Rogue State Part 2

The Treaty Ripper

by Jonathan Wallace

For more than fifty years, the nations of this earth have worked to establish a common international framework, a series of conventions aimed at regulating the risks and adversities of their relations with each other and with the physical world, including treaties aimed at ending the proliferation of weapons nuclear and otherwise, preventing genocide and other forms of violence, and regulating the discharge of CO2 which causes global warming. One powerful nation has decided to buck the trend, to hold itself out of all of these treaties and in fact to work for their defeat, on the theory that its own selfish will should be supreme. That country is the United States of America, the most dangerous rogue state on the planet. That effort did not begin with the assumption of the presidency by George W. Bush in January; it began years ago when right wing Republicans took control in both houses of Congress.

The international criminal court

In 1998, the Rome treaty was finalized, creating an international criminal court (the "ICC") to try genocide, war crimes and crimes of aggression committed within the territory of signatory countries who are unable or unwilling to prosecute those crimes themselves. To become effective, the ICC requires sixty ratifications; 139 countries have signed, and in July, the Netherlands became the thirty-ninth to ratify.

On December 31 of last year, President Clinton signed the ICC, saying:

We do so to reaffirm our strong support for international accountability and for bringing to justice perpetrators of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.

He noted the nation's "long history of commitment to the principle of accountability", as evidence by our support of international war crimes tribunals from Nuremberg to Rwanda. However, he also expressed concerns that the tribunal might take jurisdiction over citizens of countries who had not agreed to it (something we didn't hesitate to do at Nuremberg, or in Yugoslavia or Rwanda, by the way), called the treaty "flawed" and vowed to work to correct it before submitting it to the Senate.

That same day, Senator Jesse Helms issued a statement which effectively boiled down to "It will never happen." Calling the President's decision to sign the treaty "outrageous" and "inexplicable", Helms quoted Clinton negotiator David Schieffer:

The [Rome] treaty purports to establish an arrangement whereby United States armed forces operating overseas could conceivably be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court even if the United States has not agreed to be bound by the treaty. Not only is this contrary to the most fundamental principles of treaty law, it could inhibit the ability of the United States to use its military to meet alliance obligations and participate in multinational operations...

Helms concluded: "I will make reversing this decision, and protecting America's fighting men and women from the jurisdiction of this international kangaroo court, one of my highest priorities in the new Congress."

Contrast the views of the surviving American prosecutors from Nuremberg, who wrote to President Clinton on December 6:

Mr. President, the opportunity to take a significant step forward in man's quest for peace and justice does not often arise. This is one of those opportunities. Please join Great Britain, Canada, France, Italy, Germany, and other major nations of the world, in signing the Rome Treaty for the International Criminal Court.

Is the ICC a "kangaroo court"? Monroe Leigh of the American Bar Association submitted a chart to the House Committee on International Relations comparing the protections granted by the Rome Treaty with those guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. He found that the ICC was bound by its foundation document to respect the presumption of innocence and the ban on double jeopardy, and the rights to a speedy trial, to counsel of one's own choice, not to incriminate oneself, to be informed of the nature of the charges, to have the assistance of the court in obtaining witnesses, and to be present personally at trial. The ICC also had its own equivalent of the Fourth and Fifth Amendment protections against introduction of illegally obtained evidence. It didn't guarantee the right to a trial by jury, but neither do our military courts-martial, and nor did the international tribunals we supported at Nuremberg, in Rwanda, and for the former Yugoslavia. For that matter, an American committing a crime on foreign soil is not guaranteed an American-style jury trial or any of his U.S. constitutional rights.

The president's concern, and Senator Helm's indignation, have to do with the possibility that a U.S. serviceman could be indicted for a "war crime" committed in the territory of a member state, even if the U.S. is not a member. But under existing national law, any state can already indict a U.S. citizen, even one serving in the military, for illegal acts of violence committed there, the way American servicemen are tried for rapes committed near American bases in Okinawa or mainland Japan. All the Rome Treaty does is to delegate the same right--that of investigating and prosecuting the crime--to the ICC if the member nation doesn't find it expedient to stand up to the United States. The protections guaranteed to the defendant are comparable to those available on U.S.soil and exceed those of many member nations (would you rather face trial in Albania? How about Algeria?)

