Hezbollah’s war crimes

by Daniel on July 28, 2006

Not so much in the interests of spurious balance, but because it provides a way to deal with a number of general issues of international law in a more neutral framework, I thought I’d consider what war crimes have been committed by Hezbollah in the course of the present conflict. I am not an international lawyer, though I have had reasonable luck in the past arguing points of international law on the Internet. I am leaving comments enabled for the time being, though I would like all commenters to respect the principle that the blame game is not zero sum, and in specific application to this case, the fact that one side is committing war crimes does not absolve the other side from their obligation to obey the law.

Throughout this post, I am assuming that Hezbollah can be considered as a separate military entity and that its troops are being judged according to the law of war rather than as civilian criminals (or for that matter, as “illegal combatants”). I think that this is fair enough; the Geneva Conventions are rather vague on what constitutes a legitimate military entity, but my opinion is that if state sponsorship was a necessary condition this would have been explicitly stated and it seems to me that it would be hard to argue that Hezbollah are not guerillas under Protocol I. Although the Conventions seem to mainly be considering cases of civil war rather than cross-border aggression by parastates I personally believe that they apply. More under the fold.

The most obvious war crime Hezbollah[1] has committed is firing rockets into towns in Israel. Hezbollah has no military objectives in Israel to which the civilian casualties might be considered collateral, so the question of proportionality does not arise. (Parenthetically I will note that “proportionality” is an unfortunate word as it implies a rather silly concept of equal response which some people have decided to pick up and run with. The relevant Geneva Convention has a prohibition on “excess” which is better). There is simply no defending this; whoever carried out those attacks is guilty of the war crime of attacking non-combatants.

There is a certain amount of ambiguity about whether the crime of aggression has been committed. Aggression is the most serious war crime, as it is obviously the crime from which all others spring. On the face of it, it looks like the crime of aggression for Hezbollah to be crossing a border and taking hostages. On the other hand, the hostage raid took place in the context of a general environment of border skirmishes between the IDF and Hezbollah and I would suspect that it would be a lot easier to assert that the Hezb raid was unprovoked and came out of a blue sky than to prove it. The cross-border rocket attacks would also be potentially the basis for a prosecution for aggression, but once more, it is difficult to be sure – contrary to the more excitable accounts, the missiles were not “raining down” over the last few years, but were being fired rather sporadically in the context of the aforementioned border skirmishes. Aggression is a surprisingly difficult crime to prove and my guess is that no sensible prosecutor would think it worth his while to get stuck in the general issue of “who started it”. Hostage taking is, of course, itself a war crime itself.

But the most important war crime to have been committed by Hezbollah, and the one most obviously related to a load of other issues we have discussed on CT (specifically, the question of whether the collateral damage the IDF has inflicted on Lebanon is excessive and therefore a war crime; the other potential war crimes charges against the IDF of reprisals and destroying essential civilian infrastructure are only tangentially relevant to what Hezbollah does), is the war crime of sheltering or using “human shields”.

I don’t think it can be denied that Hezbollah have committed the war crime of sheltering in a number of occasions in South Lebanon. Storing munitions dumps in civilian villages is a war crime (Update: Dan Kervick makes a quite convincing case otherwise in comments below), and there are numerous credible reports of Hezb troops literally sheltering behind civilians in order to carry out rocket attacks. I am sure that, faced with this, Israeli commanders have been placed in an invidious position because their own obligation not to attack non-combatants is not removed by Hezbollah committing the war crime of sheltering, and it must be powerfully difficult to assess, in the heat of battle, whether the military objective of destroying a Hezbollah rocket unit is of sufficient importance to justify the collateral damage involved. The fact that any sensible commander will err on the side of saving his own neck and achieving his military objective is, of course, the primary reason why sheltering is a war crime in the first place.

However I am much less sure that Hezbollah is committing a war crime in South Beirut. Their commanders have to live somewhere, and that is where they live. Even in the beqaa Valley where sheltering has definitely taken place, the mere fact that Hezbollah troops live in a village is not a war crime. The point here is that Hezbollah are fighting on their own territory, and the Geneva Conventions surely do not require them to pretend otherwise by moving out of their homes and setting up a barracks in order to make them easier to kill. I think it would be ridiculous to have an interpretation of the Geneva Conventions under which a man can be committing a war crime by going home to bed and as far as I can see, the requirements on guerrillas in Article 44 defining combatant status (basically, that they carry their weapons openly when in combat or on the way to combat) agree with me on this. Article 44 also suggests to me that Hezbollah are definitely committing a war crime by transporting their rockets in civilian minivans.

I think that pretty much covers the areas of interest, and reiterate that the fact that someone is committing a war crime does not mean that no other parties to the same events could be, and is a separate question entirely from the allocation of moral responsibility (which, I also reiterate, is not a zero sum game).

[1] I spell it this way in defiance of normal transliterations and in homage to the lyrics of “Armageddon Days” as printed in the sleeve notes to the The The album, “Mind Bomb”. God doesn’t belong to the Yankee dollar, God doesn’t plant bombs for Hezbollah.

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{ 122 comments }

1

Elliott Oti 07.28.06 at 6:57 am

the requirements on guerrillas in Article 44 defining combatant status (basically, that they carry their weapons openly when in combat or on the way to combat) agree with me on this.

Hmm. I’m not a lawyer and have had little success pretending to be one on Internet but a quick scan of article 44 seems to suggest that the use of camouflage and stealth weaponry could also constitute war crimes.

2

Daniel 07.28.06 at 7:02 am

specifically allowed under 37) 2) as ruses of war. The distinction between ruses of war and perfidy is whether you are abusing the confidence of the enemy; interestingly enough it has its most difficult cases in naval war, with the use of Q-ships and false flags.

3

Planeshift 07.28.06 at 7:07 am

I think that is a good summary. I would add to your point about Hezbollah having to live somewhere that if one still considers south beruit a legitimate target because off duty hezbollah fighters are living there, then Tel Aviv is also a legitimate target because IDF soldiers live there. It comes down to the question of when it is legitimate to attack soldiers. There are 4 times involved; (1) when they are on the battlefield, (2) when they are moving to the battlefield, (3) when they are off duty in a military location such as barracks, (4) when they are off duty outside a military location such as in their civilian homes or a nightclub. In the case of the first 2 I’d say those were legitimate times, in the case of the last no, and would be unsure of the third.

The key point is once the line is drawn it is applied consistently, so for example Hamas attacks on nightclubs attended by IDF soldiers would be a big no-no, but attacks on military checkpoints would be legitimate. The problem is much of the western media regards all kinds of attacks as illegitimate when committed by enemies, and all as legitimate when committed by friends.

Of course there are other issues as well, such as is any attack legitimate when there are peaceful alternatives that can be persued (which in the case of Israel/Palestine/Lebanon is always the case).

A further minor point; hostage taking may be a war crime, but capturing prisoners of war is not. I’m sure hezbollah would argue that taking IDF soldiers prisoner constituted the latter.

4

Matthew 07.28.06 at 7:10 am

Isn’t the whole assessment quaint? The IDF is acting because it feels that the balance of international power is in its favour (with the US making sure it is). Worrying about war crimes does not seem to be on the minds of both sides of this war, and only an issue for the despairing international observers such as us.

Do War Crimes still matter after Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo bay have been shrugged away?

5

Daniel 07.28.06 at 7:17 am

I don’t think that the argument that the IDF troops were prisoners of war rather than hostages can be sustained; they were captured in order to negotiate for their release rather than as an alternative to killing them. It’s rather like the occasional Israeli protestation that they bombed power stations in order to prevent Hamas from moving around, when they’d already said they were trying to put pressure on the Lebanese population (which looks awfully like the war crime of reprisals).

re #4: since I am not a military commander or an international statesman, there is no point in me talking about practical matters for action, and I think the question of who is committing which war crimes is a sufficiently interesting one to write about it on this blog.

6

Matthew 07.28.06 at 7:24 am

I agree Daniel, as I wrote above (“despairing international observers”). Just wanted to comment on the modern relevance of international law: it desperately needs an executive arm to enforce it, but the executive is really not interested.

Also another source to put things in perspective.

7

david 07.28.06 at 7:25 am

Re: sheltering, this Salon article is interesting. (Found on Juan Cole’s blog)

Throughout this now 16-day-old war, Israeli planes high above civilian areas make decisions on what to bomb. They send huge bombs capable of killing things for hundreds of meters around their targets, and then blame the inevitable civilian deaths — the Lebanese government says 600 civilians have been killed so far — on “terrorists” who callously use the civilian infrastructure for protection.

But this claim is almost always false. My own reporting and that of other journalists reveals that in fact Hezbollah fighters — as opposed to the much more numerous Hezbollah political members, and the vastly more numerous Hezbollah sympathizers — avoid civilians. Much smarter and better trained than the PLO and Hamas fighters, they know that if they mingle with civilians, they will sooner or later be betrayed by collaborators — as so many Palestinian militants have been.

8

luc 07.28.06 at 7:28 am

Hostage taking of “protected persons” is described as prohibited. But I’m curious where hostage taking of combattants is described as a war crime?

I would think it is not that obvious, since both capturing combattants and exchanging POW’s looks legal.

The problems I’m aware of are created when prisoners are either civilians, or are not granted the POW status, and associated rights and protections.

9

TomChicago 07.28.06 at 7:29 am

Of note also is the report by Juan Cole that Hizbollah emplacements being situated among civilians is a myth. Also found on Salon today, 7/28. The analysis is that Hizbollah fighters do not trust civilians, fearing collaborators, and avoid them.

10

Dan Kervick 07.28.06 at 7:32 am

This is a good summary, Daniel, but there are a few issues I would like to raise.

