Foreign Policy Blogs

That False ICC Narrative

This time it comes from John Bolton, who writes:

One of Obama’s clearest aims in advancing “global governance” is drawing the United States ever more deeply into the International Criminal Court (ICC).  Secretary Clinton lamented last year, as a “great regret,” that “we are not yet a signatory” to the treaty creating the ICC.  In Rice’s first Security Council speech, she said the ICC “looks to be an important and credible instrument for trying to hold accountable the senior leadership responsible for atrocities committed in the Congo, Uganda, and Darfur.”  More recently, the Obama administration participated in negotiations among ICC members to define the crime of “aggression,” and lost on almost every key point. Despite Obama’s affection for the ICC, fierce congressional opposition still limits his ambition.

I’ve written about why such statements are deceitful before, but it never hurts to go over again.  Obama never expressed much enthusiasm for the ICC.  His stance as a presidential candidate was one of wariness:

Now that it is operational, we are learning more and more about how the ICC functions. The Court has pursued charges only in cases of the most serious and systemic crimes and it is in America’s interests that these most heinous of criminals, like the perpetrators of the genocide in Darfur, are held accountable. These actions are a credit to the cause of justice and deserve full American support and cooperation. Yet the Court is still young, many questions remain unanswered about the ultimate scope of its activities, and it is premature to commit the U.S. to any course of action at this time.

The United States has more troops deployed overseas than any other nation and those forces are bearing a disproportionate share of the burden in the protecting Americans and preserving international security. Maximum protection for our servicemen and women should come with that increased exposure. Therefore, I will consult thoroughly with our military commanders and also examine the track record of the Court before reaching a decision on whether the U.S. should become a State Party to the ICC.

Hilary Clinton, as a candidate, was slightly more enthusiastic but still noncommital:

There is broad support in this country across political and ideological divides that perpetrators of genocide, mass atrocities, and war crimes must be held accountable.

When President Clinton signed the Rome Treaty, he noted our serious concerns about the treaty. But he signed, nonetheless, to underline this basic principle, and to signal that the United States would seek to address the concerns we had about the treaty, as well as to ensure that the institution operated as effectively as possible. The Bush administration’s “unsigning” of the ICC not only damaged our international standing, it also separated us from our allies, with whom we have a shared interest in promoting accountability for war crimes and atrocities.

Fortunately, some of the worst fears about the ICC have not been borne out. The institution was created to prompt the development of justice institutions in countries that lacked them, and to assure accountability for the worst human rights crimes in countries where those institutions do not exist. It has over the past eight years operated on that basis. The ICC has also avoided politicized prosecutions.

The Bush administration has begun to cooperate with the ICC in allowing referral of indicted war criminals in Darfur to the Court, and signaling a willingness to share information with the Court pertaining to those prosecutions.

Consistent with my overall policy of reintroducing the United States to the world, I will as President evaluate the record of Court, and reassess how we can best engage with this institution and hold the worst abusers of human rights to account.

Basically they had the same position.  They would review the Rome Statute.  In January of this year, the Obama administration announced that it would not join the ICC due to the very concerns Obama expressed as a candidate.  As Jurist reported in January 2010:

[U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues, Stephen Rapp] said that while the US has an important role in international criminal justice, it is unlikely to join the ICC anytime soon. Rapp cited fears that US officials would be unfairly prosecuted and the US’s strong national court system as reasons it would be difficult to overcome opposition to ratification.

Pursuing global governance?  Drawing the U.S. ever more deeply into the ICC?  More like continuing the policies Bush pursued in his second term.