Jim Austin's Vermonter at Large
Jim Austin
Jim Austin
is a freelance writer from Putney, Vermont.

His previous columns are archived HERE.

Posted 07.12.02



The mangy ghost of Jesse Helms is alive and well. Every civilized nation has ratified the new UN war crimes court except the United States.

It would be one thing if US policy makers decided that the court was flawed or that it wouldn't be effective in carrying out its assigned tasks. That's not the case however. We will vote in favor of the international criminal court if America is exempted from prosecution.

If our troops are not given immunity from prosecution, we intend to veto continuation of the UN peace mission in Bosnia. This indefensible position has allies scratching their heads and enemies nodding as though all of their suppositions about our xenophobia have been confirmed.

Hard to argue with them, isn't it?

Ironically, our history reveals that we have condemned this kind of brainless intransigence in the past.

Our Declaration of Independence notes that George III of Britain protected his troops "from punishments for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states."

Now our own George II is trying to put America above the law. This kind of arrogance has become commonplace as America becomes the spoiled child in the global family.

This action comes on the heels of our refusal to abandon the use of landmines, our refusal to sign the Kyoto Accords, and the trashing of international treaties limiting the possession of ballistic missiles.

Frankly, I am puzzled at the real reasons for our attitude toward the court. The simplistic nonsense dished out to the public cites a fear that Americans overseas will be prosecuted for political reasons. Such a happenstance is patently impossible.

While formulating the ICC, the United States demanded safeguards and it got them. The court, for example, would not address the recent crimes on Okinawa. These are 'common crimes' and would be left to US military justice.

Even the My Lai massacre committed [by US troops] during the Vietnam war wouldn't fall under the purview of the court.

The ICC is intended to deal with tragedies like Rwanda and to prosecute genocidal maniacs like Milosovich. Why then do we choose to set ourselves above the law? Do we have any genocidal plans for the future?

On the home front, George II's tepid speech to Wall Street regarding renegade CEOs met with some eyeball rolling from Senator Chris Dodd. He is the head of the bipartisan banking committee that has submitted a bill detailing comprehensive reforms for dealing with the rampant accounting fraud we have witnessed with Enron and other corporate entities.

The President, he says, was very short on specifics and very windy with the rhetoric. About the only tangible action that Bush came up with was a 'task force' to oversee corporate hanky panky.

That's what we need: another task force.

How about suggesting some laws with teeth. Bush should have come out in support of Dodd's bill currently before the Senate. That he failed to do this amid a blather of buzz phrases and claptrap shows that his heart is not in true reform.

He is weaseling out of his responsibility to the citizens that he represents and cozying up to the old boys club where he holds lifetime membership.

And while we're on the subject why don't we probe a little more deeply into Georgies big windfall back in '91?

The press has got their knickers in a twist about how old George forgot to file some papers with the SEC after he sold stock to the tune of $848,000 just before the bottom fell out. And George was on the board!

Hello, media, has anyone ever heard of insider trading?

Why are we putting Martha Stewart's bum in a blender and not Georgie's? Didn't they both sell their stocks after getting the inside scoop on an impending drop in value?

Finally, are you starting to feel manipulated by the government?

We are poised to spend 400 billion dollars on defense. We are still screwing around with a multi-billion dollar missile defense program that didn't work during the Reagan years and isn't working now. We are being manipulated by the constant reminders that our security is in jeopardy.

How is our security being threatened?

Not by missiles, not now, and not in the foreseeable future. Our enemies are clandestine -- they lurk in the shadows, and plot in caves and cellars. More sophisticated weaponry is a waste of our money.

In the meantime, our infant mortality rate is abysmal; several other countries outstrip our educational and health care systems. Our social security net is full of holes and you can buy heart medication much cheaper in Kazakhstan than in Kansas.

Why would our government neglect our educational, health and retirement security in favor of more and more weaponry? Do you think it has anything to do with profits for multi-national weapons manufacturers?

Wake up and smell the cordite, America.