Senator Helms is a proud co-sponsor of The American Servicemen's Protection Act of 2001, which orders federal and local governments not to cooperate in any way with the ICC, and prohibits the U.S. from granting military assistance to ICC members (with exceptions for NATO and certain other long term allies like Israel), unless the President grants a waiver based on complex certifications that no U.S. citizen will be turned over to ICC under any circumstances. The act even authorizes the president to order troops to physically rescue any American held by ICC (in other words, standing authorization for the American military to invade the Hague). The act passed the House and is awaiting Senate action.

Evidently, for the American right, war crimes are only acts committed by other people against us; what they do to each other can never matter. Helms once spoke derisively of the slaughter between the "Hutus and the Tutus" in Rwanda, and he was a big supporter of Roberto D'Aubuisson, murderer of Archbishop Romero, in El Salvador, even to the extent of disclosing to him a secret CIA plan to aid D'Aubuisson's centrist opponent. When a women's group tried to get in to see him to talk about murders of health care workers by contras in Nicaragua, Helms' staff reportedly shrugged and said they're Communists, they had it coming.

The Heritage Foundation is a good place to turn when you want to know what the far right in this country is thinking. Funded by far right attack billionaires Coors and Scaife, Heritage exercises powerful influence in the Bush administration, contributing many appointees such as Elaine Chao, secretary of labor, and screening numerous other candidates. Most important, Heritage seems to embody the President's (or more accurately, his handlers') guiding philosophy; the administration has never yet diverged from the Heritage view. Heritage itself has even received special under-the-radar protection from the administration. According to an article in the August 21 New York Times, a Bush Labor Department appointee who is himself a Heritage alum refused to speak at a convention of corporate anti-discrimination officers unless they cancelled another speaker who planned to attack Heritage--which they promptly did.

Heritage thinks the ICC is an attack on American sovereignty:

The Rome Statute, in its conception and execution, is entirely antithetical to the right of self-government and to the civil liberties guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution--rights that have been defended by Americans on battlefields around the world. The American people govern themselves, and they have a right to be tried in accordance with the laws enacted by their elected representatives and judged by their peers--and none other--certainly not by a panel of unaccountable bureaucratic judges unfamiliar with, and often hostile to, those rights.

Heritage of course ignores the fact that an American serviceman committing a rape in Japan does not have a right to be "tried in accordance with the laws enacted by their [American] elected representatives and judged by their [American] peers". So why should an American serviceman committing war crimes overseas have those rights? What Heritage seeks is not accountability under American law, but immunity under any law.

The ICC was designed to replace an ad hoc system under which tribunals are created at great expense to deal with particular conflicts. Besides the waste and redundancy involved in creating a new tribunal every few years, there is the important issue of their lack of jurisdiction. Nuremberg, considered by most to be the show-piece for international criminal law, convicted Nazis and sentenced them to death for acts which were regrettably perfectly legal under German law and international law when committed. As of World War II, there was no international law prohibiting the murder by a state of its own citizens on account of their race. Nuremberg, therefore, was actually little more than an act of post facto humilation performed by the victors upon the vanquished-- morally satisfying, given the character of the accused, but legally unfounded. That, presumably, is the only kind of international tribunal Senator Helms will accept. The ICC, by contrast, is an attempt to create a rule-set, actual international laws against genocide and war crimes, by which the signatories will be bound.

The most famous (but far from the only) incident of U.S. involvement in war crimes in modern times is the massacre at My Lai. Michael Bilton and Kevin Simm report, in their book Four Hours at My Lai:

It was [Lieutenant William] Calley who, seeing a baby at My Lai crawling away from a ditch already filled with dead and dying villagers, seized the child by the leg, threw it back in the pit, and shot it.

And Calley wrote in his memoir, Body Count:

And babies. On babies, everyone's really hung up. 'But babies! The little innocent babies!' Of course, we've been in Vietnam for ten years now. If we're in Vietnam another ten, if your son is killed by those babies you'll cry at me, 'Why didn't you kill those babies that day?'

Total amount of time served by Calley after being sentenced to life at hard labor for the murder of 400 unarmed men, women and children who were lined up and shot, exactly like an Einsatzgruppen action against Jews, except that some of the women were also raped: four and one-half months before being paroled.

