Blinking at Evil: State Department Closes Office of Global Criminal Justice

by Bruce J. Einhorn

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” –-Martin Luther King, Jr.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has ordered the closure of the State Department’s Office of Global Criminal Justice, the agency that for two decades has monitored and sought to bring to justice war crimes and those participants in crimes against humanity and genocide.  Tillerson’s move is one more effort of the Trump administration to retreat from America’s role in the world as what Ronald Reagan called “the shining city on the hill,” a leader for global justice and security.

Shame on Tillerson, and shame on our president.

From 1979 through 1990, I had the privilege of serving as a counsel and then as chief of litigation for the federal government unit that identified and prosecuted fugitive Nazi war criminals residing illegally in the U.S.

To share the lessons of my experience, I now teach law students about human rights and their violation, and the laws of war with its prohibitions against all manner of war crimes. I know a great deal, too much I think for any one person, of how across our world, blood sport has become the official policy of many nations and terrorist, non-state actors.  The shambles that are Syria, the continued, systematic rape and murder of women and girls in Darfur, and the war crimes that persist against civilians in the Myanmar states of Kach and Shan, are but a few examples of how the better angels of our nature have been cast aside for the sake of man’s inhumanity to man.

In the wake of this, our government has closed a critical reporting and lobbying agency that spoke truth to the power of torturers, murderers and persecutors. Clearly, the Trump administration has adopted a policy of resignation in the face of the worst evils in the world.  As President Trump recently said in an interview with Fox News in which he defended his admiration for President Putin of Russia, whose murder of opponents he did not deny, “There are a lot of killers” in the world.

The State Department has said that the decision is a product of an “employee redesign initiative.”  I have never, ever read or heard of any greater obfuscation of truth.

The closing of the OGCJ is in fact a metaphor for all that is wrong with current U.S. foreign policy.  Indifference to genocide, the refusal by the administration in its Holocaust Remembrance Day Proclamation to name Jews and Gypsies as the principal victims of the Nazis, the utter disdain for NATO, the policies of restriction toward refugees, the appeasement of Russia and its authoritarian leader, and the failure to appoint senior officials to vital policy posts at the State Department, offer a sad commentary on the America of today.  The president, his administration, and his supporters have deluded themselves into believing that a “Fortress America” will keep us safe from terrorists and other evils in the modern world.

This isolationist posture did not serve us well in the 1930s, and it won’t protect us today.  In fact, it will cripple our ability to push back against the genocidaires who hate us almost as much as their victims, and in doing so weaken our Western allies, including Israel in the volatile Middle East, who function as a buffer between ourselves and our mortal enemies.  Trump and Tillerson’s policies are as dangerous to our security as they are immoral.

The indifference toward acts of hate abroad is evidence of a government unwilling or unable to fight acts of hate here.  According to the Anti-Defamation League, there was a one-third increase in hate crimes against Jews in 2016, and an 86 percent increase in such acts during the first quarter of 2017.  According to the magazine Mother Jones, at around the time of the presidential election, hate crimes against Muslims had risen 67 percent. Those who do great violence against minorities and other civilians, here and overseas, are always emboldened by the indifference of national leaders to fight persecution with prosecution.  Assuredly, we have begun to reap the wind of war crimes that have poisoned our standing in the world and removed the fear of God from extremists in the U.S.

Like all of you, I regularly complain about a lot of daily stressors, like traffic, sales people at the door, and the price of everything – what a dear friend of mine calls “first world problems.”  It would be well for us to remember that our nation and world are beset by greater evils than noisy neighbors.  It would also be well for us to recall the words of Thomas Jefferson that, “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever.”

SOURCE: The Hill

Judge Bruce J. Einhorn, retired, is chair and president of the Coalition for the Advocacy of the Persecuted and Enslaved, an adjunct law professor at Pepperdine University and a visiting professor at University of Oxford, England. He is a member of the ABA National Commission on Immigration and Lifetime National Commissioner, Anti-Defamation League.