I am delighted by the news that the International Criminal Court is to investigate war crimes committed by British armed forces in Iraq. The ICC – which in principle I strongly support – needs to show that it is not simply a tool of neo-con policy. It has confined itself to date to action against the defeated or the authorities of very poor countries. If it is to regain the support of decent people, which the concept of the ICC certainly deserves, it has to show itself prepared to act against the wealthy and victorious when necessary.
The other good thing about the ICC is that it will not confine itself to considering the prosecution of junior personnel. The reaction of the UK and US authorities to their own crimes is to refuse internal prosecution where possible, or if absolutely forced to do so, to sacrifice a pawn like Lynndie England or Donald Payne – the kind of people the politicians and billionaires are happy to see die to promote their interests anyway. The ICC investigators will rather be looking for evidence of structural and policy complicity leading to the very top – and I certainly can vouch there is plenty to find. I do hope Hoon and Straw find their sleep patterns disturbed.
It is two days since I saw Phil Shiner interviewed by Gavin Esler on this, and it was really extraordinary to watch. Esler appeared to find it intellectually impossible to comprehend that senior UK officials and “even Ministers” could find themselves up before the judges at The Hague, alongside “the likes of Charles Taylor and Slobodan Milosevic”.
I almost feel sorry for Gavin Esler. His job gives him access to an enormous amount of information, but he is only capable of absorbing and processing it through a filter of establishment narrative. The fact that in invading Iraq, British ministers were responsible for more deaths than Milosevic, or even than Charles Taylor, is something which he is somewhere, deep down, aware of as an abstract truth, but he has self-censored from synthesizing it into his world view.
Gavin Esler. What a wanker.
I should also just note that the dossier has been given to the ICC by the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights in Berlin. You may recall I gave a talk there two years ago.
Here is Gavin Esler happily at work, peddling without question a narrative that turned out to be entirely false and a very transparent piece of state-funded propaganda:
Here is Esler reacting when somebody says something actually true, but which the political establishment do not wish you to hear: