This Girl's Voice

Monday, July 07, 2003  

MSN's Encarta Dictionary definition of "bullying" reads:

Back on Aug. 12 of last year, a press release titled "NGO Coalition Condemns US Bullying to Gain Exemption from ICC", by an NGO Coalition known as the Coalition for the International Criminal Court went on the record in trying to heighten the awareness of the Bush "Administration's tactics, threats of economic sanctions, to convince governments to give US nationals an exemption from the newly established International Criminal Court (ICC or Court)."

The press release stated that:
Experts from the NGO Coalition expressed their outrage at what they consider to be another US government attempt to use its economic power to carve out an exemption from a Court designed to ensure that no one is above the law when they commit crimes as serious as genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes. According to many government, NGO experts and academics, the US is misinterpreting Article 98 of the Rome Statute, the provision of the Court's governing treaty being invoked to justify seeking such agreements, and resorting to bullying tactics to get signatures.

"The threat to cut off military aid, and the coercive actions undertaken recently in the Security Council to get exemption for peacekeepers, are part of a multi-pronged effort of the US government to undermine international justice, international law and international peacekeeping," stated William R. Pace, Convenor of the more than 1000-member NGO Coalition for the International Criminal Court.

The US government has been vigorously approaching officials in capitals around the world to sign so-called Article 98 agreements allowing immunity for US military personnel and peacekeepers from the jurisdiction of the ICC. To date, Romania and Israel are the only countries to have signed such agreements, while Norway, Switzerland, Yugoslavia and Canada have reportedly refused. Last week, the US government announced that countries supporting the Court without creating an exemption for US nationals could face a withdrawal of US support for military education and training, as well as financing of military weapons and equipment.

Last week, a Friday July 4 OpEd piece titled "Bungling Bully" in the conservative Financial Times brought us up to date with the Bush Administrations strong-arming "accomplishments" so far:

Bullying is reprehensible in any circumstances. But simultaneously shooting oneself in the foot looks like incompetence. Regrettably, ham-fisted tactics by George W. Bush's administration have in the past few days achieved that feat in two separate areas of foreign relations.

The first is suspension this week of US military aid to some 50 countries that refuse to exempt American forces from possible prosecution by the International Criminal Court. Washington has opposed the body from the start: the Clinton administration voted against its creation in 1998, even though it would pursue war criminals only if national courts did not act.

Under Mr Bush, hostility has reached new heights. Not content with obtaining safeguards for US participants in United Nations peacekeeping operations, the US is pressing individual countries to agree not to hand over American citizens to the ICC or risk losing US military aid.

Specifically, the U.S. has suspended 47 million dollars in military aid to 35 nations over the ICC, unless they sign "immunity deals" known as "Article 98" agreements "that protect American service members from arbitrary or political prosecution by the international court," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said.

Furthermore, the Financial Times informs us that the bullying doesn't stop there:
Washington has made clear from the start that it will do free trade deals only with countries that support its broad foreign policy goals. That pre-condition is already dubious.


This second US goal is its slap in the face last week to Egypt. After vaunting the country as the linchpin of US plans for a Middle East free trade area, intended to mend fences in the region, Washington dashed its hopes of an early bilateral free trade agreement. The official reason was Egypt's flagging economic reforms. But the decisive one was its refusal to back the US case in the World Trade Organisation against the European Union's moratorium on genetically modified foods.


But forcing Egypt to take sides in a completely unrelated dispute between the world's biggest trade powers is shameful. It suggests the "freedom" that other countries gain from trade deals with the US is to do whatever Washington demands - even when it cannot make up its mind what it wants to achieve.

The FT cautions that:
That is a dangerous message from a country that is badly in need of friends - above all in the Middle East - after the Iraq war. It can only undermine trust in the US. If Washington is to repair the damage done by its behaviour towards the ICC and Egypt, it needs to ditch strong-arm tactics, get some coherent policies and start engaging in constructive diplomacy.

How long will the American people continue to allow their unelected (p)Resident and his men thugs right-wing zealots neocons military industrialists oligarchal plutocrats to tarnish the image of their country? In less than a year from now, with the 2004 Presidential election around the corner, we'll soon find out. The NY Times' Bill Safire channelling the ghost of Watergate bungler and bully Richard Nixon, says tricky Dick knows the answer now.

posted by voxpopgirl | 7/07/2003