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Citizen Monbiot and tomorrow’s justice

In spite of being unsuccessful last week’s attempt by the Guardian columnist George Monbiot to arrest as a war criminal the former US ambassador to the UN, and Under-Secretary Of State for Arms Control, is a salutary reminder of civic duty.

The charge against John Bolton, who was speaking at a literature festival in Wales, is that he is responsible, along with other members of the American and British governments, for waging a war of aggression against Iraq as defined by the Nuremberg Principles.

In particular he is held to have directed the removal of the head of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Jose Bustani, who had attempted — given widespread concern that the CIA was effectively gerrymandering UNSCOM — to find a way for weapons inspections to continue via his organisation and thereby avert conflict. In reference to US threats to subsequently withhold funds from the OPCW after it had tabled and lost a vote of no confidence in the Brazilian incumbent, Bolton boasts in his recent memoir, “I stepped in to tank the protocol, and then to tank Bustani”.

Furthermore, Bolton is also alleged to have orchestrated the production of a report that claimed that Saddam Hussein sought to procure yellowcake uranium from Niger. This has since been described by a spokesperson for the US Department Of State as being — verbatim — “based on fraudulent evidence”.

We will of course never know whether the case that Monbiot mustered could have withstood the scrutiny of a courtroom, as he was stymied both by the disinterest of the constabulary and then by the burly security who prevented his citizen’s arrest. In fact we can safely surmise from the qualifications in the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act, that even if he had succeeded in grabbing hold of him that it would have been Mr. Monbiot, and not Bolton, who would have been frogmarched to the parish police station in Hay-on-Wye.

Given that there is yet to be an inquiry here in the UK into how it was possible for Tony Blair’s regime to spend 275 hours debating the finer points of fox hunting as opposed to seven — yes seven — stating the case for a war without UN approval; Monbiot’s reasoning truly had no chance.

So what should we make of Monbiot then – an activist whose articles in the Guardian were recently rubbished in the Financial Times by a hack who could do no better than say, “I’m sure [they’re] wrong, but I can’t be bothered to do the research to prove it”? Is he just a “fruitcake” as Bolton later insinuated?

I personally believe that Monbiot — along with the likes of Armando Spatoro, the Italian prosecutor who has launched a criminal case against American officials over an extraordinary rendition in Milan, and the lawyers of the Centre for Constitutional Rights who have tried to find legal redress through a number of European judicial systems — is a species of fool with excessive faith in the arbitration of evidence and fairness embodied in international law.

I also hold that if fools persist in their folly they invariably make us all the wiser: For one thing is certain, without the advancement of respect for customary international law, the Convention against Torture, and the Geneva Convention, we will continue down this fascistic path of normalising tyranny.

Bolton may be small fry in comparison to some, Monbiot’s case tenuous as regards the machinations of the law but nevertheless, incrementally, a case is being made: Just in these few weeks, for instance, we have heard a former White House member of staff speak out about George Bush’s dishonesty in the build-up to the war, and at the (grossly under-reported) Winter Soldier On The Hill hearings, the tragic testimony of soldiers traumatised by their abuse of Iraqi civilians. How many more time do we have to hear how Bush “intentionally misled” the American population (something which according to a New York Times-CBS poll, the majority of Americans now believe) before as Vincent Bugliosi argues, in his Prosecution Of George Bush For Murder, we share his conclusion?

One day all of this is going to become a critical mass. And in retrospect it won’t be surprising. After all, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz and all the other principles must know that Henry Kissinger is rather circumspect about where he travels. And Blair et al were warned before the invasion by the Attorney-General, Lord Goldsmith, that he could not guarantee “that if the matter ever came before a court” he would be “confident” of the legality of military action.

In the meanwhile “Moonbat” Monbiot, as some have taken to calling him, has vowed to continue his quixotic attempt to be a global citizen and hold to account those responsible for mass-murder. While the inveterate Bolton, unmoved by hundreds of thousands of deaths in Iraq (the London based Opinion Research Business speaks of a figure around 1,220,580) moves about polite society talking-up, against Iran, yet another front in the “war on terror”.