First, it seems to be generally assumed that Hezbollah is using its rockets as terror weapons. For what it’s worth, this has been explicitly denied by Nasrallah, who claims the rockets are aimed at military targets. You say, “Hezbollah has no military objectives in Israel to which the civilian casualties might be considered collateral.” But that is just not true. There are many military bases, and industrial targets of strategic military value, in the vicinity of the places where the rockets have landed.

The following is from the Winter 2006 issue of Middle East Quarterly, a publication of Middle East Forum – on organization not notable for its ant-Israel views:

Any Hezbollah barrage will not likely be random, however. The group’s external intelligence service has concentrated recently on targets and trajectory algorithm selection. In January 2005, Israeli security detained Danish citizen Iyad ash-Shua after he was caught filming northern Israeli military installations on behalf of Hezbollah.[9] The arrests of other Hezbollah agents have indicated the group’s special interest in fuel refineries and military bases around Haifa.

Moreover, Hezbollah no longer depends exclusively on human intelligence. The group now has access to Iranian-designed and controlled Mirsad One unmanned aerial vehicles. While crude and rudimentary, the Mirsad is able to transmit live video footage, a capability instrumental in scouting targets that were previously inaccessible to Hezbollah human intelligence agents.[10] In addition to the Mirsad, Hezbollah planners now have access to commercially available, high-resolution satellite photographs and open-source geographical imagery offered by companies such as GlobeXplorer and Google. These may enhance Hezbollah’s targeting ability.

While Hezbollah would launch its rockets with the goal of causing mass casualties to shock and demoralize the Israeli population, they would also likely attempt smaller but more devastating infrastructure assaults. High-value targets would include the industrial section of Haifa, whose sprawling petrochemical plants and oil refinery would be vulnerable to bombardment. The loss of the Haifa refinery, one of only two such installations in Israel, would threaten Israel’s economic security. Hezbollah could also launch rockets against the city’s port and Matam Park, a hub of Israeli high-tech development. Even minor damage could lead to serious disruptions in Israel’s delicate economic framework. The vulnerability of the Israeli economy to a Hezbollah rocket attack was demonstrated by events in 1996 when the group fired over 500 Katyushas into northern Israel; Israeli officials placed the cost of the relatively minor two-week assault at approximately US$100 million.[11]

This raies the further ethical questions about quartering and basing soldiers, building military installations, or storing munitions and rocket launchers in towns and cities. You say:

I don’t think it can be denied that Hezbollah have committed the war crime of sheltering in a number of occasions in South Lebanon. Storing munitions dumps in civilian villages is a war crime, and there are numerous credible reports of Hezbollah troops literally sheltering behind civilians in order to carry out rocket attacks.

In the United States, there are many military facilities located in or near major cities, especially coastal cities. There are many reasons for this practice other than the desire to use that population as a “human shield”. These reasons are no doubt similar to Israel’s reasons for building military installations in and around Haifa.

But, more to the point, Hizbollah functions as a militia. This is not much different than the historical practice here in New England, where I live. Many towns and cities have there own armories – now often converted to other uses. In the militia tradition, people, towns and cities are defended by groups of well-trained, able-bodied men who are not a standing army, but live and work in the places they defend. This is a common method of defense where the focus is on repelling invasion. And it makes no sense to locate the weapons in places that are remote from the places that are to be defended. So I don’t think it has been established that Hizbollah’s practices are predominantly related to the desire to use local populations as human shields.

Another issue you touch on is the incident that started the war – the attack on the Israeli soldiers. My understanding is that there are still questions about the location and circumstances of that incident.

11

Tex MacRae 07.28.06 at 7:36 am

I’m curious as to whether you’d refine your “sheltering” argument in light of this article by Mitch Prothero. An excerpt:

In the south, where Shiites dominate, just about everyone supports Hezbollah. Does mere support for Hezbollah, or even participation in Hezbollah activities, mean your house and family are fair game? Do you need to fire rockets from your front yard? Or is it enough to be a political activist?

The Israelis are consistent: They bomb everyone and everything remotely associated with Hezbollah, including noncombatants. In effect, that means punishing Lebanon. The nation is 40 percent Shiite, and of that 40 percent, tens of thousands are employed by Hezbollah’s social services, political operations, schools, and other nonmilitary functions. The “terrorist” organization Hezbollah is Lebanon’s second-biggest employer. “
[…]
Although Israel targets apartments and offices because they are considered “Hezbollah” installations, the group has a clear policy of keeping its fighters away from civilians as much as possible. This is not for humanitarian reasons — they did, after all, take over an apartment building against the protests of the landlord, knowing full well it would be bombed — but for military ones.

“You can be a member of Hezbollah your entire life and never see a military wing fighter with a weapon,” a Lebanese military intelligence official, now retired, once told me. “They do not come out with their masks off and never operate around people if they can avoid it. They’re completely afraid of collaborators. They know this is what breaks the Palestinians — no discipline and too much showing off.”

12

Elliott Oti 07.28.06 at 7:58 am

specifically allowed under 37) 2) as ruses of war. The distinction between ruses of war and perfidy is whether you are abusing the confidence of the enemy;

Aha. I see; I’ve skimmed through the other articles and they make interesting reading. I think Dan Kervick has a good point with respect to perfidy re weapons and munitions storage. His point wrt the military nature of rocket attacks on Israeli cities doesn’t stand up as well: saying the rockets are aimed at military targets don’t always make it so, and article 50-4, among others, makes it clear that you can’t do just anything in pursuit of a purported military objective.

13

George 07.28.06 at 7:59 am

Since you describe yourself as someone who has picked up a legal education on the internet it might be worth your attempting to explain to your colleague Chris Bertram (post below) why relying on multiple hearsay to support an argument is considered counterproductive by most attorneys.

14

Louis Proyect 07.28.06 at 8:04 am

The Daniel who posted this can’t be Daniel Davies, right?

This is truly awful stuff to appear on a high-profile blog during the midst of one of the most horrific blitzkreigs on a civilian population since the war in Vietnam.

Shame!

15

Marc Mulholland 07.28.06 at 8:10 am

Dsquared, you forget to publicise, for the public edification, your ‘anguish’ level.

16

Daniel 07.28.06 at 8:11 am

Dan K: I think Elliott has it right; whether or not the rockets are aimed at civilians, they are, predictably, causing damage to civilians and this would have to be “not excessive” relative to the military aim. Randomly chucking rockets at an airbase is not very much of a military aim, so IMO basically any collateral damage is excessive. I think you might be right about munitions storage and will make an edit accordingly.

Tex: Just to make this clear, I think that the “sheltering” charge is levelled at Hamas far too much, particularly by Israeli commanders who are very likely guilty of war crimes themselves. The only “sheltering” which is a war crime is the actual use of civilians to hide behind while fighting or preparing to fight. I think there is good evidence that Hezb is doing this, but the vast majority of civilian casualties in Lebanon are people who are not being sheltered behind in any criminal manner. Certainly it is not on to bomb a village just because Hezb live or even make plans there.

Louis: yes it’s me. I will happily confirm that IMO Israel is committing war crimes and probably more of them than Hezbollah and believe I have said so already in comments to the three CT posts below which are about the fact that Israel is committing war crimes. I am “tough on war crimes and tough on the causes of war crimes”.

17

Tex MacRae 07.28.06 at 8:18 am

The only “sheltering” which is a war crime is the actual use of civilians to hide behind while fighting or preparing to fight. I think there is good evidence that Hezb is doing this…..

Clearly you think so. Is this evidence secret? Where is it?

Also, it would be helpful if the evidence distinguished between the military wing of Hezbollah, and “Lebanon’s second largest employer“, the political party Hezbollah.

18

Seth Gordon 07.28.06 at 8:22 am

Human Rights Watch pointed out that some of the warheads launched by Hezbollah were packed with ball bearings, which don’t do much against military targets but make the warheads far more dangerous to civilians.

19

Daniel 07.28.06 at 8:23 am

Basically reports from the UNIFIL observer post before it was bombed which noted that Hezb platoons were using them as cover. If they were doing this (and I am not saying I would do any different if the alternative was getting shot, but a war crime is what it is), then I see no reason to doubt IDF assertions that they were doing the same thing with respect to civilians. As I note in the original post, while there is room for argument as to whether hiding rockets in civilian houses is sheltering, moving them to battle in civilian cars is.

20

Seth Gordon 07.28.06 at 8:31 am

In response to luc at #8: According to HRW’s FAQ on how the laws of war apply to the Israel-Hezbollah conflict, capturing POWs for the purpose of getting other prisoners released constitutes hostage-taking and is illegal.

(And following up to my own comment above, I should note that in the same FAQ, HRW says that Israel’s cluster bombs, like Hezbollah’s ball-bearing-packed warheads, pose an unacceptable risk to civilians and should not be used.)

21

Tex MacRae 07.28.06 at 8:32 am

Come on, Daniel, stop dodging. I’ve really made an effort to read everything about this conflict and I’d really like to read these reports you’re citing.

22

Elliott Oti 07.28.06 at 8:34 am

As I note in the original post, while there is room for argument as to whether hiding rockets in civilian houses is sheltering, moving them to battle in civilian cars is.

I don’t know that moving rockets to battle in civilian cars is perfidy if the rationale is the availability of transport and not the explicit intent to deceive.

I would characterise as perfidy the deployment of rockets to civilian areas with the primary expectation that their deployment would inhibit IDF reactions and\or manipulate public sentiment in their favour.

23

SamChevre 07.28.06 at 8:38 am

I would think that the underlying crime of the Party of God (Hezbollah) is not wearing “a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance”. The goal is to enable armies to accurately distinguish soldiers from civilians. This crime leads to the problem of sheltering–the sheltering doesn’t seem to me to be a separate crime, but an extension of the same crime.

24

Kevin Donoghue 07.28.06 at 8:40 am

Tex,

I’ve been searching also.. So far this is all I’ve got.

25

Kevin Donoghue 07.28.06 at 8:44 am

I would think that the underlying crime of the Party of God (Hezbollah) is not wearing “a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance”.

