 258,000 although as far back as 2006 a study by the UK-based medical journal, The Lancet, had put the number at a million and in Iraq alone. Thousands more have perished since, and more will—in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere. Even if you accept the questionable number of 258,000, that is too many precious lives wasted, is it not? For every person killed on Sept. 11, 2001, America has killed at least 73 people with more to follow.
Then there are those who have been driven from their homes by these wars. Nearly 10 million people have been displaced internally or forced into neighboring countries. It is feared that the human and economic costs of these wars will be paid by the affected countries for many decades to come.
The question is, who is responsible and who will pay for these appalling crimes against humanity? Can the ICC hold them to account? Or is that too much to ask of the world court? Is the international law only good for the scum of the Third World?
The Americans are not going to lose sleep over these inconvenient questions of course. Now that Obama has announced the withdrawal of “most US forces” from Iraq this year and Afghanistan by the next, they have already consigned the whole unpleasant business to the dustbin of collective amnesia. The issue is off the agenda of 2012 presidential election. America has clearly moved on. But can the world afford to do so too?
See original article in Arab news
Aijaz Zaka Syed is a widely published opinion editor, he looks at and comments on world affairs from a Middle Eastern and Arab-Muslim perspective. He received the European Union’s prestigious Lorenzo Natali Journalism Prize in 2007 for his writings on the Darfur conflict. Write to him at [email protected]
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