Human Shields. Is it OK to Kill them?

Discussion in 'World Events' started by Captain Kremmen, May 29, 2009.

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  1. Captain Kremmen All aboard, me Hearties! Valued Senior Member

    Following on from the Bush policy in Afghanistan, which was to wait until some enemy leader attended a wedding, and then bomb the whole area, now the Sri Lankan authorities are claiming that Tamil rebels were hiding within refugee villages. Hence the massive "regrettable" loss of life, which is of course due to the cowardly rebels.

    What do you think. Are all human shield casualties the fault of guerillas and terrorists?
    Last edited: May 29, 2009
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  3. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

    How are they "human shields" if the aggressors throw the missiles anyway? You'd need an assumption that the civilians would not be bombed before declaring that anyone was hiding behind them. If you're willing to shoot/bomb children to get at "insurgents", then they are not human shields, just additional carcasses.
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  5. hypewaders Save Changes Registered Senior Member

    "Are all human shield casualties the fault of guerillas and terrorists?"

    Of course not. Neither can we approach terrorists any differently among the innocent than we do other violent and dangerous criminals. When this sick era we are enduring is behind us, even US citizens as a clear majority will clearly understand and be capable of articulating the indefensible criminality of using battlefield weapons for the pursuit of criminals among the innocent- whether such disproportionate response is inflicted on our own streets, or someone else's.

    We didn't go after Tim VcVeigh by firing Hellfire missiles into US neighborhoods because he had committed terrorism. Neither did we resort to disproportionate force to apprehend Ramzi Yousef, Mahmoud Abouhalima, Ahmed Ajaj, Abdul Rahman Yassin, Nidal Ayyad, Mohammed Salameh, and Eyad Ismoil. These perpetrators of the first WTC attack were internationally apprehended without any military over-reaction. They were then convicted in US courts.

    The difference was that it was another era in the USA, before we had been deceived into thinking it reasonable to pursue criminals into peaceful populations with military invasions and battlefield weapons.

    We would never accept foreign military overkill in responding to criminals among us in the USA. We must and shall reach an understanding that military overkill is unacceptable and counterproductive anywhere it is inflicted as a replacement for lawful investigation, apprehension, and prosecution of criminals. Whatever the scale of the provocation, if we abandon lawful principles and do great harm to the innocent in clumsy pursuit of our enemies, then we play right into the hands of those who wish to destroy our society, and who take a far less emotional, and much longer view of the consequences of state over-reaction.

    US Counterterrorism took a disastrous turn when the neoconservatives lead the United States to emulate the Israelis, who had emulated other militaristic and despotic regimes in the past, and who poured out destruction in callous disregard for the lives and welfare of the people they purported to respect in terms of human rights.

    No, it is not OK to kill human shields, and yes, there can be justice without state violence surpassing criminal violence.
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  7. spidergoat Liddle' Dick Tater Valued Senior Member

    Yeah Hype, we should send cops over to Afghanistan to knock on doors and politely arrest the bad guys.
  8. Clucky Registered Senior Member

    Ever heard of Interpol? Anyway, there is only one overt difference between a police and military force. The latter is not politically motivated, traditionally. (At least it wasn't here in the UK, anyway.) As such, they are more likely to serve justice, rather than the whims of the government.*

    *I am not suggesting coppers are without their faults as an organization.
  9. hypewaders Save Changes Registered Senior Member

    spidergoat: "Yeah Hype, we should send cops over to Afghanistan to knock on doors and politely arrest the bad guys."

    Arrests of violent criminals needn't be, and aren't generally polite affairs, as I'm sure you know. Dispensing with the most facetious part of your sarcasm, you've underlined a basic truth.

