M. Cherif Bassiouni: An Obituary

The evil that men do lives after them; 
The good is oft interrèd with their bones.
– Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

 

Chicago in December: my second year of law school: Professor Bassiouni handed me a wrapped Christmas present, a collection of all the maps of Napoleon’s campaigns. Nevermind that Bassiouni was a Muslim and I a Pagan, or that we worked together in international criminal law, a decidedly anti-Napoleonic endeavor. We both revered Napoleon, and that gift was a singular symbol of our connection.

 

Professor Bassiouni was a man of many contradictions, as I suppose I am. And it is only in attempting to process the fact of his death that I have realized this important truth: If the mentor sees himself in his pupil, you can rest assured that the pupil sees himself in his mentor.

 

I have told many stories about my decision to leave the field of international law; about my conversion from internationalism; about my total disillusionment with the present international order. Yet, in all these stories, I have mentioned only “The Institute” or “my Professor.” I have always refrained from using the name of Bassiouni, not out of any sense of shame for my juristic origins, but out of respect. For even given all his failings, Bassiouni was a great man.

 

It takes a certain type of soul to venerate one like Napoleon; it is an even rarer soul that can identify with him on a personal level. Perhaps his other pupils knew of his drive for power, or perhaps it was our secret; but I suspect that, had they known, they will now “excuse” him for this in his death – when it was, in fact, one of his many admirable traits.

 

If there is another pupil of Bassiouni’s who became a leader of the far-right, I do not know of him. To my knowledge, I am the sole, black sheep to stray from the flock. Bassiouni has attracted many brilliant minds, illustrious international lawyers, renowned scholars, celebrated leaders, many of whom will have their own words to say about the man, and a handful of whom I still think of as friends, though we have grown distant.

 

There are, on the other hand, the legions of üntermenschen, the mediocre who think themselves far more intelligent than they are, the ambitious who clamor to petty heights and think themselves kings, the low souls who approach power for its warmth & favor. This sort of student is the rat who burrows into the dog’s den, biting the pups who dare to claim their birthright. It is this petty sort of person who will no doubt sing the praises of Bassiouni while excusing him for his greatest qualities.

 

Professor Bassiouni was a military man, born of a rich family. From birth he understood power, and he understood that his academic work was an exercise of power – over rulers & ambassadors, legislators & law enforcement officers, professors & students, writers & readers, arms traffickers & soldiers, pimps & prostitutes, and everyone else in the world. I reckon that there are few who can imagine the sheer breadth of his power over the minds and the lives of ordinary men; and I reckon that is because he understood how to hide his love for power, how to dress it in fine, humanitarian language.

 

And here we come to a point at which I must disclose the underlying problem of this obituary, as well as my avoidance of Bassiouni’s name for the past several years: How does one write about his mentor after disillusionment & departure? How would Malcolm X have spoken of Elijah Muhammad? How would Jung write of Freud? How would Annakin write of Obi Wan?

 

To say that he was a great man and nothing more would be to whitewash everything. To say that his legacy is and will be monstrous – and nothing more – would be nothing short of betrayal, though it would be true. I suppose all I can aim for is fairness, an accurate balance of my love for the man against my hatred for his work.

 

So I will tell a story, the story of the moment I woke to the harsh reality of what we were really doing in international law.

 

I worked with Professor Bassiouni on several projects, some in connection with the International Human Rights Law Institute, some connected to the Istituto Superiore Internazionale di Scienze Criminali, and some under his personal aegis. One project, my favorite project, was one of his personal projects. It was a written work on the laws of armed conflict. In one of the manuscript drafts (for this was a long-going ordeal), Professor Bassiouni had quoted Hobbes as saying “Truth, not Authority, makes law.”

 

That was the beginning of the end. For that did not sound to me like anything Hobbes would have said. So I took it upon myself to launch an inquiry into this brief sentence. An internet search was not enough to satisfy my desire for accuracy; neither was reading the printed English text. If I was to challenge my mentor on this point, I was going to make certain that I was correct.

 

And so it came to pass that I rode the train from Chicago up to Evanston. I walked into the library at Northwestern, went to the ancient texts, and found an original copy of Leviathan in its original Latin form. There I found the sentence: AVCTORITAS NON VERITAS FACIT LEGEM: Authority, not Truth, makes law. Professor Bassiouni’s entire argument had been predicated upon the fact that law is based upon truth, not violence, and that Hobbes supported this idea. In fact, quite the opposite is true.

