Bolton to ICC: You're "dead to us"

Technically true since its creation, but John Bolton wants to make the point excruciatingly clear. Neither the US nor Israel participates in the treaty that established the International Criminal Court, AKA “The Hague,” which means that it takes an act of the UN Security Council to charge nationals of either nation (and other non-signatories). The ICC suggested that they might start probing US war crimes in Afghanistan anyway, which prompted today’s Bolton blast — including threats of personal sanctions against ICC judges and investigators:

The United States will not in any way cooperate with the International Criminal Court, national security adviser John Bolton announced in a speech to the Federalist Society on Monday, blasting the ICC as an unaccountable, bureaucratic body that runs counter to the U.S. Constitution and is “antithetical to our nation’s ideals.”

In his first speech as national security adviser, Bolton made the case that the ICC’s authority is invalid, subverts American sovereignty, and concentrates power in the hands of an unchecked authority in a way that is “antithetical to our nation’s ideals.” Bolton’s speech comes after the ICC in November 2017 the ICC prosecutor asked to investigate crimes allegedly committed by members of the U.S. military who served in Afghanistan. Bolton called those claims unfounded. The national security adviser said it was no coincidence he made his speech on the ICC one day before the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.

“Today, on the eve of September 11th, I want to deliver a clear and unambiguous message on behalf of the President of the United States,” Bolton said. “The United States will use any means necessary to protect our citizens and those of our allies from unjust prosecution by this illegitimate court.We will not cooperate with the ICC,” Bolton said. “We will provide no assistance to the ICC. And we certainly will not join the ICC. We will let the ICC die on its own. After all, for all intents and purposes, the ICC is already dead to us.”

Bolton explicitly made clear just how far the Trump administration was prepared to go to ensure it remains dead. That applies to more than just the ICC, too:

Among the responses, Mr. Bolton says, the U.S. would ban ICC judges and prosecutors from entering the country.

“We will sanction their funds in the U.S. financial system, and we will prosecute them in the U.S. criminal system,” Mr. Bolton adds. “We will do the same for any company or state that assists an ICC investigation of Americans.”

To get that point across, the Trump administration ordered the closure of the Washington office of the Palestine Liberation Organization. The PLO and the Palestinian Authority demanded that the ICC prosecute Israel and its leaders for crimes against the Palestinian people, and the ICC recently declared that it was “gathering information” on those complaints. The official reason given was its lack of effort in producing a peace settlement, but the State Department also made it clear that it’s payback for the ICC move. Plus, the Washington Post notes that they’re statutorily required to act in the case of an ICC referral:

The Trump administration has ordered the closure of the Palestine Liberation Organization office in Washington because the PLO “has not taken steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel,” the State Department said Monday.

The decision follows an extended period of estrangement between the Palestinian Authority government on the West Bank and the administration, which has already canceled most U.S. aid to Palestinians and recognized Jerusalem as the Israeli capital. Those moves earlier this year provoked Palestinian withdrawal from talks over a still-to-be-released U.S. plan for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

“PLO leadership has condemned a U.S. peace plan they have not yet seen and refused to engage with the U.S. government with respect to peace efforts and otherwise,” the statement said. The office has been instructed to close no later than Oct. 10. …

In announcing the closure, the State Department said it was “consistent with” concerns about Palestinian calls for an investigation of Israel by the International Criminal Court. Neither the United States nor Israel recognizes the ICC, and existing U.S. legislation calls for closure of the PLO office following any Palestinian move to use it against Israel.

Even if the ICC was to take up a prosecution of Americans and Israelis, the US could nix that with its Security Council veto. The Palestinians want to use the ICC because it’s the only high-profile multilateral organization which they can use to harass Israel, and the ICC is apparently sympathetic to their publicity efforts. It’s less clear why they’d provoke the US directly at the same time, especially with Bolton and Donald Trump making those decisions. Even apart from that, the previous two administrations would not have countenanced an ICC probe of Americans either, although the Obama administration would likely have just quietly exercised the veto rather than impose sanctions.

Trump and Bolton want to leave no doubt about our resolve to exercise sovereignty over our armed forces wherever they may be. With our troops conducting peacekeeping missions all over the world, it’s a critical point to emphasize for the future.