Monday, July 25, 2005


War & Law

Terrorism has made war a continuum and the whole world a battlefield

London Mayor Ken Livingstone knows who to blame in the shooting death of a Brazilian by the London police:
"The police acted to do what they believed necessary to protect the lives of the public.

"This tragedy has added another victim to the toll of deaths for which the terrorists bear responsibility."
Via Captain Ed, who (correctly) labels the incident collateral damage:
Many people will take this time to second-guess the London police and British special services. They will note the tragic consequences of a shoot-first policy that killed an apparently innocent man just trying to get to work, although one would expect that an innocent man would have stopped when commanded to do so instead of running for the nearest subway car. The police themselves will now second-guess themselves when it comes to making split-second decisions that could mean death in either direction.
This is why civilized nations saw the need to agree on conditions for war as an exchange for proper treatment of the combatants. It protects the combatants -- but more so, it protects the non-combatants. Al-Qaeda hides its operatives among non-combatants to not only avoid their own capture but also to maximize collateral damage in our response. Encouraging this by granting their terrorist minions GC protections only guarantees more of the tragedy that took Menezes' life.
In a post written last month entitled The Laws of War, Wretchard noted:
Much of the historical impact of humanitarian law stemmed directly from the ability to gather and apply intelligence to discriminate between combatants and noncombatants. The devices of open cities, clearly marked ambulances, zones of safe passage, armbands for humanitarian personnel, etc are usages whose practical utility has expired under the deceptions of terrorist warfare, but their intent -- that of marking the limits of licit violence -- is sound. It is a distinction which can be based only on intellgence. Without that, humanitarian law is form without function on the modern terrorist battlefield, 'a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing'.
It is all but certain that the recent terror events in London will be replicated here. The dilemmas faced by British authorities and London police in particular and by British socity in general portend the future. Wretchard's observation about humanitarian law may some day be aplicable to our own domestic law. Detractors of the Bush administration and critics of the Patriot Act should take notice.


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