Friday, April 29, 2005

A Bit More on Socialism and "National Socialism"

There is one aspect of Ulrich Speck's original German post on the "Greatest Possible National Community" or "Höchste Volksgemeinschaft" that does not come out clearly in my English abridged version: namely, the importance of the materially "socialistic" elements of National Socialist economic policy. It is indeed, on Ulrich's account, the "central thesis" of Götz Aly's new book Hitlers Volksstaat that National Socialist rule "quite simply bought consent, especially from the 'little people'." There is an interesting discussion going on concerning the issue on Medienkritik and one of the commentators, by the name of Christian, adds some pertinent details (I don't know if he is also drawing on Aly's work here) plus an observation:

Hitler increased the "Körperschaftssteuer", corporate tax from 20 % in 1932 to 40 % in 1935, he was cutting income taxes for most Germans, especially workers, but he dramatically raised the taxes for the richest 5 % of the population. Hitler was a big fan of "Taxing the Rich". He introduced all kinds of social programs, most of them like "Kindergeld" [literally "child-money", i.e. state subsidies granted to families "per child" - JR] are still part of the German social system. Hitler also made May 1st a national holiday in Germany, the same day that is celebrated by Socialists all over the world and later became the day for great parades in the communist GDR.

National socialism is not equal to communism, but it is definitely a socialist ideology, of course this is something the lefties will never accept.

While it is important to remember this materially "socialistic" aspect of the Nazi regime, it is equally important, as Ulrich emphasizes in his post, not to forget the ideologically "völkisch" or ethnic-national aspect. Perhaps no element of Nazi social policy more clearly articulated these two aspects than "Kindergeld": which was at once an expression of the regime's "socialistic" inclinations and part of a "natality policy" driven by "völkisch" concerns to preserve "the German people" in an ethnic sense. As Ulrich succinctly and accurately puts it: "The specificity of National Socialism consisted precisely in the conjugation of Race/Nation and socialism."

An Open Letter to the Association of University Teachers (UK)

Emanuele Ottolenghi of Oxford University sent me the following open letter to the Association of University Teachers and asked if I might post it. I do so very gladly.

To: Sally Hunt,
General Secretary, The Association of University Teachers
United Kingdom

Dear Sally Hunt,

Regarding the AUT recent decision to boycott Haifa University and Bar Ilan University in Israel, I am shocked to learn that, in addition to a call for boycott, the AUT is ready to offer a waiver to scholars on condition that they publicly state their willingness to conform to the political orthodoxy espoused by the academics who sponsored your motion.

Oaths of political loyalty do not belong to academia. They belong to illiberal minds and repressive regimes.

Based on this, the AUT's definition of academic freedom is the freedom to agree with its views only. Given the circumstances, I wish to express in no uncertain terms my unconditional and undivided solidarity with both universities and their faculties. I know many people, both at Haifa University and at Bar Ilan University, of different political persuasion and from different walks of life. The diversity of those faculties reflects the authentic spirit of academia. The AUT invitation to boycott them betrays that spirit because it advocates a uniformity of views, under pain of boycott.

In solidarity with my colleagues and as a symbolic gesture to defend the spirit of a free academia, I wish to be added to the boycott blacklist. Please include me. I hope that other colleagues of all political persuasions will join me.


Dr Emanuele Ottolenghi
The Middle East Centre
St Antony's College
Oxford University


Thursday, April 28, 2005

Putting the Socialism Back in "National Socialism"

Though in the short run this advice concerns only a relatively small portion of the Trans-Int readership, I’d like to take the opportunity highly to recommend Kosmoblog, a new German blog maintained by Ulrich Speck: the same Ulrich Speck who has recently posted some very interesting comments here on Trans-Int and who is the co-editor of this important collection of essays on “new” anti-Semitism. Ulrich’s remarkably prolific blogging will provide German readers sufficient food for thought for the entire day. And for non-German readers: well, his blog is a good reason to learn German! In the meanwhile, what follows are some translated excerpts from Ulrich’s recent post on the “Greatest Possible National Community” [Höchste Volksgemeinschaft].

(Note that I have sometimes left the German word Volk untranslated. Regular readers of Trans-Int will know that the word is commonly rendered in English as “people” or “nation”. As in the following extracts, however, it frequently bears the specific connotation of a “people” or “nation” in the ethnic, as opposed to the strictly political, sense. Thus, for example, while a literal translation of each of the components of the composite term “Volksstaat” might give “nation state”, such a rendering would be misleading. “Ethnic-national state” would be more accurate. For simplicity’s sake, I have chosen to say "'Volk'-state". -JR)

"Greatest Possible National Community"

Whoever has read Götz Aly’s new book – Hitlers Volksstaat. Raub, Rassekrieg und nationaler Sozialismus [Hitler’s “Volk”-State: Plunder, Racial War and National Socialism] – can no longer claim that National Socialism was a “right-wing” project. Aly cites Eichmann: “My political sympathies were on the Left, with the ‘socialist’ being at least as important as the ‘nationalist’.” His book provides an impressive demonstration that Eichmann’s statement is not a curiosity, but rather typical. The specificity of National Socialism consisted precisely in the conjugation of Race/Nation and socialism. In Hitler’s words, it was a matter of “constructing a social ‘Volk’-State”.

National Socialism in fact served as a major factor of social integration. Here again is a citation from Hitler: “Among the German people [deutsche Volk], the greatest possible national community [höchste Volksgemeinschaft] and education for everyone. But towards the exterior: absolute domination is the standpoint!”

This “national community” [Volksgemeinschaft] was defined by opposition: notably, by the opposition to the imagined principal enemy, “the Jews”. Götz Aly on the early years of the NSDAP: “The complementary fears of war-profiteers and revolutionaries were easily projected upon a common phantom for the purposes of propaganda. It was the “Jewish plutocrat”, who in his thirst for profit played into the hands of the equally greedy “Jewish Bolshevik”. Whereas the one supposedly destroyed the middle class and drove the rural and proletarian underclasses into the bondage of big money, the other was made responsible for the commune...”. Building on such propaganda, the authors of later anti-Semitic state policies could always justify their measures as ‘self-defense’. The final chapter of Mein Kampf is titled “The Right to Self-Defense [Notwehr].” “The longer the war went on, the more consistently it was represented in German propaganda as ‘Aryan resistance’ against the attacks of ‘World Jewry’...” (p. 31).