Personally, I would welcome the jurisdiction of the ICC in cases where an American military man or woman coldly and calmly lines up unarmed civilians and murders them. Since we seem incapable of punishing them ourselves. I wrote the following five years ago, when the negotiations for the Rome Treaty were just beginning:

The final test of whether a scheme of international law will succeed, and the determinant of whether we will ever be able to live in a quiet and fair world, is whether we are willing to live by the same rules we wish to see applied to others. When the U.S. is not only willing to inflict a fair punishment upon a future Lieutenant Calley, but is even willing to submit him to an international war crimes tribunal for fair judgment, we will know that day is here.

The land mine treaty

The Ottawa Treaty on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines was finalized in September 1997 and, as of early August 2001, had been signed or acceded to by 141 countries and ratified by 118 of them. As I wrote here in February 1998:

There are an estimated 100 million AP mines buried around the world and they kill about 26,000 people a year, eighty percent of them civilians, many of them children. People who survive a landmine explosion frequently lose limbs or are crippled for life and require prosthetics and sophisticated medical care. A landmine is a weapon indiscriminately used against a civilian population and tends to remain lethal for many decades after being deployed.
In August 1997, the Clinton administration refused to sign the Ottawa treaty unless it made two exceptions: one for all landmines on the border between North and South Korea, and one for certain so-called "smart mines" deployed anywhere in the world. However, the Canadian government, in a sharp, amusing FAQ it maintained at the time, said, "There are only two kinds of anti-personnel mines, 'dumb' and 'dumber.' So called 'smart' mines are just dumb mines that do not last as long. No mine is smart enough to tell the difference between a soldier and a child...."

Clinton later issued Presidential Decision Directive number 64, deferring consideration of the Ottawa treaty until 2006, contingent upon "suitable" alternatives to landmines having been found before then.

In May, 2001, a group of high-ranking former military men wrote to President Bush, asking him to fast-track consideration of the Ottawa treaty. This eloquent, highly technical letter begins by debunking the thesis that land mines are necessary to inhibit invasion of South Korea by the North:

Several of us are former commanders of elements of I-Corps (USA/ROK group), and believe that APM are not in any way critical or decisive in maintaining the peninsula’s security. In fact, freshly scattered mixed systems would slow a US and ROK counter-invasion by inhibiting the operational tempo of friendly armor and dismounted infantry units.

It is our understanding that the standing response plan to a North Korean attack does not call for these weapons to be used to counter an initial attack. Other, more effective and less inhibiting weapons, not newly laid APM or mixed systems, would be employed to halt the first waves of a North Korean advance into South Korea.

The writers, six Lieutenant Generals and two Admirals, point out that the landmines on the Korean border are under the control of the South Korean republic, not the U.S., so that U.S. signature of the Ottawa treaty wouldn't even require their removal.

More importantly, they call the President's attention to the fact that land mines, many of them laid by U.S. forces, have an unfortunate tendency to blow up Americans:

Our recommendation that you should send the treaty to the U.S. Senate for advice and consent is motivated by a deep concern for the welfare of the men and women of our armed services. As you know, Pentagon casualty reports from Korea, Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf attest to the tremendous toll that APM, many of them our own, have taken on our service men and women. Veterans across this country can testify to the devastating injuries this counterproductive weapon has inflicted on both U.S. servicemen and civilians in the countries where these weapons have been laid.

Among the host of countries which have signed the Ottawa treaty are the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Italy, but the name of the United States is missing from the list. The U.S. is one of sixteen countries where landmines are still manufactured.

The list of countries who have so far refused to sign the Ottawa treaty is instructive. The U.S. has placed itself in the company of nations like Afghanistan, Cuba, Iran, Iraq and Libya (also, however, China, Russia and India).

The BBC reported:

30-40% of the victims of landmines are children under the age of 15.

Each year 2-5 million new mines are put in the ground.

Anti-personnel landmines laid during World War II are still killing and maiming civilians....

Angola is the most mined country in the world, with approximately 15 million uncleared landmines. More than 30,000 Angolans have had limbs amputated as a result of mine explosions.

In 1997, the Heritage Foundation joined the debate with a paper entitled, Why a Global Ban on Land Mines Won't Work:

A ban on the production and use of any type of land mine will disarm the few countries that are willing to abide by an agreement, but it will do nothing to force the cooperation of the countries and groups that use them indiscriminately.

What is unusual about this article is that, unlike the Heritage Foundation response on the ICC, it doesn't attack the ends, just the means. In fact, Heritage finds the goal of a world-wide ban, on dumb mines anyway, laudable:

A pressing humanitarian issue facing world leaders is the killing and maiming of civilians, often children, by unattended anti-personnel land mines (APLs). This horrible occurrence -- caused by the proliferation and indiscriminate use of these types of mines by rogue groups -- is unconscionable. It should be stopped.

