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Gambia has threatened to withdraw its ratification of the International Criminal Court in the Hague, citing concerns over racial bias. So far, South Africa is the only African state to actually withdraw. Are these concerns of bias valid? Well, no – the Court only indicts at the request of involved nations. But, on the other hand, yes – because the most notorious potential villains are senior politicians in the UK, Israel and the United States. Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine remain areas where the most egregious of apparent war-crimes have occurred. Why, then, have individuals or groups in the countries implicated not brought forward relevant charges for the Court? It is a good question, and one for which nobody seems to have an answer. Tony Blair, G.W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz – after Hitler and the Nazis, these are the most appalling war-criminals the world has ever known. And they also know it. I will be most surprised to learn that any of them has ever left his cushioned continent since 2001. It is the same with that arch-demon, Henry Kissinger. He cannot travel far from home, because there are warrants for his arrest all over the place. You have not heard this? Read my dear late old friend, Christopher Hitchens’ book, The Trial of Henry Kissinger. And, while you’re at it, read his book on the Clintons. The contents are deeply disturbing, and, since neither book was ever sued, one must assume that these diabolical accusations are true. In Hilary’s case, this is who America will elect as President – and that, perhaps, explains why none of its previous criminal leaders were suggested for the ICC’s prosecution? In the West, we have an intrinsic bias – but only because we no longer know our own history. There is nothing to be proud of in it. For America, there is a vast delusion, going back to the Beginning and those most grandiose of documents. “All men are born equal and independent”? I don’t think so. Do the black slaves, or the Indigenous – or, for that matter, women – have certain “inalienable rights”? Or certain unalienable ones? Evidently not. And who exactly are, “We the people”? It would seem that they are the signees to this ridiculously pompous, self-aggrandizing screed: the cabal of oligarchic, land-owning faux-aristocrats who had managed to steal the British colonies before the Motherland knew they’d done it. Much as I hate to admit Donald J. Trump is right, he is right in claiming this election to be stolen. Confessedly, I would also steal it from him if I controlled America. But the hordes who will wail when Trump loses – as he will – ought, perhaps, to wonder why they have not dispatched their alleged war-criminals to the ICC. It is, as Gore Vidal used to say, because of the United States of Amnesia. Just going back to Vietnam, I could name a dozen people who deserve a criminal trial – if only to clear their names. Yet American – or really global – media focus their concerns on the present moment. All that seems to matter today is November the 8th. Yet, when that arrives, and Hilary is the next President, these concerns will change. No one will ever resurrect past worries, because we are not supposed to dwell on those. Thus, the lame ICC is left prosecuting tribal malfeasants, or possibly the odd east European despot. The world, however, is always left wondering if real justice is ever going to be served.


Pondering this perpetual calamity, I am left thinking about what might be truly interesting to readers. Would it, perhaps, be a glimpse of what goes on, much of the time, in the writer’s head? If such is the case – and I do not insist it is – then a new novel begins like this:


When I died, things really got interesting. Which is to say they were definitely not interesting before this. I had been a scientist, an expert in earthworms, and a teacher of my expertise. It was even said, at one glorious point, that I was the 5th most knowledgeable person on earthworms in the world. I objected to this attestation. McFinn was far less knowledgeable than I. But, after death, there was much to distract me from petty concerns. I must say that death was unexpected – who knew that lorry was skidding out of control on the icy road ahead? Not me. But, instead of this, I found myself wondering about all the lives I had previously lived. I must admit I had never, not for a moment, believed in reincarnation – and I did not now. I was forced to accept it, though, because it was true. In the same way, I was obliged to accept all the musings and ponderings I had ever had regarding the past. Amongst these – and I scarcely recalled it – was the questioning of Shakespeare’s identity. In my youth, I imagine, I had become obsessed, for a week or a month, with the specious issue of who wrote those plays. To be frank, I don’t think I had cared about this in half a century. Yet there I was, moments after death, plunged into the London of a very late 16th-century. Of course, it had never crossed my mind that one of my earlier selves had been involved in the Globe Theatre, and in Shakespeare’s life. Admittedly, I was not that involved – but I was there. And this revelation was not without its vast surprises. As I find my diary records: September 9th, 1593, Deptford, London:


And so it goes…


Paul William Roberts