The transcript of Dialogos Radio’s interview with international lawyer and professor Francis Boyle of the University of Illinois. This interview aired on our broadcasts for the week of February 18-24, 2016. Find the podcast of this interview here.
MN: Joining us today on Dialogos Radio and the Dialogos Interview Series is international lawyer and professor of international law at The University of Illinois Dr. Francis Boyle. Boyle has served as legal counsel to the Palestinian Authority, to Hawaiian independence groups, and served on the legal team which led to the conviction of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney for war crimes. Professor Boyle, welcome to our program today.
FB: Well, thank you very much for having me on, and my best to all my friends in Greece. Great country, great people. I spent about two weeks traveling around in 1974, and another two weeks traveling around in 1982.
MN: Wonderful…well, let’s get started by talking about the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission and the case which led to the conviction of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Alberto Gonzalez and others in absentia for war crimes. Tell us about this commission, and about this case that you were a part of, and its aftermath.
FB: Well, there were two different proceedings. The first one was against Bush and Tony Blair, for their war of aggression and Nuremburg crime against peace against Iraq. I was part of the team that helped get a unanimous conviction there. And then, the second proceeding was against Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Gonzalez, and several others, for torture and war crimes. Again, I was part of the team that helped get a unanimous conviction, both for torture and for war crimes. Those materials have been filed with the International Criminal Court, and I’m doing the best I can to follow up on my own, tracking these people and staying in touch with all the lawyers to see if we could get them apprehended.
Now, Bush was about to go to Switzerland, and a Swiss parliamentarian aware of my work demanded that the Swiss prosecutor-general apprehend and prosecute Bush for torture and war crimes, under the domestic implementation of legislation for the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. So when word got back to Bush, he didn’t go to Switzerland. So that’s the way I’m proceeding, and other international human rights experts—I’m not the only one out there, I know the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York is involved, I believe Amnesty International is involved, and there’s some other human rights lawyers I stay in contact with around the world—we’ll keep after these people the best we can.
MN: Now, let’s look more closely at the role of United States foreign policy, its military, and the role of NATO in the world today…almost eight years ago, President Obama came to office promising to shut down Guantanamo Bay, promising to right the wrongs of the Bush administration, but instead, we’ve seen Guantanamo remain open, we’ve seen U.S. military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Middle East continue and, in fact, intensify, and we’ve seen the growth of military operations using unmanned drones, in Yemen and elsewhere. How does international law view the actions of the Obama administration and the United States today?
FB: Well, actually I wrote a book that comprehensively covered all the violations of international law, human rights, the laws of war, and United States constitutional law by the Bush Jr. administration, called “Tackling America’s Toughest Questions,” and in the conclusion—I wrote the conclusion three weeks after Obama was inaugurated—I said it looked like we very well might be getting a third Bush term, and that’s what we’ve got here, two more Bush terms under Obama. He’s pretty much continued the Bush policies, both abroad and here at home, compounding and continuing the Bush police state here in the United States. At some point I guess I’ll get around to writing a book on the Obama administration’s violations of international law, but in the meantime you can read my book on the Bush violations, “Tacking America’s Toughest Questions,” and he’s basically continued the same policies.
MN: We are on the air with international law expert Francis Boyle here on Dialogos Radio and the Dialogos Interview Series… Years ago, you had written about the plans of the United States, the European Union and NATO for the Ukraine and indeed for the world, with a stated goal of destroying specific states and listing seven countries that were slated to be taken over. What were those plans and have they come into fruition?
FB: Yes they have. In my book, “The Criminality of Nuclear Deterrence,” I have in there a statement by deputy secretary of defense Wolfowitz, made right after 9/11/2001, that the United States government was going to get into the business of destroying states, and I analyze that sentence. It’s genocidal. And then soon thereafter, NATO general Wesley Clark was in the Pentagon and he was told they had a list of seven Muslim states that they were going to destroy. Basically, they’ve all been taken out now except for Iran. They’ve destroyed Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Lebanon has been pretty much paralyzed, and they lopped out South Sudan from Sudan. So that process continues, and now they’re moving towards the Ukraine and China. They’re moving towards Russia from the Ukraine, and also China. They’re moving directly to confront China.
MN: Is there, in your view, any political candidate, any political force in the United States at the present time that can put an end to this foreign policy and to the U.S. military machine overseas? For instance, there’s many progressives who have placed their hope in Bernie Sanders as the man to do this. Is this hope misguided, in your view?