Excuse me for skepticism, but since Heritage doesn't usually sound this compassionate, close examination of the construction of this report seemed worthwhile. The give-away phrase occurs further on:

Today, the U.S. manufactures only mines that self-destruct, and the self-destruct rate of 32,000 smart mines tested since 1976 is 99.996 percent. Furthermore, there are no reported cases of unintended civilian injury or death by U.S. APLs in either 1995 or 1996.

"Dumb" mines are the ones that stay good forever, a "gift that keeps on giving"; people are still being blown up by mines laid sixty years ago. "Smart" mines destroy themselves after a matter of days or weeks. Heritage is proposing that we vigorously support a ban on the kind of mines we do not use, while forging straight ahead to deploy the other kind. Heritage's compassionate rhetoric then is really in support of....nothing. And this hypocritical recommendation does not even address Heritage's other objection, that rogue states will keep on using mines, smart or dumb.

I think two writers who contributed to The Spectacle in 1998 communicated the right wing view more honestly than Heritage. Jim Ray, a libertarian, confusingly related the Ottawa Treaty to an attempt to seize his shotgun. The right, as I also observed last month in the missile shield piece, draws a very infantile and dangerous parallel between banning any kind of ordinance anywhere, and the perceived attempts of domestic "gungrabbers" to violate its cherished Second Amendment rights. We apparently all reside on a slippery slope the size of the earth.

Bob Wilson was philosophically much more coherent. He wrote:

I personally favor our military having the nastiest, most menacing and crippling hardware that technology is capable of producing. It is a cinch that those whom we would be fighting against would employ such armament if they are capable.

This simple declarative statement gives us something to work with, as Heritage's evasive one does not. Ask Bob, "Bombs that shoot steel marbles or little arrows in every direction? Nerve gas? Biological agents?" and Bob will just ask what part of "nastiest, most menacing" you didn't understand.

Then you can jump the almost invisible gap between hardware and tactics (hardware, after all, is just tactics implemented in steel) and ask whether it is appropriate to shoot hostages, or terrorize the population into submission via rape-murders, if the enemy does (or even if they might if they only could). It doesn't take much to rephrase Bob to answer that:

I personally favor our military using the nastiest, most menacing and crippling tactics that human imagination is capable of conceiving....

Which is why I think that this kind of right wing thinking lands us in a moral swamp.

The reason to renounce tactics or technology that the enemy is using is to show that we are better than them, to illustrate to our own people what it is we are fighting for. The Nazis might shoot x Frenchmen or y Poles to revenge the killing of one German, but we never started to do so ourselves. We knew we were better. But, asks Bob, would you rather die on the moral high ground, you fuzzy liberal idiot? It is true that, if we are renouncing arms of immense tactical importance, a profoundly significant practical/moral question arises: would we rather die than commit act x or use technology y, or do we wish to survive at any cost? If a yes answer to this last question seems self-evident to you, ponder the fact that most starving people do not kill and eat their neighbor, effectively preferring death over an act morally repugnant to them.

In the case of land mines, the technology the Ottawa Treaty asks us to renounce is not even that important, as the letter from the eight generals and admirals attests. I get the sense that the American right wouldn't even clip a pinky fingernail if an international treaty required it. After all, you might need it to cut the throat of a foe later.

The small arms treaty

According to Joost Hiltermann, executive director of the arms division of Human Rights Watch, "active collusion between irresponsible governments and unscrupulous international arms brokers serves to fuel humanitarian suffering in open defiance of UN arms embargoes, which are further undermined by the UN's own lack of interest in properly enforcing them." He spoke an hour before the U.N. Conference on Small Arm Trafficking was to convene in July.

Jeffrey Boutwell and Michael Klare, in a recent article in Scientific American, reported that the annual international trade in small arms is now between $7-- $10 billion. In 1998, the United States accounted for $468 million of that trade, selling arms to 124 countries, about 30 of which were at war or experiencing persistent civil violence. "[I]n at least five, U.S. or U.N. soldiers on peacekeeping duty have been fired on or threatened with U.S.-supplied weapons."

