Look closer. Think harder. Choose the sound argument over the clever one.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Hiding Among and Targeting Civilians

Israel continues to attack Hezbollah in Lebanon. Hezbollah continues to fire rockets (update: almost 1,600) at Israeli civilians, while hiding among civilians in Lebanon.

Law Prof Kenneth Anderson looks at commingling civilian and military objects: "At the beginning of the Iraq war, a group of professors and other law of war experts issued a public letter urging attention to the fact that defenders, as well as attackers, have obligations to protect civilians under the laws of war." Excerpts [emphasis mine]:

[Both attackers and defenders must] take measures to protect civilians and minimize collateral damage during combat operations. These measures include prohibitions against the willful co-location and commingling of military targets among civilians and civilian objects for the purpose of rendering legitimate military objectives “off-limits” to attacking forces for fear of causing collateral damage. They further include prohibitions against the use of human shields or hostages, whether voluntary or involuntary, and whether by attackers or defenders, in order to protect military objectives.

Both attacking and defending military forces have independent ... legal obligations toward civilians ... Their respective obligations merit equal emphasis in media reporting and commentary as well as in monitoring by human rights organizations... 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.

... Generally speaking, the laws of war apply with equal rigor to all parties, and bind equally all military forces, whether large or small, well-equipped or not, advanced or inferior in quality or training.

... Any effort to accept or justify the proposition that the laws of war’s strictures bind some parties more than others, or that non-compliance by some parties is somehow excusable or justifiable, would irredeemably erode the laws of war.

HT: Instapundit

One commenter: "... the difference is that Israel causes civilian casualties when it misses its targets, Hezbollah causes civilian casualties when it hits its targets."

Previously: Geneva Conventions as Tactical Manual

Update 7/29: More evidence that "Hezbollah is waging war amid suburbia," from pictures smuggled out of Lebanon. "Until the Hezbollah fighters arrived, it had not been touched by the Israelis. Then it was totally devastated."

7/30: Putting it another way: "If you hide behind your baby to shoot at my baby, you are responsible for getting children killed. You and you alone."

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Car Talk's Tom and Ray on Wacko Theories

Car Talk's Tom and Ray, on their July 22nd show (segment 6, audio link), remind us that "wacko theories" abound and we fall for them easily:

I'm just wondering: if it's this easy to convince people of completely ridiculous things, how many things ... have we believed that are completely nutso? We would believe anything. ... There has to be that element of doubt in there, or a little bit of the unknown. If someone said to you, "look, if you want to get your car started every morning, you have to fill the thing up with the garden hose," you'd say, "No!" But if there's something that sounds a little mysterious and has just a little hint of a possibility, you'd say, "could be." Or, "can't hurt!" ... That's why you can pull stuff over on people because you have to have a little mystery in there. [5:21]

A good insight into why urban legends catch on, too.

Though their automotive expertise leaves little doubt that the caller's theory is bogus, they do try to keep an open mind:

We have to be careful here, because this is a wacko theory. And there have been other wacko theories we have poo-pooed and we have subsequently found they were correct. ... [1:49]

Monday, July 24, 2006

Geneva Conventions as Tactical Manual

Alan M. Dershowitz on hiding behind civilians:

By hiding behind their own civilians, the Islamic radicals issue a challenge to democracies: Either violate your own morality by coming after us and inevitably killing some innocent civilians, or maintain your morality and leave us with a free hand to target your innocent civilians. This challenge presents democracies such as Israel with a lose-lose option and terrorists with a win-win option.

There is one variable that could change this dynamic and present democracies with a viable option that could make terrorism less attractive as a tactic: The international community, the anti-Israel segment of the media, and human rights organizations should stop falling for this gambit and acknowledge that they are being used to promote the terrorist agenda. ... they play into the hands of the terrorists and cause more terrorism and more civilian casualties on both sides.

