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Published on Saturday, September 22, 2001 in the Boulder Daily Camera
Is U.S. Ready to Address the World's Concerns?
by Christopher Brauchli
Effective, reciprocal, and enforceable safeguards acceptable to all nations.
Harry S. Truman, Declaration on Atomic Energy by President Truman and Prime Ministers Clement Attlee and W. L. Mackenzie King, November 15, 1945

They were sad reminders of how differently we respond to the concerns of the world and how we expect the world to respond to our concerns. They were in the Sept. 14 two page newsletter from the UN Wire, a publication of the United Nations Foundation. They were not intended that way. They just were that way.

One item announced that the Ottawa Convention on land mines would go on as planned in Managua beginning Sept. 18. It is being attended by parties to the treaty that bans the production, export and use of anti-personnel land mines. 156 nations support the ban and by the end of 1999, forty-five nations had ratified the treaty. The United States was not one of them. Then President Clinton refused to sign the treaty believing land mines serve a useful purpose in some parts of the world. None of them is planted where we live.

Land mines kill 2,400 people each month. In one year that is almost six times more people than were killed by the terrorists who destroyed the World Trade Center. The brief report reminded us that we care about the dead and wounded affected by those balls of death and destruction-but not enough to join the 156 nations that support their ban.

Another item pertained to Tom DeLay. Mr. DeLay is the Republican Texan who sacrificed a lucrative career as an exterminator in Texas in order to serve in the United States Congress. As an exterminator, Mr. DeLay made his living by being paid for services he agreed to render people to whom he sold those services. As a congressman he lost sight of the value of honoring bargains. He joined those in Congress who told President Bush that they intend to hold up payment of $582 million of back dues to the United Nations even though they all agree the money is owed. The lawmakers say they will hold up the money unless the bill authorizing payment includes the American Service Members' Protection Act which is designed to exempt the United States from the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.

Shortly before leaving office, Bill Clinton signed the treaty setting up the International Criminal Court. That court is a permanent tribunal that is being established in the Hague to prosecute war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. The American Service Members' Protection Act "would bar any federal, state or local governmental entity from cooperating in any way with the court." The act would cut off U.S. military assistance to any non-NATO country that ratified the treaty. It would bar U.S. troops from serving in any U.N. peacekeeping force unless the U.N. Security Council gave American soldiers immunity from ICC jurisdiction and it would permit the president of the United States to use military force to free U.S. or allied service members held by the court. (It is hard to imagine how the United States would respond to a country that suggested it could use military force against the United States to free any of its citizens imprisoned in this country but since no one has asked, the question needn't be answered.). According to a report in the Washington Post, Michael Glennon, an international law expert at the University of California at Davis, said the Act would prevent our government from cooperating with the ICC even if it indicted Saddam Hussein.

Although the treaty has not been ratified by the Senate and is, therefore, not yet the law of the land, the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties says a country that has signed but not ratified a treaty "is obliged to refrain from acts which would defeat the object and purpose of" the treaty. Some international law experts say the proposed legislation would run afoul of the Vienna Convention.

Mr. Bush reportedly wants to figure out a way to back out of the treaty. He does not, however, favor the proposed legislation because he fears it would tie his hands with respect to foreign policy and, perhaps incidentally, would put us in worse odor with those distressed over, among other things, (1) our rejection of the Kyoto agreement limiting carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming, (2) our unwillingness to join a pact to curtail the international flow of illegal small arms, (3) our refusal to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and (4) our opposition to a draft agreement to enforce the treaty banning germ weapons. Addressing the possibility of the administration backing out of a treaty that has already been signed, David Scheffer, who headed the U.S. delegation to the talks on the International Criminal Court under the Clinton administration, says there are many treaties the United States has ratified that other states have signed but not yet ratified. "If we 'unsign' the ICC, we give a signal that a new practice is acceptable, and we lay the groundwork for undermining a whole range of treaties."

On Sept. 11 terrorists committed unspeakable atrocities on the United States. Following the attack Mr. DeLay dropped his opposition to a $582 million U.S. payment of back dues to the United Nations. He said he was "not going to be obstructionist" to President George W. Bush as he seeks foreign support after the attacks. He said the payment question would be "taken care of next week."

It is not unpatriotic to wonder what it was about the brutal attacks on our country that caused Mr. DeLay to conclude that the United States should finally do what it was honor bound to do years ago. Perhaps it is because he realizes that if we want our allies to give us support in our hour of need we should fulfill our obligation to the world by paying our debt to the United Nations. Perhaps the change of heart of Mr. DeLay is a harbinger of better things to come in our attitude towards the rest of the world. Perhaps.

Copyright 2001 Daily Camera


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