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Friday, March 28, 2003

The Obligation of Defenders in War

Tony Adragna
In the post below defending attacks on "mosques and daycare centers and hospitals" where military targets are purposefully placed so as to illegitimately sheild defenders from attack, I should have explicitly made the point that defenders also "MUST [chose] B"[I think the point comes through in the post, but I shoulda done it anyway]. Crimes of War Project makes A Public Call Fot International Attention To Legal Obligations Of Defending Forces As Well As Attacking Forces To Protect Civilians In Armed Conflict
Both attacking and defending military forces have independent and non-derogable legal obligations toward civilians in the course of combat operations. Their respective obligations merit equal emphasis in media reporting and commentary as well as in monitoring by human rights organizations and other concerned individuals, non-governmental organizations, and governments and international institutions. Reporting on instances of collateral damage must properly ask not only whether attacking forces took due precautions for the protection of noncombatants but also whether defending forces likewise took due precautions for civilian protection or, instead, whether defending forces explicitly or implicitly relied on the proximity of civilians to shield their forces from attack in violation of the laws of war. In accordance with settled standards of international humanitarian law and the laws of war, obligations of defenders to protect civilians are no less important or less obligatory than those of attackers.

These obligations are not nullified by the relative strategic or tactical advantages or disadvantages possessed by attacking forces or defending forces in any particular circumstances. Sheltering defending forces among the civilian population for the purpose of making them immune from attack for fear of collateral damage is contrary to the laws of war and cannot be justified by the contention, asserted explicitly or allowed implicitly, that defenders seemingly might have no means to defend themselves except by hiding and dispersing themselves among noncombatants. Such sheltering among the civilian population (including sheltering by the use of human shields, voluntary or involuntary) for the purpose of rendering one’s forces immune from attack is a violation of the laws of war. [emphasis added]
Read the whole thing...

[ via Phil Carter's Intel Dump — good analysis with a been there perspective]

The Fog of Punditry

Will Vehrs
I was very troubled by the weekend pundit shows last week. The line between reporting and punditry was smudged, and the usual gang of pundits, those with a long record, were overshadowed by a phalanx of less established military analysts.

The battlefield in Iraq is constantly in flux. One minute the war is the allegedly predicted "cakewalk," the next minute it is an alleged quagmire. One minute two POWs are a sign that the war is a failure, the next minute a "bunker buster" bomb is changing the equation. There are too many pundits chasing too few angles. I am finding it difficult to remain at all objective as I absorb the commentary. And, quite frankly, I am appalled that this war, still in its early stages, is being used as a springboard for fighting old battles and settling old scores.

Therefore, Punditwatch is going into a "standdown" mode until enough time has passed to allow pundits the chance to fairly judge the political and military situation.

I'll be back when the "fog of war" lifts.

Thursday, March 27, 2003

Does "Liberation Theology" Provide a Basis for Liberating Iraq?

Tony Adragna
Via Glenn and Jeff Jarvis, I come to a lengthy comment titeld Liberation theology and the Iraq War in reply to a post at ibidem. ibidem's atleticorules highlights this comment in a follow-up entry, and comments
I mentioned in the comment section that I thought this was an interesting idea, but that it could run into problems since Pope John Paul II and the Vatican actually came out against Liberation Theology.[emphasis added]
Well, it's not so simple.

My first exposure to "Liberation Theology" was as an 18 year old seminarian in the fall of 1984. August of that year the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published an Instruction on certain aspects of the "Theology of Liberation", and in that document the church rejected much of what was coming from the Latin American authors of this movement.

Problems with the development of this movement in Latin American were several, but among them was the use of a traditional Catholic principle — "preferential option for the poor" — to justify Marxist doctrines on the use of violence to redress social inequalities. To argue that a Marxist approach to social justice leads toward the establishment of totalitarian states is not the classic alarmist "slippery slope" rhetoric — see Russia et al.

