by S. Amjad Hussain
Mr. Jesse Helms, the Republican Senator from North Carolina, has won yet another round against its nemesis, the United Nations. This time he forced our government to back away from supporting the creation of a permanent world court that would have jurisdiction to try world leaders and their proxies for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The need for a permanent international criminal court has been felt ever since the WW II when the allies tried nazi war criminals in the famous Nuremberg trials. World has noted with increasing concern the repetition of similar crimes in Bosnia and Rwanda. After meeting with the survivors of the Rwanda genocide last April, President Bill Clinton was so moved that he publicly endorsed the idea of such a court. The very next day Jesse Helms vowed that such court would be "dead on arrival" in the Senate. It would have required the approval of the US Senate.
Mr. Helms views the world with the jaundiced eye of a southern conservative. He believes in the supremacy of this country and would go to any lengths as chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Affairs Committee to realize that goal. He has effectively blocked legislation to pay $1.3 billion that US owes in past dues. He was also successful in denying Boutros Boutros- Ghali a second term as UN Secretary General. He supported the candidacy of Mr. Kofi Annan, the current Secretary General on the condition that Mr. Annon would conduct an internal overhaul of the United Nations. To the chagrin of the Administration he has been interjecting himself in the conduct of America's foreign policy and has at times loomed larger than the President in that arena.
Earlier this year he successfully attached an amendment to an emergency spending bill for the International Monetary Fund that makes a new set of demands on the UN. The 'Sense of the Senate' amendment asks, rather arrogantly, that the United Nations thank the United States for its contributions. It further demands that the UN lower America's percentage of contributions to the its peacekeeping budget and publicly report to all member countries how much the United States has spent supporting Security Council resolutions since the beginning of 1998. Mr. Helms also claims that our country does not get its proportional share of UN jobs, a claim disputed by those who know the facts. Regarding the US expenditure on peacekeeping missions, most of those missions were carried out on behalf of the United States in the first place.
Mr. Helms believes that an independent criminal court will be used by enemies of the United States to bring charges against the leadership and the armed forces of this country. Such a court, according to him, will have "the trappings of sovereignty". To him this would weaken American control in the Security Council. Being the only superpower in the world, he wants the United States to be dictating the conduct of the UN.
The final vote on the court issue was very interesting. One hundred and twenty countries, including our Western allies, voted for the court. United States was joined by Libya, Iran, Iraq, Qatar, Yemen, China and Israel to block the move. All of those countries, with the single exception of the United States, have, in one form or another, horrible record of atrocities against their minorities or dissidents. Unlike the company it chose to keep in this matter, the United States has an excellent record of bringing its citizens to justice if they were accused of atrocities.
In another related development the United States has dropped the idea of arresting two of the most notorious and well-known criminals of the Bosnian holocaust. After spending more than two years and millions of dollars preparing to arrest Radovan Karadzic and Gen. Ratko Mladic, the united States has decided that it is not willing to pay the human cost it might take to bring these two war time criminals to justice.
The United Nations, despite its many shortcomings has played a pivotal role in maintaining world peace. At the time when it needs our full support, we are brazenly side stepping its charter and undermining its authority. All that to pursue our own narrow agenda and to plicate an out of touch ideologue from South Carolina.
[S. Amjad Hussain is a clinical professor of surgery at the Medical College of Ohio and an op-ed page columnist for the daily Toledo Blade.]
Copyright © 1996 S. Amjad Hussain - All Rights Reserved