Our descent into pathetic, tinpot dictatorship continues apace! Yesterday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the United States government will sanction officials from the International Criminal Court who have the temerity to investigate Americans for torture and human rights abuses in Afghanistan.

Referring to the ICC as "a thoroughly broken and corrupted institution," Pompeo accused the ICC of "illegitimate attempts to subject Americans to its jurisdiction" since the US is not a member of the court. Note that this is not a denial that Americans may have engaged in human rights abuses overseas.

Nevertheless, two officials from the ICC are being added to the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control's Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List — which functions mainly to exclude terrorists, drug traffickers, and human rights abusers from the American financial system.

"Pursuant to Executive Order 13928, the United States will designate ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, and the ICC's Head of Jurisdiction, Complementary, and Cooperation Division Phakiso Mochochoko for having materially assisted Prosecutor Bensouda," Pompeo said, accusing the ICC of "target[ing] Americans."

And if the phrase "material assistance" sounds familiar, it's because we've used it to prosecute people like Osama bin Laden's driver, who engaged in legal activities as part of a larger terrorist scheme. It's a cudgel we use at will to prosecute foreign nationals outside the American legal system, and it is totally outrageous for us to pretend that investigating human rights abuses by Americans is tantamount to terrorism.

"Individuals and entities that continue to materially support those individuals risk exposure to sanctions as well," Pompeo threatened.

He then went on to excoriate China for bullying foreign diplomats. Seriously.

The ICC released a statement denouncing the sanctions as "another attempt to interfere with the Court's judicial and prosecutorial independence and crucial work to address grave crimes of concern to the international community as mandated under the ICC Rome Statute."

"These coercive acts, directed at an international judicial institution and its civil servants, are unprecedented and constitute serious attacks against the Court, the Rome Statute system of international criminal justice, and the rule of law more generally," it continued. Because if the US doesn't support accountability for human rights abuses, then why the hell should anyone else?

Everything is on fire right now, and it's hard to keep up with it all. But the Trump administration, under the guise of standing up for American interests, is rapidly burning down a century of accumulated American authority and influence. When we cripple the World Trade Organization so it can't adjudicate disputes and then we enact illegal tariffs under the guise of protecting America's national security, we encourage everyone else to break international trade agreements. When we describe NATO as some kind of protection racket, we encourage strong countries to invade their neighbors. When we pretend the World Health Organization is a puppet of China, we encourage other countries to hoard vaccines and not share them with America.

Having elected a two-bit flimflam wannabe strongman as our leader, we're no longer guided by the principle that "with great power comes great responsibility." Our national credo is now "with great power comes a total lack of responsibility," or perhaps simply "with great power comes great power." But responsible international behavior was the price we paid for being the biggest kid on the block. There's a reason that the USSR disappeared and we survived. And if we abdicate that responsibility, one day soon we'll be gone, too.

[BBC / State Department Transcript]

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Liz Dye

Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.


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