Thursday, January 15, 2009

Legitimatcy of the Russell's International War Crimes Tribunal

Taeus wrote a response to my “Chomsky’s anarchism skin-deep” note which reads, “I think the IWCT concerninge the US:s war in Vietnam was a good thing - what do you think?”

Taeus, you have provided me with your conclusion but left me in the dark as to your assumptions and reasoning. What do you base your conclusion upon?

I took the Bertrand Russell created “International War Crimes Tribunal” of 1967 as a Left-Wing stunt. Look who (per Wikipedia) was on the tribunal:

· Bertrand Russell (Tribunal Honorary President)- Peace Activist; Philosopher; Mathematician

· Jean-Paul Sartre (Tribunal Executive President)- Philosopher;

· Vladimir Dedijer (Tribunal Chairman and President of Sessions)- M.A. Oxon., Doctor of Jurisprudence; historian

· Wolfgang Abendroth- Doctor of Jurisprudence; Professor of Political Science, Marburg University

· Gunther Anders- Writer and philosopher

· Mehmet Ali Aybar- International lawyer; Member of Turkish Parliament; President, Turkish Workers’ Party

· James Baldwin- African American novelist and essayist

· Julio Cortázar (writer) Writer, novelist and essayist

· Lelio Basso- International lawyer; Deputy of Italian Parliament and Member of the Commission of Foreign Affairs; Professor, Rome University. President of PSIUP (Italian Socialist Party of Proletarian Unity).

· Simone de Beauvoir- Writer and philosopher

· Lázaro Cárdenas- Former President of Mexico

· Stokely Carmichael- Chairman, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee

· Lawrence Daly- General Secretary, UK National Union of Mineworkers. Socialist.

· David Dellinger- American pacifist; Editor, Liberation; Chairman, Fifth Avenue Parade Committee.

· Isaac Deutscher- Historian

· Haika Grossman- Jurist; Jewish liberation fighter

· Gisele Halimi- Paris lawyer; attorney for Djamila Bouhired; author of works on French repression of Algeria

· Amado V. Hernandez- Poet Laureate of the Philippines; Chairman, Democratic Labor Party; Acting President, National Organization of Philippine Writers.

· Melba Hernandez- Chairman, Cuban Committee for Solidarity with Viet Nam, now the Cuba-Viet Nam Friendship Association

· Mahmud Ali Kasuri- Member National Assembly of Pakistan, Senior Advocate Supreme Court of Pakistan

· Sara Lidman- Swedish Writer

· Kinju Morikawa Attorney; Vice-Chairman, Japan Civil Liberties Union, a human rights organization.

· Carl Oglesby- Past President, Students for a Democratic Society; playwright; political essayist.

· Shoichi Sakata- Professor of Physics

· Laurent Schwartz- Professor of Mathematics, Paris University.

Left-wingers of all stripes were doing what they could do to hamper America’s efforts in Vietnam and this IWCT is what Bertrand Russell could do. I’ve described Chomsky’s very mild disapproval of the Soviet Union as compared to his virulent hatred of the U.S. Russell was said to be disapproving of certain aspects of Stalinism. He was a Socialist and admired Marxism but thought Lenin had “hijacked” Russian Socialism. Sartre hung onto his admiration of Stalinism long after it had been abandoned by many of his friends, especially Camus.

On an absolute objective scale of war-crimes perpetrators, if anyone could create one, the Soviet Union would be high up on the list of culpable nations. Their “strategy” was criminal. America’s strategy, coming to the aid of an ally and resisting Communist aggression was not criminal.

Now, tactics in any war may turn out to be “criminal,” but America has standing laws against such criminality, making an International tribunal redundant and unnecessary. If a Lieutenant Calley goes misunderstands his orders and orders the destruction of a village at Mai Lai, he is arrested and court-martialed. What the Soviet Union did was to order the large scale assassination of “potential enemies,” as they did against Polish officers, for example.

In the case of the U.S., it had a strategy for opposing Communist aggression. This strategy proved finally successful during the Reagan administration. Insofar as we could afford it, we would go to the defense of nations being attacked by Communist aggression. I was in the first such war of that nature, the Korean War, and I have no misgivings about the American involvement there.

In the case of the tactics carried out during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations in Vietnam, they were inept to be sure. Johnson was not the right president for carrying out an effective war against a Communist enemy, but is ineptitude criminal? When presidents prove to be inept, our course of action is to vote them out of office or, if we are in a hurry, impeach them.


A better question to ask would be are War Crimes Tribunals ever legitimate and if so, under what circumstances. Most of those convicted at Nuremberg argued that they were enduring a trial by the victors of the vanquished, and there is justification in their complaint. There was not then and there isn’t now an internationally objective body capable of being above the fray and also capable of enforcing its decisions. If a Tribunal isn’t capable of enforcing its determinations, then what it produces is “opinion” and not “judgment.”

Thus, (and leaving aside the matter of criminality) is it a valid “opinion” that we didn’t fight the war effectively in Vietnam? Yes, I’d say so. Our tactics were inappropriate to the terrain and the nature of the war. But we have learned from that war and have improved our tactics. Anyone interested in how we have improved them should read Bevin Alexander’s The Future of Warfare.


Anonymous said...

Dear Lawrence!

You say:

"America’s strategy, coming to the aid of an ally and resisting Communist aggression was not criminal."

This is such a naiv point of view considering US:s real motives and their bombings of civilians, use napalm, agent orange, cluster bombs, concentration camps, etc.

The only reason Diem could stay in power as long as he did was that he was backed up by the US. If free elections had been held in SV in 1954 appr. 80% of the population would have voted for reunion, even Eisenhover admitted this.

The facts are so overwhelming regarding the US:s war crimes and other crimes that it doesn't matter who was elected for the tribunal. Anyone with a sense of justice would have come to the same conclusion as the Tribunal did.

Best regards, Taeus

Lawrence Helm said...

See response at


Efraim Israel said...

This is such a naiv point of view considering US:s real motives ...

wrote Anonymus. Why does he hide in anonymity? Stating that America can never have any motive other than criminal is a most laudable "opinion", nothing less than perfect according to political correctness criteria. On the contrary, maintaining that leftist governments, organisations and intellectuals, when murdering millions or applauding to it, are not animated by the loftiest motives is calomny, blasphemy and nazism.
I guess than Mr. Anonymus is a big intellectual. Bertrand Russell and Sartre were huge ones. I am also an intellectual and I am ashamed of that. Let's remind a sentence of Hana Arendt (I quote it by memory): "Nobody can so easily be bribed or afraid into nonsense than scholars, authors and artists."