    The "bad guys" actually responsible for 9-11 would certainly have had more at stake personally, if the US (along with the unprecedented number of willing international partners) had conducted a concerted lawful international investigation, and an unrelenting manhunt to seek out accomplices. As I mentioned, it worked with the first WTC attack. The invading armies, airstrikes, and occupations that were unleashed instead have severely disrupted justice, have disrupted the security of all nations involved, and have advanced the agenda communicated in original al-Qaeda manifestos.
  10. kingjames1 Registered Member

    not ok,but sometimes necessary
  11. hypewaders Save Changes Registered Senior Member

    If we are taking "OK" to mean lawful and justifiable action, and if we value law and justice, then what is "necessary" must be kept within lawful and justifiable boundaries. Otherwise, our societies have no defense from being overwhelmed by escalating, retaliatory, and lawless violence.
  12. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

    Soldiers sign up for it, civilians don't
  13. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    This is a perfect illustration of the fact that terrorists are not warriors or even soldiers. A warrior fights to defend those who cannot fight effectively for themselves. The last thing he would do is put his women, children, shopkeepers, students, musicians, grocers, farmers, bakers and teachers at risk. The entire purpose of his fighting is to protect them.

    A soldier only follows orders and expects his commanding officers to be the warriors. But Nuremburg established that even a soldier is supposed to have enough courage, honor, and simple human decency, to not put either his own or the enemies' civilians at risk (more than the unavoidable risk in the "fog of war"), even if it means also having the courage to violate an order and risk a court martial.

    So the question becomes: What the hell do you do when your enemy has no honor? Do you let him win the battle or the war just because you don't want to be an asshole and shoot your way through his barricade of civilians? Especially when his own behavior makes it clear that if you let him win he might just come over and start shooting your civilians?

    The Japanese faced that conundrum in WWII. The whole point of nuking two population centers with no exceptional value as military targets was to demonstrate to the traditionalist, honor-oriented Japanese culture that the United States had no honor and would do whatever it had to do to win the war. Once the Japanese understood that we weren't playing by the rules, they gave up.

    Of course the Japanese would have lost eventually anyway, at the cost of tens of millions of civilian casualties. From a cost-benefit perspective, the nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was as a way of saving lives in the long run, even though only a politician can argue that it was not, nonetheless, a quintessential act of terrorism. ("A form of extortion: deliberate disproportional targeting of civilians in order to gain their support for a cause so unpopular that there is no other way to gain that support.")

    So whom do you blame for human shield casualties? Both sides, I suppose. You're not supposed to start wars in the first place, so whatever happens as it spins out of control can be blamed on both of you.

    I absolutely cannot understand the conflict in Sri Lanka, and I have asked several Indian friends who can't explain it either. It sounds like Buddhists persecuting Hindus, which clashes with our American Flower-Child stereotype of all Buddhists as non-violent vegetarian yogis. I know no one is really that perfect, but still, does anyone have any idea why the Sinhalese and Tamil hate each other so much that they've been at war for 25 frelling years???
  14. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    That question has not come up, or has come up on all sides, in the current "War On Terror". The entire "hiding behind civilians" business is a bit daft, applied to the Iraq or Afghanistan invasions.

    And in turn illustrates the fact that the US is not fighting terrorists, primarily, at least not to significantly greater extent than it is itself a fount of terrorism.

    And an even better illustration of the fact that neither warriors nor soldiers are policemen. They do not enforce law and order, dispense justice, etc.
    That does not explain Nagasaki. Nor does it explain the refusal of the US to negotiate in the months between the bomb's development and its employment, or in the days just prior to its employment.

    There is no evidence that the Japanese ever thought the US had any "honor", or would behave any better than the Japanese themselves had in China.
  15. hypewaders Save Changes Registered Senior Member

    Wow, that's some particularly shoddy logic and moralizing you've doled out there, Fraggle (in Post #10)- Exaltation of Total War, myths of moral infallibility in a warrior caste, and illusions that mass killing is perceived or received any differently among any people whatever their place or culture. You're perplexed in an apparent assumption that conflicts foreign to you are so complicated, as if all war is not inherently the same. The truth is, if you look deeply into any war, you're looking inside all war. Every war.

    On so many subjects, you generally post informed opinion that I very much look up to.

    But when it comes to international conflict, it seems to me you suffer a severe handicap in recognizing the most basic concepts. Like the reality that there's nothing new in human depravity. Contemporary "terrorism" is not actually a new phenomenon- nor is terrorism, threats to civil security, and criminals hiding among innocents. None of these is a gathering new menace, something inscrutable, something requiring matching ruthlessness, or something of particular cultural or religious origin.

