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Confederate War Crimes Trial: An Idea Whose Time Has Come?

As a number of people here undoubtedly remember, a few days ago, Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon was indicted by that country's Supreme Court for starting an investigation of the massacres by the Falangists during the 1936-39 Civil War with the aim of circumventing the amnesty of 1977 and prosecuting the very few aged men left alive. Some people are outraged at this. After all, the Falangests were the bad guys and yes, they did indeed commit atrocities, and yes indeed, they did try to stage a coup on February 23, 1981.

While the coup plotters of 1981 were arrested tried, and thrown in jail, the people who were amnestied four years earlier were not. Those, who are now in their 90s and hundreds remain unpunished. To investigate them is not actually a waste of time and money, in theory, but by an investigating Judge it is. The amnesty was there for a reason, and besides, isn't this a job for historians?

Garzon became internationally famous when he issued an arrest warrant against Augusto Pinochet, the former President of Chile, because the former despot was at one time a despot. Pinochet was in jail in London for a few months in 1999 and 2000 before going home. Whether or not you think he deserved this treatment is beside the point. Spain didn't have the universal jurisdiction that it claimed. This smacks of colonialism, and was the legal basis if the spurious arrest of Rose Kabuyae, Rwandan Chief of State Protocol, for terrorism in 2008. (Apparently, she was fighting against the genocidal regime in 1994 and the French, who issued the warrant didn't like that. They let her go the following April without trial.)

The government of Mexico is having a jubilee for the centennial and bicentennial of two of its revolutions this year. Gov. Robert McDonnell of Virginia has just proclaimed "Confederate History Month." Both these "celebrations" are about the actions of people long dead, much like the Falangists in Spain who committed atrocities over 70 years ago.

What I propose, is that, in all three cases, there be televised mock war crimes trials. You wanna go after Generalissimo Francisco Franco? Fine, but go after Generalissimo Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna too ... and Jeff Davis, Napoleon Bonaparte and Pope Julius II while you're at it.

Correcting the historical record is one thing, that's a laudable, but wasting the money on prosecuting the long dead? That's a judicial activism we don't need.

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