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Biden's Insistence Putin a 'War Criminal' Met With Skepticism

© REUTERS / Jonathan ErnstU.S. President Joe Biden reacts at the House Democratic Caucus Issues Conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. March 11, 2022. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Joe Biden reacts at the House Democratic Caucus Issues Conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. March 11, 2022. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst - Sputnik International, 1920, 18.03.2022
Speaking with reporters at the White House Wednesday, Biden was asked whether he considers the Russian president to be a war criminal. After initially responding in the negative, Biden returned thirty seconds later and clarified: "I think he is a war criminal".
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Wednesday that Biden "was speaking from his heart and speaking from what he's seen on television" when he accused President Putin of committing unspecified war crimes.
However, media outlets, even including those which have been largely sympathetic to the official US perspective on Russia's ongoing special military operation in Ukraine, like the Associated Press, have expressed doubts about the value of such rhetoric.
As the article's author points out, declaring someone a war criminal is not as simple as just saying the words, and there are set definitions and processes for determining who's a war criminal and how they should be punished.

How does one become a war criminal?

The exact definition of "war criminal" continues to be hotly contested. Any prosecution of such claims would likely take place under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, but neither the US, Ukraine, nor Russia is a signatory to the 1998 Rome Statute which established the body.
Nonetheless, on 2 March, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court announced he was launching an investigation into allegations of war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide committed in Ukraine. The investigation will cover the events that have transpired since 21 November 2013, the first day of protests which would morph into the right-wing US-backed "Maidan" coup d'état of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych that ultimately resulted in the deaths of over 14,000 people.
On 4 March, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution calling for the establishment of a commission of inquiry tasked with "investigating all alleged rights violations and abuses, and related crimes, and making recommendations on accountability measures", according to UN News.

"Barbaric action through an invasion of a foreign country"?

Beyond questions of legal jurisdiction, the history of many of the governments currently accusing Russia of war crimes points to another potential problem, however.
There are a number of offences that have been carried out by US and NATO forces over the past three decades that were also televised and which, using similar logic, would likely fall under the ICC definition of "war crimes". Officials close to the current US administration are implicated in many — in 1998, for example, the bombing of the Al Shifa factory in Khartoum, which produced over half of Sudan's pharmaceutical products, and which was "taken out on the direct orders of Bill Clinton", according to Jacobin.
Other well-documented NATO transgressions have frequently gone under the radar in the West, and those rare corporate outlets which do acknowledge them often paint the attacks as "claims" or something their victims merely "say" happened.
"NATO Bomb Said to Hit Belgrade Hospital", read a Washington Post headline when the Dr Dragisa Misovic Hospital was reduced to rubble just two weeks after a US B-2 bomber carried out an airstrike on the nearby Chinese Embassy, killing three officials and injuring over 20. Seven people killed in a NATO airstrike on a Zliten hospital were reduced to a "Qaddafi Government Accusation" in a headline from US state-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
More recently, in a military operation under the leadership of then-Vice President Joe Biden, a US airstrike on a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Afghanistan on 3 October 2015, killed 30 medical staff and patients. A subsequent Doctors Without Borders inquiry found the "US knew site was safe from Taliban* but bombed it anyway", as one headline from The Independent put it.
The deadly attack on health workers was closely followed up by the bombing of the Abs Rural Hospital in Yemen on 15 August 2016, when US-manufactured Paveway-series aerial bombs were dropped by the Saudi-led, US/UK-backed coalition in what Amnesty international called "the fourth attack in 10 months on a [Doctors Without Borders] facility in Yemen".
US and UK involvement in the ongoing Saudi siege of Yemen, which UN experts estimate has killed 377,000 civilians — 70% under the age of five — has largely gone unmentioned amid widespread Western allegations of Russian "war crimes".
But the Biden administration's insistence that Russian President Vladimir Putin is a "war criminal" faces another serious hurdle internationally – Biden's own complicity in the bloody US war in Iraq that saw millions of Iraqis killed over the course of two decades
"Joe Biden did so much more than vote for the war", according to University of Illinois–Chicago history professor Dr Barbara Ransby, in a recent mini-documentary narrated by Danny Glover, "Worth the Price? Joe Biden and the Launch of the Iraq War".

"He was chairman of the powerful Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Senate Committee. He really used his control over that committee to make sure that a majority of the US Senate voted to authorise the war".

"It's questionable whether the authorisation to start the war could have even passed Congress without all that Biden did to get it approved", she explained. "He really did play a major role in bringing us into the Iraq War… He bears much more responsibility than many other senators who simply voted for it".
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*The Taliban is a group under UN sanctions for terrorist activities.
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