After 1945, Hitler’s followers scattered. In the end, hardly anyone was left. Everyone had had good reasons. Aly writes: “most of those who became National Socialists did so on account of one of the points in the wishy-washy [verwaschenen] Party Program” (p. 355). There were lots of points, hence lots of reasons to be a Nazi. No one found them all good. Therefore everyone was also a little bit against it.

Even if the “wishy-washy” party program of National Socialism was drawn from many, and often contradictory, sources, with the passage of time a dominant interpretation gained currency. According to the latter, National Socialism had been a “right-wing” project. National Socialism equals Fascism, Fascism equals the final stage of capitalism. After 1968, this interpretation, whose origins go all the way back to the 1930s and which was continuously propagated by the GDR, became the dominant interpretation also in West Germany.

From this point on, if you called yourself “left-wing”, you were spared any responsibility. You were on the side of the good guys and therefore did not need to pose any agonizing questions. The others were at fault: the capitalists, the reactionaries, the Fascists. Whoever was on “the Left”, shared his genealogy with the persecuted, the victims. Thereby he had the right to blame others and to call them to accounts. Whoever was on the Right was suspect. Whoever was on the Left, on the contrary, could sit in judgment and condemn.

It is the merit of Götz Aly’s book to have convincingly slammed shut this way of “overcoming the past”. Starting now, those on the Left must also start to reflect upon the origins of their thought.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Forthcoming: Putting the Socialism Back in "National Socialism"

Some important insights from a new German blog that shows the Left's good conscience about National Socialism to be unwarranted.

Tomorrow (Thursday)....

“Corrections”: The NYTimes on Jacques Chirac and the EU “Constitution”

(Note: The "'Corrections'" feature of Trans-Int treats errors in the traditional, "mainstream" media. On the origins of the "Corrections" feature, see here. When I need to correct myself, the heading will read "Correction" without the quotes.)

I know that it is not necessarily informative to consider the NYTimes. But since it is still apparently read by some millions of people and is said to have influence in high places, it is perhaps, nonetheless, not without some interest to pause to enumerate the errors and confusions with which the Time’s recent article on Jacques Chirac’s televised appearance on behalf of the EU “constitution” is strewn. I will not count the fact that, as I indicated in my previous post, the Times article managed somehow to miss the main thrust of Chirac’s pro-“constitution” argument - i.e. that a strong, “organized” Europe is necessary to “fight” American power and the "Anglo-Saxon" menace more generally - while foregrounding trivial details (“‘There was an error in the casting,’ said Jacques Seguela, a media strategist, arguing that Mr. Chirac's choice of popular television personalities to moderate the show alienated the serious political journalists”). I will only count sins of commission - and veritable howlers at that. Of the latter, I find no less than three in an article of just over 1000 words – which for the Times reporting on European matters is, I would guess, about the average rate.

Howler #1 (from the article’s first sentence):
Hoping to avert a European crisis, President Jacques Chirac appeared on state television on Thursday urging voters to approve the draft constitution of the European Union in a national referendum on May 29.

Chirac appeared on TF1, which is a private commercial broadcaster, not on “state television”. Apart from M6, which does not carry political programming, all the other “national” television channels in France (France2, France3 and Arte) are state owned (with Arte being a joint Franco-German public corporation). So, let’s say this was a good guess on the part of the Times man in Paris, Craig Smith, and that the odds were in his favor. Bad luck. Incidentally, this first sentence also contains a second error, which however I will not consider sufficiently flagrant to count as a howler: the “constitution” on which the French public will be voting is in fact a signed treaty awaiting ratification. It is thus not a “draft”. States do not ratify treaty drafts.

Howler #2 (from the article’s second sentence)

Mr. Chirac, fielding questions from 80 young French citizens, struggled to make the 850-plus-page constitution and its annexes relevant to his audience amid mounting evidence that it might not pass the referendum.

The “850-plus-page” comes from a question posed by one of the “80 young French citizens”. Perhaps the most insightful point made by Chirac during the entire evening was when he interrupted his questioner to say: “That depends on the edition”. Indeed. When the Commission gets around to publishing the “constitution” in roughly this format,

(click on photo for life-size version)

I imagine it will run to at least some tens of thousands of pages. (BTW, I remember seeing little editions of the works of Marx and Engels published in the German Democratic Republic that served much the same propagandistic functions as this little edition of the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights. One was not supposed to read them, needless to say. But something so cute could not be all bad.) The version of the text published in The Official Journal of The European Union, incidentally, tops out at some 474 pages (and this in all languages). (See here for the English version.) I will not count as an error the odd syntax – quite unrelated to any grammatical rules hitherto known to be connected to the words in question – that has the “constitution” possibly “not passing the referendum”.

Howler #3

“Europe is like a bicycle,” said Philippe Moreau Defarges, the author of a best-selling book on the constitution, “it can only remain stable if it moves forward.”

Well, Philippe Moreau Defarges no doubt uttered this gem in conversation with the NYTimes. But he could hardly have claimed any originality in doing so. The bicycle routine might be the most overworked trope in the Europeists’ not particularly ample rhetorical arsenal. It is most often attributed to former European Commission President, and reputed “architect” of the Treaty of Maastricht, Jacques Delors.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Do Allies Talk Like This?

I am getting to this late. I have to admit that when I first heard a few weeks back that Jacques Chirac was going to take to the airwaves to save the EU “constitution”, I was not overly impressed. Shortly before, I had attended the screening of a documentary in Paris that included some brief extracts from a Chirac press conference. As the footage of Chirac appeared on the screen, virtually the entire audience broke into remarkably simultaneous laughter. Of course, this was not necessarily a representative sample of the French public as such and the laughter may have had something to do with what Chirac was saying – namely, praising the keenness and valor of the French military shortly after French soldiers opened fire on a crowd of civilian protestors in the Ivory Coast. But it was undoubtedly as much the familiarly slow and studied pompousness of Chirac’s delivery as the, under the circumstances, improbable content of his remarks that provoked such mirth.

One should recall that in the first round of the French Presidential elections in 2002, Jacques Chirac received barely 3% more votes than Jean-Marie Le Pen. Of course, in the second round, Chirac then went on to crush Le Pen by a score of some 82% to 18%. But this was only after the virtual entirety of the French media – in a performance befitting a “democratic” society only in the Stalinist sense of the term – badgered the French public around the clock for two full weeks to the effect that it was their civic duty to turn out and vote for him. Even then – with the assembled media warning that the apocalypse was nigh should Le Pen win – some 20% of eligible voters stayed home. Moreover, hidden in the officially announced 82%-18% final score was the fact that over 5% of cast ballots were either left blank or declared invalid. To cast a blank ballot is a common form of protest in France. Unfortunately, the official statistics – which are available (document in French) here – do not indicate the precise number of the blank ballots alone. But if we assume that, say, half of the “blank or invalid” ballots were intentionally left blank, this means that the actual rate of abstention from the “Chirac-Le Pen” choice was more on the order of 22%. To put this another way: in a contest that was essentially presented as a choice between Jacques Chirac and Satan, somewhere between 35-40% of eligible French voters could not bring themselves to vote for Chirac. And note that by “eligible voters” we are here referring only to those French citizens who are registered to vote: some 41,000,000 persons in a country with an adult population of nearly 50,000,000.

