Sunday, May 25, 2008
Bringing war criminals to justice
I have long argued that we can never 'move on' from the Iraq war until those responsible for the 'supreme international crime' that the war clearly constituted are held to account for their actions in a court of law. Now it seems that one man- George Monbiot- is doing something about it.
We have all but forgotten the war with Iraq. We tend to see it now as little more than a "political mistake", like the 10p tax fiasco or Labour's mishandling of the byelection campaign in Crewe. The press and public attention have moved on and focused on more pressing matters, like the price of property.
But this mistake has killed or injured hundreds of thousands of people in a country that was doing us no harm. Mistakes of this kind - an unprovoked war of aggression - were characterised by the Nuremberg tribunals as "the supreme international crime". Mistakes of this kind would, in any regime governed by international law, see their perpetrators put behind bars for the rest of their natural lives. But the great crime of the Iraq war has been normalised and domesticated.
So successful has this process of normalisation been that in three days' time one of its perpetrators will be coming here - to Hay-on-Wye, the epicentre of polite society - to promote his book and sell some copies. I do not regret the fact that he is coming here - far from it - but I see it as a sign of the extent to which the great crime he helped to commit is viewed as an ordinary part of the political process.
Only when those who help to launch illegal wars fear punishment will future governments desist from launching them. As citizens I believe we have a duty to try to deter future war crimes. So I propose that we allow John Bolton to speak here, and then carry out a citizen's arrest.
Section 24A of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 permits any citizen to "arrest without a warrant ... anyone whom he has reasonable grounds for suspecting to be guilty" of an offence.
I do not want to advocate something I am not prepared to do myself. I was planning to stay at home on Wednesday, but I now intend to come back, listen to Mr Bolton speak, and then carry out this arrest. I hope that others at Hay might join me.
Let's make sure that the arrest of John Bolton is only the beginning in a concerted international campaign to bring those responsible for the Iraq war to justice.
UPDATE: As you probably know by now, George failed in his attempt to arrest John Bolton due to the intervention of a team of heavies. (Legal expert Martin Kelly has some observations on the blatant illegality of the actions of the heavies). But though Bolton walked away from Hay still a free man, the important thing is that a precedent has been set. Monbiot's next target for arrest will be Tony Blair. "I'm aware that I've made what I believe is the first attempt ever to arrest one of the perpetrators of the Iraq War, and I believe that is a precedent and I would like to see that precedent followed up," he says. Amen to that.