By Carl Boggs, Counterpunch, Oct. 18, 2008
The arrest of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic in July 2008 for war crimes allegedly committed in the 1990s took the Western (especially United States) media by storm, a case that was upheld as a watershed moment in the struggle for global justice. Demonized by the Western media as an “architect of genocide” in the former Yugoslavia, Karadzic was quickly extradited from Serbia to the Hague to be prosecuted before the NATO-funded International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY), a court that had already put on trial 66 Serbs for assorted war crimes. Despite a paucity of evidence showing that Karadzic was actually involved in anything resembling genocide, the media and political elites were quick to celebrate his arrest as a triumph of international legality. Whatever Karadzic’s ultimate fate before this politically-charged tribunal, the truly odd feature of this drama is that a relatively minor figure like Karadzic could be the target of so much moralizing scorn –likened by some to another Hitler – while leaders of the most powerful war machine in history, planners of an illegal, catastrophic war and occupation in Iraq lasting almost six years, are treated with the dignity and respect of statespersons instead of being held accountable for criminal behavior dwarfing anything that took place in Yugoslavia. Within American political and media culture, of course, it has long been an article of common belief that war crimes must be the work of evil others, never Americans whose taken-for-granted noble intentions serve to immunize them legal accountability.
Might it be possible that President George Bush and his co-conspirators in military aggression will some day be held to the same international standards as the designated enemies – to the very norms that U.S. leaders themselves so righteously champion when it comes to Serbs and others? Could Bush, vice-president Dick Cheney, secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, and the entire gang of neocon ideologues responsible for bringing the Iraq debacle to the world ever be judged according to the principles of Nuremberg, the Geneva Conventions, the U.N. Charter, and other canons of international law? Within prevailing American discourse, the very idea that U.S. leaders might be prosecuted for war crimes is, more than ever, beyond the scope of tolerable debate.