The church didn't stop at just rejecting the Latin American authors' expression of "Liberation Theology", though. In March 1986 the church published, as the prior instruction noted would happen, another instruction on this topic. In its Instruction on Christian Freedom and Liberation the church reiterates its statement of authentic teaching in the previous instruction. But, it also made a statement on where in the context of a "theology of liberation" you can get at a moral justification for something like what we're doing in Iraq. There are two relevant passages, one following the other
The myth of revolution

78. Situations of grave injustice require the courage to make far-reaching reforms and to suppress unjustifiable privileges. But those who discredit the path of reform and favour the myth of revolution not only foster the illusion that the abolition of an evil situation is in itself sufficient to create a more humane society; they also encourage the setting up of totalitarian regimes.(117) The fight against injustice is meaningless unless it is waged with a view to establishing a new social and political order in conformity with the demands of justice. Justice must already mark each stage of the establishment of this new order. There is a morality of means.(118)

A last resort

79. These principles must be especially applied in the extreme case where there is recourse to armed struggle, which the Church's Magisterium admits as a last resort to put an end to an obvious and prolonged tyranny which is gravely damaging the fundamental rights of individuals and the common good.(119) Nevertheless, the concrete application of this means can not be contemplated until there has been a very rigorous analysis of the situation. Indeed, because of the continual development of the technology of violence and the increasingly serious dangers implied in its recourse, that which today is termed "passive resistance" shows a way more conformable to moral principles and having no less prospects for success. One can never approve, whether perpetrated by established power or insurgents, crimes such as reprisals against the general population, torture, or methods of terrorism and deliberate provocation aimed at causing deaths during popular demonstrations. Equally unacceptable are detestable smear campaigns capable of destroying a person psychologically or morally.
There is certainly room for justifying our instant war along the lines of the church's theology on liberation. But, let's be careful to distnguish this from what the Latin American authors taught...

Addendum: What's most interesting is that JPII preached from this authentic formulation of "liberation theology" to people behind the Iron Curtain -- especially to Poles while he was Pastor there, and as Pope -- and that was, I argue, the right tack in that situation. It worked then, and I think that JPII's support for the Polish opposition was more responsible for the Soviet's downfall than was Mr. Reagan's "tear down that wall" speech.

Why won't the "passive resistance" approach work in Iraq? What's different from the situation behind the Iron Curtain? The answer is obvious -- the thug Stalin was long dead in the late '80s/early '90s, but Iraq still has its Stalin.

By the time the old Soviet sattelites began to throw off the yoke of Socialism there was nobody around with the stomach to commit mass murder on the scale it would take to put down a revolt [there were people who would've had no problem ordering the deed, but those usually aren't the one who do the deed]. Saddam has the stomach for it, and willing troops...

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Daniel Patrick Moynihan — Scholar, Statesman, & Politician — Dead at 76

He had been ill for a few months, and recently underwent an emergency appendectomy. Cause of death is most likely the post-surgical infection that has him in "critical but stable condition" for the last week. WaPo reports the bad news.

Of all the "personages" I've ever bumped into since working in DC, I was most awed by Pat Moynihan [I won't recount the story]. I still walk past the Woodrow Wilson Center every day and look up trying to figure out which office is his — it won't be the same anymore...

There's a Tank in a Mosque — Can We Bomb The Mosque?

Tony Adragna
On last night Hannity & Colmes, Sean asked of several guests variations on the question
We have these reports that they are dressing in civilian clothes and ambushing our troops. We now know that they are hiding in mosques and daycare centers and hospitals. What are we to -- I want to ask a broader question, a moral dilemma, if it becomes a risk to our troops, don't we at that point, Dr. Bennett, have to put their lives above our sensitivity?
Let me take a stab at this: It's neither a moral dilemma nor should it tax our sensitivities.

Sure, we want to do as much as possible to minimize the danger to noncombatants. So, we observe rules of war that put protection of noncombatants above the consideration of force protection. But, when an enmy force engages us from a position where their presence purposefully exposes noncombatants to danger, the responsibility for harm brought down on noncombatants rests with them whose purpose is to abuse noncomtant immunity.

Specifically on the question of "mosques and daycare centers and hospitals", those institutions are only protected so long as they're only used for non-military purposes. Once a belligerant puts such a place to military purpose, the it's a legitimate target. 'Course, fair warning must be given so that belligerants may either quit the position, or allow noncombatants to withdraw. If belligerants neither withdraw nor allow noncombatants withdraw, attacking the target ought still be done in a way that minimizes injury to noncombatants. But an attack on the target would be considered both morally and legally justified.