    Proportionate response to a threat is not a new moral dilemma, and the recognition and consequences of grossly disproportionate violence are nothing new in human experience, and do not differ across cultures.

    For someone who has studied and knows so much about languages, somehow, incredibly, you've missed a basic understanding of the commonality of human experience, especially in terms of common consciousness and responses to things so profoundly equalizing as collective violence, death, anger, and grief. And mercy.
  16. superstring01 Moderator

    Only if they are gay... or Mexican.

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  17. baftan ******* Valued Senior Member

    It must be easier than trying to develop "shields for humans".
  18. nirakar ( i ^ i ) Registered Senior Member

    What is tactically correct and what is morally correct when fighting guerrillas who hide civilians.

    Tactically killing civilians creates the next generation of guerrillas. Morally every civilian killed had better save a civilian's life sometime in the future.

    In Vietnam the guerrillas hid in the forest so the USA defoliated the forest. Guerrillas hid in the villages so the USA moved the villages out of their homes and into less strategic places. The villagers were not happy and the the USA lost the war.

    Guerrillas fight from hiding because they are too weak to fight in the open. I will never call the weak cowards when they fight the strong even if they do fight from hiding.

    The strong don't fight in a way that minimizes collateral damage because that kind of fighting gives advantages to the guerrillas and would result in vastly increased casualties for the strong. Vastly increased casualties for the strong would undermine public support for the war among the population of the strong.

    There is no easy answer here. More democracy, more intelligence, less greed and more communication and more compromise should be used by both the strong and the weak before they go to war against each other.
  19. Bells Staff Member

    So you think it is somehow acceptable, when faced with an enemy that "has no honour", to have no honour yourself when engaging them? That to win, one must act exactly as one's enemy acts, while admonishing one's enemy for acting that way in the first place and ignoring that one is actually acting and behaving exactly how the enemy acts...?


    Hypocrisy is grand, is it not?

    Can anyone say 'pot.. kettle.. black'?

    If you lower yourself to acting without honour, to knowingly and willingly killing civilians just so you "win", then you have lost. It makes you as bad as the enemy you are fighting.
  20. Mrs.Lucysnow Valued Senior Member

    "Based on the information that the government told the American people at the time, many Americans believed that it was fair. The U.S. government wasn't stupid; government officials knew exactly what to tell (and what not to tell) the public in order to keep popular opinion high. By classifying Hiroshima as an "important Japanese Army base," President Truman isolated the bombing as a military-to-military feat, as nothing more than an act of war. Additionally, as Greg Mitchell writes in his Editor and Publisher article "The Press and Hiroshima," the president stressed the size of the bomb (which was sure to impress most Americans), rather than the horrific effects of radiation, an aftereffect of an atomic bomb that most Americans were at the time probably ignorant of. Later on, in the days following Hiroshima, the Air Force provided American newspapers with an aerial photograph of the city and stressed that they had targeted an area with major industrial targets.

    When a later U.S. survey of the damage to Hiroshima discovered that the bomb had mostly destroyed residential areas, the government did not release the information to the press. Any revealed information was part of a calculated public relations campaign that the contemporary press ate up with a spoon. As the military director of the Manhattan Project, Gen. Leslie Groves, later proudly remarked, "Most newspapers published our releases in their entirety. This is one of the few times since government releases have become common that this has been done." The press's almost exclusively positive coverage of the bombing then carried over to the American public, resulting in the misinformed perspective of the atomic bomb that has prevailed in the American consciousness for the past 60 years.

    However, popular opinion of Hiroshima and Nagasaki may finally change now that previously censored information is becoming publicly available. On June 16, 2005 the Tokyo-based Mainichi Shimbun published four articles written by George Weller, the now-deceased Chicago Daily News reporter who was the first journalist to enter Nagasaki after the Aug. 9, 1945 atomic attack on the city. Weller was a true journalist, a nonconformist who wasn't afraid to put his neck on the line to get the truth. Rather than complying with Gen. Douglas MacArthur's press restrictions, Weller pretended to be a high-ranking military officer and managed to enter the city, where he toured the urban destruction, former POW camps and aid stations.