In short, Jacques Chirac is a president who enjoys extremely meager democratic legitimacy and has little claim to be considered popular. I was highly skeptical, then, that anything he might say about the proposed EU “constitution” could sway voters in its favor, rather than perhaps repel them. Polls published in the immediate aftermath of Chirac’s performance, which saw the “no” vote actually gaining strength, seem to have borne out this intuition.

Nonetheless, as our friends at GeoPoliticalReview brought to my attention, there was indeed something of significance in Chirac’s televised April 14 chat with French youth: namely, the openness of the hostility to America and the “Anglo-Saxon” world reflected in it. That Chirac should choose to play the anti-American card is hardly surprising. As we saw here on Trans-Int, one of his party’s top political advisors was openly advocating doing so already in March. But the specific terms by which Chirac chose to express his hostility deserve, nonetheless, to be considered more closely – especially since the traditional mainstream media managed somehow to ignore or suppress the most brazen indications of where Chirac stands towards the US and alleged “Anglo-Saxondom” more generally.

According to an AP report (here reproduced via The Guardian), for instance, “Referring to competition from the United States, Chirac said he opposes an ‘Anglo-Saxon, Atlanticist Europe’”. But Chirac referred to more than merely “competition” from the United States to explain his hostility to an “Anglo-Saxon, Atlanticist Europe”. The more correct term would be rivalry – and it is clearly he who rejects “Atlanticism” who must be held responsible for casting transatlantic relations in such terms, not he who embraces it. The NYTimes April 15 report, btw, did not even provide as much as the AP’s timid hint of the antagonism toward the US and Atlanticism expressed in Chirac’s performance. It said nothing whatsoever about it. Given the centrality of the theme, such an omission leads one to wonder whether the Times’ man in Paris, Craig Smith, even listened to the broadcast or read the transcript. Perhaps his French is not yet up to the task?

What follows is a translated excerpt from perhaps the most revealing passage in the evening's proceedings. It is drawn from Chirac’s ostensible response – the moderator Marc-Olivier Fogiel interrupted him at one point, saying: “Excuse me, Mr. President, but Alexandra’s question, it was: ‘why a constitution?’” – to the first question from the audience. In it the President of the Republic attempts to enlighten the youth of France about the political contours of “today’s world”. The full transcript of the broadcast, oddly christened a “debate”, is available in French here.

Today’s world is characterized by two great developments.

On the one hand, what one calls ‘globalization’, which worries many Frenchmen and French women. It is a globalization borne by an ultra-liberal current and that, at the end of the day, profits the strongest, which, of course, poses problems....

Secondly, the world is tending toward [the formation of] more and more great powers: the current powers like the United States of America, but also powers that are emerging and are considerable: China, India, tomorrow Brazil and South America, Russia. Great powers that, as a matter of course, have the intention or the will to impose their will [sic.]....

These powers, we will not fight against them individually. This is not possible for France. And if, confronted by this development, we want to reflect and to react, we have to have an organization. Europe must be strong and organized to oppose this development.

There are, then, two solutions. The solution of letting matters take their course – a bit the solution that we have pursued up until now – that’s to say a solution that leads to a Europe borne by the ultraliberal current: let’s say an Anglo-Saxon, Atlanticist Europe. That’s not what we want. The second way is a humanist Europe, but which, in order to be able to impose its humanism [sic.], must be organized, must be strong.

So, in short, Jacques Chirac, the President of the French Republic, says that the EU “constitution” is necessary in order to be able to “fight” various great powers: first and seemingly for the moment foremost, the United States. Why, then, does the American administration and the overwhelming majority of American commentators, both Democrats and Republicans – the latter presumably in the interest precisely of salvaging the transatlantic relationship – continue to regard France as an ally?

I believe the definition of an “ally” is someone who fights with me, not against me.

(For more on Jacques Chirac's mobilization of the "Anglo-Saxon" bogeyman - "Scaremongering about asylum seekers in British tabloids seems sober and thoughtful in comparison to French hysteria over les Anglo-Saxons, who are blamed for everything from France's growing problems of childhood obesity to its moribund economy" - and on the turbulence being created within each of the French establishment parties by the failing "yes" campaign, see the excellent EURSOC.)

Friday, April 22, 2005

The Ummah and das Volk: On the Islamist and "Völkisch" Ideologies

Are there important similarities between the Islamist and the “Völkisch” (or ethnic-national) ideologies? Well, there is one major and obvious dissimilarity that has to be acknowledged at the outset: as I have had several occasions to discuss here on Trans-Int, the “völkisch” ideology is inherently racist or at least, if one prefers a less emotively charged description, “racialist”. (For this distinction, see this earlier post.) Islamist ideology, on the other hand, clearly mobilizes racist sentiments and motifs in its depiction specifically of Jews, but it is not “racialist” as such. This difference is most clearly expressed by the fact that Islamism not only permits, but encourages proselytism. In principle, anyone can become a Muslim. To take only the most famous and infamous example of the “völkisch” ideology having been put into practice, in Nazi-dominated Europe, not anyone could “become” German or, more generally, “Aryan”. (Paradoxically, however, Nazi ideology did permit that certain members of subject populations – selected according to allegedly “scientific” criteria by reference to their “racial attributes” – were “germanizable”.)

There is, however, a clear resonance between the “völkish” and the “Islamist” conceptions of the seemingly organic relation between the individual and the “community” to which he or she is supposed to belong. It is a separate matter whether this “community” is defined in terms of religious conviction as the Islamic “ummah” or in terms of ostensibly objective characteristics – language, “culture”, and descent are the “markers” typically invoked – as das “Volk”. Consider the following remark from Tariq Ramadan as quoted in Paul Landau’s Le sabre et le coran:
Whereever one finds oneself in the world, to be a Muslim means feeling that one belongs to the ummah and developing this sentiment that one belongs to the ummah, as if one was an organ of an immense body.

In the same spirit, Ramadan cites a hadith to the effect that “The ummah is a single body; if one of its members is sick, the entire body feels the fever and the pain.”

