Alleging War Crimes
George Monbiot Attempts Citizen’s Arrest on
Former UN Ambassador John Bolton
John Bolton, the former US ambassador to the United
Nations, escaped a citizen’s arrest Wednesday night as he
addressed an audience in Britain. We speak to George Monbiot,
the British activist and columnist who tried to arrest
Bolton. Monbiot says Bolton is a war criminal for his role
in helping to initiate the US invasion of Iraq.
Now ! Reports - 30/05/08
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GOODMAN: John Bolton, the former US ambassador to the United
Nations, escaped a citizen’s arrest Wednesday night as he
addressed an audience gathered at the Hay Festival in Wales.
Security guards blocked the path of columnist and activist
George Monbiot, who tried to make the arrest as Bolton left
the stage. Monbiot planned the action, because he says
Bolton is a war criminal for his role in helping to initiate
the invasion of Iraq in 2003 while he served as US
undersecretary of state for arms control.
George Monbiot joins us now on the phone from England. He is
a widely read columnist for the Guardian of London and the
author of numerous books. His latest is Bring On the
Apocalypse: Collected Writing. Actually, he joins us now
Welcome to Democracy Now!, George Monbiot.
GEORGE MONBIOT: Thanks very much, Amy. Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: Tell us exactly what happened.
GEORGE MONBIOT: Well, I made my intention clear to perform a
citizen’s arrest of John Bolton. I wrote a charge sheet
detailing exactly the role that he had played in launching a
war of aggression in violation of international treaties,
which is a clear violation of the Nuremberg Principles. And
I took a dossier of evidence down to the local police
station. I asked them to act on it. But when they failed to
arrest Mr. Bolton, I tried to arrest him myself, and I tried
to get up onto the stage as he was leaving it. And I called
out, “John Robert Bolton, I am arresting you for the charge
of aggression, the crime of aggression, as defined by the
Nuremberg Principles.” But I was caught by two very large
security guards and pulled out of the venue very quickly.
AMY GOODMAN: How does a citizen’s arrest work?
GEORGE MONBIOT: Well, under an act of Parliament here, the
Serious Organised [Crime and Police] Act, a citizen has the
right to arrest anyone that they suspect to be guilty of a
crime who would otherwise get away from the scene or escape
without being arrested, and to hand that person over to the
police. Now, there is a proviso which says that if—you can
only act in this way if the police are unable to act to
arrest this person. In this particular case, the police were
able to act and had chosen not to do so. So, had I succeeded
in arresting Mr. Bolton, I would have put myself on the
wrong side of the law.
AMY GOODMAN: John Bolton has also been criticized for
calling for US strikes on Iran. Earlier this month, the New
York Times published an article, based solely on unnamed
sources, suggesting the Lebanese group Hezbollah is training
Iraqi militants inside Iran. Hours after the article was
published, this is what John Bolton had to say on Fox News.
JOHN BOLTON: I think this is a case where the use of
military force against a training camp or to show the
Iranians we’re simply not going to tolerate this is really
the most prudent thing to do, and then the ball would be in
Iran’s court to draw the appropriate lesson to stop harming
JAIME COLBY: Ambassador John Bolton, a good message to end
on. Thank you very much.
JOHN BOLTON: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: Your response, George Monbiot?
GEORGE MONBIOT: Yes. Well, John Bolton has the position that
any and every country of which he disapproves should be
attacked, and then we work out the justification for that
attack later. He was one of the signatories of the letter
sent by the Project for a New American Century to Bill
Clinton in 1998, saying that we should attack Iraq and
overthrow Saddam Hussein. And he had one justification then,
he had a different justification in 2003, he has a different
justification today. It’s very clear that with Bolton, as
with Bush, as with Cheney, as with Rumsfeld, the urge to go
to war came first, and the justification came second.
Now, when you look at the main instruments of international
law, you see very clearly that waging a preemptive war where
you are not in an immediate crisis of self-defense is a
crime against international law. In fact, the Nuremberg
tribunals described it as the supreme international crime.
And it was for that crime that most of the Nazi war
criminals were convicted. And that is exactly the crime that
Bolton has conspired in committing.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about what happened to Jose
GEORGE MONBIOT: Well, Jose Bustani is a Brazilian diplomat
who was head of the Organisation for the Prohibition of
Chemical Weapons. And in 2002, Bustani offered a way out of
the impasse between Iraq in the United States. He said, OK,
Saddam Hussein won’t allow the UNMOVIC inspectors in,
primarily because UNSCOM turned out to have been infiltrated
by the CIA, and so the successor organization UNMOVIC was
viewed with intense suspicion in Iraq. Bustani said, “I can
solve this problem for you by bringing Saddam Hussein into
the Chemical Weapons Convention and then launching
inspections of my own in Iraq, and therefore we could have a
peaceful resolution to this crisis.”
Immediately, the United States swung into action against
him—the delegation led by John Bolton—and demanded his
dismissal as director-general of the Organisation for the
Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, failed at first and then
threatened to withhold all its dues and to destroy the
organization altogether, whereupon the other nations, led by
the United Kingdom, went along with the US delegation and
agreed to sack Bustani.
Bustani later took his case to an international labor
organization tribunal and was completely exonerated of all
the complaints which the US had leveled against him. And the
only one which seemed to remain was that he had tried to
prevent war from being waged with Iraq. And so, far from
seeking a negotiated settlement to the issue of the alleged
weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, John Bolton ensured
that anyone—Bustani’s attempt to ensure there was a
negotiated settlement was, in Bolton’s word, “tanked.”
AMY GOODMAN: So, George Monbiot, where you go from here? You
didn’t—were not able to arrest John Bolton in Wales. Did he
know what you were attempting to do?
GEORGE MONBIOT: Yes, he does. And he’s actually made a
public statement concerning it. I would urge anyone who is
in a position to do so to try to exercise a citizen’s arrest
of any of the primary authors of the Iraq War. And I’m
talking about Bush—that makes it very, very difficult, but
it’s—there’s a higher chance obviously when he ceases to be
president—Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perle, Bolton, and
over here in the United Kingdom, Tony Blair and some of his
cabinet ministers. And I certainly intend to try to carry
out a citizen’s arrest of either Blair or one of the other
senior architects of the war here in the United Kingdom.
And what I found from this instance was that even if you
don’t succeed in carrying out the citizen’s arrest, you are
able to focus a great deal of attention on the issue and to
ensure that people do not forget. This is not an ordinary
political mistake which was committed in Iraq. This was the
supreme international crime, which led to the deaths of
hundreds of thousands of people. Those people were not
killed in the ordinary sense; they were murdered. And they
were murdered by the authors of that war, who are the
greatest mass murderers of the twenty-first century so far.
AMY GOODMAN: George Monbiot, I want to thank you very much
for being with us, a columnist for the Guardian of London.
His latest book is called Bring On the Apocalypse: Collected
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