Sunday, June 26, 2005

Italy, the CIA and the ICC

    I'm not sure what to make of this story, but I think there are several points that should be underlined.
    Like in all Western countries, the Italian judiciary is totally separate and independent from the government, therefore this has nothing to do with the Italian government's foreign policy. On the contrary, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has had a very conflicted relationship with the judiciary: he has stood trial several times and his previous stint as PM was ended in 1994 by a subpoena. However, while there seems to be no doubt that Berlusconi has had a hand in shady business dealings, he has never been convicted (even though he has often gotten off through the statute of limitations).
    Nonetheless, unlike most Western countries the Italian judiciary is undeniably and gratingly politicized. A lot of judges and prosecutors are left-wing and do not hesitate to express their political opinions. Therefore, it is very hard to ever be sure of what is actually going on. Are convictions and aquittals based on impartial evidence or political preferences?
    As a result Italy is a nation in the grip of conspiracy theories. These mostly try to give a rationale for unexplained events (mostly in the post-WWII years), and there are plenty of those:
    • the Piazza Fontana bombing in 1969 (and various subsequent and related arrests, suicides [?] and murders),
    • the 1980 bombing of the Bologna train station,
    • the crash of ENI Chairman Enrico Mattei's airplane in 1962,
    • the 1978 assasination of PM Aldo Moro,
    • the suicide (?) of Banco Ambrosiano Chairman Roberto Calvi (God's Banker) in 1982,
    • the crash, off the coast of Ustica, of an internal commercial flight,
    • the P2 Masonic Lodge,
    • the Red Brigades, and the list goes on and on.
    It is precisely this lack of impartiality of the judiciary, and the absence of convincing official explanations that have allowed the proliferation of incredibly imaginative, complex and disturbing conspiracy theories (that often include CIA involvement). It comes as no surprise that in comparative studies (among Western nations) the Italian people have the lowest levels of confidence in their judicial system. The Dark Heart of Italy, by Financial Times journalist Tobias Jones, has an excellent account of this phenomenon.
    Given all this, I think it is safe to say that while the CIA's behaviour may not have been ideal, it is rather likely that the prosecutors may have been motivated by the desire to undermine the Berlusconi government by encouraging anti-American sentiment. See here and here.
    Is it any wonder then that the US is reluctant to sign up to the International Criminal Court? If the ICJ, with its significant limitations, is already unbelievably politicized, as has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt by its ruling on the Israeli "Wall," can you imagine how easily the (vastly more unfettered) ICC will be hijacked as a tool to further anti-Americans' political ends? As expected this has actually already taken place:

    As the Court now begins its first session, you might suspect Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein would find an early place on the docket. Or maybe the ICC would try Kim Jong Il, the brutal North Korean dictator who has systematically starved two million of his subjects to death and tortured hundreds of thousands more in labor camps? Or it might train its guns on Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe, who is also starving his own people while forcibly seizing land from his country’s white farmers? Or perhaps some of the myriad henchmen who have carried out the aforementioned individuals’ monstrous policies? Maybe the perpetrators of the ongoing, unspeakable atrocities in Congo, Liberia, and Sudan; or the agents of oppression, terror, and human-rights abuses scattered all over the Arab world?

    But none of these cases are soon to be heard. Instead, the Greek Bar Association has announced that it will file charges of “crimes against humanity and war crimes” with the ICC against British Prime Minister Tony Blair, because of his participation in the Iraq war. This is not at all surprising; from the very start, the main proponents of the ICC’s formation were “human rights” organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, both of which traditionally oppose American foreign policy — and were ecstatic to find a vehicle with international “respectability” through which they could condemn any American military and political venture they dislike.

    See this outstanding Policy Review article in which John Rosenthal argues that the ICC actually undermines the UN system. Also see here and here for why the US is justified in refusing to join.

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