Now, consider Johann Gottlieb Fichte’s (considerably more elaborate) invocation of the relation between the individual and “das Volk” in the eight of his “Addresses to the German Nation” [link in German] from 1808. Titled “What is a people [Volk], in the higher sense of the term, and what is love of the fatherland”, Fichte’s eight Address is a, if not indeed the, locus classicus of the “völkisch” ideology. In it, Fichte posits a “noble” individual who would like to see his life work gain immortality, and he continues:
What is it, however, that could warrant this striving of the noble individual and his belief in the eternity and the immortality of his work? Clearly, only an order of things that he is able to recognize as eternal and as capable of incorporating what is eternal. There is, however, such an order of things: the...particular spiritual nature of the human environment out of which he himself, with all of his thought and action..., has arisen, namely the people [das Volk] from which he is descended and among which he has been formed and grown into that which he is.

Pardon the convoluted character of this last citation. But having some professional background in the matter, I think I can vouch for the fact that borderline incomprehensibility is not necessarily the sign of a poor rendering of high philosophical German.

The metaphor of the individual as an “organ” or “member” (i.e. in the anatomical sense) of his or her “Volk” is, incidentally, also present in Fichte. Thus, the last of his “Addresses” is famously addressed to “Every German, who still believes that he is the member of a nation.” "Member" here translates not “Mitglied” - as in the “Mitglieder” or “members” of voluntary associations - but rather “Glied”, as in precisely the “Glieder” or “members” of a body.

Europe and Radical Islam: A Relevant Link

On the general topic of Europe and radical Islam, here is an interesting interview with Irshad Manji, Steven Emerson and Gilles Kepel conducted by the Aspen Institute in Berlin. The final question concerns Tariq Ramadan and US authorities' famous - or infamous, depending on one's point of view - decision to deny him a visa. Irshad Manji offers a particularly thought-provoking perspective on the affair. As against her view, however, it is worth noting that there have been persistent reports of contacts between Tariq Ramadan and/or the Ramadan family's Islamic Center of Geneva, on the one hand, and persons or institutions directly involved in the promotion of Islamic terrorism, on the other. So, the decision of the US authorities was not necessarily based upon Tariq Ramadan's ideological positions, as Irshad Manji suggests.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Delay: The Ummah and das Volk

I'll be back to post tomorrow (Friday) on "The Ummah and das Volk". Sorry for the delay!

The Sword and the Koran: Paul Landau on Tariq Ramadan and the Muslim Brotherhood

The last year has seen an explosion of interest in the French media for the Swiss-born Muslim orator and sometimes university professor Tariq Ramadan. Numerous magazine articles and no less than five books have been devoted to him. It is unfortunate that Paul Landau’s Le sabre et le coran [The Sword and the Coran] – subtitled “Tariq Ramadan, the Muslim Brothers and the Conquest of Europe” – has reached the market a bit later than the other entries, since it merits a very close look indeed. On the whole, far less polemical in tone than Caroline Fourest’s Frère Tariq, it is no less severe in its conclusions. Through a careful comparison of Tariq Ramadan’s own writings and pronouncements with those of the key figures in the development of the Islamist movement – Hassan Al-Banna, Sayyid Qutb, Ramadan’s father Saïd Ramadan, among others – Paul Landau demonstrates the essential ideological continuity of the supposedly “moderate” Islamism of Ramadan, ostensibly dedicated to proselytism (dawa) and “bearing witness” (shahada), with the more radical currents explicitly preaching violent jihad.

Indeed, on the subject of jihad, Landau notes the following remark by Ramadan:

We do not deny that there are struggles that circumstances will lead us to have to confront with arms or stones in hand, in order to oppose ethnic cleansing here or military occupation there or another type of aggression like those…of which we continue to be witness in Afghanistan, in Palestine, in Chechnya or others [sic.].

Landau comments:

This enumeration conforms to the Islamist vision of the world, which continuously exalts the jihad against the West undertaken by the “fighters for Islam” in Afghanistan, Palestine and Chechnya. It is precisely these three places that serve nowadays – along with Iraq – as the focal points of all the discourses calling for jihad and that one finds mentioned, notably, on the Islamist websites. Thus, far from condemning jihad, Ramadan in fact makes himself the apostle of jihad, calling it “armed resistance” and preaching struggle “with arms or stones in hand”.

Paul Landau notably rejects Gilles Kepel’s optimistic thesis according to which the Islamist ideology will find itself “ the market economy”, as well as Olivier Roy’s assessment that September 11 marked a gratuitous and self-defeating departure from global Islamist strategy. On the contrary, Paul Landau sees in 9/11 a significant victory for the Islamist movement inasmuch as it succeeded in opening up – I would say rather that it revealed – a fissure between the United States and its erstwhile European allies. “Europe, the soft-underbelly of the West, is again tempted by the dangerous and illusory dream of an alliance with Islamists against the United States and against Israel,” Paul Landau warns in the concluding chapter of his book,

The “grand design” of the pro-Nazi Mufti and friend of al-Banna, al-Husseini – that of a judenrein Europe, ridded of the “Judeo-Christian deception”, to use the expression of Tariq Ramadan – seems as if it might be realized two generations later.

Incidentally, for ample evidence that Europe is indeed tempted by the choice of alliances that Landau suggests, see for instance the website of the EU-financed European Institute for Research on Mediterranean and Euro-Arab Cooperation, which goes by the acronym MEDEA. Note for starters the olive branch in the Institute’s logo:

When was the last time you came across a EU-financed institute for, say, “Euro-American” or transatlantic cooperation that had an olive branch in its logo?

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Forthcoming: The Ummah and das Volk

Are there similarities between the Islamist and the “Völkisch” (or ethnic-national) ideologies? Some citations from an excellent new book on Tariq Ramadan and the Muslim Brotherhood suggest as much. I’ll be back tomorrow to say some words about Paul Landau’s Le Sabre et le Coran [The Sword and the Koran] and to compare Tariq Ramadan on the Muslim Ummah (or “community”) and one of the most important forerunners of the “völkisch” ideology, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, on “das Volk”.

