Pentagon’s advice to Biden – “When two wrongs don’t make a right, it’s best to just keep quiet.” Here’s why?
The International Criminal Court or the ICC remains in the geopolitical news almost every other day. In a surprising turn of events, it appears that USA President Biden might scarper away from International Criminal Court (ICC) and might not share Russian war crimes with the bench in Hague.
According to the New York Times, current and former officials briefed on the matter claim, that the Pentagon is preventing the Biden administration from providing evidence about Russian atrocities in Ukraine gathered by American intelligence agencies to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
According to reports, the evidence contains information pertinent to an investigation that Karim Khan, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, started after Russia invaded Ukraine a year ago. According to reports, the information contains decisions made by Russian officials to intentionally target civilian infrastructure and kidnap thousands of Ukrainian children from the country’s occupied territory.
The American Congress changed long-standing legal limitations on American assistance to the court in December 2022, allowing the country to help with its inquiries and potential prosecutions relating to the war crimes being committed in Ukraine. But a policy disagreement over whether to do so is still being played out behind closed doors within the Biden administration. The Pentagon and the Biden Administration seem to be at loggerheads.
The International Criminal Court-USA rift
White House officials are completely shocked by Pentagon’s resistance on International Criminal Court. In an effort to settle the conflict, the National Security Council had also called a cabinet-level “principals committee” meeting on February 3.
The majority of those who spoke about the internal conflict agreed to remain anonymous in order to speak about delicate decisions. However, Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina who assisted in getting Congress to loosen its restrictions on aiding the International Criminal Court last year, confirmed the specifics of the dispute and laid the blame for it on the Defense Department.
Reportedly, American military leaders oppose helping ICC investigate Russians because they fear setting a precedent that might help pave the way for it to prosecute Americans as well. The rest of the administration, including intelligence agencies and the State and Justice Departments, favor giving evidence to the court, the officials said.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) and the United States (USA) have been at odds ever since the ICC was established in 2002. The US government has consistently opposed the ICC’s authority to prosecute war crimes and other transgressions of international law, preferring to rely on its own judicial system.
The USA has argued that because the International Criminal Court is not answerable to any country or government, neither US citizens nor its activities are subject to its judgments. The USA considers the International Criminal Court to be biased against it and worries that its rulings might be used politically to harm the US and its interests.
The US has also opposed the ICC’s jurisdiction over its allies and its activities in other countries, citing concerns over national sovereignty and the potential for politically motivated prosecutions. The US has not ratified the ICC’s founding treaty, the Rome Statute, and has instead sought to protect its interests through bilateral agreements with other countries.
In addition, the US has used its influence in the UN Security Council to limit the ICC’s ability to investigate and prosecute cases.
However, this is possibly the first time that USA has denied sharing investigation reports with International Criminal Court as it fears it might set a wrong precedent. What wrong precedent? Well, US itself has often been chided for committing war crimes hence, the Pentagon is pulling Biden away from the ICC, for it fears that its own sins might see the light of the day.
The war criminal
The United States has been accused of several war crimes over the years, largely stemming from its involvement in conflicts abroad. From the Vietnam War to the Iraq War, the US has been accused of violating international law, disregarding civilian casualties, and using excessive force.
From the 1950s to 1975, the US participated in the Vietnam War and came under fire for its actions. A prime example of US war crimes in Vietnam is the My Lai Massacre, in which US soldiers massacred over 500 Vietnamese civilians. Following the incident, the US was charged with violating both international laws of war and the rights of civilians.
There was opposition to the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 due to its disregard for international law. The US was charged with abusing civilian infrastructure, using excessive force, and disregarding civilian casualties. The US is also accused of trafficking illegal weapons into South America, using prohibited weapons like cluster bombs, and escalating the crisis in stunningly beautiful island nations like Haiti and Cuba.
These events are known to cause massive civilian casualties. The US has also been accused of using torture in its detention facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan. So, if you make a history sheet, you will find the American governments and authorities as the biggest wartime criminals on mother earth. There are far more skeletons in US’ cupboard, as compared to any other nation. The Pentagon fears that sharing information with the ICC would open a Pandora’s box of its own crimes.
If you take the most recent war, US is getting accused of sabotaging the Nord Stream pipelines, which have left European nations without any secured energy supply. And so, European nations are also baying for justice in ICC.
Recently, the International Criminal Court prosecutor fast-tracked an investigation of possible war crimes in Ukraine. The plea for fast tracking was given by 39 nations, most of them European nations.
Surprisingly, Ukraine is also not a member of the International Criminal Court but granted it territorial jurisdiction well before the war. So, the law of ICC now applies on Ukraine as well. These declarations allow the ICC to exercise jurisdiction over crimes committed in the non-party state, only if the state has expressly agreed to such jurisdiction. So, this makes situation more ripen for US to land up in International Criminal Court.
It is a well documented fact that US is also an active participant in the Ukraine war as it has constantly aided Ukrainian side which is also earmarked on committing war crimes. Remember, Ukraine killed hundreds of its Azov fighters using US’ HIMARS missile so they don’t give statements to Russian side regarding the war crimes committed by them.
In addition, Ukraine also used patients in hospitals as human shield to survive Russian attacks. Everyone’s hands are equally dirty in this war. However, US has a century-old backlog of war crimes which need to be cleared, US will land up in a big mess which it certainly doesn’t want at all.
This is why Pentagon is hell-bent on trying to save Russia in the International Court of Justice.