The period of time that immediately followed September 11 was a contentious one for American media outlets. For many publications, it was too soon for critical outpourings—informative commentaries that might help Americans rationally understand how such a tragedy may have occurred. The aftermath of major catastrophes, after all, are rarely times when the faculties of reason are employed.
Rather, in the rare moment in a nation’s history, in which all eyes and ears are tuned in to the same crisis, emerges a special breed of frenzied nationalism; one which, it seems, has yet to subside in this country.
It speaks volumes about the fringe nature of this publication that in the issue immediately following the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the Weekly’s editorial board chose to reprint an article by columnist and Middle East specialist, Robert Fisk from The Independent. Fisk was the journalist who interviewed Osama bin Laden several times, prior to the fateful attacks that made him a household name across America.
Seventeen years have passed since the September 11 terrorist attacks, and yet, a speech given by National Security Advisor John Bolton shows that little has changed in regards to United States’ policy of denialism, isolationism, and exceptionalism in the international realm.
Fisk’s commentary was prophetic. Even without the gift of hindsight, he already understood that the events that were to follow the attacks were not about the “war of democracy versus terror that the world will be asked to believe”; but instead, about United States aggression, proxy wars and neocolonialism, which are hidden in plain sight from the average American citizen. It was about “American missiles smashing into Palestinian homes,” he wrote, “US helicopters firing missiles into a Lebanese ambulance in 1996, American shells crashing into a village called Qana…” All of these, Fisk predicted, would be overshadowed by a reductive narrative pitting the virtues of American democracy against Islamic aggression and “mindless terror.”
Seventeen years have passed since the September 11 terrorist attacks, and yet, a speech given by National Security Advisor John Bolton shows that little has changed in regards to United States’ policy of denialism, isolationism, and exceptionalism in the international realm. There were many problems with Bolton’s speech, but perhaps the most worrying was this: that the U.S., its citizens and its allies (mainly Israel) answer to no one.
Bolton did this by laying siege to the International Constitutional Court (ICC), which he referred to as “a free-wheeling global organization claiming jurisdiction over individuals without their consent,” whose objective has always been to “constrain the United States” and limit leaders’ “relentless determination to keep our country secure.”
“We will let the ICC die on its own,” he announced, “After all, for all intents and purposes, the ICC is already dead.”
The idea behind the ICC was formed in 1998 in Rome, when 120 countries voted to adopt an early version of it, colloquially referred to as “the Rome Statute,” which would for the first time in human history, establish a permanent and pan-national court in which perpetrators of the most serious crimes committed in their territories could be prosecuted. It was formally established in 2002, and from the start, an institution like this one has always made aggressive, neocolonial nations like the United States nervous.
Bolton isn’t the only one dissatisfied with the ICC. Many others have touted its inefficiencies in the past. But while Bolton’s unrest with the institution stems from a belief that its power is so great it verges on tyrannical, many experts are saying exactly the opposite; that the organization is failing because it lacks the very power Bolton has accused it of wielding so unjustly.
In general, there has been a trend of “shallow cooperation” when it comes to participation in the ICC, (i.e. “countries agree only to international legal rules by which they would have abided anyway”). In a 2017 article in the Washington Post, analysts Terrence Chapman and Stephen Chaudoin pointed out that Russia, a month after signing the initial treaty in 1998, withdrew its membership (for quite obvious reasons). However, new or unstable democracies in sub-Saharan Africa were among the earliest parties to join the effort, as they had much to gain by their membership, since many early cases prosecuted the very crimes devastating their regions.
The implication here is that there are acts outlawed by the international court that would not meet the criteria of criminality under U.S. law—mainly because crimes committed by authorized U.S. officials are not typically considered crimes under U.S. law. In fact, sometimes they’re considered U.S. law.
That the ICC has flaws is without question, but more than anything, it represents an ideal—the notion of an absolute moral justice to which all nations can be held accountable. The United States is a country built on ideals; just not, it seems, that one.