It should be obvious by now that Hezbollah and Hamas actually want the Israeli military to kill as many Lebanese and Palestinian civilians as possible. That is why they store their rockets underneath the beds of civilians. That is why they launch their missiles from crowded civilian neighborhoods and hide among civilians. ... They regard these human shields as ``Shahids," or martyrs, even if they did not volunteer for the lethal jobs. Under the law, criminals who use human shields are responsible for the deaths of their shields, even if the bullets that kill them come from policemen's guns.

The world must come to recognize the cynical way in which terrorists exploit civilian casualties. They launch antipersonnel rockets designed to maximize enemy civilian deaths, then they cry ``human rights" when their own civilians -- behind whom they are hiding -- are killed by the democracies while trying to prevent further terrorism. The idea that terrorists who use women and children as suicide bombers against other women and children shed crocodile tears over the deaths of civilians whom they deliberately put in harm's way gives new meaning to hypocrisy. We all know that hypocrisy is a terrorist tactic, but it is shocking that others fall for it and become complicit with the terrorists. Let the blame fall where it belongs: on the terrorists who seek to kill enemy civilians and give democratic enemies little choice but to kill some civilians behind whom the terrorists hide.

This exact situation plays out in Iraq, too, between terrorists and the Iraqi government. Organizations like IraqBodyCount.net are complicit in deliberately obscuring this.


Update 7/26: Nick Anderson gives us the archetypical example. No mention of the terrorists' morality hiding behind civilians.

Chicago Sight: Disappearing Building

A tall building disappears into the clouds on a rainy day.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Bush Fails the Fascist/Monarch Test

President Bush has failed the fascist/monarch test by submitting to the Supreme Court's recent ruling:

The Bush administration, bowing to court edict and political pressure, guaranteed the basic protections of the Geneva Conventions to captives in the war on terrorism and asked lawmakers Tuesday to restore the military tribunals now in limbo.

Team Bush's reasoning in a nutshell:

The administration has refused to grant Geneva status to the detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and elsewhere, saying they were not from a recognized nation, were not captured in uniform and did not observe traditional rules of war.

That pretty much lines up with the Third Geneva Convention, Art 4:

Prisoners of war, in the sense of the present Convention, are persons belonging to one of the following categories, who have fallen into the power of the enemy:
(2) Members of other militias and members of other volunteer corps, including those of organized resistance movements, belonging to a Party to the conflict and operating in or outside their own territory, even if this territory is occupied, provided that such militias or volunteer corps, including such organized resistance movements, fulfil the following conditions:
(a) that of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates;
(b) that of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance;
(c) that of carrying arms openly;
(d) that of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.

Some dispute the court's decision (LA Times via Powerline):

What makes this war different is not that the president acted while Congress watched but that the Supreme Court interfered while fighting was ongoing. ... The court displays a lack of judicial restraint that would have shocked its predecessors. In World War II, the Supreme Court established precedents directly to the contrary. To evade these previous rulings, the court misread a law ordering it not to decide Guantanamo Bay cases, narrowed the very same authorization to use military force that it had read broadly just two years ago, ignored centuries of practice by presidents and Congress on military commissions and intruded into the executive's traditional national security prerogatives. Justices used to appreciate the inherent uncertainties and dire circumstances of war, and the limits of their own abilities. No longer.

Chicago Sight: Bloomingdale's Mosque

This looks to be an old mosque in downtown Chicago, now a Bloomingdale's store. It has a beautiful, distinctive style.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

London 7/7 Bombers Refute "Power of Nightmares"

The BBC reports on July 6, one year after the bombings:

... the evidence pointing to a major role for al-Qaeda is mounting.

The investigation of the attack on its own soil by its own residents continues to yields secrets after a year.

The BBC's Power of Nightmares Programme:

In the past our politicians offered us dreams of a better world. Now they promise to protect us from nightmares.

The most frightening of these is the threat of an international terror network. But just as the dreams were not true, neither are these nightmares.