 

Now, it may be that this was a simple mistake. Or maybe it was a deliberate untruth. Who could ever know? In either event, my disillusionment with modern international law was not due to the fact that I discovered one day that my mentor was but a man of flesh and blood. No, the change of perspective came during the hunt for the Hobbes quotation; in which hunt I discovered the work of Carl Schmitt.

 

Schmitt is a man you will not hear about in law school. There is a two-fold reason for this: 1. He was a Nazi. 2. He was correct.

 

Professor Bassiouni is known as the father of international criminal law. No one can deny him that title. The problem is that the entire system is a fabrication, a spiderweb of falsehoods and manifest injustices, and all based upon a kangaroo court precedent at Nuremberg, the greatest sham trial of modern history. The present international order is an anti-human machine clumsily draped in sheep’s wool, a system aiming at world enslavement while preaching freedom for the peoples of the world. It must be destroyed at all costs.

 

Bassiouni is indeed the father of international criminal law – but international criminal law itself is an evil that must be eradicated. It makes one wonder whether Bassiouni had ever even heard of Carl Schmitt, or Francis Parker Yockey, or FJP Veale, or any of the other lawyers and scholars who refuted international criminal law before it was born. If any living jurist could challenge my mentor, it would have to be me.

 

But alas, that fight never came. Now he is dead. Perhaps I should have challenged him formally while he was alive – but it never occurred to me that he could die. I thought I had more time. I suppose there are certain people you meet whose immortality you take for granted.

 

Many rebels and upstarts have a drive to prove someone wrong: a father that called him stupid in grade school, a teacher that said he’d never amount to anything, a brother who called him weak. But in order to prove that person wrong, he has to prove himself right. How could I launch an attack against my mentor and his system when I had not yet made my mark on the world? I had to prove that he was wrong, not by words but by deeds, not by footnotes but by conquest. Only this would he have respected – not agreed with, but respected.

 

When I left international criminal law, I returned to my hometown of Orlando, where I worked at the trial level in local criminal law. I could have been rich & famous, living in Europe, a prestigious scholar within the System – and truth be told, I still think about that to this day.

 

It is, however, a thought that passes quickly. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? To me – and to Bassiouni – the stakes are that high. I do not think that he was deliberately duplicitous. I trust that he truly believed in humanity and in internationalism, not in a Machiavellian fashion, but genuinely. We simply have an unbridgeable difference in perspective. We simply have different ideas of what constitutes Heaven & Hell on earth.

 

There is no personal hatred in my heart for my former mentor. On a personal level, I hold nothing but love & admiration for the man. My hatred is reserved solely for his work, and for the international system he was instrumental in creating. And while his other pupils will see certain of his characteristics as “excusable,” considering his penance done in the field of internationalism, those are precisely the characteristics I find to have constituted his greatness.

 

Of the many interests we shared, a love of the world’s cultures and a fascination with medieval history were among them. One day we spoke of the worldwide trend of populations clustering in urban areas and abandoning the country. He predicted that the world’s cities will, before long, become walled fortresses again, and that bandits will roam the open country, just as in medieval times. For all his talk of progress, Professor Bassiouni appreciated recurrence and the cyclical nature of time.

 

All that being said, our unbridgeable difference in perspective can perhaps be best summarized in a simple image: It is from the country that I write this; he died in Chicago.

 

Augustus Sol Invictus
Wednesday 27 September 2017
[Undisclosed], South Carolina

Augustus Invictus
An attorney, writer, and political activist in Orlando, Florida, Augustus Invictus is best known as a radical philosopher and social critic. Invictus is a member of the right-wing of the Libertarian Party. He ran for the United States Senate in Florida as a Libertarian in 2016 and formerly served as Chair of the Libertarian party of Orange County.

Invictus earned his B.A. in Philosophy at the University of South Florida in Tampa and his J.D. at DePaul University College of Law in Chicago. Returning to his hometown of Orlando, he studied leadership at Rollins Crummer Graduate School of Business and opened the law firm for which he served as Managing Partner until his retirement from law practice.

A Southerner and a father of five children, Invictus contends that revolutionary conservatism requires a shift in perspective from the exaltation of abstract ideologies to a focus on our families and communities.