It was in the Garden of Gethsemani that Jesus uttered his most prophetic words, "All those who take up the sword will perish by the sword," as he rebuked Peter for injuring Malchus, the servant of the High Priest. The Bush Administration began in the fall of 1999 to undermine South Korea's "Sunshine Policy" of engagement with North Korea, which had no nuclear weapons at that time. Family exchanges, travel links, and increased economic contacts then had raised the specter of beginning talks leading to Korean unification.
But Candidate Bush began condemning North Korea as a threat, and using the supposed threat as a rationale for justifying huge new military expenditures on an internationally destabilizing missile defense system. Now Mr. Bush is receiving considerable criticism for having stood by idly, wielding only menacing rhetoric, while North Korea announces this week that it has in fact secured nuclear weapons "to defend itself against the United States." It is increasingly clear that this was precisely what the Bush Administration wanted. Now they can proceed unimpeded with restarting the world arms race that was so profitable for the Defense Industry, pointing to North Korea and pouring tens of billions of dollars into missile defense. The principled opposition to missile defense will now be paralyzed by the fact of real North Korean nuclear armaments.
This is much like the "social security crisis"—a very expensive non-solution to a problem that didn't exist until the Bush Administration created it.
Meanwhile, news emerged this week about the extent of Bush Administration efforts to develop new, heavier nuclear weapons of our own. They have indicated their intent to work toward suspending the international ban on nuclear testing. Is our world more peaceful because our president threatened North Korea, and compelled them to develop a nuclear capability? Will it be more peaceful once Iran has done the same? Will restarting the international nuclear arms race make us more safe or much less safe?
The one thing Mr. Bush fears is personal accountability. Even as he was undermining the successful Clinton Administration policy on North Korea, he began condemning the International Criminal Court. Having watched as his father killed 5000 innocent people in Panama City in December 1989, while sending the Marines in to "arrest" the country's president, he had a very real personal interest in making sure the first President Bush could never be prosecuted as a war criminal. This was further amplified in the waning days of the first Gulf War when Bush the elder ordered the slaughter of an estimated hundred thousand retreating Iraqi conscripts forced into military service when Iraq invaded Kuwait.
Now Bush the younger has his own reasons to fear the International Criminal Court: 100,000-200,000 people killed in Iraq, widespread torture as a matter of US policy, and plans to militarize other disagreements around the world. The one thing of which Mr. Bush is deathly afraid is accountability before the world. Even as he advocates the death penalty for Saddam Hussein, he fears the judgment of others. This militarism is the sword, writ large, that Jesus condemned. We owe it to our deepest principles to oppose this spiral into increased violence into which the Bush Administration is leading us.
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Samantha Power from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, wrote poignantly about this issue last February 10 in the New York Times:
"The United States so mistrusts the International Criminal Court that President Bush has instead proposed that the African Union and the United Nations create a Sudan tribunal based at the war-crimes court run by the United Nations in Tanzania. "We don't want to be party to legitimizing the I.C.C.," Pierre-Richard Prosper, the United States ambassador for war crimes issues, said in late January. That's an about-face from the American stance in 2002, when Mr. Prosper criticized the very same United Nations ad hoc tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia that he now hails. Citing "problems that challenge the integrity of the process," like a lack of professionalism among staff, Mr. Prosper demanded that the interminable proceedings at those courts be wrapped up by 2008, regardless of who was left at large. Justice at these courts, he said, "has been costly, has lacked efficiency, has been too slow, and has been too removed from the everyday experience of the people and the victims."
Temporary courts suffer other disadvantages next to the permanent International Criminal Court. Because their mandates are finite, they tend to rush indictments and arrests, disregarding their potentially destabilizing effects on societies still reeling from conflict. The permanent court, by contrast, can time its arrests to advance both justice and peace.
Moreover, creating a court from scratch takes months, or even years. A new statute would need to be devised, staff members and judges would need to be recruited, and the African Union, which has never before overseen criminal trials, would need a crash course.
The ad hoc court could cost as much as $150 million annually. By contrast, the supposedly bloated international court, which is already investigating multiple crises simultaneously, will cost roughly $87 million in 2005. Couldn't that same $150 million be better spent on arming and transporting African Union peacekeepers into Darfur to prevent the massacres from being committed in the first place?
Skeptics say that international courts will never deter determined warlords. Musa Hilal, the coordinator of the deadly Janjaweed militia in Darfur, gave me a very different impression when I met with him soon after the Bush administration had named him as a potential suspect. He had left Darfur and was living in Khartoum, courting journalists in the hopes of improving his reputation. Almost as soon as I sat down with him, he began his defense. Like his victims, he had only one place on his mind. "I do not belong at the Hague," he said. Surely President Bush doesn't want to find himself on the side of someone his administration considers a killer."