The world that emerged from WWII had pretty concrete views on war crimes. We abolished sovereign immunity. We put a lot of nasty people on trial for crimes against humanity and sent a good number of them to the gallows. No longer would the world sit by and tolerate their butchery.
We were never really as noble as we pretended to be. Realpolitik led us to look the other way. Genocide continued. Think Cambodia or Rwanda, Biafra or the Congo. But that was Asia and Africa, places that hardly mattered among polite company. It would be enough that we and our friends wouldn't resort to such barbarism.
Sadly, the ghosts of Nuremberg have returned and, once again, we're doing nothing.
Deutsche Welle's Rainer Sollich offers up the slaughter in Aleppo that will almost certainly spread to the rest of Syria as an example of the West's fecklessness. To Sollich the lesson is clear - war crimes now pay off.
The military triumph of the Assad regime is unstoppable as long as it can rely on its allies. As soon as all of Aleppo is under the control of the regime, Bashar al-Assad will almost certainly set his sights on the remaining rebel-held areas in the Idlib region. The war will go on, and claim many more victims. Who or what could still stop Assad?
It seems the answer is not the West, or the so-called "international community." The United Nations has completely failed, as departing Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has acknowledged. The world is standing by, doing nothing as people in Aleppo and the rest of the country are murdered. Diplomatic efforts continue to be made, but they are a cover for pure powerlessness. Nobody has come forward to aid Syria's civilians. And that is not likely to change under the administration of US President- Elect Donald Trump.
But, of course, that's Syria and we've been at odds with that place and the Assads for donkey's years. It's not like they're our ally or anything. Yet, when we look at Saudi Arabia and Israel that's just a distinction without a difference.
We, Canada included, have been allied with the real butchers of the Middle East, the Saudis. Thanks to the House of Saud and their friends in Ottawa, Canada has become the second largest arms trafficker to the region.
The Saudis have been bombing Houthi civilians in towns and cities in Yemen using American made cluster bombs. That's a war crime and it's a crime against humanity. The Americans have had their fill of these war crimes and the Brits are getting nervous about how this makes them look. The Trudeau government? Well, a deal's a deal.
We're on the record. The Saudis are our allies. Together we're fighting this ill-named War on Terror. Only these same Saudis and their cousins, the princes, emirs, and sheikhs of the Gulf States have both promoted and funded the most radical strain of Sunni Islam that inevitably manifests in murderous groups such as al Qaeda, al Nusra, ISIS and Boko Haram. Those Houthi rebels in Yemen? Their fighters are battling al Qaeda and ISIS forces.
Let's look at the record. The original "embassy bombings" - Salafist Sunni. The attack on the USS Cole - Salafist Sunni. The original World Trade Center parkade bombing - radical Sunni Islamists. The 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon - ditto, Sunni. al Qaeda, al Nusra, ISIS, Boko Haram - you guessed it - radical Sunni Islamists. Who provides funding and support to these outfits? I guess that would be our allies. Who funds the madrassas where this venomous strain of Islam is spread throughout the Muslim world? Yeah, our ally, Saudi Arabia.
At what point do we have to accept some measure of complicity in their handiwork for recognizing them as allies and supporting them with their armament needs? Sure Canada isn't selling them cluster bombs but we are delivering Canadian-made death wagons, the Saudis' democracy suppression weapon of choice.
What of Canada's fulsome and unquestioning support of Israel? When it comes to war crimes the made-in-Israel doctrine of Dahiyeh is first class. Rather than attack combattants, go after civilian populations and their essential infrastructure. It typically starts with a two to three day air campaign to destroy the water, sewer and power plants followed by the destruction of hospitals, schools and police stations before turning to what's left, residential neighbourhoods. It began as an experiment tested on the Beirut neighbourhood of the same name and the pattern has been repeated in Israel's last two campaigns against the Palestinian population of Gaza. Is it a war crime? Absolutely. Does Israel care? Not so long as it has its two holdout backers in the UN, the United States and Canada.
Rainer Sollich's point, as I get it, is that these war crimes happen because, by act or omission, we let them happen. Friend and foe alike repeatedly show us what they'll do if they know we'll do nothing.
The ghosts of Nuremberg are back. We didn't have to let that happen.