More on the "Society for Endangered Peoples"

Please note that while I retranslated the extracts from the GFP background report on the Society for Endangered Peoples (GfbV) that I presented in "A Curious Proponent of the ICC", an abridged version of the report is also available in English here on the GFP site. Note that the GFP translators have sometimes chosen to render the German word "Volksgruppen" by the very unenglish "peoples' groups". Whereas the German word "Volksgruppen" is indeed composed of the words "Volk" - which would be normally rendered by "people" or "nation" - and "Gruppen", i.e., "groups", a more colloquial rendering of the composite would be "ethnic groups". "National groups" could also work, provided it is kept in mind that the "nations" or "Völker" in question are construed precisely in an ethnic rather than a political sense. In the quasi-technical language of what in German is called "Volksgruppenrecht" - the "law of ethnic [or national] groups" - "Volksgruppen" are typically regarded as ethnic minority offshoots of the majority "nation" or "Volk" of another state: as in, for instance, German minorities or "Volksgruppen" in Poland or Romania.

(I've written, btw, on "Volksgruppenrecht" in my Policy Review essay "Anti-Semitism and Ethnicity in Europe". See the section titled "A 'Law of Ethnic Groups'".)

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

EU Funding and Palestinian Terrorism: The OLAF Declines

Last month, I wrote about the announcement by the European Anti-Fraud Office (known by its French initials OLAF) that it was closing its investigation into EU funding of the Palestinian Authority and the possible uses – including the financing of terror attacks against Israelis – to which the EU funds may have gone. After two years of supposedly investigating the matter, the OLAF issued not a report, but a press release barely exceeding 1000 words. The latter predictably failed to confirm that EU funds had been used “for other than the intended purposes” – while admitting, however, the existence of “consistent indications” that prevented it from excluding this possibility. It should be noted that the alleged investigation covered a period in which the PA was receiving some 10 million euros per month in direct budgetary assistance from the EU and hence during which it was not even specified just what the “intended purposes” of the assistance were.

The Funding for Peace Coalition (FPC), which monitors the issue of EU-funding to the PA, requested a copy of the OLAF’s final report. Not surprisingly, the OLAF – which vows to conduct its fraud-fighting mission with “absolute transparency” – declined. Brad Neilson of the Funding for Peace Coalition discusses the OLAF refusal here, where the full text of the OLAF response to the FPC is also reproduced.

My favorite piece of European bureaucratic newspeak in the letter consists of the following paragraph:
However, if you want this position [i.e. the OLAF refusal] to be reviewed, you should write to OLAF’s Director General at the address below, confirming your initial request. You have 15 working days in which to do so from receipt of this letter, after which your initial request will be deemed to have been withdrawn.

Friday, April 15, 2005

A Curious Proponent of the ICC: the "Society for Endangered Peoples"

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is often presented in the English-language media as a “UN Court”. Thus, for instance, a New York Times headline of 2 April reads “Sudan: U.N. Court Rejected”. The supposed “UN Court” in question is the ICC. Similarly, a LA Times headline of 31 March, alluding to the recent UN Security Council decision to refer war crimes charges to the ICC, reads: “US Agrees to Use UN Court for Darfur Cases”.

But in fact the ICC (unlike the International Court of Justice [ICJ] with which it is frequently confused) is not a UN institution and it was not designed to be one. Indeed, as I show in my February 2004 article on the ICC from Policy Review, the ICC defies the basic principles of international law upon which the UN was founded and represents a challenge to the very authority of the UN – and, more particularly, the UN Security Council – in international affairs. This challenge was somewhat attenuated – made less frontal, so to say – by changes introduced into the ICC’s statute at the last minute at the 1998 Rome Conference where the statute’s details were essentially finalized. Nonetheless, a challenge it remains.

The latent hostility to the UN system expressed in the ICC statute is perhaps not so surprising when one considers that the leading advocate of the court among states was precisely Germany: a state that, as a result of the circumstances of the UN’s creation – namely, the defeat of the Axis Powers in WWII – finds itself at a disadvantage in the internal structure of the organization by comparison to states that are similarly powerful in other respects. The hostility is even less surprising when one considers that among the German NGOs most actively involved in promoting the ICC there figured the Göttingen-based Gesellschaft für bedrohte Völker (GfbV) – literally the “Society for Endangered Peoples” – a group whose rhetoric and agenda exhibit unmistakably revanchist traits. Thus, for example, a memorandum issued by the GfbV in June 1998 [link in English] in the run-up to the Rome Conference bears the title: “For an Independent International Criminal Court! Remember Crimes of the Permanent Members of the UN Security Council!” To appreciate the revanchist tone of such a title, one need only recall that the permanent members of the UN Security Council are constituted by the victorious allied Powers of WWII (including France, which was, in effect, promoted to the status of an honorary victorious Power).

“Since the Nuremberg court cases against the National Socialist architects of the Holocaust,” the GfbV memorandum reads,

since the general declaration of human rights by the UN General Assembly and the 1948 passing of the UN Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide, each year genocide, wars of aggression and other serious crimes against humanity have taken place worldwide. The permanent members of the UN Security Council who, according to the UN charter, bear the "main responsibility for the maintenance of world peace" have committed such crimes and others by themselves, supported them actively, assisted them favorably or tolerated them tacitly.

The memorandum then goes on to provide an inventory of these alleged “crimes” of the Security Council members, beginning with the United States, which, the memorandum warns, “must expect that an ICC could also indict US citizens for crimes against humanity.” Note that when the GfbV speaks of an “independent” ICC, it means precisely independent of the Security Council.

The use of such rhetoric would not be so troubling if it was a matter of an extremist group on the margins of German society. But the GfbV is not that. The GfbV was one of the founding members of the German Committee of the Coalition for an International Criminal Court (CICC-DE). The GfbV’s Dr. Andreas Selmeci is listed as one of the two contact persons for the CICC-DE in this July 1999 press release. In April 2000, the GfbV’s leading partner in the CICC-DE, the Committee for an Effective International Criminal Law sponsored a conference on the ICC in Konstanz with GfbV participation. The opening address to the conference was by the then German Minister of Justice Herta Däubler-Gmelin (yes, that Herta Däubler-Gmelin, who in 2002 would famously compare George W. Bush to Adolf Hitler). A message of greeting was also sent by Kofi Annan. Since 1993, incidentally, the GfbV enjoys consultative status at the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the UN. It is, by its own reckoning [link in German], the “second largest human rights organization in Germany”.

The rhetoric of the GvbV memorandum is, moreover, not only revanchist in character, but also, in effect, revisionist. It is not so in the crude sense that it serves to deny the Holocaust, but in the more subtle sense that it serves massively to relativize it. As attested by the following translated excerpts from a 2002 background report on the GvbV prepared by the website (GFP), this is entirely in keeping with the organization’s profile and ideology. (Note that GFP is not a German government site, but precisely a watchdog site that monitors German foreign policy from a highly critical perspective. Note too that the quotations in the GFP report come from the GvbV's own statements and publications. I have incorporated links to some of the original GvbV material [in German] into the excerpts.)

