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Saddam Hussein may stand a better chance of a fair trial in Iraq, where he will face trial, than in the International Criminal Court, into whose clutches the Bush administration has decided the former Iraqi dictator won’t fall.

A body similar to the ICC, set up to try such offenses as “genocide”and “human rights abuses,” is well on the way to outlawing actions—including speech—that are not criminal, and the ICC itself may soon do the same.

Last month, when Saddam was still huddled in his hiding place, the United Nations’ International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, seated in Tanzania, convicted three Rwandan media executives for their role in causing the mass slaughter of the Tutsi tribe in 1994. What they did to “cause” the genocide was simply talk about it.

Two of the Rwandan defendants—Ferdinand Nahimana and Hassan Ngeze—were sentenced to life imprisonment; the third, Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza, got 35 years in the pokey. Not one of them ever lifted a finger to commit violence, as the court’s judges readily acknowledged.

“You were fully aware of the power of words, and you used the radio—the medium of communication with the widest public reach—to disseminate hatred and violence,” intoned the presiding judge, Navanethem Pillay. “Without a firearm, machete or any physical weapon, you caused the death of thousands of innocent civilians.”

What the defendants really did was run radio stations sponsored by the Rwandan government under the dominant rival tribe of the Hutus called “Radio Machete” and “Radio Hate,” as well as a weekly newspaper that devoted itself to urging the extermination of the Tutsis.

No doubt what the stations broadcast and the newspaper published was not very edifying. But as a serious act of law and morality, the sentences they received are preposterous.

They’re preposterous because, contrary to what the judge pronounced, words do not and cannot “cause” murder, let alone “thousands” of murders. There are legitimate laws that circumscribe irresponsible speech (shouting fire in a theater is the classic case) or inciting violence, but merely advocating murder is not the same thing.

Even if it falls under incitement, it’s still not the same as murder itself, which is what the three were punished for. The people who do the actual killing make their own decisions to carry it out, regardless of what they’ve read in the newspapers or heard on the radio. You punish the killers, not the people who wrote or spoke the words, let alone the managers who ran the stations or the papers.

Nevertheless, “human rights advocates” hailed the verdicts as a giant step toward the Global Reign of Virtue they are licking their whiskers to set up and run.

“This is the first time that journalists have been convicted for their participation in genocide, and I think it’s a wake-up call to hatemongers everywhere that they can’t incite people to commit genocide or ethnic cleansing,” gloated Reed Brody of the Human Rights Watch. “If you fan the flames, you’ll have to face the consequences.” [Hateful words a war crime, By Betsy Pisik, The Washington Times, December 4, 2003]

The Tribunal’s verdict comes right out of the law that set it up. The U.N. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the United States is a signatory, explicitly outlaws “hate speech”: “Any advocacy of national racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.”

We now know that covers advocating genocide. What else does it cover?

Mel Gibson’s movie about the crucifixion of Christ? Scientific research on racial differences in IQ? Defense of slavery or the Confederate flag? Denial of the Holocaust?

There are many people who say each and every one of these incites “discrimination, hostility or violence” and constitutes “national racial or religious hatred.”

What the ICC does is not necessarily law in the United States, but one danger of the court’s verdict is that it could be used to enact such laws and sets a precedent for the International Criminal Court itself.

In this country, there are lots of people who would like to outlaw any expression of dissent on racial, national or religious matters. Several otherwise law-abiding people who express such dissent have already been victims of police crackdowns, mainly for their views and associations.

The criminalization of dissident speech and thought in race, ethnicity, nationality and religion is a basic pillar of the New World Order now taking shape under American bayonets in Iraq and across the planet.

The masters of the New Order can’t expect to run it harmoniously if the different races, religions and nations they manage are free to think and say what they want about each other.

Therefore, freedom has to go.

The power of the planet’s new master class will stay.

• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Civil Liberties, New World Order 
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Most Americans probably observed this year’s September 11 with a mixture of grief, sadness, and smoldering anger, but President George W. Bush made good political use of the occasion—to demand even more power for the federal police state his administration is constructing.

Not content with measures his critics on both the right and the left view with alarm, the president and his faithful companion Attorney General John Ashcroft have been muttering about how helpless they are against terrorism without the new powers they want.