There must be a lot of latitude there, surely? Snipers don’t wave flags from the rooftops before opening fire.

26

Barry 07.28.06 at 8:48 am

“Human Rights Watch pointed out that some of the warheads launched by Hezbollah were packed with ball bearings, which don’t do much against military targets but make the warheads far more dangerous to civilians.”

Posted by Seth Gordon

The original meaning of ‘shrapnel’, IIRC was specifically artillery shells packed with bullets (probably lead, at the time). Such weapons have been a standard item in miliary arsenals for 150-200 years; the only reason that they’re not in almost all shells/bombs is that using a thick metal casing gives good results, more cheaply and provides a studier casing.

Ball-bearing packed warheads, IMHO would be very useful against any non-hardened military target: people (soldiers and directly-supporting contractors), trucks, fuel storage tanks, and aircraft.

27

Daniel 07.28.06 at 8:49 am

Sam: no such crime. The GC recognises that guerilla armies don’t wear uniforms and only requires them to carry their weapons openly when fighting or moving to a fight and in sight of the enemy.

Elliott: I think it would be very hard to pin the crime on Hezb of having stored rockets in civilian areas for perfidious reasons rather than because that was where they lived.

28

Daniel 07.28.06 at 8:50 am

(conversely, I think it was incumbent on Hezb to find a different way of moving their rockets when it became clear that the use of civilian vehicles was leading to civilians being killed. emphasising of course that this is not taking a view on whether the killing of the civilians in cars was a crime of excess).

29

Marc Mulholland 07.28.06 at 8:55 am

I can see that forcing non-combatants to drive munitions would be a war-crime; but simply commandeering vehicles?

Parisian Taxis rushing soldiers to the Marne? A flotilla of civilian boats evactuating troops from Dunkirk?

30

SamChevre 07.28.06 at 8:56 am

Daniel–can you give me a reference for “guerillas only have to bear arms openly when fighting and in sight of the enemy”.

And even given that provision (which I wasn’t aware of) wouldn’t “in sight of the enemy” include while fighting is going on in the area? (In other words, isn’t all of Lebanon “in sight of the enemy”.)

31

Daniel 07.28.06 at 9:01 am

Sam: Geneva convention, article 44 (3)

Marc: the element of perfidy is missing from those cases though; the forces using the civilian vehicles are not undermining the protection of the noncombatants by abusing their good faith. (and of course, heroes though they were, there is no way in which the civilians involved in Dunkirk could have been considered protected noncombatants).

32

Elliott Oti 07.28.06 at 9:01 am

(conversely, I think it was incumbent on Hezb to find a different way of moving their rockets when it became clear that the use of civilian vehicles was leading to civilians being killed. emphasising of course that this is not taking a view on whether the killing of the civilians in cars was a crime of excess).

After superficially skimming the Articles, I don’t see how it is incumbent on Hezbollah to find a different means of transportation, rather than on the IDF to not attack civilian buses, however counterproductive to the IDF’s goals that may be. See chapters II and III: the emphasis is on ‘attack’, and the onus thus IMO on the attacker.

33

Elliott Oti 07.28.06 at 9:06 am

Daniel—can you give me a reference for “guerillas only have to bear arms openly when fighting and in sight of the enemy”.

And even given that provision (which I wasn’t aware of) wouldn’t “in sight of the enemy” include while fighting is going on in the area?

I think the key point is, as Daniel pointed out in #2, is perfidy; not openly bearing arms and insignia is not in and of itself a war crime because provision is made for camouflage, stealth, etc.

34

Daniel 07.28.06 at 9:07 am

I don’t see how it is incumbent on Hezbollah to find a different means of transportation, rather than on the IDF to not attack civilian buses,

I think that it can be both; just as it isn’t required of Hizb to not use civilian basements as munitions dumps but also not required of the IDF to not bomb them when they do.

35

Kevin Donoghue 07.28.06 at 9:16 am

Another for Tex; an NYT story about sheltering:

“Hezbollah came to Ain Ebel to shoot its rockets,” said Fayad Hanna Amar, a young Christian man, referring to his village. “They are shooting from between our houses.”

I find that more plausible than the claims about using Shiites as shields. It’s a bit crazy to risk your own support base.

36

Elliott Oti 07.28.06 at 9:19 am

I think that it can be both; just as it isn’t required of Hizb to not use civilian basements as munitions dumps but also not required of the IDF to not bomb them when they do.

Oh I agree, it just seems from my non-lawyerly perspective that a valid argument can be made that according to the Articles this is not a war crime on Hezbollah’s part.

37

Marc Mulholland 07.28.06 at 9:20 am

It seems to me that ‘perfidy’ – “inviting the confidence of an adversary” – has quite a high burden of proof re mens rea. It has to be a trick, abusing geneva conventions, designed to fool the other side. There’s no evidence I know of that Hezbollah are using civilian vehicles as a ploy to sneak up on IDF targets. It does not become a trick just because the otherside starts to bomb all civilian vehicles in a designated area.

This seems to me to be simply a case of commandeering.

38

Tom Hurka 07.28.06 at 9:32 am

A factual question.

Daniel is right that, according to Protocol I, the fact that one side is violating its obligations under the Protocol, such as the obligation not to use civilians as shields, doesn’t in any way reduce the other side’s obligations. This means that the proportionality requirement not to cause excessive collateral harm to enemy civilians is exactly as stringent when they are being used as shields as when they are not.

But many commentators, especially U.S. ones, reject that view as morally wrong, e.g. many (or at least two I know of, but very prominent ones) rejected it about the killing of civilians in the Vietnam War. And the U.S. military have made statements recently, e.g. during the Iraq War, that suggest that they reject it too. Instead, they seem to hold that if the enemy hides among civilians, the enemy has brought those civilians into the line of fire and the responsibility for their deaths is entirely his and not the U.S.’s. (That’s an extreme view; a weaker one would say just that the proportionality requirement concerning those civilians is weakened to some extent. But that’s still different from Protocol I.)

Here’s my factual question. The U.S. has not ratified Protocol I. Does anyone know if this issue is the or part of the reason? Has Israel ratified the Protocol? More generally, what are the views of those two countries, or their militaries, about this currently most relevant part of Protocol I?

39

chew2 07.28.06 at 9:40 am

Daniel at #19,

What reports are you speaking of? The UN observers no doubt kept logs, and would have reported such activity. The UN has not released them to my knowledge. There is an email from the Canadian observer which is reported at CBC that implies that Hizbullah fighters may have been using the UN post improperly days earlier. A UN spokeswoman is reported to have said Hizbullah and others had located as close as 500 meters away but on CBC also said their was no firing by them the day of the bombing.

The UN has withdrawn it’s UNTSO observers from their border posts after this bombing. Could that have been Israel’s objective by firing at or near the UN post?

More generally I too would like to see more evidence regarding the allegation that Hizbullah was firing rockets from populated areas. I’m sure this may have occurred, especially in the South, but haven’t read of any specific allegations.

40

Elliott Oti 07.28.06 at 9:55 am

Here’s my factual question. The U.S. has not ratified Protocol I. Does anyone know if this issue is the or part of the reason? Has Israel ratified the Protocol?

The best I can find, on short notice, is this link.

It’s difficult to tell, on a first reading, which of the proferred objections are kabuki reasons and which actual. My gut feeling is that the US considers Protocol 1 to limit the US’ military scope of actions too much, in the light of certain wars which it had fought in the past (particularly Vietnam) and intended to fight in the future.

I would expect the Israeli reason to be very similar; with respect to their activities in the Gaza strip they have been in almost continuous breach of Protocol 1. Signing it would be pointless if there was no intention to abide by it.

41

luc 07.28.06 at 9:56 am

Thanks, Seth at #20. As I understand it now, any soldier captured becomes a protected person and thus cannot be subjected to any hostage issues, conform “common article 3″.

This is slightly different than Daniel in #5, because they still should be considered POW’s, and thus protected persons.

42

Dan Kervick 07.28.06 at 9:59 am

Dan K: I think Elliott has it right; whether or not the rockets are aimed at civilians, they are, predictably, causing damage to civilians and this would have to be “not excessive” relative to the military aim. Randomly chucking rockets at an airbase is not very much of a military aim, so IMO basically any collateral damage is excessive. I think you might be right about munitions storage and will make an edit accordingly.

I’m puzzled by this reasoning. I don’t think it’s a question of “randomly chucking” rockets at an airbase. And surely a military airbase is a legitimate military target. The question is how predictably accurate one must be, given factors such as the density of populations around the target, the payload of the weapon and the military importance of the target. The issue is in part one of technical capability. Whether one fires catapults, rockets or cannons at military targets, there are always limits to precision. And there will always be some predictable level of civilian casualties.

This raises an interesting question about the application of the laws of war to states and military entities of differing technical capabilities. Suppose military entity X is more technologically advanced than military entity Y. Suppose X and Y both fire rockets at each other’s military installations, from comparable distances. And suppose the surrounding population densities are equivalent. But suppose X’s weapons are smarter and more accurate. Therefore, X is able to put more of its weapons on targets, with fewer civilian casualties.

This raises the question of a bias in favor of the strong when evaluating war-fighting legally or morally. I’m not saying that the laws of war have to be “equal opportunity”. But if improving technology means there are evolving standards of what counts as an acceptable degree of precision for certain kinds of assaults, and consequently there are evolving evolving of what kinds of civilian casualties are excessive, then if we use the capabilities of the most advanced military entities as the moral benchmark, the warmaking of these advanced groups is systematically morally privileged.

Hizbollah has fired over 1500 rockets into Israel, and caused 18 civilian deaths – although many more civilian casualties. Perhaps Hezbollah is trying to kill civilians and missing, or perhaps they are aiming at military targets and the civilian deaths are accidental. Or perhaps they are just randomly chucking rockets, as you say.