For the full horror of the situation:

The proliferation of automatic rifles and submachine guns has given paramilitary groups a firepower that often matches or exceeds that of national police or constabulary forces. Modern assault rifles can fire hundreds of rounds of ammunition per minute. A single gunman can slaughter dozens or even hundreds of people in a short time. With the incredible firepower of such arms, untrained civilians--even children--can become deadly combatants. Unlike the weapons of earlier eras, which typically required precision aiming and physical strength to be used effectively, ultralight automatic weapons can be carried and fired by children as young as nine or 10.
And they are being carried and fired by child soldiers in Africa and elsewhere.

In 1998, representatives of 21 countries met in Oslo to work together to curb the international trafficking in small arms. The conclusion was not to attempt an Ottawa-style treaty, but "a multidimensional effort aimed at eliminating illicit arms transfers and imposing tighter controls on legal sales, along with promoting democratic reform and economic development in poor, deeply divided societies."

It was thought that many countries would not support an Ottawa-style effort, either because they themselves were dependent on imported arms or were manufacturing and exporting them to others. Human Rights Watch is quite critical and bitter about these countries' desire to ensure that the small arms talks will not result in another successful and high visibility accord like the land mine treaty. "[T]he current UN process was designed to limit serious pressure from civil society," the organization concluded.

Nonetheless, the Scientific American authors highlighted five steps that were expected to result from the small arms meetings:

Of four million war deaths in places like Sierra Leone and Angola, 90% were civilians, 80% of those were women and children. Where does the U.S. stand on all this? Exactly where you would expect, given our stand on the land mine treaty. John Bolton, the Undersecretary of State for arms control told the July gathering that "The United States will not join consensus on a final document that contains measures contrary to our constitutional right to keep and bear arms." The absurdity was complete: somehow the extreme instability of third world countries flooded with child soldiers bearing Kalashnikov assault rifles became related to our Second Amendment rights. Phyllis Schlafly of the Eagle Forum explained that the U.N. conference was really the stalking horse of an international gun-grabbing conspiracy: "It's scheduled to produce a legally binding treaty to require governments to mark, number, register, record, license, confiscate and destroy all guns except those in the hands of the military and the police." Writing in the National Review Online, the loony Dave Kopel called the proposal for the exchange of more information "a euphemism for universal gun registration in U.N.-run databases".

Global warming

For years on end, after mainstream science had first reported that CO2 discharges were causing potentially disastrous climate change, right wing think tanks and magazines were disputing the findings, claiming that objectively verifiable changes in weather patterns were just part of normal patterns. In 1995, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change put an end to the debate, reporting that human-induced changes will increase global temperatures by 2.5 to 10.4 degrees during this century, bringing about "wide-ranging and mostly adverse impacts on human health, with significant loss of life." Sea level will rise as much as three feet, inundating coastal areas where one third of humanity lives. Tropical disease will spread, agriculture will be harmed and fresh water will be scarcer. Today, even the Bush administration half-heartedly endorses the scientific conclusions; the President and the people around him just don't want to act on them.

On March 28, Christine Todd Whitman of EPA announced that the U.S. was pulling out of the Kyoto Protocol, a treaty under which the world's nations mutually agreed to reduce their CO2 omissions. "We have no interest in implementing that treaty," she said. The United States, which singlehandedly produces one quarter of the carbon dioxide pollution, had committed to reduce it by seven percent. (We have only four percent of world population.)

Said Environmental Defense Fund executive director Fred Krupp, "The Bush Administration's approach of explore for oil and ignore the science on global warming leaves the U.S. increasingly isolated from the rest of the world. It is bad for America's interests for the United States to be seen as the rogue nation of greenhouse gas pollution." Friends of the Earth director Charles Secrett was more pointed: "But this ignorant, short sighted and selfish politician, long since firmly jammed into the pockets of the oil lobby, clearly couldn't care less."

The administration's main excuse is that Kyoto puts an unfair burden on the United States, while developing countries do not share the load. points out that, after years of Clinton negotiations, Kyoto went easy on the U.S., not charging it with anywhere near a quarter of the bill for fixing the problem. "[W]hen it comes to greenhouse emissions, the U.S. has feasted, Europe has snacked, and developing countries have nibbled. Yet the U.S. has demanded belt-tightening among the nibblers." The article illustrates how other countries, including Britain and China, have grown their economies while reducing CO2 discharges; China's expanded 36% while the nation has cut emissions by 17% since the mid-90's. "[O]pponents of environmental measures typically exaggerate the costs."