The point here is that the violations — of noncombatant immunity & protections accorded to certain institutions — are being committed by Iraq, and, so long as we don't act negligently, we aren't in any way responsible for any harm that comes to civilians as we attack legitimate military targets...

Addendum: I meant to note that Sean's question & Bennet's answer both seem to misstate the force protection v. noncombatant immunity considerations. If force protection comes out on top, then you've failed the ethics test.

Noncombatant immunity is such an important consideration that if you've a choice between attacking a legitimate military target in a way that A ) maximizes force protection while putting noncombatants at greater risk, or B ) in a way that puts you force at greater danger while minimizing noncombant casualties, your answer MUST be B.

It's not the most efficient way of fighting a war, but then war isn't the most efficient way of resolving disputes — it's taking the hard way after all the easy routes have been tried to no avail...

"Highway of Death" Part D'OH!

NEAR BASRA, Iraq — British forces engaged a column of Iraqi armored vehicles -- tanks and armored personnel carriers -- that filed out of the southern city of Basra late Wednesday, a British military source said.

The source said coalition aircraft as well as ground units were hitting the column, which he estimated at about 120 vehicles. The vehicles were moving south along Highway 6 .
I wonder [as I'm oft doing of late] how long it's going to take to spin this into: Bad USA, attacking harmless retreating troops...

Besides the fact that the Brits did the deed — btw, those Desert Rats have a history in Iraq, among other places — a tactical withdrawal is not the same thing as giving up and going home. So long as those troops are combat effective [heh] they're a legitimate military target.

The Iraqis have a habit of retreating into danger, and we ought be able to capitalize on that...

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

I Wonder if Saddam Counts this a "Victory"?

Major Ground Battle Taking Place South of Baghdad

A major ground battle was underway south of Baghdad tonight, after Iraqi troops--possibly the elite Medina Division of the Republican Guard--attacked elements of the U.S. 7th cavalry in the vicinity of Najaf.

Details of the conflict were few, but slowly emerging tonight. The Pentagon said several hundred Iraqi troops had been killed in fighting. There were no immediate reports of U.S. casualties. The battle appears to be one of the largest so far of the six-day war.
"Apparently ground forces tried to hit some of our guys with rocket-propelled grenades," a U.S. military official told the Reuters news agency. "They did damage a couple of pieces of our gear but we've had no reports of casualties on our side. But apparently there are some reports that we may have killed quite a few of them."
The Iraqis attacked? Do they wanna attack again?

I wonder if the fact that we hadta, you know, stop what we were doing before the attack is going to be reported as a "set back"...

Ba'ath Party Official Captured

WITH U.S. FORCES, Southern Iraq, March 25 -- British soldiers and sniper teams operating under cover of darkness stormed a local Baath Party headquarters in southeastern Iraq to capture a top official who had been organizing resistance to the U.S.-British invasion, officers said today.

The British snuck two companies from a 7th Armored Brigade regiment known as the Black Watch into the town center of Zubair, a vital city in southeastern Iraq that has been particularly troublesome for coalition forces trying to secure the region. Zubair, located just to the southwest of Basra, the regional hub, serves as home to a navy base and an important oil facility...
The Black Watch is the oldest regiment in the British Army — they've been doing this stuff for 250 years, including duty in a former colony during some kinda Revolution...

There's nothing like the sound of Highland Pipes in the morning...

Breaking News: Shiites Uprising Against Saddam

CAMP AS SAYLIYAH, Qatar — The Shiite majority in Basra has started a popular uprising against Saddam Hussein's forces, Sky News reported Tuesday.

Iraqi forces are reportedly firing at the Shiite protesters, who have the support of British troops in the area.

In an about-face, British forces said Tuesday they have decided to move against militia fighters who have prevented them from securing the southern Iraqi city of Basra...
What happened first — the uprising, or the decision to enter the city and give some finality to dealing with pro-Saddam forces?

This goes to why the expected warm greeting from Iraqis ended up being tepid — after what happened in '91, could anybody blame a bit of standoffishness 'til assured that we'd not leave those folks hanging again? Why would the folks of Basra take the risk of going against Iraqi Army units without having some confidence that they'd get support?

It's no coincidence that we announce going in after pro-Saddam forces, and the anti-Saddam folks get busy.

