The following three articles were written by Walter J. Rockler in 1999. In his opinion “the attack on Yugoslavia constitutes the most brazen international aggression since the Nazis attacked Poland to prevent ‘Polish atrocities’ against Germans.”
He considers that the US contravened the Nuremberg Court’s central conclusion that “To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”
May 10, 1999 Monday, CHICAGO SPORTS FINAL EDITION
SECTION: COMMENTARY; Pg. 12; ZONE: N; Voice of the people (letter).
HEADLINE: U.S. AGGRESSION
BYLINE: Walter J. Rockler, Former prosecutor, Nuremberg war crimes trials.
As the bombs, smart and dumb, fall ceaselessly on Serbs, Montenegrins and sometimes Albanians, on bridges, waterworks, electric generation plants and factories, and on trains, trucks and homes, the remorseless crusade for “humanitarianism” presses forward to the applause of journalistic and academic shills. To paraphrase the Roman historian Tacitus, we are busy creating a desert, which we can then call peace.
For the United States, alias “NATO,” the planning and launching of this war by the president heightens the abuse and undermining of warmaking authority under the Constitution. (It seems to be accepted that the president can order his personal army to attack any country he pleases.) The bombing war also violates and shreds the basic provisions of the United Nations Charter and other conventions and treaties; the attack on Yugoslavia constitutes the most brazen international aggression since the Nazis attacked Poland to prevent “Polish atrocities” against Germans. The United States has discarded pretensions to international legality and decency, and embarked on a course of raw imperialism run amok.
Our alleged concern with human rights borders on the ludicrous. We dropped twice as many bombs on Vietnam as all the countries involved in World War II dropped on each other. We killed hundreds of thousands of civilians in the course of that war. Very recently, in Central America, we sponsored, trained and endorsed the local armies–Guatemalan, Salvadoran, and Nicaraguan Contras–in the killing of at least 200,000 people. We encouraged the Pinochet coup in Chile with the resulting killing of another few thousand or so people, including the democratically elected president. We saw nothing wrong with the Croat slaughter and expulsion of 200,000 Serbs from the Krajina area. We have taken very little stand on the monumental slaughters of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people in Africa. We have restrained the Iraqis from attacking Kurds but see nothing amiss in Turks attacking Kurds. We cannot even agree to abandon the use of land mines.
In reality when we, the self-anointed rulers of this planet, issue an ultimatum to another country, it is “surrender or die.” To maintain our “credibility,” we must crush any semblance of resistance to our dictates to that country.
May 23, 1999 Sunday, CHICAGOLAND FINAL EDITION
SECTION: PERSPECTIVE; Pg. 1; ZONE: C
HEADLINE: WAR CRIMES LAW APPLIES TO U.S. TOO
BYLINE: By Walter J. Rockler. Walter J. Rockler, a Washington lawyer, was a prosecutor at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trial.
As justification for our murderously destructive bombing campaign in Yugoslavia, it is of course necessary for the U.S. to charge that the Serbs have engaged in inhuman conduct, and that President Slobodan Milosevic, the head Serb demon, is a war criminal almost without peer.
President Clinton assures us of this in frequent briefings, during which he engages in rhetorical combat with Milosevic. But shouting “war criminal” only emphasizes that those who live in glass houses should be careful about throwing stones.
We have engaged in a flagrant military aggression, ceaselessly attacking a small country primarily to demonstrate that we run the world. The rationale that we are simply enforcing international morality, even if it were true, would not excuse the military aggression and widespread killing that it entails. It also does not lessen the culpability of the authors of this aggression.
As a primary source of international law, the judgment of the Nuremberg Tribunal in the 1945-1946 case of the major Nazi war criminals is plain and clear. Our leaders often invoke and praise that judgment, but obviously have not read it. The International Court declared:
To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.
At Nuremberg, the United States and Britain pressed the prosecution of Nazi leaders for planning and initiating aggressive war. Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, the head of the American prosecution staff, asserted “that launching a war of aggression is a crime and that no political or economic situation can justify it.” He also declared that “if certain acts in violation of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them, and we are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us.”
The United Nations Charter views aggression similarly. Articles 2(4) and (7) prohibit interventions in the domestic jurisdiction of any country and threats of force or the use of force by one state against another. The General Assembly of the UN in Resolution 2131, “Declaration on the Inadmissibility of Intervention,” reinforced the view that a forceful military intervention in any country is aggression and a crime without justification.