On July 23 in Bonn, the other participants demonstrated that they are willing and eager to proceed without the U.S. (which skulked around at the conference not participating in negotiations): they announced an agreement on implementation measures. Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists, quoted in Platt's Global Energy, said "“This is a geopolitical earthquake. Other countries have demonstrated independence from George Bush. The rest of the world is moving ahead without the US.”

President Bush was so unwilling to accept the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, that he asked the National Academy of Sciences to double-check the results; they confirmed this year that there is a substantial human contribution to warming. The science is now indisputable, unless you work for, or your brain is owned by, the Heritage Foundation:

Bottom line: The science is still very uncertain. And we’re supposed to blame President Bush for refusing to drive our economy into a ditch over a problem that may not even exist?

President Bush has lamely promised that his administration is examining alternatives to Kyoto. But the Times recently reported that there is no sense of urgency and no work being done; rather, the internal perception is that the Kyoto problem has gone away. The perception problem, that is; not the real question of what the world will be like when Jenna Bush's children grow up in it.

Global warming is a classic tragedy of the commons; Barry Commoner, who invented the phrase, gave the example of sheepherders sharing a village commons, each of whom had an incentive to maximize his personal benefit by adding enough extra sheep to cause the destruction of the shared resource. The United States, huge rogue that it is, is causing one quarter of the global problem, out of sheer selfishness, and will do nothing about it. Today's dollar is more important than Jenna Bush's or all of our grandchildren.

I was astonished to find that Heritage knows perfectly well what a tragedy of the commons is; I had expected to find no mention, or even better, a denial that there is any such thing in the world. However, in an article entitled How to Talk About the Environment, Heritage policy analyst John Shanahan says that the concept

showed that when a good is publicly owned (or "owned" in common), no one has an incentive to conserve or manage it. In fact, there is a perverse incentive to use the good inefficiently (to deplete it) as each user tries to reap the benefits for himself. This fact is at the heart of most environmental problems such as air and water pollution and species extinction.

Shanahan even more remarkably endorses the concept of "polluter pays":

As Al Cobb, then Director of Environment and Energy at the National Policy Forum, says, "What the environmental lobby means by that phrase is that corporate polluters should be punished severely for any pollution whatsoever. What conservatives mean, however, is that polluters should bear the full cost of environmental degradation, but no more."

Heritage fails to explain anywhere why this doesn't apply to our disgusting contribution of one quarter of the world's CO2 pollution.


Heritage's fear of the U.N. reminds me inescapably of the familiar ravings about black helicopters:

The Little Black Helicopters are aircraft used by the United Nations to prepare for a total Takeover of the United States. The privately held property inside the United States would be inter-nationalized, the citizens' weapons confiscated, and children gang-raped if we allow them to continue their covert operations.

While Heritage is not quite that loopy, it is drinking from the same spring. The U.N., in fact, any multilateral approach to solving the world's problems, threatens U.S. sovereignty. Heritage's code word for "black helicopters" is "U.N. bureaucrats":

No U.N. bureaucrats have been elected by American citizens, and none should play a role in determining the laws that govern America....

Attempts to reform the U.N. by working through the "system" and cajoling other member nations and U.N. bureaucrats to work to improve its management have been fruitless...

Congress now wishes to make the President accountable to unelected U.N. bureaucrats....

Does Heritage believe we should pull out of the U.N.? No, but just barely...Heritage has given this a lot of thought; in a survey it took, 70% of respondents said we should quit the U.N. Heritage disagrees: "While much of the U.N. is objectionable, the U.S. should remain involved in it to advance American interests throughout the world." In other words, the U.N. is not to be used as a foundation for solving global problems, but as a tool for the advancement of selfish American interests.

There are other treaties as well that Heritage has targeted for destruction....and others the U.S. has already abandoned or gutted that we haven't spoken about. For example, the Convention on Rights of the Child, which has been ratified by every U.N. member except the U.S. and Somalia, which Heritage says pushes "an agenda that counters traditional moral and social norms regarding the family, marriage, motherhood, and religion." And the Chemical Weapons Convention, banning nerve gas....a 1997 Heritage article rounds up quotes from all the people who are running the country now:

There is no way to end the chemical weapons business by fiat. The price of attempting to do so with the present treaty [CWC] is unacceptably high, and the cost of the illusion it creates might be higher still.--Donald Rumsfeld

[The Chemical Weapons Convention] has been presented as a global, effective, and verifiable ban on chemical weapons. As individuals with considerable experience in national security matters, we would all support such a ban. We have, however, concluded that the present Convention is seriously deficient on each of these scores, among others.--Dick Cheney

And let's not forget the Republican Senate's 1999 rejection of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which Heritage, a few days before the vote, called "neither effectively verifiable nor enforceable".