FB: Well I’m not going to criticize Senator Sanders here, I’ve dealt with him personally, but everyone had the same hope about Obama during his campaign. Now, Obama was behind me at Harvard Law School, and he moved to the Hyde Park area in Chicago with the University of Chicago, where I was an undergraduate, so I had my own sources out there in Chicago, and they told me not to trust Obama, so I never have. And indeed, I didn’t vote for him two times in a row and I was not deluded by Obama, which is why I said, three weeks into his administration, in my book, “Tackling America’s Toughest Question,” it looked to me like we were going to get a third Bush term. You know, hope springs eternal. Maybe Bernie Sanders will actually do something, I don’t know.
Hillary Clinton is a psychopath and a war criminal, [who said] “we came, we saw, he died,” mimicking Julius Ceasar and laughing hysterically after Colonel Kaddafi, my former client, was sodomized with a knife and beaten to death. She’s a certified psychopath and war criminal. As for the Republicans, none of them look very good at all, between you and me, so I guess maybe Senator Sanders might make a difference. The last time around I did support Jill Stein of the Green Party, I thought she was the best candidate and had the best platform, but unfortunately the Greens, with all due respect to them, didn’t really get themselves organized and accomplish everything. So there we are here in America, what can I say?
MN: We are on the air with international law expert Francis Boyle here on Dialogos Radio and the Dialogos Interview Series… The ongoing and worsening conflict in Syria and all across the Middle East has led to a tremendous wave of refugees fleeing their homelands and traveling, under treacherous conditions, to Europe, with Greece often serving as the European entry point for these refugees. What do you make of the European Union’s stance towards the refugee crisis and the stance of the international community, and what does international law foresee in such circumstances?
FB: All these refugees are fleeing because the United States government has been destroying their states, as we’ve already discussed. Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, and Libya accounts for most of them, so that’s why they are fleeing, the outright terror of the aggression, war crimes, genocide, crimes against humanity that the United States government is inflicting upon them. With respect to Europe, everyone there in Europe, all the states are parties to the U.N. refugees convention that’s the international law. Unfortunately it appears that they’re going to be making Greece the scapegoat for all of this and confining all of these refugees in Greece, if you’re reading the plans here, which is completely unfair. I don’t know exactly how to advise Greece as to how to deal with the situation. The refugee convention is there, but you’re being made the scapegoat for American policies here, and Europe is going along with it.
MN: You have written and spoken extensively about growing Israeli belligerence in the Middle East and about the Palestinian right of return. How does international law view Israeli actions in the region, such as the continued construction of settlements, and how can the Palestinian people defend their homeland and their sovereignty, from a legal point of view?
FB: Well I’ve written three books, including “Palestine: Palestinians and International Law: Breaking All The Rules,” and “The Palestinian Right of Return Under International Law,” so I’m not going to go through all that, but basically what we have here is outright genocide being perpetrated by Israel against the Palestinians, with the full support of the United States government. And that is what confronts us today as citizens of the world community. Israel wants all of Palestine and they don’t want any Palestinians there, so it’s going to get worse. I gave the best advice I can to the Palestinian leadership, I’ve worked with them to get them up to the point where they are now a United Nations observer state, I have devised a means whereby they can overcome Obama’s threatened veto of their membership, full-fledged state membership in the United Nations, and I have also offered to sue Israel at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, the world court, for inflicting genocide against them and trying to stop the settlements, the genocidal siege of Gaza. So, the Palestinian leadership has my recommendations and offer to help. In the meantime, I’m doing everything I can…I was the one who set off the Israeli divestment, disinvestment campaign of November of 2000, and then in 2005, the Palestinian civil society contacted me and asked me if I would go in with them on a BDS campaign, which I agreed to do. So the BDS campaign has taken off now all over the world, and I would encourage your listeners to work with the Palestinian BDS campaign for sure. It’s having an impact.
MN: We are on the air with international law expert Francis Boyle here on Dialogos Radio and the Dialogos Interview Series… Having mentioned Israel and the Middle East, this past summer, the Greek government signed an agreement with the armed forces of Israel, a so-called “status of forces” accord, which Israel has apparently signed with only one other country in the world, the United States. What does this accord mean and what do you make of the Greek government’s efforts to forge closer ties with Israel
FB: Well, I haven’t read this document, so I don’t think I should comment on a document I haven’t read. But, it is very unfortunate to see Greece move towards working hand-and-glove with Israel, when you did have a previous history there of supporting the Palestinians, and I think the Greek people need to make it clear to the current SYRIZA government that you’re not going to accept this at all, and you want the Greek government to go back and support the Palestinians.
MN: You used to be a member of the board of Amnesty International USA, back in the late 80s and early 1990s. However, you have since turned into a fierce critic of NGOs such as Amnesty International. Describe for us the relationship that exists between such NGOs and power structures in Washington and elsewhere.
