2003 June 14 Saturday
US Threatening Belgium Over NATO Headquarters

The US is telling Belgium to stop prosecution of American officers and government officials.

Brussels, Belgium - The United States threatened yesterday to withhold money for a new NATO headquarters and to ban Americans from attending alliance meetings unless Belgium changes a law under which Army commander Tommy Franks was charged with war crimes.

US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is not amused

"These suits are absurd. By passing this law, Belgium has turned its legal system into a platform for divisive politicised lawsuits against her Nato allies," he said. "For our part, we will have to seriously consider whether we can allow our civilian and military officials to come to Belgium.

"We will have to oppose all further spending for a Nato headquarters in Brussels until we know with certainty Belgium intends to be a hospitable place."

There are pending Belgian prosecutions of a number of current and previous high US officials.

The problem stems from Belgium's Universal Competence Law. Under this law, U.S. Central Command chief Army Gen. Tommy Franks has been charged with war crimes for his actions in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Former President George H.W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell and retired Army Gen. Norman Schwartzkopf, former CENTCOM commander, have also been charged for their roles in the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

In an absolutely amazing display of audacity some Europeans are upset that the Bush Administration wants to retaliate.

BRUSSELS, Belgium Europeans were stewing today over an implied U.S. threat to move NATO headquarters from Brussels if Belgium doesn't rescind its loose "war crimes" law.

The US shouldn't have waited this long to start threatening to pull NATO headquarters out of Belgium. Where do these Euro-weenies get off thinking they can pull this nonsense?

Update: The Belgians seemed to waver in response to Rumsfeld's tongue-lashing.

Defense Minister Andre Flahaut said the country's universal jurisdiction law, which has been used to file suits against several senior current or former U.S. officials, could perhaps be revised for a second time to end the standoff.

But the Belgian Prime Minister now claims the amended version of the law is no longer a problem.

But Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt told a news conference there was no problem with the recently amended law and abuse of it for political reasons was now impossible.

It seems unwise to trust the Belgians on this.

Consider the irony: Europeans claim the United States is too unilateral. But then a single small European country sets its courts up to judge war crimes all on its own.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 June 14 09:18 PM  Europe and America

andrew brush said at February 24, 2004 4:56 PM:

I am for charging former and present top U.S. officials for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Why shouldn't there be a watchdog group to assure that these atrocities do not go undetected. You are not "innocent" based solely on the fact that you are "saving" and "protecting freedom" in the name of democracy. What ever happened to those WMDs that caused a World War and infuriated an entire culture with already brewing hatred of the west? I firmly believe that if these U.S. officials (including Bush or anyone from any country) are proven to have committed these crimes, they should be held accountable to the rest of the world. After all, isn't international democracy all about equality?

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