    His arguably most important reports came from his hospital visits, where he observed and reported on the victims of "Disease X" (the effects of the radiation emitted from the atom bomb). Weller told of patients with "blackish" mouths and patches of red spots, children who were losing their hair and many apparently uninjured people who were mysteriously dying. "The doctors ... candidly confessed ... that the answer to the malady is beyond them ... They [the patients with Disease X] are dead -- dead of atomic bomb -- and nobody knows why."

    Well, actually, the American scientists and government knew why, but they certainly weren't talking. Weller's reports would have undoubtedly made American public opinion of the bomb significantly less favorable. Gen. MacArthur and his censors in Tokyo knew this, which was why Weller's reports never saw the light of day until Weller's son, Anthony Weller, found his deceased father's carbon copies of the original reports. Now, 60 years later, we're finally able to see the obliterated Nagasaki through the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist's eyes.

    On the other hand, pictures really do tell a thousand words and actual footage of the atomic bombs' medical effects portrays unimaginable horrors inflicted upon the human life, which is precisely why the U.S. government kept the footage that was filmed in the two destroyed cities hidden from the American public until the 1980s. After the bombings, Japanese filmmakers attempted to document the horror that the atomic bombs left in Japan. Recognizing this as a potential threat, the U.S. military seized all Japanese footage and then placed an order banning all future filming. Gen. MacArthur then ordered Lt. Col. Daniel A. McGovern to direct a crew of 11 American filmmakers -- nine members of the U.S. military, including Herbert Sussan, and two civilians.

    "He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, scince for him the spinal cord would fully suffice. This disgrace to civilization should be done away with at once. Heroism at command, senseless brutality, deplorable love-of-country stance, how violently I hate all this, how despiceable an ignoreable war is; I would rather be torn to shreds than be a part of so base an action! It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder." -- Albert Einstein
    Last edited: May 31, 2009
  21. superstring01 Moderator

    Well, that's a bit of moving the goal posts, don't you think? The definition of "win" in this case probably has more to do with tactics than with ethics. Though I do get your meaning.

    As with all things, I think there's no clear-cut answer.

    There is a time when concern for civilian casualties has to be of less importance than tactical matters including preventing deaths of your own troops. Just bad for morale to lose a war AND all your troops to boot.

    There's a lot of justifiable grand-standing about preventing civilian losses. And setting aside the debate about weather the USA should be in Iraq or Afghanistan (IMHO: "No" to the former, "yes" to the latter), I think that any nation has a certain degree of due diligence in preventing civilian deaths. That requirement does not mean that if your chasing the "bad guys" and they drag innocents in the the fight that you just switch to using harsh language in order to avoid hurting the bystanders. I have to say, I don't know where the dividing line is, but it isn't black and white. Somewhere in the future some theoretical mathematician / philosopher will come up with some equation that will calculate the possibility of future deaths in comparison with the possibility of present casualties to help in deciding when it's worth the risk of hurting civilians, but until then, it's a messy business that, while I'm happy not to be doing it, I'm happy that it can be done.

    I'm not on the ground or in the war rooms of the USA and the UK, so I really can't say for sure if the two nations were really going the extra mile to prevent civilian casualties (though I, like many Americans have family in Iraq or Afghanistan who passionately state that the efforts are made, in fact, to the detriment of their combat ability). But at the end of the day, war is about numbers. More of theirs, less of ours. That's just how you win.

  22. Mrs.Lucysnow Valued Senior Member

    Then why complain when the towers come crashing down? Or when things blow up? What is good method for one is good for the other no? I mean after all its a 'war' right?
  23. nirakar ( i ^ i ) Registered Senior Member

    You could always look it up.

    My flawed memory says that the British brought the Tamils in. Something about divide and conquer or cheap labor.

    Then after independence the Sinhalese did not treat the minority Tamils well in some way. Given human nature that is no surprise. Then Tamils made a fuss. No surprise. Sinhalese did not like the fuss and got meaner. Tamils decided that they would make the areas in which they were a majority independent. Sinhalese were not going to allow independence.

    All in all a very ordinary minority versus majority conflict.
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