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Sid Shniad

Jun 8, 1999, 3:00:00 AM6/8/99
The San Jose Mercury News June 3, 1999


By Alexander Cockburn

Compared to Bill Clinton and his accomplices, Slobodan
Milosevic is a piker when it comes to war crimes. Take Iraq. The
sanctions imposed by the United States in 1991 have had a
devastating effect on Iraq's civilian population, particularly the
By the end of 1995 alone, the United Nations Food and
Agriculture Organization said that after careful investigation, it had
determined that as many as 576,000 Iraqi children had died as a
result of sanctions. Using figures from Iraq's Ministry of Health, the
World Health Organization estimated that 90,000 Iraqis were dying
every year in Iraq's hospitals, over and above those who would
have expired at the normal rate.
In sum, it is beyond argument that the United States engineered
a program of enforced scarcity that has caused the deaths of
hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians.
In 1996, Madeleine Albright was asked the following question
on CBS' "60 Minutes" by Lesley Stahl: "We have heard that half a
million children have died (in Iraq). I mean, that's more children
than died in Hiroshima. And you know, is the price worth it?"
Albright infamously replied, "I think this is a very hard choice,
but the price -- we think the price is worth it."
The protocols of the Geneva Convention of 1949 prohibit
bombing not justified by clear military necessity. If there is any
likelihood the target has a civilian function, then bombing is
forbidden. NATO's bombers have damaged and often destroyed
Serbian hospitals and health-care centers, public housing,
infrastructure vital to the well-being of civilians, refineries,
warehouses, agricultural facilities, schools, roads and railways. If
the war ends with a negotiated settlement and Slobodan Milosevic
goes on trial before the International Criminal Court, Clinton,
Albright and Defense Secretary William Cohen should have their
place on the court's calendar, too.
And they may face that fate. Under the terms of the
International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia -- a body
set up by the U.N. Security Council in 1993 -- anyone can file
formal complaints for the tribunal's prosecutor in The Hague,
Justice Louise Arbour, to consider within the terms of the Geneva
Thus far, there have been three serious requests for
investigation and indictment against the NATO leaders for their
conduct against Serbia.
Lawyers in Canada, Britain and France are now working
together. Already, the Canadian team has sent Arbour requests for
indictment against 67 persons for war crimes -- including Bill
Clinton. To NATO spokesman Jamie Shea, whom Canadian lawyer
Michael Melman likened in role to William Joyce a k a Lord Haw-
Haw, a propagandist for the Nazis hanged by the Allies at the end
of World War II.
Canadian attorney Michael Melman, who is also a law professor
at York University in Toronto, says, "We have a great case. It will
be a good test to see whether the law actually applies to powerful
people." Among the indictable war crimes in the complaint
prepared by the Canadian lawyers are: the wanton destruction of
cities, towns and villages not caused by military necessity; the
bombardment of undefended towns; the willful destruction of or
willful damage done to institutions dedicated to religion, charity or
education (i.e., monasteries, hospitals and schools, all hit by
NATO's bombs). "They've admitted publicly the essentials of all
these crimes," Melman says.
The suspicion is that the tribunal is a legislative appendage of
NATO's war machine. After all, the indictment of Milosevic had
been ardently pressed by the United States and Britain, and came at
a convenient moment when public appetite in the West for the
bombing was waning rapidly. What better way for this intrinsically
dubious institution to demonstrate its objectivity than to indict the
NATO gang?

Alexander Cockburn is a syndicated columnist.

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