In the media circus this month, on the arrest and proposed trial of Ratko Mladic, an interesting phenomena has re-emerged. It seems there are two distinct categories of crimes against humanity. Those perpetrated by political and military agents of countries which are not on the ’west’s’ side and those perpetrated by those who are. Thus the crimes committed by Milosevic, Karadzic and others of the Balkan genocide brigade – no matter how long it takes – are publicly branded and referred to Criminal Tribunals at the Hague along with those of Gaddaffi and such like. On the other hand, the crimes against humanity perpetrated in Iraq, Afghanistan, or at Guantanimo Bay, Abu Grave, Gaza and elsewhere by the grandees of the ‘west’ are quietly swept under the carpet.
Those not on the west’s side typically cause ‘deliberate citizen casualties‘, whilst the ’west’s’ side only cause ‘unintended collateral damage‘. The other side engage in ‘inhumane torture‘, while the west legally obtains ‘valuable intelligence‘. Yet those of us really adhering to the principles of ’humanity’ would do well to remember that no matter how far they are into ‘denial’ the western elites are also guilty of atrocious crimes against humanity. Bush and Blair have been as much perpetrators of such crimes, as any of the rogue dictators and tin-pot generals sprinkled around the rest of the world and should also be indicted. Yet such is the double standards of the dominant liberal-democratic regimes and the servile press, these two agents of criminal destruction, along with their illicit associates, remain aloof and apparently impervious to any serious moral censure, let alone any due process of international law.
It is reminiscent of the double standards, employed in the Nuremburg trials after the second world war, in which the Nazi leadership was put on trial for the horrible crimes they perpetrated, but those committed by the allies, such as the fire-bombing of Dresden, were either ignored or rationalised away. Over sixty years later and so little has changed. The control the present western political and military elites, have over the institutions of international law, such as the United Nations and the ITC, means they can invoke international law against despotic regimes they consider hostile such as Gaddaffi’s and yet block it against despotic regimes they support such as those in Israel, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. Another interesting and revealing characteristic in the current coverage of ‘crimes against humanity‘, is the fact that only the top echelons of the politico-economic-military systems are indicted. In this way a fiction is perpetrated that the system is OK and it just suffers from some occasional ‘rogue’ actors.
The fact that the present economic, political and military system requires a whole sub-strata of high-ranking and middle-ranking individuals who staff, the institutions, formulate briefing documents, participate in ‘think-tanks’, process the instructions and carry out the crimes, is for all intents and purposes totally ignored. It is as if the 20th and 21st century phenomena, described by Hannah Arendt as the ’banality of evil’, in which the many institutions of government, national and regional, participate actively and also passively in such crimes does not exist. Yet the crimes perpetrated by Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Milosevic, Karadzic, Gaddafi, Bush, Blair, Sharon etc., could not have occurred if thousands of elite individuals in the political, military and economic sectors of life had not systematically carried out their so-called ‘duties’ and enabled the crimes to be committed. In modern crimes against humanity, those who give the orders, drop the bombs, pull the triggers and attach the electrodes during torture, also need feeding, transporting, supplying with ammunition, training, entertaining, consoling and even counselling. Without, these multiple support structures, crimes against humanity would be restricted to the random acts of demented individuals and not extended to whole populations as they currently are.
In this sense, the present system of social organisation, should also be indicted, for complicity in these military perpetrated crimes as well as those economic and financial crimes it continues to perpetrate against humanity. As long as we continue to tolerate a hierarchical system of society which allows vast differences in wealth and power, in which those with the wealth and power can manipulate the system, economic, political and military crimes against humanity will continue. Not only will they continue, but they will continue to haunt the lives of even those who are not directly or indirectly involved in them.
Orchestrated and widespread crimes against humanity are a disfiguring stain on the evolutionary development of the human species and will only be removed, when the present degenerate, unequal economic and political system is radically transformed and equalised. This of course, will be a difficult task, but as with other difficult tasks it needs to be first recognised as necessary before it can be approached and accomplished in reality. In speaking out against crimes against humanity we need to speak out against those perpetrated in our name as well as those of others and at the same time speak out against the system which not only enables them to take place but elevates those into power who are prepared to perpetrate them.