Reality Disconnect: Los Angeles Times Edition

In a bizarre editorial yesterday, the Los Angeles Times evaluated the arguments for and against the United States joining the International Criminal Court. Unfortunately, the arguments seemed grounded in a different reality.

The arguments against joining the International Criminal Court are rooted in fear that Americans might one day face prosecution and judgment by foreigners in The Hague, and insecurity about our own legal and political systems being strong enough to prevent that from happening. But the ICC has jurisdiction only in cases in which a suspect’s home government is “unwilling or unable” to investigate or try him itself. The court is designed to try genocidal dictators and war criminals from countries in which the rule of law is nonexistent or the courts are in thrall to the regime. The notion that this could apply to the United States is laughable, yet it was the basis of Bush administration objections.

What world is the LA Times Editorial Board living that it is “laughable” that the United States would never be unwilling to prosecute its own war criminals? President Obama and the Congress have repeatedly shown themselves to be staunchly against war crimes prosecutions for former Bush officials. This even as a leaked report from the Red Cross, the official arbiter of the Geneva Conventions, states that 14 detainees were tortured while in CIA custody.

I am strongly in favor of joining the International Criminal Court, and eight years ago I made arguments similar to those presented in the editorial. Unfortunately, the last eight years have changed the reality on the ground. The United States is becoming the kind of outlaw regime that the ICC is designed to target. I now believe that in addition to any and every other reason for joining the ICC, we should do so in the hope that it will force us to respect our own laws and international obligations.

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