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Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Knee-jerk judgments

I've taken an information gathering position on the Fallujah Marine shooting as reported by NBC journalist, Kevin Sites. Granted, it's easy to see who falls where on the political end of the analysis. And more aptly, it's disturbing to see the reactionary opinions based on mere conjecture and agenda driven supposition. Most of OpEd pieces I've read missed the deeper issue at hand.

There were the "fog of war" proponents, the "baby killer" ingrates, the "consider the climate" backers, the "look what happened yesterday" pundits etc. What all of these pieces failed to address were the pitfalls of "International Law" and how the exploitation of that concept dipped in a steep helping of anti-Americanism works to create a political theme to what should only be an incident investigated for proper or improper restraint by the appropriate parties. This is not an issue to be evaluated between the sports page and the movie listings of daily circulations hawks. The war on terror (and the war against the war on terror) ends up being fought as propoganda positions by noodle heads with a whole shed full of axes to grind. We all deserve better than that. The Marine in question deserves multitudes more than that.

From Down Under comes an OpEd from one of my new favorites, Janet Albrechtsen. As it turns out, I don't have to comment on this event. Dr. Albrechtsen hits it out of the park and across the parking lot. Being a pig headed product of free thought I rarely find (or will admit to) someone who reflects my opinion exactly. Damn if this fine writer didn't shoot down that theory...I only posted the portion that I found most poignant...But don't miss the rest. It's worth it.



Knee-jerk judgments
November 24, 2004
by Janet Albrechtsen


(Snip)
More grotesque is the claim by former diplomat and academic Tony Kevin in The Sydney Morning Herald on the day the battle began that this US-led attack was a war crime -- and for having soldiers in Iraq, Australia was morally complicit in these war crimes. "This will be no neat, surgical strike," Kevin wrote. "To get the measure of this, think of the Warsaw rising in 1944, or the Russian army's destruction of the Chechen capital, Grozny." (snip)

(snip) Only those unconcerned with facts and blinded by political motivations, by a knee-jerk anti-Americanism, could mention Warsaw in 1944 in the same breath as Fallujah in 2004. The same can be said of Kevin's comparisons with Grozny, a town reduced to rubble by months of bombing by the Russians in 1999.

These hysterical claims suggest that international law is too easily exploited by political mischief-makers. That is why the US refuses to recognise the new International Criminal Court, vested with power over war crimes.
When firepower is required, we look to the US for help. Yet such is the anti-American sentiment, US soldiers are more often labelled war criminals than government-sponsored butchers in Darfur, Sudan.

Even more problematic, some laws of war are simply dangerous in the current climate of terrorism. The original Geneva Conventions sought to govern future wars between nation states that agreed to the laws of war. But increasingly the new battlefield involves a moral, ethical and legal asymmetry between regular soldiers who abide by the laws of war and terrorists who have no constraints.

International law has failed to confront this dilemma. Third World states pushed for the 1977 Protocol, which augments the Geneva Conventions, to enable them to internationalise certain wars. It allows some civil wars to be deemed wars of national liberation and irregular fighters posing as civilians in these wars can be classified as combatants and, when captured, as POWs, making them immune from prosecution for what would otherwise be terrorist acts.

The US rejected the Protocol, pointing out that not every addition to international law is a noble sign of progress. In his advice to the US Senate on January 29, 1987, president Ronald Reagan said: "We must not, and need not, give recognition and protection to terrorist groups as a price for progress in humanitarian law." A wise decision then, it is even wiser now.

Increasingly, international law is becoming the last refuge of scoundrels as non-state terrorists claim the rights conferred by various instruments but reject the concomitant obligations. (snip)

Janet Albrechtsen writes a weekly column for The Australian. After receiving her law degree from the University of Adelaide, she moved to Sydney and worked as a commercial lawyer. She has a doctorate in law from the University of Sydney Law School and has taught as an academic. She is roundly disliked by judicial activists, the human rights industry, old-style feminists and assorted rent-seekers. None of that troubles her.
You can contact Janet Albrechtsen by email at:
janeta@bigpond.net.au

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