Tuesday, May 21, 2024

The scandal of the International Criminal Court---be something better


The action by the international criminal court is in a very real way on behalf of the people of the world. All people are responsible for the humanity of our species though it has been our history to defer exertion of our individual responsibility to others, namely governments. When the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court requested arrest warrants for war crimes and crimes against humanity for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the leaders of Hamas it was at least a symbolic cry or protest for human beings on earth, most of whom have no government control.  


There comes a time when the greater good of all of people on the planet rises above those of the individual views of how to conduct warfare, be that nations or the war leaders. The greater human need surpasses those of nations, tribes, individual sovereignty, or rank of brutish leaders. 


There also comes a time when as human beings we cannot simply watch barbarism and not feel the need to intervene. In this case prosecutor Karim Khan is acting on our behalf and in the cause of human decency. 

Warfare itself is an aberration of humankind. It is failure. It is a breakdown in diplomacy. It is humankind reverting to barbarism, abandoning higher reasoning. What has transpired since October 7 has been horrific. There is without doubt thousands of years of history of Jews being abused; pogroms, persecution, attempts to exterminate and a seemingly endless discrimination. It is inevitable that would lodge in cultural memory and the collective consciousness of a Jewish state. However, the way the Netanyahu government has conducted the war has been criminal. His actions and policies have taken a nation state, created as a response to the holocaust, to becoming perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Even Israeli citizens and world leaders have urged him to use more restraint and better judgement. There should be discussion about Netanyahu’s motivation. The request for arrest warrants by the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court is not an anti-Semitic act. It is a strike against barbarism conducted by a state that itself has been the victim of barbaric inhumanity. It is also against a terrorist organization that has no legitimacy in the world of civilized people and who seeded this evil. 


Netanyahu, defense minister Yoav Gallant, Hamas Leaders Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Deif and Ismail Haniyeh have behaved in ways that are counter to humankind. The Hamas leaders are cowards, manipulators of Palestinian people, and blood thirsty murderers. There was nothing noble in their orders. There was nothing in their actions that would/or could help the oppression of Palestinian people.


The politics of the International Criminal Court, The International Court of Justice another international tribunal, the United Nations, the treaty of the Rome Statue and individual national support or not, may dampen the righteous justice being sought, but now it’s out there and someone has said it. Netanyahu is a war criminal and the prosecutor has evidence that he says will not erode in court. Same for the Hamas terrorist leaders.


Those of us of an age to have seen what may be “the futility of all endeavor,” over many decades come the understanding of the lines from the Hebrew Koheleth, translated into Greek as Ecclesiastes: “Because in much wisdom there is much grief and increasing knowledge results in increasing pain.”


Despite how modern we become, we live like primitive brutes beating each other with stones and clubs.  Now we have “national security interests” and the right to “self-defense” but in the end it is all intellectual lather to justify our failure to advance in how we live with each other. We still fight over land, money, resources, flags, dogma, doctrine and even our God or Gods or gods. 


Associates and friends will say here I go being an idealist again. Well to achieve this age and retain the vision of idealism is, I think, a star on my chart. In now more than 50 years of watching our behavior from alley ways to board rooms and capitols of government and slums, and battlefields and zones of conflict, and great cathedrals, and waddle huts I’ve also learned to be pragmatic, and understand that we are a conflicted creature and our own enemy in reaching the gold rings to which we aspire. We may desire to reach the summit, though we’ll beat up each other to get there. But with push, admonition, sacrifice, prayer and diligence we have made incremental steps in becoming more like humans and less like the brutish louts from which we have advanced. The action of the International Criminal Court, as criticized as it will be, is one of those nudges that tries to push to be something better.  


   See you down the trail. 


Wednesday, May 1, 2024

This is not 1968...


The spring flurry on American campuses has caused some to say it’s like 1968. It is not!


As someone who was on the ground as a reporter in 1968 please understand that while  some of the visuals are similar, what is playing out this spring is far different.


The protest movement of 1968 was focused on a singular objective, to raise hell mobilize public opinion and force a change of policy on the war in Viet Nam. 1968 was punctuated though by assassinations which fevered the frenzy of the national delirium. The murders of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were accelerant to a nation on fire.