The political work of the GfbV is marked by the German “völkisch” [or “ethnic-national” – see here for more – JR] ideology. Even if the GfbV calls itself a “human rights organization”, the focus is not on threatened or persecuted men and women. As the organization’s name already indicates, individual human beings are only of interest [for it] inasmuch as members of a particular community – namely, a “people”. According to its bye-laws, the GfbV fights against “every attempt to destroy a people, its security, its life, its right to property and development, its religion, as well as its linguistic and cultural identity”. In the view of the GfbV, a “people” [Volk] is the essential form of human organization: a quasi-natural “community” that fundamentally constitutes what it means to be human. Individuals who become alienated from the constituent features of their “original people” (language, culture, religion, etc.), accordingly lose their “identity” and thereby an essential part of their human being.

Consequently, the GfbV opposes as “genocide” every form of incorporation in other population groups of the “peoples, ethnic groups, ethnic and religious communities” that it discovers all over the world: every form of assimilation into a community which is determined other than in this ethnic-national manner. The “destruction of those who are different” is supposed to begin with the destruction of languages and cultures: this represents “ethnocide” and “cultural genocide”.

....Accordingly, for the GfbV history is, above all the history of “peoples” [Völker] or even the history of continuous genocides [Völkermorde]. It claims that
“since the end of WWII and one after another in a continuous series, whole ethnic groups have suffered expulsion and genocide has constantly been committed.” The GfbV’s history of genocides is of a piece with an extensive relativization of the mass crimes of Nazi Germany and, in particular, the Holocaust. The German people thus becomes for the GfbV one of the most endangered peoples: “In world history, the expulsion of Germans from Eastern Europe between 1945 and 1948 is the worst case. More than twelve million people lost their homeland, up to three million their lives.” [Tilman] Zülch – the “political director” of the GfbV – complains that the Holocaust is given too important a place, whereas the “Tribunal of the Victorious Powers” [i.e. the Nuremberg Tribunal] left unpunished the “crimes of the allied governments”, and the “crime of expulsion committed against the eastern Germans and the Sudeten-Germans…, which by today’s standards would meet the criteria for being considered genocide”.

...By way of its close collaboration with German expellee organizations [such as the influential Bund der Vertriebenen (BdV) – JR] , a series of contacts have come to light connecting the GfbV to groupings that belong in the tradition of the völkisch and national-socialist ideologies. In 1995, for instance, it became known that the former Nazi administrator of the Kolomea ghetto in Poland – accused of being complicit in the deaths of some 30,000 Jews – worked in the Advisory Board of the GfbV.

The editors of may be exaggerating somewhat in saying that Zülch "complains that the Holocaust is given too important a place". I do not know if Zülch has ever openly said this. But his multiplication of other "genocides" and his insistence that they have not been sufficiently acknowledged certainly implies it.

Also, I should point out that the GfbV translates its name into English as the “Society for Threatened Peoples” and not “Endangered Peoples” as I have rendered it. Their translation is, however, a poor one. The expression “Bedrohte Völker” is clearly modeled on “Bedrohte Tierarten” – which is the German equivalent for “endangered species”.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

If You Don’t Like the Patriot Act, You’ll Love This

The following (translated) from a German AP report of 12 April:
The [German] police may keep suspected criminals under surveillance using the GPS navigation system. On Tuesday, the German Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe ruled that the use of the satellite-based Global Positioning System does not violate the Basic Law [i.e. the German constitution]....Like other forms of surveillance with technical means [in Germany], GPS surveillance can be ordered by a district attorney. A court order has only to be obtained a month later.
The other forms of “surveillance with technical means” referred to in the article include, for instance, wiretaps. Note that even the seemingly most controversial measure included in the US Patriot Act – namely, the authorization of “roving” wiretaps – requires a court order. I was inclined to write “needless to say” in the previous sentence. Though as the AP story reveals and as those who followed the controversy over the so-called “Great Bugging Operation” [Großer Lauschangriff] in Germany some years ago will already know, in the German context such does not go without saying. It is also worth noting that the particular case that brought the issue before the Constitutional Court involved a member of a far-left terrorist organization, the “Anti-Imperialist Cells”: i.e. not a common criminal, but precisely the sort of purveyor of organized and politically-motivated violence with which the Patriot Act was designed to deal. Although it is not immediately relevant to the case, it is of some symptomatic interest that the individual in question – Bernard Uzen (formerly Bernard Falk) – has in the meanwhile converted to Islam. An article from the Spiegel on the Constitutional Court decision notes, furthermore, that “since the federal government does not collect data on the matter, no reliable data on the frequency of GPS surveillance is available”. It also mentions that police may undertake surveillance on their own authority for up to two days without even obtaining an order from a district attorney, let alone a judge.

Back in February Ray D. on Medienkritik wrote about what he called “Transatlantic Double Standards for Dealing With Extremists”. “If Americans were more widely informed about the situation in Germany,” Ray remarked, “they would be outraged at the hypocrisy of the German left’s criticism of the Patriot Act.” And when Ray speaks of the “German left” one should not imagine that he has in mind just the ravings of the post-communist PDS and kindred far-left (or, for that matter, "far-right", since they are by now essentially indistinguishable) groupings.

It is the establishment “red-green” Left that has led the charge in Germany in fomenting the phantasm of post-9/11 America as a “society under surveillance” [Überwachungsgesellschaft]. Thus with his characteristic flair for hysterical exaggeration, Michael Naumann of the Die Zeit wrote in February 2003 that “The USA is being screened as if George Orwell wrote the laws”. Die Zeit liked the Orwell allusion so much that it used it again in an article on the US from September of last year titled “On the Trail of Big Brother”. Another article from Die Zeit from August 2003 featured the sub-title “Surveillance and Paranoia Mark Every Day Life in New York”. On the two year anniversary of 9/11, a Die Zeit sub-title blared: “George Bush and his Republicans menace in their own country the basic democratic rights that they want to introduce in Iraq”.

Michael Naumann is (with Josef Joffe and former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt) a co-publisher of Die Zeit. He is also a former member of Gerhard Schröder’s “red-green” coalition government. As such, he could be expected to know something about the meager protection of civil liberties in German law. This makes his hyper-ventilating about comparatively minor changes in American law, wherein civil liberties continue, nonetheless, to enjoy far greater protection, all the more puzzling.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Final Poll Results

The second ever Trans-Int poll (see here for details) is now closed. Here are the final results:

What Topic Would You Most Like to See Covered on Trans-Int?

