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       Friday, June 02, 2006

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Haditha, the Laws of War, and the Terrorists

If the Marines at Haditha started indiscriminately killing civilians, they should pay for their crimes. I want that clear right now. The point of this piece is not to defend their actions. However, there are those who never cease the chance to start throwing corpses at political opponents who are using this event to paint the military as a bunch of baby-killers or "prove" the policy of the United States is just to start killing people wherever they are. Unlike disgraced ex-Marine Murtha (he disgraced himself after his service), I'm willing to let the facts be heard and a fair trail be had before trying to score political points on the backs of others.

There are laws of war in place to prevent this kind of thing. They've been in place hundreds of years before anyone conceived of a United Nations. At each step, the terrorists (and they are terrorists) have not only violated the laws of war, but used those laws of war against us to further attacks on our soldiers.

First, a military uniform was not created to give something for the woman to oogle at (though it is certainly effective at that). A uniform is a public statement to the enemy that you can shoot the person wearing it. Plain and simple, a military uniform is a full-body bull's-eye. Why would any government want their soldiers to wear them then? Simple. It let's both sides easily figure out who the civilians are so they don't engage them. When the terrorists don't wear uniforms, they might be able to eek out another kill or two, but they also but their own civilian population at risk because it becomes impossible to tell who is a combatant and who is not.

Second, the laws of war dictate you don't attack civilian structures such as schools, houses, and churches. This should be obvious why this is so, but the rule comes with a caveat. The price for not getting your residential areas attacked is that you don't use them for fighting to begin with. Many like to make much of the fact that US military has attacked mosques. What those same people refuse to acknowledge is that those buildings were used as weapon's stores, sniper nests, and central places to coordinate attacks on the US military. The military was left with two options; either engage the enemy or surrender. It is not the US's fault that fighting involved mosques, it was the terrorists defiled those buildings from houses of worship to dens of killing.

Third, when an enemy surrenders the fighting is over. Once an enemy affects his surrender by throwing up a white flag, raising his arms, or getting wounded they are no longer valid targets of attack. This also comes with a caveat. The surrendering person may no longer fight. Once they pick up a weapon, they are a fair target again. When the terrorists use our mercy against us, they put at risk those who legitimately want to surrender. Is this one going to pull out a grenade on us when we get close or does he really want medical care?

This is not an exhaustive list of all the ways that the terrorists have violated the laws of war but a mere few examples. These laws are not western impositions on the world but practices developed over centuries to minimize the abuses that could come with war. Almost every nation at least says they are going to respect these customs because they want to protect their own civilian population, even though some tactical benefit could be derived from violating those customs of war.

The terrorists simply don't care about the civilian population. If the military mistakenly engages civilians or they hit civilian buildings after taking fire from them, the terrorists mark up another PR victory because of the willingness of the allies on the American left to use these incidents for political gain. In this way, the terrorists are extremely intelligent… and incredibly evil.

So those who wish to sit in judgment against the Marines at Haditha (before the investigation is even completed, mind you) manage to put on the blinders and refuse to consider how the actions of the terrorists almost guarantee these events will happen. If these Marines did snap and break the laws of way, they will be tried and punished. It is a damn shame, however, no one seems to blink and eye and stand up for the soldiers who have to put up with an enemy who consistently break the laws of war. It's a national disgrace that some will stand up for the actions of those terrorists as legitimate.

John Bambenek is an academic professional at the University of Illinois and a graduate student. He is a columnist for the Daily Illini and blogs at Part-Time Pundit.

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posted by John C. A. Bambenek at 10:27 AM  


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