Consider also this as an explanation of why some Iraqis along the route of advance haven't been so enthusiatic in support of our troops — this "bypassing" not only leaves thugs in our rear to harass our communications, but also leaves those thugs in a position to put the screws to any rebels & collaborators [we've certainly good reason for racing north without first totally securing our rear — the places we're rushing forward to secure present a greater threat — but every plan has risks that we accept so long as the benfits outweigh]...

Monday, March 24, 2003

Al Jazeera Reports "A massacre in Al Basra"

Remember the "Jenin massacre"? Well, seems the same happened in Basra
A massacre in Al-Basra

In Al-Basra, Aljazeera correspondent said US bombardment of the city on Saturday has killed about 50 casualties, including four of a family and a Russian citizen, while injuring hundred Iraqis. The correspondent assured he got these statistics from Al-Basra main hospital, around which violent battles took place between Iraqi forces and the British American ones.

Hundreds of tanks and soldiers armored tankers, accompanied by vehicles carrying bridges equipments and other support vehicles have broken into Al-Basra and the ground road towards Baghdad in a convoys series all day.

Meanwhile, a US officer said that troops from the Marines defeated Iraqi forces at the outskirts of Al-Basrah southern city. The spokesman said that hundreds of Iraqi soldiers were captured by the American forces, adding that three of the Marines were wounded in battle when a civil-dressed man launched a missile against a supply vehicle.[translation courtesy Tarjim Web Page Translation]
Yes, I grieve over the loss of innocents — without exception. But let's get a grip on reality — during warfare, 50 deaths of a population over 1 million can't by any stretch of the imagination be called a "massacre".

Rather, such a small number of civilian deaths — assuming that all 50 were innocent civilians — evidences the caution being exercised by coalition troops to minimize civilian casualties. What we do toward the goal of respecting non-combatant immunity— including that of enemy troops trying to surrender — oft puts our own troops at great risk, but it's the way we conduct ourselves in bellum that distinguishes us from the thugs...

Sunday, March 23, 2003

Where The Hell Is Scott "Iraq Has No Chemical Weapons" Ritter!

FOXNews has confirmed the story
A senior pentagon official has confirmed to Fox News on Sunday that coalition forces have discovered a "huge" chemical weapons factory near the Iraqi city of An Najaf, which is situated some [90] miles south of Baghdad.

Coalition troops are also said to be holding the general in charge of the facility.

The Jerusalem Post ran a story earlier Sunday that was written by an journalist on-hand with the U.S. unit -- the 1st Brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division - that took the plant.
Not only have the Iraqi thugs not changed their tactics, but they've also broke the cardinal rule amongst criminals about returning to the scene of the crime — we blew up a chemical weapons depot in An Najaf once before
Although decontamination trenches, decontamination vehicles, and extra security measures often suggest a facility's association with NBC weapons, sometimes those signatures just aren't present--even though the weapons are on site. Such was the case at Iraq's Khamisiyah weapons depot, located southeast of An Najaf. As the DoD imagery below shows, no chemical decon trenches are present at the open-air pit (enlarged below) where the Iraqi's moved the sarin-filled 122mm rockets in February 1991; no special security fencing appears to be present either.

When American airborne engineers with the 82nd Airborne Division destroyed these weapons in March 1991, they had no idea the rockets contained degraded sarin nerve gas....
That's not the whole of it — during the post-Gulf War Shi'a uprising, there had been a Possible [Iraqi] Proposal to Use Chemical Weapons
In early March 1991, it was believed that a large government force would be needed to eliminate the insurgents in An Najaf. Previous attempts to remove the rebels, including artillery attacks, had had only short-term effects with the insurgents regaining control as soon as government forces left the area. The employment of aircraft armed with missiles, as well as the use of unspecified "liquids" (possibly chemical weapons), was proposed as part of an attack scenario, and the city was to be surrounded to prevent escape. Under this scenario, the military would later be able to move easily throughout the city and prevent a recurrence of unrest. There is no evidence that this proposal, especially as regards the use of "liquids," was ever specifically approved. Rather, the commander of government forces in An Najaf was authorized to take whatever action was necessary until the situation there was resolved. This authorization fell short of actually permitting the use of possible chemical munitions. Likewise, although several references were made to the use in An Najaf of "special munitions," a term previously used to designate chemical munitions, no evidence was available to indicate that such weapons were actually used.
Let's hear the denials...

