In accusing 1,039 Japanese of war crimes at the Yokohama War Crimes Tribunals, 123 of whom were sentenced to death, U.S. officials apparently sought not to seek justice in a legal sense, but to establish the principle of ultimate accountability and set a benchmark for the punishment of future war criminals.

But that benchmark, and the evolution of international law since now seems in jeopardy as a result of U.S. policy toward the International Criminal Court -- a direct descendant of those first war crimes tribunals.

In sentencing war criminals to death, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, argued that "the roles of war, and military law resulting as an essential corollary therefrom, have always proved sufficiently flexible to accomplish justice within strict limits of morality."