Despite the hasty enactment of the foolishly named “Patriot Act” in the hysterical wake of the 9/11 attacks, the President at commemorative observances at the FBI academy in Quantico on Sept. 10 pronounced that the powers he already has “did not go far enough,” in the Washington Posts paraphrase. Among the powers Mr. Bush wants are the authority to issue subpoenas without permission from a grand jury, the power to hold suspects without bail, and more use of the death penalty. ["President Asks for Expanded Patriot Act Authority Sought To Fight Terror," By Dana Milbank, Washington Post , September 11, 2003]

As for Mr. Ashcroft, he seems to have devoted most of September to hectoring and ridiculing his critics. Last week he denounce d those critics as “hysterics” and claimed their worries about infringing civil liberties were merely “ghosts.”

If the critics consisted only of the usual gang of professional civil liberties lawyers, professors and ideologues, Mr. Ashcroft’s badinage might be justified, and the attorney general would probably like everyone to think that’s who the critics are.

But they’re not. They include such non-hysterical voices of the political right as former Rep. Bob Barr, one of the most conservative figures in politics, and the equally conservative legislator Rep. James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. It is mainly due to Mr. Sensenbrenner that the ill-conceived child of the Patriot Act, often called “Patriot II,” has not already become law.

What especially worries the critics of the administration’s domestic counter-terrorism program is what is known as Section 215 of the existing act. Under that section the FBI can seize all manner of private records, including the now-famous library check-out and bookstore sales records, but including also computer files, educational and medical records, and genetic information.

The kicker is that the FBI can do all this without informing the person whose records it seizes and without having to show “probable cause” that he is a terrorist or a hostile foreign agent.

Civil libertarian Nat Hentoff has compared Section 215 to the “general warrants” used by the British against the American colonists, one of the principal issues in the American Revolution.

The defense of this section of the law by the attorney general and the administration has been that it really hasn’t been used all that much. Thus, Mr. Ashcroft, in his tasteless attempt to ridicule his critics last week, brayed that “the Department of Justice has neither the staffing, the time, or the inclination to monitor the reading habits of Americans,” and an internal memo of his at the Justice Department supports his claim that the department has never used Section 215.

Of course, that defense raises the further question of why the section is necessary at all.

Obviously it isn’t, and probably neither are most of the other powers the Patriot Act grants, let alone the vastly expanded ones of Patriot II.

It is thunderously noticeable in most of the defensive speeches, wisecracks and sarcasm about the critics of these laws that hardy anyone ever actually specifies why such vast powers are needed and what terrorism they have actually prevented. What we do know is that every few weeks the government issues yet another statement claiming that the “terrorist threat” remains serious or is greater than ever or may be getting worse. There seems to be no reason to think the new powers have helped us at all.

But the larger point is not what this administration does or doesn’t do with the new powers.

The point is that the powers are far larger than the government of any free people should have and that whatever powers this administration doesn’t use could still be used by future ones.

That, of course, is how free peoples typically lose their freedom—not by a dictator like Saddam Hussein suddenly grabbing power in the night and seizing all the library records but by the slow erosion of the habits and mentality that enables freedom to exist at all.

Instilling in citizens the notion that the power to seize library records is something the state needs is an excellent way to assist that erosion.

Most libertarians, of the left or the right, will tell you how we have been eroding those habits and that mentality for several decades now.

What the Bush administration is contributing seems to be one of the final chapters in the story.

• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Civil Liberties, Terrorism 
Sam Francis
About Sam Francis

Dr. Samuel T. Francis (1947-2005) was a leading paleoconservative columnist and intellectual theorist, serving as an adviser to the presidential campaigns of Patrick Buchanan and as an editorial writer, columnist, and editor at The Washington Times. He received the Distinguished Writing Award for Editorial Writing of the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) in both 1989 and 1990, while being a finalist for the National Journalism Award (Walker Stone Prize) for Editorial Writing of the Scripps Howard Foundation those same years. His undergraduate education was at Johns Hopkins and he later earned his Ph.D. in modern history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

His books include The Soviet Strategy of Terror(1981, rev.1985), Power and History: The Political Thought of James Burnham (1984); Beautiful Losers: Essays on the Failure of American Conservatism (1993); Revolution from the Middle: Essays and Articles from Chronicles, 1989–1996 (1997); and Thinkers of Our Time: James Burnham (1999). His published articles or reviews appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, National Review, The Spectator (London), The New American, The Occidental Quarterly, and Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, of which he was political editor and for which he wrote a monthly column, “Principalities and Powers.”