The intellect of 2024 is vastly different than 1968. There are multiple “causes” and even aberrant reasoning behind the current occupations, forced entry of buildings and festival like eruptions on campuses this week. Some, there is no way to measure how many of the participants are sadly misguided and even ignorant to facts. Most administrators behave as if they are ignorant of history. At IU, the president acted in contradiction to long standing policy and history. The presidents have been boneheaded resorting to behavior more befitting a prison warden than an overseer of academia. There is good reason for the votes of no confidence. Schools have failed to recognize the teaching and learning moments presented by this time in history.


Where have these presidents come from? Apparently the land of professional academic careerism includes no training in reality, or history, or the constitution. 


The head of the Indiana state police, called to IU where a sniper was stationed on the roof of the student union, said he didn’t really understand the first Amendment. 


Welcome to America 2024 where we get our news with dance moves from TickTock and influences and where precious young things adopt restrictive dress for solidarity with what? a patriarchal terrorist group who slaughter babies and who keep women oppressed and repressed. There is no sane reason an American college student would voice support for Hamas or Hezbollah. They are enemies of even their own people, certainly the freedom of thought and expression the protestors are exercising. That behavior under Hamas and Hezbollah would cost them their heads. 


It is a signal of failure, a nail in the coffin, that American students cannot possess two truths in the same thought. One can, and should, be against the violence and be for Palestinian and Jewish people. Hamas has done no favors to the Palestinian people. Netanyahu’s war policy is criminal and is detested by the people of Israel.  A university student today should be able to discern the difference between Jewish people and the State of Israel, between Palestinian people and the evil of Hamas and Hezbollah. 


In 1968 when protests around the world targeted the US War policy  in Viet Nam, the anger was not with American citizens rather with the US Government. The victims today are largely the Palestinian people, but Jews in Israel, as well as Muslims and Christians also suffer.


In 1968 a few idiots carried the Viet Cong flag or sang about Ho Chi Minh, but they were rare. The bulk of the animus and demonstrations was toward the war policy. Americans disagreed with the government and carried out their right to protest.


Of course, those air head students who betray their ignorance have the right speak their less than reasoned minds and state their views as much as those who speak with knowledge and conviction. This could be a time of great learning, challenging the easy assumptions and misdirection of “influencers” and their own lack of intellectual vigor. 


That is a point lost on university presidents, chancellors, state police superintendents, local and campus cops whose first response is to start pushing and shoving on rights.


Breaking into building, stopping the function of a school, denying others their rights, speaking or chanting hate, intimidating or harassing other students is wrong and there are policies and laws to handle it. One need not point weapons of war at children, even belligerent children. 


Response must be measured and appropriate with an eye on history. I covered street demonstrations where tear gas cannisters flew and where people were manhandled and truncheoned. In those days police looked like police and were not outfitted to look like a combat ranger squad ready for lethal action. Recall that just two years after 1968, as the nation remained ripped apart our own national guard, city and state police shot and killed college students. 4 students died and nine were shot at Kent State by Ohio National Guardsmen. Two weeks later 2 students were killed and 12 were wounded by cops at Jackson state In Mississippi. Those tragedies followed a national commission that decried police and government heavy handedness in the city and street violence of 1968. You’d think cops, and college Presidents would have some residual memory.


What happened at the Democratic convention in Chicago in 1968  was called a “police riot” by a national study commission. The police beat and brutalized hundreds of demonstrators and others. The cops turned on the media too. In what was called “a rare moment of collective courage” all of the major newspapers telegrammed a protest to the Chicago Mayor. NBC News Anchor Chet Huntley reported  “the news profession in the city is now under assault by the Chicago Police department.” CBS Anchor Walter Cronkite was also outraged by the strong-arm tactics.


If you are interested, and I would hope that means a few academic leaders too, you can look back at 1968 via on line archives at Vanderbilt University, or CSPAN.


This is not like 1968 and it is simplistic notion to say so. 

See you down the trail.