James’s Musings

thoughts, photography, and geeky stuff
from an unrelentingly curious Silicon Valley entrepreneur

More Truth in Fiction

by James G. Beldock on July 22, 2008

Lest my re­cent trip to the UK re­turn me home with­out at least a small taste of what has yet to make it across the Atlantic, I picked up a copy of the pa­per­back edi­tion of Robert Harris‘s lat­est nov­el, The Ghost: A Novel. I wasn’t ex­pect­ing an­oth­er episode of pop­u­lar-fic­tion-au­thor-pre­dicts-the-pos­si­ble-near-fu­ture, but just as Richard Clarke and Michael Chricton struck chords in my plea­sure read­ing about our na­tion­al se­cu­ri­ty (see my post about Breakpoint and Next), so it was a lit­tle jar­ring to read Harris’s book, which cen­ters around a ghost­writer hired to as­sist the fic­tion­al and re­cent­ly for­mer prime min­is­ter of the UK in the writ­ing of his mem­oires. Harris’s sto­ry sets the the strong sup­port this no­tion­al PM gave to the International Criminal Court at The Hague, again­st its po­ten­tial Spitzer-es­que back­fir­ing on that very same ex-PM when when that in­dicts him for war crimes con­duct­ed dur­ing the course of his administration’s sup­port for America dur­ing the war on ter­ror­ism.

Think it’s far-fetched? Perhaps, but as last week’s news that the ICC has is­sued an ar­rest war­rant for Sudanese President Al-Bashir shows, the is­sue of state sovreigni­ty (es­pe­cial­ly for se­nior mem­bers of the ex­ec­u­tive branch) re­mains very much a para­dox for The Hague. (See this on-point but some­what dry ar­ti­cle in the European Journal of International Law.) While some of us may rest on our first world lau­rels and be con­tent to watch the ICC in­dict the Sudanese pres­i­dent and there­by at­tract the col­lec­tive dis­ap­proval of the Arab League as a re­sult, we shouldn’t rest too eas­i­ly: it’s not quite so dif­fer­ent for Harris’s re­tired Prime Minister to see his own name on an ICC ar­rest warrant—and es­cape it on­ly by call­ing up­on the US (ex parte to the court and at whose bid­ding the fic­tion­al PM per­formed his ac­tions) to save his skin. Is Harris’s fic­tion­al PM sim­ply a thin­ly veiled por­trait of the very re­al-life Tony Blair, again­st whom sim­i­lar claims have been made? You be the judge (or let British jour­nal­ist Geoffrey Wheatcroft do so for you in his Slate ar­ti­cle). Clever writ­ing in­deed. Let’s hope it re­mains fic­tion.

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