The use of the term “rocket” may suggest misleading connotations here. Some of this discussion seems to suggest that these rockets are little better than fireworks that shoot off in any old direction – or that the people firing them are just pointing them in a general southwesterly direction and firing. But I assume that the people launching the rockets have been trained to use them over several years with much drilling, and that they have target lists. The calculate a direction and elevation and distance to target, and given the capabilities of the rocket can in pricnciple predict where it will fall, with various probabilities, within a series of concentric circles around the target. It is misleading to describe this as “randomly chucking”.

Of course that does not relieve Hizbollah of the moral responsibility for minimizing civilian casualties. But I think we need a more careful discussion of the details to decide when such casualties are excessive.

43

fred lapides 07.28.06 at 10:03 am

Having a terror group (Hezbollah) of substantial fnumbers within a country and for that group to lob rockets etc at a nation close to it, viollates tyhe simple notion that a state ought not allow an “entity” within its bvorders to conduct terror or military operations without that nation being culpable for allowing such actions to take place. That the govt of Lebanon might not be able to prevent Hezbollah from doing what it is doing does not excuse or justif the govgt of Lebanon in any way.

44

Daniel 07.28.06 at 10:04 am

thanks for your comment Fred; I look forward to hearing what you think when you’ve read the article.

45

Elliott Oti 07.28.06 at 10:11 am

Dan Kervick says:
I’m puzzled by this reasoning.

Well you need a context if you want to make moral judgements, and the context chosen for “Hezbollah’s War Crimes” are the Geneva Conventions, which thanks to this article I have actually looked at for the first time ever. And in that context chucking rockets at a town full of civilians with the faint hope of hitting something military is a war crime.

46

Dan Kervick 07.28.06 at 10:14 am

Re: 43

Kant’s principle seems both true and applicable here: ought implies can. Nobody can have a moral obligation to do something which they are incapable of doing.

47

Jack 07.28.06 at 10:47 am

Is the Geneva convention here being used as a definition of justice, actual law, best practice or a reasonable stab at how things ought to be done?

If we are taking a legal view surely we should be considering the law as enforced. I don’t think Hezbollah have signed any of the Geneva treaties so is the question moot from that point of view? Does the US security council veto mean that questions about Israeli war crimes are also of no practical importance? Is there a case where a victor has been indicted?

I can’t think of a single resistance movement that has been legal in this context, including those that founded the United States and Israel. It would be a stretch to claim that the allies were not in breach during WWII.

In the context of “chucking rockets at town” should illegality then be a function of the impact of misses or is it a ratio that makes the difference? Is the ratio deaths per bomb? Per unit of military capacity? Are Hezbollah war criminals because they have rubbish missiles (to travesty Dan K)? If Katyushas are being aimed at civilians they seem pretty rubbish at that too. They seem to have a fatality rate of less than 1 per cent which would mean that the rumored stock of 10,000 would account for 100 lives.

48

Dan Kervick 07.28.06 at 10:50 am

And in that context chucking rockets at a town full of civilians with the faint hope of hitting something military is a war crime.

Yes, Elliot, but once again these actions are being characterized in a tendentious way, and in a way assumes facts that have not been established.

Consider:

“chucking rockets” as opposed to “firing rockets”;

“at a town full of civilians” as opposed to “at a military installation surrounded by a town full of civilians”;

“with a faint hope of hitting something military” as opposed to “with a reasonable expectation of hitting a military target”.

I’m not saying the second set of descriptions is more accurate than the first. But it doesn’t seem to me that anyone has yet presented any evidence that the first set is more accurate than the second.

49

Sebastian Holsclaw 07.28.06 at 10:59 am

The lack of military knowledge here is showing again. Katyushas are not effectively aimed. They were designed for saturation bombing, not precision targeting. At the range Hezbollah uses it, the rockets are aimable at the city level, not at the building or even neighborhood level.

50

brian 07.28.06 at 11:04 am

On the issue of, “guerillas only have to bear arms openly when fighting and in sight of the enemy” many of the news reports I have seen regarding Hezballah note them as being black-shirted fighters. And this is the case when you see news footage of them; if you do not want to look like your in Hezballah dont wear the black shirt and camo pants they are known for.

In reference to Hezballah’s use of civilian vehicles as transportation for their rockets, what would one expect them to do? Maintaining a fleet of vehicles properly marked would hardly then allow them to qualify as a guerilla group. And if Israel is so certain that the vehicles they are bombing contain rockets, why dont they use their complex American-made observation equipment to follow the vehicles to their destination, thus destroying the launcher and the rockets and being certain no unnecessary civilian casualties are incurred?

51

Sebastian Holsclaw 07.28.06 at 11:06 am

However I am much less sure that Hezbollah is committing a war crime in South Beirut. Their commanders have to live somewhere, and that is where they live. Even in the beqaa Valley where sheltering has definitely taken place, the mere fact that Hezbollah troops live in a village is not a war crime. The point here is that Hezbollah are fighting on their own territory, and the Geneva Conventions surely do not require them to pretend otherwise by moving out of their homes and setting up a barracks in order to make them easier to kill. I think it would be ridiculous to have an interpretation of the Geneva Conventions under which a man can be committing a war crime by going home to bed

I’m not sure this is within the scope of what you are talking about, but in terms of War Crimes, I agree that it probably isn’t ‘sheltering’ to sleep in his own apartment it is sheltering for Hezbollah to put its headquarters in otherwise civilian buildings and then claim immunity from attack based on being in a civilian object. And it is specifically not a war crime for Israel to bomb such a site. Same as with munitions dumps, if you put it in a hospital, Israel can bomb it.

52

Elliott Oti 07.28.06 at 11:20 am

I’m not saying the second set of descriptions is more accurate than the first. But it doesn’t seem to me that anyone has yet presented any evidence that the first set is more accurate than the second.

While I understand your reasoning, empirically Hizbullah hasn’t apparently hit much, if anything, of military value, but has killed a number of civilians with their rockets. And while the benefit of the doubt can be given during the first few dozen missile firings – testing the waters, so to speak, I think most reasonable observers will conclude that Hezbullah’s continual launches miss their targets most of the time, and kill civilians the rest of the time.

53

Daniel 07.28.06 at 11:21 am

Is the Geneva convention here being used as a definition of justice, actual law, best practice or a reasonable stab at how things ought to be done?

I’m treating it as if it were actual law, because I think in an ideal world it would be; every time I read these documents I’m struck by how sensible and well-thought-out they are.

it is sheltering for Hezbollah to put its headquarters in otherwise civilian buildings and then claim immunity from attack based on being in a civilian object

I don’t agree. Hezbollah doesn’t own any non-civilian objects and it is ridiculous to implicitly claim that they are obliged by the Geneva Conventions to build a special new headquarters building. The GC explicitly recognises that guerilla movements have the right to exist, and I don’t see how that’s compatible with making it a war crime for them to plan.

You might be right that it would be legal for Israel to bomb a building and cause collateral damage to civilians if in doing so they (reasonably) believed that they were following the military objective of destroying Hezbollah’s command [1], but that is not the same thing as saying that Hezb are committing the crime of sheltering.

I also don’t agree that you can bomb a hospital just because it has a munitions dump in it. I don’t see how destroying a munitions dump could possibly be such an important military objective as to make it other than excessive to bomb a hospital. (And here I really do have to side with Tex’s demand for specific evidence; I don’t believe there is any credible source which claims that there have been munitions dumps in hospitals).

[1] Although I think it is very difficult to argue that they are in fact doing this given that more or less every couple of days a senior IDF commander or Israeli minister goes on the radio to remind us that they are actually carrying out the crime of reprisals. It is not possible for Hezbollah to have ten headquarters buildings for every rocket that lands in Israel.

54

Elliott Oti 07.28.06 at 11:22 am

it is sheltering for Hezbollah to put its headquarters in otherwise civilian buildings and then claim immunity from attack based on being in a civilian object

That depends on whether the headquarters are civilian or military; as I understand it Hezbollah has a political and civil works arm as well as a military one.

55

Marc Mulholland 07.28.06 at 11:28 am

Hasan Nasrallah has stated explicitly that Haifa’s war capacity industries (petro-chemical and such like) were not being targetted by Hezbollah, so the rocket attacks on that city must be targetting residential areas. Thus, a war-crime.

56

Daniel 07.28.06 at 11:29 am

On a general point, because this confused me at first (I think I make at least one mistake in the top post) and is confusing others, the question of whether Hezb is committing the crime of sheltering with respect to a target, and whether the IDF is committing a war crime by bombing that target, are two separate questions.

For example, as I understand it, if Hezb holds its grand council of war in an apartment block then it is not committing a crime, but the IDF would be within its rights to bomb that building, because destroying the Hezb command would be a military objective which justified substantial collateral damage.

On the other hand, if Hezb hid a couple of rockets in a hospital, then that would be a serious war crime (because it would be undermining the sacrosanct nature of hospitals), but the IDF would not be entitled to bomb the hospital (because it’s clearly excessive to bopmb a hospital to knock out a couple of rockets).

I think that the UN post might have fallen into the second category, if Hezb were indeed using it as cover, it would still not be OK to bomb it. The Geneva Conventions do require you to go to trouble, risk and inconvenience to avoid collateral damage.

57

chew2 07.28.06 at 11:54 am

“it is sheltering for Hezbollah to put its headquarters in otherwise civilian buildings and then claim immunity from attack based on being in a civilian object. And it is specifically not a war crime for Israel to bomb such a site.”

I agree if you are referring to military headquarters. But is it a war crime to locate your military office in a civilian area? Aren’t there DOD offices all over, some in regular office buildings. Also, Israel seems to be bombing any sort of Hizbullah office, regardless of its purpose. As an aside, Israel’s bombing must still be proportional. Many of these offices seem to have been vacated, which both lessens their military value but also indicates that the civilian population took proper precauutions and got out.