A related matter: our U.N. dues have been about a billion dollars in arrears for many years, as a tool of Republican policy to undermine the U.N. Every time the U.N. gives in on one point, we find another reason not to pay. Most recently, Republicans were threatening to hold up a $582 million payment unless the U.S. Servicemen's Protection Act, forestalling participation in the International Criminal Court, was enacted first. The U.S. is the U.N.'s biggest deadbeat customer. The U.N. should throw us off the Security Council if we don't pay.

The beat goes on. The Heritage Presidency is new yet; there are more treaties to rip. James Carroll, writing in the Boston Globe:

An incoming Bush administration would prefer to be shackled by a xenophobic Congress than to be constrained by multilateral and equitable agreements with other nations - a preference here for the old cycle of violence to a new structure of peace.

Global problems such as genocide, land-mines or CO2-induced warming cannot be solved by local action, unless it is done in the context of an international framework."Want of a common judge with authority puts all men in a state of nature," said Locke in his Second Treatise of Government. As I wrote here in 2000:

The correct largest unit of government should be at the level of the largest problems we need to solve. Where humans live in densely packed proximity, and wars occur, it seems very clear that the proper largest umbrella would shelter the entire planet. Iran and Iraq have fought each other in recent memory, but New York and New Jersey never.

The Heritage Presidency seems to believe that we can place the U.S. behind a shield that will keep out not just missiles but the rest of the world's problems. President Bush and his Heritage brain trust act as if completely unaware that Star Trek-style force fields do not exist and that there is no barrier that we can place at our borders that will immunize us from the problems we are not just tolerating, but actively fostering, in the rest of the world. We share a very small planet with the rest of the nations, smaller in circumference than the distance I drive my car in a few years' time.

Not all think-tanks lie, but Heritage does. The average Heritage position paper doesn't say what the author really thinks; the foundation's purpose seems to be to provide plausible cover, reasonable-sounding arguments, for the politicians it influences. Phyllis Schlafly, Dave Kopel, Bob Wilson and Jim Ray will tell us what the American right believes; Heritage carefully restricts itself to pragmatic pronouncements that the ends are sound, but the means never work. This brand of doublespeak is worth an essay, or a series of its own. What Heritage thinks: we shouldn't enter into treaties on "social" matters such as pollution, arms or genocide. What it says: The treaties are "flawed", "unverifiable", the bad guys are going to do it anyway, the remedy just doesn't work. So there's no particular reason to try to climb out of the swamp.

If it was really about the means, about replacing flawed mechanisms, the United States would aggressively promote alternative international schemes. Instead, we reject Kyoto, then go to sleep. That tells you its about the ends: we just don't do treaties any more.

An important sidelight: the Heritage President, in pulling us out of Kyoto, was arguably acting unconstitutionally. According to an op ed by Yale Law professor Bruce Ackerman, in the New York Times for August 29, an American president never ended a treaty without Senate consent until 1978, when Jimmy Carter terminated a mutual defense treaty with Taiwan. Senator Barry Goldwater (remember him? 1964 Republican presidential candidate, somewhat to the left of Heritage and its President) sued, and the Supreme Court declined the case as being a "political controversy" (opinion by Rehnquist, now the chief justice). Ackerman argues that unilateral presidential termination of treaty obligations is (as Goldwater said) "executive usurpation of Congress' historically and constitutionally based powers." He urges Congress--including three Senators who signed Goldwater's brief and are still serving, Jesse Helms, Strom Thurmond, and Orrin Hatch--to stand up to the president.

The United States: triumphalist, paranoid, unilateral: selfishly holding itself out of the framework for world cooperation painstakingly constructed across fifty years. As I wrote last month, the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines "rogue" as follows:

Large, destructive, and anomalous or unpredictable: a rogue wave; a rogue tornado. Operating outside normal or desirable controls.

That's undeniably us.

Last month, The Missile Shield

Next month: the United States' legacy of murder