The Attack of the American NGOs 31% (20 votes)
Return to the Hotel Ivoire 25% (16 votes)
A Society for "Endangered Peoples"? 45% (29 votes)

I'll be back by Friday, then, with a post on the Göttingen-based "Society for Endangered Peoples" [Gesellschaft für bedrohte Völker] and its role in championing the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Since the first choice also received substantial support and since the phantasm of the omnipotent American NGOs - thanks in large measure to the NYTimes - seems to be gaining ground by the day in the European media, I might also try to post a brief collection of links and data suggesting just how twisted this phantasm is.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The Strange Case of Dr. Wicke Revisited

I am afraid that I missed this article from The Telegraph, titled "I received death threats, says doctor who denied that Ukrainian leader was poisoned", when it first came out a couple of weeks ago. I think long-time readers of Trans-Int will forgive me, however, since I discussed the matter extensively based on reports in the German-language press already in the second week of December - at a time when the quasi-totality of the traditional English-language media was dutifully hewing to the line that the Ukrainian leader in question, namely then presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko, had been poisoned with dioxin.

The doctor is Dr. Lothar Wicke, the former medical director of the Rudolfinerhaus clinic in Vienna. Viktor Yushchenko visited the Rudolfinerhaus three times between September 2004, when he first developed the dermatological symptoms that would make his disfigured face internationally famous, and December 11, when Dr. Wicke's former colleague at the Rudolfinerhaus, Dr. Michael Zimpfer, announced that the long-rumored (and, for Mr Yushchenko, politically opportune) diagnosis of poisoning had been confirmed and the guilty substance - dioxin - identified.

Dr. Wicke has always denied that there was any scientific basis for the poisoning diagnosis and he continues to do so. He reveals in the Telegraph piece that he did not resign from the clinic on December 9 - one day before Mr. Yushchenko was set to return to the Rudolfinerhaus - as has been previously reported (including on Trans-Int), but was in fact dismissed. He is currently suing the clinic in connection with the dismissal.

According to the Telegraph article,

Dr Wicke remains uncomfortable about the role played by the Rudolfinerhaus in the drama [of the Ukrainian presidential elections - JR]. "The first two times Mr Yushchenko was examined, there was no evidence of poisoning whatsoever," Dr Wicke, 64, said. Yet, to his dismay, persistent leaks from the clinic suggested that the politician had indeed been poisoned.

Dr Wicke said: "I was directly involved, and I can tell you that the Institute of Forensic Medicine in Vienna did not find any traces of poisonous agents in his blood. If there is no poison, there cannot be poisoning and there was no trace of it whatsoever."

Kudos to the Telegraph for catching up on the story. Perhaps someone there reads Trans-Int?

For my original post from December, see "The Strange Case of Dr. Wicke". Those who were not readers of Trans-Int at the time might also be interested in the question "How did the Blogosphere Get Fooled on Ukraine?".

Le Soir Might be Identifying with the Iraqi "Resistance" Too Much

Last weekend's (9-10 April 2005) edition of Le Soir, Belgium's largest circulation French-language daily, featured a glowing portrait of the partisans of radical Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Le Soir's enterprising reporter Anne-Sophie Le Mauff returned from her visit to Sadr City with the remarkable scoop that Sadr's followers still do not like Americans. It seems like it will be hard to change their minds: as the report notes, they are demanding, among other things, that Saddam Hussein be judged by Iraqis - a demand that will be particularly difficult to fulfill, since, as the report sheepishly admits, Saddam Hussein is already being judged by Iraqis.

Ms. Le Mauff's article largely consists of testimonials from members of Sadr's "Mahdi Army" and their fellow-travelers, several of which sound about as plausible as the "he-turned-me-into-a-newt" complaint of Monty Python fame, but all of which are taken at face value by the credulous Ms. Le Mauff. "I felt the liquid burning in my gut. I immediately understood that we were the victims of a terrorist attack," one apparently healthy Mahdi Army combatant is reported as saying. "The man was deliberately poisoned on the road to Kerbala," Ms. Le Mauff repeats breathlessly.

The article also contains this revealing passage:
"After having gotten rid of Saddam Hussein for us, these sons of bitches have come to kill us on our own land," says Ibrahim, brother of a martyr felled by American bullets. "Did we invade them? Have we pillaged their resources?" asks this former militia member, who is currently unemployed.
Note that the description of Ibrahim's brother as a"martyr" comes from Ms. Le Mauff.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Whose Kosovo?

Those who are most vocally critical of the 1999 NATO bombing of then Yugoslavia in connection with the Kosovo crisis – both on the “left” and on the (libertarian) “right” – tend to assume that the intervention was an American initiative. On this view, the Kosovo war was just another episode in the grand narrative of American “Empire”. Even some – notably, “conservative” – supporters of the NATO intervention have managed to convince themselves as much. Things look rather different – and in connection with Kosovo always did look rather different – if one consults the German media. This from a report in last Thursday’s (7 April 2005) Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung [link in German] on a visit by German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer to Kosovo:
At the end of his two day visit, the Foreign Minister could consider his action validated, inasmuch as his first major foreign policy project – the destruction by military means of an aggressive nationalism in the Balkans and the subsequent steering of the region toward an integrating Europe – has in any case thus far not failed, but rather even shows signs of progress, however fragile they may be.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Pause and Poll

Apart perhaps from the occasional brief observation and barring unforeseen developments, I will be taking a break from blogging until next Tuesday or so.

In the meanwhile, however, if you feel so inclined, you can vote in the second ever Trans-Int poll on possible topics for future coverage. I’ll try to get to the winning topic next week. The candidates, with a bit of introduction, are as follows:

1. The Attack of the American NGOs

There is a specter haunting Europe: the specter of American NGOs. Taking their cue (as is so often the case) from a report in the NYTimes, European media now widely portray American NGOs, assumed to be vectors in turn of the American government, as having orchestrated the recent wave of regime change in former Soviet republics. What evidence is there to support this scenario? And what about European NGOs? Were they completely absent from the terrain? What is their relation to the EU and/or European governments?

2. Return to the Hotel Ivoire

Last November, I wrote a number of posts on the clash between French troops and Ivorian protestors at the Hotel Ivoire in Abidjan that left at least seven Ivorian civilians dead. (See here, here, here, and here.) French documentary filmmakers Stéphane Haumant and Jérome Pin have labeled November 9, when the Hotel Ivoire incident occurred, “The Black Tuesday of the French Army”. What is now known about the Hotel Ivoire incident and the circumstances that led up to it?