More generally, it appears that Israel doesn’t really know where the actual Hizbullah fighters are sheltering and are bombing anything that might be used by them. The HB fighers are probably hiding in prepared bomb shelters in some cases and in residences in other cases. If the HB fighters give warning to the local population that they are there and ask them to leave would that comply with the laws of war? This is what the Israelis claim to be doing on their end.

It’s pretty clear that warfare involves fighting from cities, especially when you are defending your own town. I don’t think the laws of war prohibit soldiers from fighting from inside buildings because that goes on all the time, so there must be some rules that permit that.

As to the rocket fire, HB fighers probably send a few fighters out to fire their missiles from behind some building and then leave immediately. I can’t believe they are supposed to run out into the middle of some vacant field to do this. Again do they get around this by telling the civilians to get the hell out. Moreover, the military utility of firing at the vacated firing site seems to be somewhat limited.

58

chew2 07.28.06 at 12:06 pm

“I think that the UN post might have fallen into the second category, if Hezb were indeed using it as cover, it would still not be OK to bomb it. The Geneva Conventions do require you to go to trouble, risk and inconvenience to avoid collateral damage.”

If the HB were 500 yards away and not firing as reported by one UN spokesperson, they would not be anywhere near enough to make the UN post a legitimate target, especially since the UN repeatedly asked the Israelis to stop and they supposedly agreed to do so. The Israelis do not claim the UN post was itself a legitimate target, only that it may have been hit by mistake while firing at a legitimate target.

59

Tex MacRae 07.28.06 at 12:11 pm

A top Israeli general said for the first time that the military had deliberately — but accidentally — hit a United Nations outpost Tuesday. The attack killed four unarmed peacekeepers.

Brig. Gen. Shuki Shahar, the deputy chief of the military’s Northern Command, said soldiers in the field had accidentally called in the coordinates of the U.N. base and that the airstrike had been approved up the chain of command.

link

Hmmmm. I don’t know what to say about this. Apparently the Israelis know the “sheltering” argument is far too lame an excuse for bombing the UN outpost, considering the extraordinary lengths the UN went to prevent it.

So, what’s left? Lack of intent? Oops?

60

Daniel 07.28.06 at 12:15 pm

I have to say that Gen. Shahar’s latest story seems uncomfortably similar to that of the USA when it took out a Chinese Embassy in (?)Kosovo.

61

Brendan 07.28.06 at 12:16 pm

‘Hasan Nasrallah has stated explicitly that Haifa’s war capacity industries (petro-chemical and such like) were not being targetted by Hezbollah, so the rocket attacks on that city must be targetting residential areas. Thus, a war-crime.’

Just out of interest, is this true? Is it correct that Hizbollah rocket attacks are PURELY aimed at civilians? If so, how does Hizbollah justify them?

62

Kevin Donoghue 07.28.06 at 12:29 pm

re #60, I believe the embassy was in Belgrade. Perhaps the bombs come supplied with the same targeting software. Also the same standard excuses.

63

Dan Kervick 07.28.06 at 12:31 pm

I think that the UN post might have fallen into the second category, if Hezb were indeed using it as cover, it would still not be OK to bomb it. The Geneva Conventions do require you to go to trouble, risk and inconvenience to avoid collateral damage.

How much trouble, risk and inconvenience? I assume that if the sheltered weapon were destructive enough, and the risk imminent enough, then in the weighting of the need to defend citizens on one’s own side against the duty to protect citizens or foreign officials on the other, one’s own citizens might come out ahead.

Any thoughts on where the line is drawn?

64

leederick 07.28.06 at 12:35 pm

So far as I can see people are making arguments along the lines of: (a) breaching the Geneva Convention is a war crime, (b) Hezbollah has breached the Geneva Convention, therefore (c) Hezbollah has committed a war crime.

(a) is not true. Just as you can breach the Queensbury Rules without committing a crime, you can breach the Geneva Convention without committing a war crime.

65

Jake 07.28.06 at 12:38 pm

Probably some combination of “Israel is an illegitimate country and so is not subject to the laws of war”, “We aren’t an army and so aren’t subject to the laws of war”, “Killing Jews is no crime”, and “Hey! Look! The Gaza Strip!”

The Katyushas and Fajrs that Hezbollah are firing are artillery rockets that are designed to be fired in mass quantities against area targets to make up for their inaccuracy and smallish size – more or less the equivalent of dropping cluster bombs from 30,000 feet. The only thing one could hope to accomplish by firing one or two at a time is to harrass and annoy, which is why they’ve killed a few tens of Israeli civilians and wounded some more for zero military effect.

66

aretino 07.28.06 at 12:47 pm

ChicagoTom and Tex,

Press reporting of Hezbollah sheltering with civilians is not hard to find. Even the British press has covered it. For example, a Financial Times article from about three days ago included interviews with refugees who claimed Hezbollah was sheltering.

It’s fair to say that Juan Cole’s reputation has taken a grave blow from what he has written in the last couple of weeks.

67

Gar Lipow 07.28.06 at 1:16 pm

>ress reporting of Hezbollah sheltering with civilians is not hard to find.

Stated without links, and without even the exact date of the FT article from about three days ago. Surely you can find one reliable source online.

68

Shelby 07.28.06 at 1:20 pm

For some thoughts on proportionality from someone who is a professor of international law, specializing in the laws of war, look here.

69

chew2 07.28.06 at 1:27 pm

Re: the HB sheltering in civilian areas argument.

It’s one thing to find evidence that the HB fighters and their weapons may be sheltered in civilian areas. Although there’s an interesting article in Salon which suggests that HB tries not to do this.

It’s another thing to find evidence that the Israeli’s are actually or specifically targeting those fighers and weapons, rather than generally bombing likely areas or attacking dual use “infrustructure” in general.

If the civilian deaths do not mainly result from specific Israeli attacks against HB fighers, but from the more general bombing, then perhaps it can be argued that HB is only potentially committing a war crime.

70

Ajabah 07.28.06 at 1:30 pm

Reading here, I’m seeing two mutually exclusive justifications being used in reference to alleged war crimes (I say “alleged” here, because regardless of our individual points of view, the evidence we have so far is almost exclusively either witness testimony or public statements, both of which common sense tells us will be notoriously unreliable in politicized conflict without physical evidence to back it up).

On the one hand, Hezbollah is considered to be a well-trained, well-supplied military force with (according to the IDF) coherent fighting units of at least company size, and specialized sub units working together (mortar units, comms units, etc.). Accordingly, as mentioned above, Hezbollah fighters are considered “disciplined”, and generally stay removed from civilians for their own personal and operational security.

On the other, Hezbollah fighters are portayed as more of a citizen-soldier militia, quartered in their own homes and towns, salvaging shelter where available. This narrative relies more on the “guerilla” definition, and waives their responsibility for using civilian structures, etc. due to the fact that they cannot be expected to have separate, marked facilities.

I think there’s a contradiction here, because we can’t treat Hezbollah as two fundamentally different types of organization. The immediate argument that comes to my mind is that Hezbollah consists of seperate factions, or “wings”, with different organizing styles.

However, setting aside separate political/social/religious/ethnic wings, the military wing is (from what I can see) more or less unified – regardless of the status of the other wings, and therefore are still caught in the middle of this contradiction.

Thanks to all of the commenters here for your insight and civility. I’d appreciate it if you can point to any factual/logical fallacies I’m missing here.

71

mcd 07.28.06 at 1:42 pm

People are trying to debate something without bringing “politics” into it, but that’s the most important thing out there.

Daniel,you have this thread about war crimes of Hezbollah. I would bet they’ve committed some, so I don’t disagree. But what are we supposed to do with your post? Nothing? If so, it’s useless. Like an enumeration of the stamps in your stamp collection would be.

If we are to do something with it, that’s what people are unhappy with (but won’t explicitly say so). The sense is, outlining Hezbollah war crimes tells us how to judge the ongoing conflict, where to lay down our sympathies. And it doesn’t, not at all.

People judge conflicts on parochial grounds (I back our boys) and more general grounds (what were the parties doing before war broke out), but not on the basis on who fought the nicest war.

I argue for two political (i.e. non-“balanced”) criteria in judging conflicts.

1) Aggressors have no moral right to tell their victims how they can resist. (and who are the aggressors? That’s of course a function of your politics and not a matter of who fought fairest)

2) Stronger wealthier parties have more obligations to uphold the rules of war than weaker poorer parties. Generally, “doing the right thing” means spending more time, more money, more troops, more weapons. Rich combatants have much more of those. They can more easily afford to obey. (much like, BTW, the rationale for a steeply-progessive income tax).

72

Kevin Donoghue 07.28.06 at 1:44 pm

Aretino,

I second Gar Lopow’s complaint. Please note that merely hiding in a village isn’t sheltering. They have to have attacked from there. The only FT article I could find said:

Most of the displaced complain about being targeted as civilians but some reveal that Hizbollah hid among them in their villages. During the weekend another surge of refugees fled the south, heeding Israeli warnings to get out of the way of the fighting and adding to the strain on resources.
[…]
But one Shia woman who left the village of Srifa, where at least 10 people were killed in air raids last week, says that she and many other people were angry with Hizbollah’s tactics. “The Israelis had spies and the moment a Hizbollah fighter would enter a house, it would get hit. They also hit a school where Hizbollah had made a base.”
From a nearby hilltop, Hizbollah fired rockets at Israel. “Of course that is not good. I lost my house,” she says.

That’s sheltering, certainly.

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/65b61084-1b2f-11db-b164-0000779e2340.html

73

Fred Smoler 07.28.06 at 2:04 pm

Under the 1949 Geneva Conventions, which the Israelis and US have signed, members of organized resistance movements must wear a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance. This requirement disapears under a 1977 additional protocol, which the US (and, I think, Israel) declined to sign. I understand there is some dispute about whether a party to the 1949 Convention is obliged to follow a subsequent protocol which it has declined to sign. Can anyone give a good account of the nature of this dispute?

