Magazine article Insight on the News

Clinton Antiterror Air Strikes May Brand Him an International Outlaw

Magazine article Insight on the News

Clinton Antiterror Air Strikes May Brand Him an International Outlaw

Article excerpt

The Clinton administration's legal problems never end. A precedent-setting legal case against President Clinton, charging him with violations of international law over the military strike on Sudan, is winding its way through international courts.

Some conservatives initially applauded the strike on Sudan (as well as Afghanistan), thinking the president was launching a long-overdue attack on terrorists. Now it appears that the administration may be obstructing justice in the search for the truth about what was hit and why.

This may not be an impeachable offense, but it appears to be a gross violation of the international law the administration claims to respect. After all, National Security Adviser Sandy Berger himself claimed the attack was justified under the U.N. charter's right of self-defense.

However, the New York Times has disclosed that U.S. officials are expressing grave doubts. "As an American citizen," said one, "I am not convinced of the evidence." Another said the strike was based on "inadequate intelligence." And Seymour Hersh, writing in the New Yorker magazine, has reported that four members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and FBI Director Louis Freeh were not consulted during planning for the raids. Hersh also reports that Attorney General Janet Reno had strong doubts about the administration's case.

This raises a serious international legal problem. Constitutional attorney Lee Casey warns that the Sudan strike, if it proves unwarranted, poses a clear danger for future U.S. presidents. He says that lingering questions about the Sudan strike (he believes the Afghanistan attack was clearly justified) suggest that future U.S. attacks on terrorists will be subjected to even more international and legal scrutiny, perhaps under the auspices of an International Criminal Court, or ICC.

Former assistant secretary of state John Bolton agrees, saying that an ICC will have a "chilling effect" on U.S. policymakers in the future. If the ICC had existed when the Sudan strike occurred, says Bolton, "this would have been one of the first cases in the door."

Clinton will not be the first defendant before the ICC because it only will go into effect when 60 nations ratify the treaty -- a process that could take years -- and it will not be retroactive. But when it is in operation, it will be given compulsory jurisdiction over all nations, including the United States, and will have the power to put people in jail on criminal charges such as "war crimes. …

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