Friday, November 19, 2004

"Soldiers are aggressive: they have to be because their job is to kill other soldiers and to do it efficiently and without moral scruple. In war individual morality must be subject to the priorities of the state, because if it is not then the army will lose, and all those hard-won human rights will count for naught." --Gordon Corrigan

The Spanish press, especially El Periódico, have been making a huge stink about the Marine who shot a wounded terrorist in a mosque in Fallujah. Pardon me while I weep. There. I'm done. What if the guy had had a pistol? Or a hand grenade? Then you'd have several dead Marines along with anybody else around there. That was a judgement call on the part of the Marine--kill this guy I'm suspicious of or hold fire while I check out whether my suspicions are justified or not. Nobody except that man right there could make that decision. This is a war and that was the middle of a battle, not in cold blood. Combatants sometimes get shot while combat is happening. Surrender is not always accepted. Wounded combatants are presumed to be still in combat if they're capable of fighting.

Also, let me point out several other things. First, these terrorists are not lawful bearers of arms. They are illegal combatants--they are not the representatives of a state--and as such have absolutely no rights under the Geneva Convention, which of course is a treaty between states. We could take every single one of these guys out and shoot them, perfectly legally. That's the deal with Guantánamo. Those guys are not prisoners of war, so they have, basically, no rights at all. They're not common criminals and what they did didn't happen inside the US, unless of course they're mixed up with Al Qaeda, which they are in some way, so they don't get a criminal trial before a judge. We don't want to shoot them, although we could. A couple more comments are that these guys don't obey anything resembling international law, what with the mass murders of Iraqi civilians and the beheadings of hostages they're committing, and so there's no reason to treat them under international law anyway. Also, under international law, religious buildings like mosques and churches are supposed to be places of sanctuary. The terrorists, by using the mosque as a fortress, were breaking international law yet again.

On a side note: The figure from The Lancet, that 100,000 civilians have been killed in Iraq, is now gospel over here. Xavier Sala i Martín wrote a column in La Vanguardia about how bogus those numbers are; they've already been adequately refuted all over the blogosphere. Suffice it to say that Iraq Body Count and Human Rights Watch, not exactly part of the Pentagon PR machine, cite an estimate, based on journalistic reports, of 10-15,000 civilian dead, almost all of them killed by the terrorists in bombings, mortarings, snipings, and the like. The number of proven civilian dead--remember, Saddam's Iraq had everybody under control with ID cards, multiple other papers, and tight security, it was a police state--is considerably below this estimate. My guess is that the number of civilian dead because of the war is significantly less than the number there would have been if Saddam's brutal repression had been allowed to continue.

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