If Israel is not obliged to honor the protocol it has declined to sign, what, under the 1949 Conventions, is the legal status of Hezbollah combatants?

74

Tom Hurka 07.28.06 at 2:09 pm

Elliott: Thanks for that link. As you say, a bit too brief to be informative (I guess one would have to look up the 100-page Joint Chiefs of Staff report), but two of the main issues cited are (i) what your obligations are when the enemy violates its obligations, and (ii) legitimate tactics against irregular forces. Both are key issues in the current conflict. Anyway, thanks.

75

LHirsch 07.28.06 at 2:35 pm

Shelby at #68, your link did not work. Can you re-post it?

76

Kevin Donoghue 07.28.06 at 2:57 pm

Shelby’s link was a bit OT but it was to this blog:

http://kennethandersonlawofwar.blogspot.com/

Scroll down to the “Quick Note” post

77

Sebastian Holsclaw 07.28.06 at 3:00 pm

“I don’t agree. Hezbollah doesn’t own any non-civilian objects and it is ridiculous to implicitly claim that they are obliged by the Geneva Conventions to build a special new headquarters building. The GC explicitly recognises that guerilla movements have the right to exist, and I don’t see how that’s compatible with making it a war crime for them to plan.”

I don’t think you have to go to such extremes. They could select a building which doesn’t directly abut non-Hezbollah buildings. They could select buildings in which they are the principal/only tenants.

I think quite a bit of the problem in this discussion is that people don’t get a proper sense of scale. They say things like “the Pentagon is in a city and Hezbollah headquarters is in a city If Beruit is a legitmate target isn’t Washington DC a legitimate target?”.

The city of Beruit as a whole is not a lawful target just because Hezbollah has building there. There are thousands of buildings in Beruit that are not lawful targets. The Hezbollah buildings in Beruit typically are lawful targets. A city, on the scale of “a city” is not typically a lawful target. So if when people say “Israel is bombing Beruit” you picture targeting of no more specificity than the city level, of course you are right that it is unlawful.

But Israel isn’t targeting on the “city” level. They are targeting on the “building” level. If you look at a google map of the Pentagon, you can see that it is surrounded by large parking lots and bounded by freeways. If you bombed the Pentagon, you aren’t likely to hit nearby civilian buildings. There might be incidental damage to parking lots and freeways, but that is a different story. The military target is clearly distinct from nearby civilian buildings.

Hezbollah pretty much doesn’t bother with that.

This leads to point two. If you attack valid military targets with the appropriate force necessary to destroy them, that will often involve explosions or fires that go beyond the technical bounds of the property. The principle of separating military targets from civilian objects acknowledges the enemy’s right to hit your military targets and attempts to minimize damage to civilians and civilian objects by not putting them right next to each other.

Hezbollah either ignores that, or tries to gain propaganda victories by co-locating military and civilian objects. This ends up putting many more civilians in danger than following the rules would.

78

micah 07.28.06 at 4:16 pm

When Henry first posted on the topic of legitimate targets, I commented that his criticism should cut both ways and that, in attacking northern cities in Israel, Hezbollah did not purport to recognize any distinction between soldiers and civilians. There is still no evidence of that — despite the assertions in some of the comments above. Nasrallah now says Hezbollah rockets are aimed at Israeli military targets? I find it incredible that anyone here would repeat that claim, except perhaps to ridicule it. Next we’ll hear justifications for launching rockets at Kiryat Shmona, Maalot, Metula, Nahariya, Rosh Pina, Safed, and Tiberias?

If the shoe were on the other foot, if prior to the last three weeks, Israel had fired, however sporadically, dozens of rockets at small towns in southern Lebanon, it’s easy to imagine what the response would have been — no matter what the casualty rate. But when Hezbollah does it, it’s merely to “harrass and annoy” (#65), or to hit military targets “in the vicinity of the places where the rockets have landed” (#10), or it’s a matter of “technical capability” (#42), or–and this is beyond me–it’s unmentionable (#14).

There’s been plenty of criticism of Israel on CT, so it’s surprising that when a blogger here finally turns some attention on the other warring party, suddenly we’re getting Hezbollah apologetics. For those who think Hezbollah doesn’t have its defenders, making criticism necessary, comments in this thread should be enough to prove otherwise.

79

Shelby 07.28.06 at 4:32 pm

Re # 75:
That’s strange — when I first posted it here I clicked on it to be sure it would work, and it did. Here’s the non-link version:
http://kennethandersonlawofwar.blogspot.com/2006/07/quick-note-on-proportionality-jus-ad.html

I don’t think it’s particularly off-topic, given that many people are discussing proportionality in this thread.

80

Dan Simon 07.28.06 at 4:35 pm

The most obvious war crime Hezbollah[1] has committed is firing rockets into towns in Israel…whoever carried out those attacks is guilty of the war crime of attacking non-combatants….

But the most important war crime to have been committed by Hezbollah…is the war crime of sheltering or using “human shields”.

So it would be less “important” if, instead of hiding behind Lebanese civilians, Hezbollah militiamen simply shot them?

Is it correct that Hizbollah rocket attacks are PURELY aimed at civilians?

Uh, yes, Brendan, they are.

If so, how does Hizbollah justify them?

To whom? The folks at Crooked Timber? Oddly enough, the Hezbollah leadership feels no need to do so.

81

Louis Proyect 07.28.06 at 5:08 pm

Whoever does not care to return to Moses, Christ or Mohammed; whoever is not satisfied with eclectic hodge-podges must acknowledge that morality is a product of social development; that there is nothing invariable about it; that it serves social interests; that these interests are contradictory; that morality more than any other form of ideology has a class character.

But do not elementary moral precepts exist, worked out in the development of mankind as an integral element necessary for the life of every collective body? Undoubtedly such precepts exist but the extent of their action is extremely limited and unstable. Norms “obligatory upon all” become the less forceful the sharper the character assumed by the class struggle. The highest pitch of the class struggle is civil war which explodes into mid-air all moral ties between the hostile classes.

Under “normal” conditions a normal” man observes the commandment: “Thou shalt not kill!” But if he murders under exceptional conditions for self-defense, the judge condones his action. If he falls victim to a murderer, the court will kill the murderer. The necessity of the court’s action, as that of the self-defense, flows from antagonistic interests. In so far as the state is concerned, in peaceful times it limits itself to individual cases of legalized murder so that in time of war it may transform the “obligatory’ commandment, “Thou shalt not kill! into its opposite. The most “humane” governments, which in peaceful times “detest” war, proclaim during war that the highest duty of their armies is the extermination of the greatest possible number of people.

full: http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/works/1938/1938-mor.htm

82

jet 07.28.06 at 5:24 pm

Dan Simon,
Good point, but I don’t think that is right on. Hezbollah gets double penalized for the deaths they force Israel to cause (even though Israel still gets penalized for them). Forcing someone else to kill civilians in order to retaliate against you is worse than you just killing civilians yourself, is how I think the logic plays out.

83

rented mule 07.28.06 at 5:32 pm

ABB1 must be going *nuts* right about now.

84

Bernard Yomtov 07.28.06 at 8:12 pm

Excuse me, Daniel, but perhaps you could explain again why Hezbollah’s rocket attacks do not constitute aggression.

I’m afraid your point was not altogether clear, since it does seem to me that, prima facie, firing rockets into a neighboring country is an act of aggression.

85

r4d20 07.28.06 at 8:16 pm

“For what it’s worth, this has been explicitly denied by Nasrallah, who claims the rockets are aimed at military targets.”

The Katyusha rockets are simply not accurate to really “aim” at ANYTHING other than wide general area – they were designed as AREA SATURATION weapons that were meant to be fired in the thousands by the Russian army.

When Nasrallah says that they are being “aimed” at military bases he simply means that the launchers are pointed at the military base and fired knowing that the landing point of each one is essentially random.

If only others were as accepting of our ‘mistakes’.

86

r4d20 07.28.06 at 8:22 pm

Sorry for the continuous link:
katyusha@Wiki

87

dsquared 07.29.06 at 6:04 am

regarding #84, the reason I do not believe that Hezb can clearly be charged with aggression is that it is not clear that there was not an already existing conflict.

88

me 07.29.06 at 7:27 am

The laws of war make a lot of sense when two similarly equipped armies are facing each other. But when a state with a massive supply of advanced weapons is matched against a group of poorly armed fighters, following the rules of war only magnifies the state’s advantages. I am not intending to justify the actions of Hezbollah, just pointing out that the rules of war will never be followed perfectly by groups like Hezbollah (whether their cause is just or unjust) because following them would result in their certain defeat.

89

nick s 07.29.06 at 7:48 am

But Israel isn’t targeting on the “city” level. They are targeting on the “building” level.

You’re repeating yourself, Sebastian. And it doesn’t improve on second reading.

So do we have to get into the semantics of ‘target’ again? Because it’s really bloody tedious, and Dershowitz has already cornered the market on weaseling apologist lawyers.

90

zdenek 07.29.06 at 9:24 am

Keneth Anderson makes an interesting point about criminal liability when it comes to war crimes. Even if Israel was on the face of it guilty of war crimes ( not taking due care in their targetting ) court would be reluctent to take the allegation seriously and take action because the decisions of commanders in the field are given bennefit of the doubt ( established in the ‘Hostage Case’ which involved scorched earth policy resulting in 61000 civilians starving at the onset of winter in scandiavia – court refused to substitute comanders judgement by its own judgement).
The court sets aside commanders judgement only when ‘intentional depravity’ is shown ( deliberate targetting of civilians etc.) On this way of seeing things Hizbollah but not IDF is criminally liable even if both are guilty of war crimes . ( http://kenethandersonlawofwar.blogspot.com/2006/0 )

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jet 07.29.06 at 11:07 am

dsquared,

I’ll try to put this is the least offensive or charged manner, and if anyone is unsure of how I mean these words, assume I meant them in the most benign, uncharged, distant manner as possible.

