Chomsky On Sri Lanka and American Affairs

Eric Bailey interviews Noam Chomsky for the Sri Lanka Guardian:

Eric: In regards to the very top leadership of the LTTE, do you think it might be more healthy or harmful for Sri Lanka to create its own Nuremburg trials to try these top Tiger leaders?

ScreenHunter_01 Feb. 17 12.41 Chomsky: I frankly doubt it because the Nuremburg trials, if they were serious, would have to avoid the profound immorality of the actual Nuremburg trials. Remember, the actual Nuremburg trials were trials of the defeated, not of the victors. In fact, the principle of the Nuremburg trials was that if the Allies had committed some crime, it wasn't a crime. So, for example, the German war criminals were not accused of bombing urban, civilian targets because the Allies did more of it than the Nazis did, and Nazi war criminals like submarine commander Dönitz was able to bring as defense witnesses, American and British counterparts who testified that they had done the same things so these automatically became non-crimes. In other words, a war crime is defined as something you did and we didn't do and that turns the trial into a sham. It has been a sham since. The Chief Justice at Nuremburg, Chief Robert Jackson, the American Chief Prosecutor, he made very strong statements at Nuremburg, admonishing the judges there that, as he put it, “we are handing the defendants a poison chalice and if we sip from it (meaning if we carry out crimes like theirs) then we must be subject to the same punishment.” Of course, nothing like that has happened or is even conceivable. Jackson said, “If we don't do this it means that the trial was a farce.” Well we haven't done it so that means the trial was a farce, even though the guilty were maybe the most guilty criminals in modern history. So a Trial modeled on Nuremburg would not be a good thing at all. It would simply be a trial of the defeated and that only engenders further hatred, anger, and promises an ugly conflict. An honest trial, which tries everyone, might be conceivable, but my guess is that it's probably not a good idea, just as it wasn't carried out in the countries that I mentioned.

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