Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Civilian Casualties...Who's Responsible?

Alan Dershowitz, however you might disagree with him on some issues, speaks with clarity on Israel. He has a column in the Wall Street Journal on how warfare today has changed the definition of who is a civilian and what a civilian casualty means.

This is all well and good for democratic nations that deliberately locate their military bases away from civilian population centers. Israel has its air force, nuclear facilities and large army bases in locations as remote as anything can be in that country. It is possible for an enemy to attack Israeli military targets without inflicting "collateral damage" on its civilian population. Hezbollah and Hamas, by contrast, deliberately operate military wings out of densely populated areas. They launch antipersonnel missiles with ball-bearing shrapnel, designed by Syria and Iran to maximize civilian casualties, and then hide from retaliation by living among civilians. If Israel decides not to go after them for fear of harming civilians, the terrorists win by continuing to have free rein in attacking civilians with rockets. If Israel does attack, and causes civilian casualties, the terrorists win a propaganda victory: The international community pounces on Israel for its "disproportionate" response. This chorus of condemnation actually encourages the terrorists to operate from civilian areas.

While Israel does everything reasonable to minimize civilian casualties -- not always with success -- Hezbollah and Hamas want to maximize civilian casualties on both sides. Islamic terrorists, a diplomat commented years ago, "have mastered the harsh arithmetic of pain. . . . Palestinian casualties play in their favor and Israeli casualties play in their favor." These are groups that send children to die as suicide bombers, sometimes without the child knowing that he is being sacrificed. Two years ago, an 11-year-old was paid to take a parcel through Israeli security. Unbeknownst to him, it contained a bomb that was to be detonated remotely. (Fortunately the plot was foiled.)

This misuse of civilians as shields and swords requires a reassessment of the laws of war. The distinction between combatants and civilians -- easy when combatants were uniformed members of armies that fought on battlefields distant from civilian centers -- is more difficult in the present context. Now, there is a continuum of "civilianality": Near the most civilian end of this continuum are the pure innocents -- babies, hostages and others completely uninvolved; at the more combatant end are civilians who willingly harbor terrorists, provide material resources and serve as human shields; in the middle are those who support the terrorists politically, or spiritually.

The laws of war and the rules of morality must adapt to these realities. An analogy to domestic criminal law is instructive: A bank robber who takes a teller hostage and fires at police from behind his human shield is guilty of murder if they, in an effort to stop the robber from shooting, accidentally kill the hostage. The same should be true of terrorists who use civilians as shields from behind whom they fire their rockets. The terrorists must be held legally and morally responsible for the deaths of the civilians, even if the direct physical cause was an Israeli rocket aimed at those targeting Israeli citizens.
Dershowitz makes some very good points and will no doubt be vilified for confronting the reality of the terrorist war. A reminder, Iran has declared war on America (again) and plans on releasing thousands of suicide bombers to target the US and the west. The FBI has its hands full tracking Hezbollah cells in the US and for what it is worth, 7000 of the Americans now in Lebanon are from the Dearborn Michigan area and known Hezbollah supporters.

As the US rushes to evacuate American citizens from Lebanon, Debbie Schlussel says that many, if not most Americans in Lebanon Are Hezbollah Supporters.

One thing is lost in all the press coverage of the whining Americans who went to Lebanon of their own accord and now want us to pick up the tab to get them out.


Most of them are Shi’ite Muslims, many of whom hold dual U.S. and Lebanese citizenship. Many are anchor babies born here to Muslims in the U.S. illegally. Some are illegal aliens who became citizens through rubber-stamping Citizenship and Immigration Services (and its INS predecessor) coupled with political pressure by spineless politicians.

Of the 25,000 American citizens and green-card holders in Lebanon, at least 7,000 are from Dearborn, Michigan, the heart of Islamic America, and especially Shia Islam America. These 7,000 are mostly Shi’ite Muslims who openly and strongly support Hezbollah. Ditto for many of the rest of the 25,000 that are there.

Many of the 7,000 plus Detroiters in Lebanon are active in Dearborn’s Bint Jbeil cultural center (the Lebanese American Heritage Club also features mostly Hezbollah fans). Bint Jbeil is a Hezbollah-dominated city in the South of Lebanon, a frequent destination of Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, who is very at home there. Bint Jbeil is a frequent source of shellings on Northern Israel.

Bint Jbeil natives now living in our country so strongly support Hezbollah that they got Republican Congressman Joe Knollenberg (and his then top staffer, Paul Welday) and then-U.S. Senator Spencer Abraham to give Hezbollah forces in Southern Lebanon about $86 million of our tax money, no strings.