But when it comes to the claim that Hez is guilty of aggression, we must look at the situation that existed before the latest round of violence.

First, we should take into account that the UN had certified that Israel had completed a complete withdrawal from Lebanon.
Second we should look at the list of Hez’s grievances. These grievances are two-fold. One, Sheba Farms, which Israel occupied from Syria after the 67′ war. No one can argue that Hez can claim Syrian land for Lebanon. Israel can not conquer land from Syria and then give it to Lebanon. And go to Google Earth and look at this land. It is 8.7 miles of desert hills with a couple of military outposts on it. Of questionable value except for perhaps grazing sheep on desert brush. Two, Israeli held prisoners. The closer I looked the more obscure this claim became. Hez wanted hundreds of prisoners released. But Israel released most of their Lebanese prisoners after 2000. Hez only names three particular people by name. One was convicted of brutally murdering an Israeli family and two cops in the early 80’s and would have been released long ago if Lebanon would have returned an Israeli pilot as part of an exchange deal. The second was an Israeli citizen convicted of spying on Israeli. The third, Israel claims was never arrested.

Even if you ruled in favor of Hez on all these claims, they do not constitute a reason for starting a war. So it seems pretty clear that the charge of Aggression should stand.

92

Kevin Donoghue 07.29.06 at 11:45 am

Jet,

Nothing offensive about your comment in my eyes, but I think you are missing dsquared’s point. To make the charge of aggression stick in court, you have to show that there was no existing conflict when Hezbullah started the latest round. (That’s my understanding, but IANAL.) It’s quite clear that they triggered an escalation of the conflict when they attacked the IDF and captured two soldiers. But they didn’t start a whole new conflict, in the sense that Hitler did in September 1939. You might like to look at the opinion of Britain’s Attorney General on OIF, which is on the web. If you can’t find it I can track it down and post a link.

The introduction to your comment suggests that, like Micah, you feel that people here are defending Hezbollah. That’s really not what this is about. Many of these issues would arise in quite different contexts. For example, did Michael Collins commit war crimes? You could have a good pub argument about that. And dsquared is into pub arguments.

93

Sebastian Holsclaw 07.29.06 at 12:06 pm

“You’re repeating yourself, Sebastian.”

Well, if you can’t get it sometimes repeating is necessary. Are you arguing that they are targeting on the city level?

94

Dan Simon 07.29.06 at 1:51 pm

Daniel, one thing you didn’t touch on in your posting was the culpability of Syria and Iran for their involvement in Hezbollah’s war crimes. After all, they support Hezbollah in every way–funding, arming and training Hezbollah’s personnel, and coordinating their actions,including their military actions, and their political stances, with Hezbollah’s. Hezbollah simply would not be able to commit its war crimes without Syria’s and Iran’s active assistance and at-least-tacit permission. Don’t Hezbollah’s crimes implicate them, then, as well?

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gray 07.29.06 at 6:36 pm

The Rome Statute of the ICC seems to provide the answer to which breaches of the GC are criminal

http://www.un.org/law/icc/statute/romefra.htm

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luc 07.29.06 at 9:54 pm

As an aside to Jet, according to some journo’s (Haaretz), those two demands of Hezbollah are now being discussed as part of the upcoming UN resolution.

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jet 07.29.06 at 11:28 pm

Kevin Donoghue,
I guess that makes sense, but then I it is a never ending argument about what happened over the last 6 years. With the question over when Hez’s rockets started firing after the UN certification and if that was a continuation of the last conflict or the beginning of a new conflict.

Which is exactly the point. Too ambiguous for a charge of Aggression. Thanks for the clarification.

98

Kevin Donoghue 07.30.06 at 6:09 am

Hezbollah simply would not be able to commit its war crimes without Syria’s and Iran’s active assistance and at-least-tacit permission. Don’t Hezbollah’s crimes implicate them, then, as well?

Perhaps in some cases but certainly not all. In the case of sheltering, for example, it would be hard to prove that Hezbollah’s commanders were complicit, never mind Iran. A local unit could make the decision to fire from a hospital roof.

99

lisa 07.30.06 at 12:45 pm

Is it correct that Hizbollah rocket attacks are PURELY aimed at civilians?

Several reports indicate that at least some of the rockets are aimed at military targets. One from Robert Fisk is here:

The long-range Iranian-made missiles which later exploded on Haifa had been preceded only afew weeks ago by a pilotless Hizbollah drone aircraft which surveyed northern Israel and then returned to land in eastern Lebanon after taking photographs during its flight. These pictures not only suggested a flight path for Hizbollah’s rockets to Haifa; they also identified Israel’s top-secret military air traffic control centre in Miron.

The next attack – concealed by Israel’s censors – was directed at this facility. Codenamed “Apollo”, Israeli military scientists work deep inside mountain caves and bunkers at Miron, guarded by watchtowers, guard-dogs and barbed wire, watching all air traffic moving in and out of Beirut, Damascus, Amman and other Arab cities. The mountain is surmounted by clusters of antennae which Hizbollah quickly identified as a military tracking centre. Before they fired rockets at Haifa, they therefore sent a cluster of missiles towards Miron. The caves are untouchable but the targeting of such a secret location by Hizbollah deeply shocked Israel’s military planners. The “centre of world terror” – or whatever they imagine Lebanon to be – could not only breach their frontier and capture their soldiers but attack the nerve-centre of the Israeli northern military command.

Then came the Haifa missiles and the attack on the gunboat. It is now clear that this successful military operation – so contemptuous of their enemy were the Israelis that although their warship was equipped with cannon and a Vulcan machine gun, they didn’t even provide the vessel with an anti-missile capability – was also planned months ago. Once the Hetz-class boats appeared, Hizbollah positioned a missile crew on the coast of west Beirut not far from Jnah, a crew trained over many weeks for just such an attack. It took less than 30 seconds for the Iranian-made missile to leave Beirut and hit the vessel square amidships, setting it on fire and killing the sailors.

And this from journalist Jonathan Cook in Nazareth:

[A]lthough no one is making the point, Hizbullah’s rockets have been targeted overwhelming at strategic locations: the northern economic hub of Haifa, its satellite towns and the array of military sites across the Galilee…

Because of Israel’s press censorship laws, it is impossible to discuss the locations of Israel’s military installations. But Hizbullah’s rockets are accurate enough to show that many are intended for the army’s sites in the Galilee, even if they are rarely precise enough to hit them.

It is obvious to everyone in Nazareth, for example, that the rockets landing close by, and once on, the city over the past week are searching out, and some have fallen extremely close to, the weapons factory sited near us.

http://www.dissidentvoice.org/July06/Cook25.htm

And here:

Local inhabitants did not doubt that. They understand too that Israeli media reports that Hizbullah has repeatedly hit areas near Nazareth’s neighbour, the mixed Jewish and Arab city of Upper Nazareth, are glossing over the facts. Close by both Nazareths is a major weapons factory that Hizbullah has clearly identified and is trying to strike. Many of the other sites Hizbullah has been targeting on a regular basis are military. Its chances of damaging these fortified positions are low, but it is striking at them nonetheless. It may be hoping to send a deterrent signal that, if it knows where Israel’s military Achilles’ heels are to be found, so do its patrons, Syria and Iran.

http://www.jkcook.net/Articles2/0264.htm#Top

I think that between the inaccuracy of the rockets and the Israeli censorship of any reports on Israeli military targets in the vicinity of the rocket hits, its easy from here to assume that the rockets are indiscriminately aimed at civilians but that is clearly not the case in at least these two incidents.

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Dan Simon 07.30.06 at 6:59 pm

Perhaps in some cases but certainly not all. In the case of sheltering, for example, it would be hard to prove that Hezbollah’s commanders were complicit, never mind Iran. A local unit could make the decision to fire from a hospital roof.

Given that Hezbollah has been routinely targeting civilians while hiding behind human shields literally for decades, it’s hard to argue that Syria and Iran couldn’t foresee similar crimes while arming, training and co-ordinating with them.

And by the way, if you don’t buy that charge of complicity in war crimes, then what do you think of, say, this one?

101

elliott oti 07.31.06 at 1:05 am

And by the way, if you don’t buy that charge of complicity in war crimes, then what do you think of, say, this one? [reference to Phalangist massacre]

While Iran and Syria doubtlessly know perfectly well how Hezbollah operates, there is a qualitative difference between the direct, large scale massacre of refugees by the Phalangist militias, and Hezbollah’s stationing armed fighters among civilians in their own territory. The first involves active killings on the part of Phalangist militias. The second puts civilians at greater risk of being killed by the IDF during IDF incursions into Lebanon. This has been discussed at some length in the preceding comments.

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Daniel 07.31.06 at 1:12 am

Don’t Hezbollah’s crimes implicate them, then, as well?

No. I have no idea of the theory of jurisprudence that made you think for a second that they did. My parents fed and clothed me for 18 years and brought me up in the ways of the Welsh, and they still provide me with help and advice, but if I go out tomorrow and hold up a liquor store the police will not put my mum in the dock. A crime is a specific action which breaks the law and has a mens rea element. It is not simply a state of the world that you don’t like.

103

jet 07.31.06 at 9:04 am

Daniel,
But what if you weren’t caught and punished, but were a known fugitive at large. And your mother* kept helping you out, giving you weapons and supplies enough so that you were capabable of holding up liquors stores for decades. Wouldn’t your mother then become complicit?

*I mean no offense by using your mother in the metaphor, I’m just continueing with your metaphor. I would prefer to replace your “mother” with your “buddy who also hates liquor stores (surely a capital offense in itself)”.