In a new series, the Power of Nightmares explores how the idea that we are threatened by a hidden and organised terrorist network is an illusion.

Asserted so confidently.

Hat-tip: Gateway Pundit.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Chicago Sight: Revolting Graffiti

Graffiti on a Chicago north-side subway bridge.

I thought the indiscriminate nature of bombs and grenades was anathema to these folks. They're not too articulate about why they want to revolt either. (I suppose that's a lot to fit on a stencil.)

That's a Marxist star, isn't it?

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Dishonest Darrin Bell

*** Update 7/7: On further reflection, Scott's right: I'm wrong to call him dishonest. I regret using that word, and I apologized in the comments to his post. He sincerely believes in what he wrote (I mean the "jingoistic frenzy" thing), and there's nothing dishonest about that. ***

[Welcome to my planet, Candorville readers! Check out my update below.]

Darrin Bell, author of the comic Candorville, makes this blatantly false claim about Condoleeza Rice:

In fact, she didn't say "bracket insert name bracket." [Please forgive this clunky segueway. I dashed it off too quickly. How's this for a more thoughtful one: As though Ms. Rice would substitute Honduras or Switzerland for Iran or North Korea. Might that help you consider the content a little better, instead of getting stuck here? ]

President Bush, 2002 State of the Union address:

Iran aggressively pursues these weapons and exports terror, while an unelected few repress the Iranian people's hope for freedom. ...

States like these [Iraq, Iran, and North Korea], and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world. By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger. They could provide these arms to terrorists, giving them the means to match their hatred. They could attack our allies or attempt to blackmail the United States. In any of these cases, the price of indifference would be catastrophic.

We will work closely with our coalition to deny terrorists and their state sponsors the materials, technology, and expertise to make and deliver weapons of mass destruction. We will develop and deploy effective missile defenses to protect America and our allies from sudden attack. And all nations should know: America will do what is necessary to ensure our nation's security.

We'll be deliberate, yet time is not on our side. I will not wait on events, while dangers gather. I will not stand by, as peril draws closer and closer. The United States of America will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons.

Those words are as relevant today as they were then.

I suppose nobody claims Candorville is serious analysis. But at least he could be honest (especially with "candor" in the title). Alas, I ask for so much.

Update 7/7: It's impossible for some to believe, but the Bush administration actually evaluates each nation by its own actions and words. Iran, Iraq and North Korea weren't drawn from a hat for their place in his "axis of evil." They earned their place. What would it take for Darrin, and those who buy into the same "jingoistic frenzy" rhetoric, to actually consider that instead of glossing over it in reaction to Bush?


Further thinking (updated 7/6)...

The title. "Dishonest" is a little too strident. I feel kinda bad. But my alternatives seem more offensive. I'll let it stand. Update 7/7: Nope. I'm wrong to call him dishonest. He's playing on a theme I think is poorly thought out, but he sincerely believes it. That's not dishonest. Mistaken, but not dishonest.

In case you're wondering: Satire is fine. Satire isn't fair. Nobody (including me) expects it to be. Distortions can make caricatures funnier (if more absurd). How far to take them? Pretty subjective.

Cartoonists can have bad days. Everybody has bad days. You know I do. No problem.

Boiling it down, spelling it out: Satire is "irony, sarcasm, or caustic wit used to attack or expose folly, vice, or stupidity." But if, instead of "folly, vice, or stupidity," you substitute "the satirist's own complete fabrication," then attack that with "irony, sarcasm, or caustic wit," it's not really satire.

In fact, it's more of a scam, a fallacy. And helping you see that is what this blog is about. (And I gladly bear any ridicule for it.)

Even bigger issues. Even if it's not technically satire, why the humorless nitpick? I hope you're not too offended by this, but "satire" for many is really more about stroking our prejudices and pathologies than making us laugh. The bigger the satirical distortion, the more this seems true.

Special thanks. Maude: Thanks very much for the "segway/segue" correction.

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