3. A Society for “Endangered Peoples”?

The Göttingen-based Gesellschaft für bedrohte Völker (GfbV) has an unusual name: literally translated, "The Society for Endangered Peoples" – a name that revealingly treats the “peoples” into which human beings are supposed to be divided as analogous to species of animals. The GfbV was one of the German NGOs most intimately involved in promoting the International Criminal Court (ICC). In this capacity, it did not hesitate to employ distinctly revanchist tones by accusing all of the permanent members of the UN Security Council – and first and foremost, the United States – with the commission of “crimes”. “The USA must expect that an ICC could also indict US citizens for crimes against humanity,” the GfbV warned, with more than a hint of satisfaction, in a 1998 memorandum. What is the ideology that drives the self-proclaimed “second largest human rights organization in Germany”?

You can vote in the side-bar on the right. And please come back next week!

They Are Just Anti-Bush

Headline from today's Le Monde:

"The European Greens have wrested the Indian Margosa from American Rapacity".

(Link in French. The article is on the cancellation of a European patent held by an American company.)

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

German Article Announcement: "Von Katastrophe zu Katastrophe"

This for Trans-Int's German-speaking readership:

My article "Von Katastrophe zu Katastrophe: Die bizarre Metaphysik des Architekten Daniel Libeskind" is now out in the current issue of Merkur. It is also available online here on the Merkur website.

For those who don't read German, that title is "From Catastrophe to Catastrophe: On the Bizarre Metaphysics of the Architect Daniel Libeskind" and I have a similar article available in English here.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The European "Constitution" as American Plot, Part 2

"Art 1-41.3: Member States shall undertake progressively to improve their military capabilities."
Paris Metro, April 2005

For the background to this post, see "The European 'Constitution' as American Plot". The "U.E." on the bomb in the jaws of the death's head stands for "Union européenne": the European Union. The "U.S" stands for you know who.

Note that the paragraph of the proposed EU "constitutional treaty" [pdf file] to which the authors of this sticker make reference has no bearing upon the relations of the EU to the US, not even indirectly via the matter of EU member states' respective relations to NATO. The specific undertaking cited, moreover - namely, that to improve progressively military capabilities - would in any non-fevered condition seem rather to increase the ability of the EU to act independently of the United States. It is indeed precisely for this reason that it is advocated by many an anti-American partisan of the "constitution".

Monday, April 04, 2005

The ICC: The French Exception

(Note: For background to this post, see "France, Darfur, and the ICC" and "A Grave Error".)

Here are the exact words of the declaration submitted by France along with its instrument of ratification of the statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in June 2000:
Pursuant to article 124 of the Statute of the International Criminal Court, the French Republic declares that it does not accept the jurisdiction of the Court with respect to the category of crimes referred to in article 8 when a crime is alleged to have been committed by its nationals or on its territory.
Article 8 of the ICC statute refers to war crimes (as opposed to genocide and "crimes against humanity", the other two categories of crime defined in the statute). Article 124 only permits refusals of the jurisdiction of the Court in the case of Article 8 crimes.

The French declaration ought to be better known. It casts in a rather different light the triumphant statement by French UN Ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sablière following the Security Council vote on the Darfur resolution:
This resolution marks a turning point, for it is sending the message beyond Darfur to all of those criminals responsible for crimes against humanity and war crimes who all too often believed that they were beyond the pale of justice.
Thanks to France's Article 124 declaration, French military personnel and officials responsible for war crimes remain securely beyond the pale of justice - or at least of any such justice as the ICC might be expected to dispense.

Friday, April 01, 2005

A Grave Error

(Revised and Updated)

Concerning the French-sponsored UN Security Council Resolution to refer the cases of accused perpetrators of war crimes in Darfur to the ICC, I wrote on Monday that “There cannot be any serious prospect of the US not using its veto.” I was wrong. In a stunning turn of events, the US yesterday abstained from voting on the Resolution, thus permitting it to pass. In return for its abstention, the US received concessions on the wording of the resolution. Most notably, Article 6 of the resolution excludes from the Court’s jurisdiction officials, personnel and nationals of states who are not members of the Court and who might participate in UN (or African Union) operations in Sudan.

(The full text of the resolution is available here. A typically hysterical report from Claire Tréan in today's Le Monde [link in French] suggests that the phrasing employed in Article 6 might even have some retroactive effect vis-à-vis “former officials and personnel” in general – thus removing forever from the clutches of the Court the likes of the dreaded Henry Kissinger. In fact, the language in Article 6 of the resolution clearly refers just to "current or former officials or personnel" involved in or having been involved in operations in Sudan. It has no broader application - and, in any case, Henry Kissinger has already escaped the clutches of the ICC, since as Claire Tréan, Le Monde's would-be specialist on internationa law, should know, the Court has no jurisdiction retroactive to its creation.)

The passage of the resolution with the cited concessions to the US is the worst possible outcome for the United States. The concessions obtained will in fact reinforce the charge of American “unilateralism”, since they create the impression – or will be used to create the impression – that the US does not want to play by the same rules as the rest of the “international community”. But the ICC does not represent the “international community” – 94 states, representing the overwhelming majority of the population of the planet, are not members of the ICC – and the rules which are laid down in its statute are bad and dangerous: not just for the US, but for the international system as such. Indeed, as I explain in my piece on the ICC in Policy Review, they represent a distinct threat to international peace. (The original title of my piece was “The ICC as a Threat to International Peace”. I would discourage conservatives from referring to the ICC as a “Global Court” or “World Court”. It is not that. As I explained in my previous post on the matter, the ICC is in fact the international equivalent of a “private” court. It should not even be referred to as “the” International Criminal Court. It is quite simply an International Criminal Court.)

Members of the Bush Administration know very well the dangers represented by the Court. John Bolton published a piece on the matter – titled precisely “Courting Danger” – in the Winter 1998-99 issue of The National Interest. In the article from Le Monde, an unnamed French official is cited saying that France and its allies in the Council were determined to bring the resolution to a vote even if the US was going to veto it, since this would “force the United States to explain itself”. Exactly. The US administration ought to have risen to the challenge and explained itself.

Other options, by the way, were available for handling the matter of war crimes in Darfur: notably, a proposal made by the President of the African Union, and favored by the Algerian UN delegation, which would have created an ad hoc international tribunal under the aegis of the African Union. It is said that for the US to have voted against the French proposal would have been politically "awkward". It would have been no less "awkward" for France - indeed, in light of France's colonial history, it ought to have been much more so - to have voted against the solution proposed by the African Union.