104

Daniel 07.31.06 at 9:35 am

Basically no. An accessory or accomplice (I forget which, I am not a lawyer) has to be an accessory or accomplice to a specific act. It’s a pretty fundamental legal principle that individual actors are responsible for their own actions. If there was much better evidence than there is that everything people say about the Syria/Iran/Hezbollah connection is true, then I can see a situation in which Israel would be within its rights to consider itself to be at war with Iran and Syria, but my post #56 refers; this doesn’t mean that Iran and Syria are jointly and severally responsible for Hezbollah’s war crimes (similarly, the USA isn’t responsible for anything Israel does).

105

jet 07.31.06 at 9:59 am

Daniel,
If your mother handed you a weapon so you’d be prepared for your next hold up, just as she’d done for your last string of hold ups, she might be an accomplice (depends on jurisdiction), but she is most certainly an accessory (“accessory before the fact” in the US).

Only in the most crazy of worlds are Iran and Syria, both openly hostile to Israel, not considered accomplices in the random firing of rockets against Israel. If someone tells you they are going to rob a bank, please give them a gun, you know how that gun will be used. If Hez asks you for rockets, you know who they are going to use them on. Just because you don’t know the date or time of the act, doesn’t clear you of mens rea.

106

Kevin Donoghue 07.31.06 at 10:09 am

Jet,

Bearing in mind that the charge of Aggression doesn’t stick, what crime of Hezbollah’s have you in mind when you say Iran is an accessory? As I pointed out to Dan Simon, you could hardly charge Ayatollah Khamenei on the strength of the fact that somebody in Tyre fired a rocket from a hospital roof. So what crime have you in mind?

107

Ray 07.31.06 at 10:51 am

“Supplying weapons to people who will use them to commit war crimes”. What could be controversial about that?

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Kevin Donoghue 07.31.06 at 10:58 am

Dan,

From your link: “You have the field completely under your control and are therefore responsible for that area.” That’s a strong claim. If true then there’s a good case, soon to be moot.

109

jet 07.31.06 at 11:02 am

Keven Donoghue,
They may not be guilty of an international war crime, but Israel would certainly consider them guilty of prosecuting war against them. And in similar circumstances, most countries would feel justified in a serious response. Israel’s almost laughable situation is that any response against Iran will hurt the US (and the rest of the world) more than Iran, and Syria is probably not worth the trouble.

110

Kevin Donoghue 07.31.06 at 11:02 am

“Supplying weapons to people who will use them to commit war crimes”.

Ray,

That’s a war crime? Are you sure?

111

james 07.31.06 at 11:22 am

For arugement let me say neither side is guilty of war crimes. Hezbollah has not signed the Geneva Conventions and thus would not recognize them as legally binding. For practical purposes, as long as they do not loose the war, this will continue to be the facts on the ground. Israel has not signed the entirety of the Geneva Conventions and are thus only bound by those provisions they have agreed to adhere to. This remains true barring loosing a war to another nation.

Two reference items in the Fourth Geneva: 1) Article 4 section 2. “Nationals of a State which is not bound by the Convention are not protected by it.”
2) Article 5 section 1 “Where in the territory of a Party to the conflict, the latter is satisfied that an individual protected person is definitely suspected of or engaged in activities hostile to the security of the State, such individual person shall not be entitled to claim such rights and privileges under the present Convention as would, if exercised in the favour of such individual person, be prejudicial to the security of such State.”

http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Fourth_Geneva_Convention#Article_4

The Geneva conventions are set up such that if both sides adhere to the conventions, the treaty is in full force. If one side does not, the number of applicable conventions is reduced.

Daniel: If a hospital is also used as an ammo dump, it becomes an ammo dump in the eyes of the convention. Fourth Geneva Convention Article 19 section 1 “The protection to which civilian hospitals are entitled shall not cease unless they are used to commit, outside their humanitarian duties, acts harmful to the enemy. Protection may, however, cease only after due warning has been given, naming, in all appropriate cases, a reasonable time limit and after such warning has remained unheeded.”

112

Dan Simon 07.31.06 at 12:00 pm

While Iran and Syria doubtlessly know perfectly well how Hezbollah operates, there is a qualitative difference between the direct, large scale massacre of refugees by the Phalangist militias, and Hezbollah’s stationing armed fighters among civilians in their own territory.

Uh, Elliott, the other Daniel’s the one who attaches so much significance to the “human shields” aspect of Hezbollah’s activity. As far as I’m concerned, lobbing hundreds of rockets at Israeli towns, with no discernible goal other than causing a “large scale massacre” of civilians, is by far the worse crime, and very comparable to what the Phalangists did in Sabra and Shatila.

(I could make a sarcastic comment about how Daniel and the commenters seem so much more concerned about actions–Israeli and Lebanese–that jeopardize Lebanese lives, as opposed to Israeli lives. But the whole discussion of “war crimes” here has been far too incoherent for me to attribute malice, rather than mere clueless confusion, to its participants….)

Bearing in mind that the charge of Aggression doesn’t stick, what crime of Hezbollah’s have you in mind when you say Iran is an accessory?

(….Still, sometimes it’s awfully tempting….)

Basically no. An accessory or accomplice (I forget which, I am not a lawyer) has to be an accessory or accomplice to a specific act.

There are hundreds of such specific acts–each rocket launched at an Israeli city is one.

If there was much better evidence than there is that everything people say about the Syria/Iran/Hezbollah connection is true, then I can see a situation in which Israel would be within its rights to consider itself to be at war with Iran and Syria

What would constitute sufficient evidence, in your view? Do you doubt that Syria and Iran are supplying money, armaments and training to Hezbollah? (I believe they openly admit to doing so.) Do you doubt that Hezbollah is using those armaments to target Israeli cities? (Again, I believe they openly admit to doing so.) Where’s the missing link in the chain? And would you have granted anything like such benefit of the doubt to, say, Ariel Sharon?

113

Ray 07.31.06 at 2:43 pm

Kevin, I’m sure it isn’t.

114

Kevin Donoghue 07.31.06 at 2:57 pm

Sorry, Ray, I misread you – thought you were answering my question (#107).

115

Kevin Donoghue 07.31.06 at 4:28 pm

Dan Simon,

As so often before, you seem to be posting from a planet with which I am not familiar. It appears you think that states which supply weapons to tyrants, terrorists and other thugs are guilty of some crime. Morally speaking they are, but here we are discussing the law, which, as you may have heard, is a hass, a hidiot. Efforts are underway to criminalise such suppliers, as HRW reports:

[T]he individuals and states who provide the weapons used in massive human rights abuses have so far been let off the hook for their central role in facilitating these crimes.

Individual arms traffickers and the states who use their services reject out of hand the idea that they bear some responsibility for fueling abuses. Human rights organizations and their allies in the humanitarian, public health, development, conflict prevention, and disarmament communities have set out to prove otherwise.

Can you guess who is winning this contest between humanitarian NGOs and merchants of death? Read the report and see if you got it right.

116

Daniel 08.01.06 at 8:38 am

I could make a sarcastic comment about how Daniel and the commenters seem so much more concerned about actions—Israeli and Lebanese—that jeopardize Lebanese lives, as opposed to Israeli lives.

you could get yourself fucking banned too laddie.

Not even in jest, do I take that kind of shit. Particularly not from someone who is in as poor a position as you to call other people apologists.

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Daniel 08.01.06 at 8:43 am

There are hundreds of such specific acts

And Iran and Syria are connected to precisely none of them. They supplied the rockets (if they did; asking me if I doubt something isn’t proof and I daresay if you had anything stronger you’d provide it). But they didn’t pull the triggers. This is not difficult. It’s not a matter of a “missing link in the chain”. There is no chain. That’s “chain”, as in “chain of command”, as in “do you understand the concept of a chain of command, Dan?”.

And would you have granted anything like such benefit of the doubt to, say, Ariel Sharon?

Would you care to knock it on the head with the anti-Semitism baiting? If you want to accuse me of being bigoted or prejudiced, have the guts to do so in specific terms. You may now either apologise for that, or try to pretend that you didn’t mean it “that way” and look really weaselly.

118

jet 08.01.06 at 8:57 am

There is no chain.

That’s funny, I thought putting up money put you on the board. And being on the board meant you got to called the shots. It would seem counter-intuative that lacking proof, you would assume Syria and Iran are not calling Hez’s shots. Lacking proof one way or the other, the people providing the money and weapons (and who had the most to gain from the IAEA not being on the front pages anymore), probably are at the top of the chain of command.
Using that logic, the government of N. Vietnam was not in the chain of command of the Vietcong.

119

Daniel 08.01.06 at 10:36 am

Lacking proof one way or the other

Lacking proof one way or another is not going to get you a conviction in any court. And you are correct; the connection between Giap and the Vietcong was certainly not enough to have him on the hook for Vietcong war crimes; even the connection between Slobodan Milosevic and Radovan Karadzic was regarded by prosecution and defence alike as pushing the envelope.

120

Ray 08.01.06 at 5:00 pm

(Little point in posting to something off the front page, but…)
Kevin (116), I was answering your question, but my answer was not meant entirely seriously. I thought “What could be controversial about that?” was a bit of a give-away, to be honest.

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Kevin Donoghue 08.01.06 at 5:20 pm

Thanks Ray – I picked up the irony on a 2nd reading.

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Chrisfs 08.02.06 at 8:22 pm

While the Salon article (myth of ‘hiding’) is striking, it does not directly address firing missies from cities. While the plain statement that this occurs has been made often enough, does someone have a link to a reputable source on the mechanics? Are missles stored in apartment buildings along with unsuspecting occupants ? How is that possible? Does no one notice the long pointy thing in the lobby and the hole in the ceiling?. I apologize for my flippance, but I haven’t been able to find out much on the actual mechanics of Hezb missle firing beyond ‘well they’re doing that’. Are they stored in buildings with unsuspecting occupants? or with Hezb sympathizers? Are they in warehouses? underground bunkers? commercial buildings,?apartment buildings ?

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