Letters to the Editor

(October 5, 2009)


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Jan Baughman's (R)evolutionary Health Care Reform

To the Editor:

If this cartoon doesn't win [the Union of Concerned Scientists' contest] this year there is no justice. I have enjoyed all your past work, but this one is perfect on so many levels. BRAVA!

Leigh Page
Mill Valley, California, USA - September 21, 2009

[ed. Jan Baughman has been competing for the past two years in a program of the Union of Concerned Scientists, in which 12 cartoons are selected for their annual Scientific Integrity Calendar. She has not made it past the semifinals so far, but Swans readers have benefited from her creative attempts.]


The world of music thanks to Isidor Saslav

To the Editor:

I continue to enjoy Mr. Saslav's interesting and unique glimpses into the serious music world. His Shavian comments are also of great interest. I have known Isidor for a number of years and remain awed by his encyclopedic knowledge of music. I never fail to learn something from his articles. Thanks for providing him a forum.

John Dozier
Columbia, South Carolina, USA - September 21, 2009


Art Shay's Kookaburra Bird Shit and the Other David

To the Editor:

Excellent story. I agree that David Sedaris is over-rated and over-paid. I prefer the "other David," David Rakoff. Sedaris's many fans just love his quaint whining about his childhood memories of his dysfunctional southern family whose odd behavior only he could see through and no one else could who was there at the time.

Steve Shay
Seattle, Washington, USA - September 21, 2009


Femi Akomolafe's Africa And The International Criminal Court Of [In]justice

Dear Sirs,

I was very interested to read Femi Akomolafe's piece on the International Criminal Court and Africa. Whilst there is much truth in what was said, I would like to correct a few points that were made:

"The U.S. is widely believed to have arm-twisted several African countries into signing the Treaty of Rome."

The U.S. has been a consistent opponent of the court, voting against its adoption, pressurizing countries not to sign up and then pressurizing countries that had signed up to sign "Bilateral Immunity Agreements" to effectively opt out of the court regarding US nationals. This claim is simply not credible. Europe, on the other hand, has been at the forefront of encouraging countries to sign up, including in Africa. There are also Western NGOs, including ones in the U.S., who have advocated the court, which may be the source of the confusion.

"Four years later, the UN (albeit its Security Council) yielded to heavy pressure to issue an indictment against a man who had been cleared by a commission of the same UN!"

This is a misunderstanding. The commission said Bashir had not committed "genocide" -- only war crimes and crimes against humanity. The ICC has actually said the same -- throwing out genocide charges but allowed Bashir to be indicted for the other charges.

"By October 2007, the ICC prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo had received 2,889 communications about alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in at least 139 countries, and yet by March 2009, the prosecutor had opened investigations into just four cases: Uganda, DRCongo, the Central African Republic, and Sudan Darfur. All of them in Africa! Thirteen public warrants of arrest have been issued, all against Africans."

Most of the 2,889 complaints had been dismissed as being "manifestly outside the courts jurisdiction," so these should be ignored in the analysis. Of the remainder, eleven have been subject to "intensive analysis" -- the four listed above plus Afghanistan, Chad, Colombia, Côte d'Ivoire, the Gaza Strip, Georgia, and Kenya. That includes two countries in Asia, one in South America and one in Europe. More detailed information is given at:

It's true that Africa is disproportionately represented in that list. It's also true that Africa has a disproportionate share of civil wars, which unfortunately goes alongside war crimes. In fairness you should also add Rwanda and Yugoslavia to that list -- although dealt with by different courts they are largely the same system and Yugoslavia was most certainly a European country.

"Why did this trial not take place in Africa?"

The international criminal court is a global court, not a European court. They are in talks to take over the Arusha Tribunal premises in Tanzania so hopefully future trials of African suspects can, indeed, take place in Africa rather than in Europe.

"Both Bush and Blair are clearly indictable under several articles of the Rome Statute. By any definition both men are war criminals (even if unindicted). Their crimes include but are not limited to murder, torture, and forcible transfer of prisoners (rendition). But since both the U.S. and the U.K. enjoy veto power at the UNSC, no one realistically expect either Bush or Blair to be referred anytime soon to the ICC for criminal prosecution."

What you say is correct about Bush but not correct about Blair. The UK is a member of the court so Blair's activities are automatically under the jurisdiction of the court -- and indeed have been investigated already and no grounds for action have been found. No UNSC referral is necessary. For more information see:


Andrew Turvey
Nottingham, England - September 21, 2009


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Published October 5, 2009
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