Putting a “NATO” label on aggressive policy and conduct does not give that conduct any sanctity. This is simply a perversion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, formed as a defensive alliance under the UN Charter. The North Atlantic Treaty pledged its signatories to refrain from the threat or use of force in any manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations, and it explicitly recognized “the primary responsibility of the Security Council (of the United Nations) for the maintenance of international peace and security.” Obviously, in bypassing UN approval for the current bombing, the U.S. and NATO have violated this basic obligation.
From another standpoint of international law, the current conduct of the bombing by the United States and NATO constitutes a continuing war crime. Contrary to the beliefs of our war planners, unrestricted air bombing is barred under international law. Bombing the “infrastructure” of a country– waterworks, electricity plants, bridges, factories, television and radio locations–is not an attack limited to legitimate military objectives. Our bombing has also caused an excessive loss of life and injury to civilians, which violates another standard. We have now killed hundreds, if not thousands, of Serbs, Montenegrins and Albanians, even some Chinese, in our pursuit of humanitarian ideals.
In addition to shredding the UN Charter and perverting the purpose of NATO, Clinton also has violated at least two provisions of the United States Constitution. Under Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution, Congress, not the president, holds the power to declare war and to punish offenses against the law of nations. Alexander Hamilton in The Federalist No. 69 pointed out one difference between a monarchy and the presidency under the new form of government: A king could use his army as he pleased; the president would have no such unlimited power. Under Article VI of the Constitution, treaties, far from being mere scraps of paper as we now deem them to be, are part of the supreme law of the United States. Of course, these days a supine Congress, fascinated only by details of sexual misconduct, can hardly be expected to enforce constitutional requirements.
Nor can a great deal be expected from the media. Reporters rely on the controlled handouts of the State Department, Pentagon and NATO, seeing their duty as one of adding colorful details to official intimations of Serb atrocities. Thus, the observation of a NATO press relations officer that a freshly plowed field, seen from 30,000 feet up, might be the site of a massacre has been disseminated as news.
The notion that humanitarian violations can be redressed with random destruction and killing by advanced technological means is inherently suspect. This is mere pretext for our arrogant assertion of dominance and power in defiance of international law. We make the non-negotiable demands and rules, and implement them by military force. It is all remindful of Henrik Ibsen’s “Don’t use that foreign word ‘ideals.’ We have that excellent native word ‘lies.’ ”
July, 1999 / August, 1999
SECTION: REVIEWS; Responses; Pg. 119
HEADLINE: America First?
BYLINE: WALTER J. ROCKLER; WALTER J. ROCKLER is a former prosecutor of the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal.
Michael J. Glennon seems to advocate adventures in ad hoc international punishment of those we deem to be evildoers. In his view, international vigilante practices or lynch law should replace respect for national sovereignty (at least as far as small states are concerned).
Conceding that interstate interventions violate firmly established international law and the U.N. Charter, Glennon offers the very questionable view that the real threat today comes not from interstate attacks but from internal, intrastate violence. Undoubtedly, terrible crimes have been committed and continue to be carried out within state boundaries. Nevertheless, opening the door to ad hoc intervention by the strong against the weak does not assure any form of security or justice. Traditionally, this practice has been known as “imperialism,” and has not always been beneficent.
It is true, as Glennon claims, that “a child saved from ethnic cleansing in Kosovo . . . is no less alive because the intervention was impromptu.” But it is no less true that a child killed by NATO bombing is as dead as a child killed any other way. Military intervention tends not to be kindly. Moreover, it is far from clear that the Kosovo bombing has saved a single child.
Glennon, like numerous other apologists for our allegedly benevolent actions, contends that basic human rights transcend sovereignty considerations. Reformation of international institutions and international law to provide a basis for enforcement of human rights is plainly in order. The United States could take the lead in this effort, but sees no reason to bother. It may be worth noting that it took this country more than 40 years to ratify the toothless Genocide Convention.
Today, American power is dominant, but this may prove to be quite temporary. Furthermore, our exercise of power has not always been in the pursuit of justice or international security or human values (consider our actions in Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama, or Chile). A trusting patriotism is therefore not always the most reliable guide to truth and justice.