Who Are the Captured U.S. Soldiers?

There's a press briefing from Ft. Bliss, TX scheduled for 6 PM. We'll know more then, but from what I've gathered so far it looks like the troops in question are from the 5-52 Air Defense Artillery Bn (Patriot), most likely members of the 507th Maintenance Company.

I pray that humiliation is the worst violation these troops will be exposed to, but I'm not hopeful
Acree and the others ended up in the basement cells of the Iraqi secret police headquarters. Nicknamed the "Baghdad Biltmore" by the American POWs, it was a place of unrelenting torture and misery.

Acree said he was so hungry during his captivity that he was forced to eat the scabs off his own body.
Former Iraqi officials have told 20/20 the treatment of the American POWs was overseen by Odai Hussein, Saddam's notoriously brutal son.

Odai is believed to have ordered the starvation, the mock executions, the mock castrations, chemical injections and severe beatings of the captives.

Despite the excruciating torture he describes, Acree never yielded to the Iraqis' demands. Acree said his silence only made his captors angrier. They beat him and knocked him unconscious repeatedly as he was tied to a chair blindfolded, he said.
On his third day of captivity, Acree said, the Iraqis hit him with something that felt like a 4-by-4 or a metal pipe. "When it hit me, instead of going left or right or back, it lifted me up and back. Out of my seat."

That was the beating that fractured Acree's skull.

As a Marine squadron leader, Acree had the additional burden of a huge secret, the details of a planned amphibious assault on Kuwait by the U.S. Marines.

It was a secret the Iraqis suspected he knew.

Acree recalled: "The gun was loaded. Door closed. Now it's real quiet. And I'm told one more time, 'Lt. Col. Acree, you are not cooperating with us now. You tell us where the amphibious landing is going to take place, or you will die, right here, right now. What is your decision?' … And, that's when you count the seconds remaining in your life, one heartbeat at a time."

Still, Acree did not back down. "They did not get what they wanted to have. And it felt good," Acree said.— Saddam’s Wrath: Gulf War POWs Tell of Horrors Troops Could Face ABC News 20/20, March 14, 2003
That's what happened last time around, and it looks like this time — POWs having been shot — Saddam's thugs haven't changed their tactics...

Pundit Shows Shoehorned Into War Coverage

Will Vehrs
News from Iraq was breaking fast and furious as the "special edition" shows came on air. Punditwatch attempts to sort the news from the views.

What About the Russians?

Martin Indyk says, "We Forgot the Russians"
The failure [in the Security Council] lay not with the French but with the way we ignored the Russians. Remember Vladimir Putin? Up until last week, his alignment with the United States was the single greatest achievement of this president's personal diplomacy. Despite the Bush administration's trampling of Russian interests in abandoning the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, Putin made a personal decision to forge a strategic partnership with the United States. On that basis, the Russian president was willing to abandon decades of Soviet and Russian support for Hussein.
Ummm... No we didn't forget the Russians, Mr. Indyk. What you don't admit is that, though Russia formally acquiesced in '91, and notwithstanding what Mr. Bush saw when he looked into Putin's soul, nothing ever really changed on the Moscow - Baghdad salient
The United States delivered a protest to the government of President Vladimir Putin yesterday for refusing to stop Russian arms dealers from providing illegal weapons and assistance to the Iraqi military...

The threat was considered serious enough that very senior U.S. officials pressed the Russians to crack down on the Moscow-based manufacturer, Aviaconversiya. Appeals began at a low level in June 2002. For three months, according to the Americans, the Russians denied the company existed, despite its Internet site and extensive media coverage.

As time went on, successively higher-ranking Americans advised the Russians that the delivery of the devices "would be a violation of a number of U.N. sanctions that forbid the sale of any military equipment to Iraq," an official said. The same was true of the goggles and missiles, according to the Americans...

Administration officials became infuriated last week when they learned that Aviaconversiya personnel are now in Iraq "showing Iraqis how to use them and how to fix them," said the official. The Russians "sure as hell should have been able to stop these guys."...[emphasis added]
"3 Russian Firms' Deals Anger U.S.", Washington Post March 23, 2003; Page A19
See, we didn't forget — we've known all along about Russian subterfuge.

Don't ever again look into those mesmerizing eyes, Mr. Bush — Putin is just looking after his own interests...