FB: Yes. These western NGOs, and you probably have some of them in Greece, all operate on the basic principle: he who pays the piper calls the tune. There’s nothing objective, neutral, or dispassionate about any of them, including and especially Human Rights Watch, the Red Cross, I could go down an entire list of these NGOs. So they’re really not there to help you and the people of Greece. You might have your own internal Greek NGOs that get money from Greek sources, but that’s a different matter. You have to be very careful with these NGOs. For example, this summer Amnesty International adopted a resolution to the effect that it was going to promote the sex industry and sex trade on a worldwide basis, which I did my best to stop. I read the documents in support of this, and it all went back to George Soros documentation. So it seems that Soros must have made a very big contribution to Amnesty International to get this reprehensible policy rammed through their headquarters in London, and then Amnesty worldwide. I take it that Soros must have some type of investments in the sex industry—you know, he’s a hedge fund manager—and you know, Soros gave $100 million to Human Rights Watch, so you can figure it out from there. It’s true of all of these western NGOs.
MN: We are on the air with international law expert Francis Boyle here on Dialogos Radio and the Dialogos Interview Series… Your outspoken criticism of U.S. foreign policy, against Israel, also issues such as being in favor of independence for Hawaii and for many other issues has put you on the radar of the FBI and other intelligence agencies. Describe for us an encounter you had with the FBI about a decade ago.
FB: One day, two agents of the FBI and the CIA showed up at my office, misrepresented to my secretary who they were, what they were about. I let them in to my office. They proceeded to interrogate me for one hour and tried to get me to become an informant against my Muslim clients, which I refused to do, repeatedly refused. So they went out then and put me on all the United States government’s terrorist watch lists. According to my lawyer, there’s six or seven of them and as far as he can figure out, I was put on all of them. You know, what can I say? My lawyer did appeal, but he was told I would remain on all of these watch lists until the FBI and CIA take me off, which course is not going to happen in my lifetime. He did make it possible for me to travel, but there we are.
MN: Now let’s turn to Greece one more time…over the past six years, successive Greek governments, including the supposedly leftist SYRIZA government, have signed a series of memorandum agreements which have not only imposed harsh economic austerity, which have not only resulted in the privatization and sell-off of key public assets, but which have also essentially signed away, at least on paper, Greece’s sovereignty. The EU and the troika have final approval rights over key legislation that is brought before the Greek parliament, while the memorandum agreements have been placed under the legal authority of the United Kingdom and Luxembourg. Are such agreements valid under international law, and what could Greece do to restore the country’s sovereignty? Are there any precedents in international law that Greece could turn to?
FB: It does appear that SYRIZA has abandoned and betrayed the Greek people and the promises it had made originally to get elected. You know, you’re asking me this question for the first time, but certainly one could use an argument of economic duress and threats of coercion under the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, to try to claw back some of these agreements that SYRIZA has made. As for this debt, there is a well-known doctrine under international law known as “odious debt” that I think Greece could consider to repudiate a good deal of this debt. I haven’t studied the elements of the Greek debt, but it does appear there are more than enough elements there that could be repudiated as odious debt. And then finally, clearly Germany owes massive reparations to Greece for the Nazi occupation and war crimes in Greece during World War II. They still have not paid up, and I think the Greek government or the Greek people need to insist on that, and that gives you a lot of leverage against Germany, which is really the most powerful country in Europe right now and is pretty much calling all of the shots here. I think there the Greek people understand this. So you have a lot of leverage, but the SYRIZA government has to use it.
MN: Are the examples of countries such as Iceland or Argentina possible precedents that could be used in the case of Greece?
FB: Well Iceland’s pretty small… yes, you could look at Argentina, and then also Malaysia, when it was threatened by Soros with his hedge fund’s attack on the “Asian Tigers.” Malaysia was able to pull through that.
MN: We are on the air with international law expert Francis Boyle here on Dialogos Radio and the Dialogos Interview Series… We live in a global society today that is marked by increased government surveillance, police violence, an increasingly neoliberal and authoritarian world. In light of this, what can ordinary people do to not only stand up for human rights and the rule of law, but to also identify political and social movements that will truly stand up for their rights and not betray them?
FB: Well you just had a general strike in Greece. I thought that was great, it really shows the Greek people have had enough. Everyone taking to the street, I think we need to see more of that in Greece, and then some type of leadership emerge out of those general strikes. It seems to me they’re really in contact with people. SYRIZA has forfeited, in my opinion, its right to lead the Greek people. They’re working in cahoots with the IMF, the World Bank, the European Central Bank, Brussels, and Berlin.
MN: Professor Boyle, thank you very much for taking the time to speak with us today here on Dialogos Radio and the Dialogos Interview Series, and for sharing your insights and experiences with our listeners.
FB: Thanks for having me on, and I look forward to coming back to Greece sometime when I can fit the trip in. Great country, I learned so much from your people and the history and the culture.
MN: Thank you once more, greatly appreciated.