Apr 1 2002

Crime Against Humanity–or Matter of Opinion?

When Slobodan Milosevic was first taken before the tribunal at the Hague last year, USA Today applauded the event (7/3/01): Putting Milosevic on trial for his “wars of ethnic cleansing,” which “left thousands dead and displaced,” the paper wrote, could succeed in “deterring future world leaders bent on genocide or other atrocities.” The tribunal, in the paper’s view, could “lessen the likelihood of conflict and atrocities by setting global rules, penalties and institutions for governing global behavior.”

Those are worthy sentiments, even if the tribunal, an institution funded by Milosevic’s NATO enemies, is not the best instrument for dispensing impartial justice. But if you turn to USA Today‘s editorial page for February 22, 2002, you find the paper giving space to someone calling for the exact crimes that the paper hoped Milosevic’s trial, now underway, might deter.

Arguing against USA Today‘s endorsement of a Palestinian state, Emanuel Winston of the pro-Israeli Freeman Center wrote that “the simple answer, instead, would be to create a vast separation from Israel, resettling the Palestinians in Jordan, where 80 percent of the population already is Palestinian.” Since no one believes that Palestinians would leave their homeland voluntarily–or without a fight–Winston is clearly calling for ethnic cleansing on a massive and bloody scale.

Though Winston’s column is billed as an “opposing view,” it’s doubtful that the paper would turn over its pages to someone arguing that people should use murder, arson or kidnapping to settle problems with their neighbors. So why does the paper think it’s acceptable to call for ethnic cleansing, an action the paper rightly characterizes as a war crime and a crime against humanity? Apparently those “global rules” that USA Today professes to hope for will apply to certain countries and not others.