November 27, 2006

On Non-Civilians

The Chicago Tribune carries an article today by Joel Greenberg on the increasing frequency with which Palestinian militants are being shielded from Israeli strikes by the interference of Palestinian non-combatants:

On a rooftop in a crowded neighborhood here, about 30 Palestinian women sat on chairs and mattresses on a recent afternoon, serving as human shields against a possible Israeli air strike on the family home of a prominent Hamas militant.

As an Israeli drone buzzed overhead, the women were defiant.

Our technology is faith in God," said Itaf al-Masri, 47.

The scene was an example of the kind of struggle waged here in recent months between the Israeli military and the Palestinians, a battle between a high-tech army and the simpler arms and tactics of militants and their civilian supporters. The confrontation, halted by a tenuous cease-fire Sunday, was reminiscent of the challenges faced by the U.S. military in Iraq and in the past during the Vietnam War.

Gaza militants fired crude but deadly homemade rockets at Israel and dug tunnels under the border with Egypt to smuggle in arms. In one standoff with Israeli troops, Palestinian women marched to a mosque where militants were holed up and enabled them to escape. The Israelis used sophisticated surveillance technology and aircraft to hunt down rocket squads and kill militant leaders, often also hitting civilians.

Greenberg refuses to ask the question that his article begs, namely, at what point do ideologically-aligned non-combants shielding militants cease occupying the protected status of "civilian?"

In asymmetrical warfare, does the status of civilian always exist for non-militants, or should there be a new classification to account for those somewhere between active militancy and those that are truly non-participatory?

I'd opine that the Palestinian women in the Greenberg story above, by voluntarily interjecting themselves into a projected conflict area as human shields as partisans acting on behalf of Hamas militants, have surrendered their rights to be defined as "civilians." They are ideologically-aligned with terrorist organizations, but that alone does not make them loose their protected status as civilians. Nor does the fact that they are human shields remove their protected status, as human shields can be involuntary.

No, what should remove their status as "civilians" is that they have willfully interjected themselves into a conflict with the express intent of providing immediate tactical support for a terrorist group. Their purposeful decision to run interference for terrorists should not in any way prevent an Israeli military response.

Historically, Muslims have rarely recognized the existence of any civilians (thereby justifying everything from 9/11 to Israeli market bombings to the murder of Indonesian schoolgirls), and the the creation of a "targetable non-militant participant" status would help level the playing field against those dehumanists that preach on-going jihad.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at November 27, 2006 12:42 PM | TrackBack

AFAIK, this question was first formally addressed by the United States government in the War Department's General Order No. 100 during the Civil War. It authorized the immediate execution of enemy civilians caught directly aiding the enemy.

Posted by: Tom Holsinger at November 27, 2006 02:26 PM

In the military the terms "Combatants" and "Non-Combatants" are used. It's a bit clearer that way, and based on their behavior.

The MSM likes to call terrorists, insurgents, militiamen, and all manner of folks trying to kill you "civilians", because technically they are not part of a nation's military. Isn't that nice?

Posted by: brando at November 27, 2006 02:51 PM

To piggy back onto Tom's post, we also had 0 problem bombing civilians in WW2 who were supporting the Nazi and Japanese war machines by working in factories, or just paying taxes.

In this direct situation, these civilians are aiding the militants, knowingly. That makes them combatents. They'd be "human shields" if they were unwillingly strapped to that house. As they have made a choice, they are, imo, legal targets.

Posted by: Spade at November 27, 2006 02:52 PM

of course in a war of survival, anyone that aids and abets your enemy is a legitimate target. By allowing these "shields" to defeat them, Israel no longer appears to have the will to survive.

I had hoped that when Iran nukes Israel, Israel would at least do the civilized world a favor and eliminate every major muslim population center and religious center. It appears that that wish is unlikely to be granted.

Posted by: iconoclast at November 27, 2006 02:57 PM

Black 5 had an interesting commentary regarding the killing of children. It largely applies here, even more so since these people are even less sympathetic than children.

On the virtues of killing children

Posted by: Purple Avenger at November 27, 2006 03:02 PM

There's only one way to stop this, bomb the houses anyway. Sure, these people die, but they are supporting the enemy and they are now "Combatants".

You sit on a roof, you take your chances...

By its very nature, WAR is NOT politically correct. Nor can a war fought by politically correct rules be won. Never.

Posted by: WB at November 27, 2006 03:54 PM

Spade & WB,

You left out the ultimate conclusion - when the enemy CONSISTENTLY uses their own civilians as weapons of war, the proper response is to kill them all until they surrender, or the few survivors no longer resist us.

From an old, scrolled off, Strategy Page column of mine:

"When A Democracy Chose Genocide

The United States government decided on June 18, 1945, to commit genocide on Japan with poison gas if its government did not surrender after the nuclear attacks approved in the same June 18 meeting. This was discovered by military historians Norman Polmar and Thomas Allen while researching a book on the end of the war in the Pacific. Their discovery came too late for inclusion in the book, so they published it instead in the Autumn 1997 issue of Military History Quarterly.

Polmar & Allen ran across references to this meeting in their research and put in a Freedom of Information Act request for related documents. Eventually they received, too late for use in their book, a copy of a document labeled "A Study of the Possible Use of Toxic Gas in Operation Olympic." The word "retaliatory" was PENCILED in between the words "possible" and "use".

Apparently there were only five of these documents circulated during World War Two. The document was requested by the Chemical Corps for historical study in 1947. In an attempt to "redact" history, another document was issued to change all the copies to emphasize retaliatory use rather than the reality of the US planning to use it offensively in support of the invasion of Japan.

The plan called for US heavy bombers to drop 56,583 tons of poison gas on Japanese cities in the 15 days before the invasion of Kyushu, then another 23,935 tons every 30 days thereafter. Tactical air support would drop more on troop concentrations.

The targets of the strategic bombing campaign were Japanese civilians in cities. Chemical Corps casualty estimates for this attack plan were five million dead with another five million injured. This was our backup to nuking Japan into surrender. If the A-bombs didn't work, we were going to gas the Japanese people from the air like bugs, and keep doing so until Japanese resistance ended or all the Japanese were dead.

Genocide is defined by treaty as the murder of a large number of people of an identifiable group, generally a nationality or religion, which number comprises an appreciable percentage of the total group. Five million dead is 6.4% of then 78 million people in the Japanese Home Islands, so this proposed gas attack would certainly have qualified as genocide.

What brought the United States government to that decision was the prospective casualties of a prolonged ground conquest of Japan against suicidal resistance, after Japanese Kamikaze attacks and suicidal ground resistance elsewhere had thoroughly dehumanized them to us.

The American people certainly would have supported such tactics at the time, especially as Japanese Imperial General Headquarters issued orders a month later, provided to us courtesy of code-breaking (MAGIC), to murder all Allied prisoners of war, all interned Allied civilians, and all other Allied civilians Japanese forces could catch in occupied China, the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia), Malaya, etc., starting with the impending British invasion of Malaya in late September 1945. The Imperial Japanese Army was every bit as evil as the Nazi SS, and more lethal. They'd probably have killed at least an additional 50 million people, more than had died in all of World War Two to that point, before Allied armies could eliminate Japanese forces overseas.

The horror would not have stopped there. An estimated ONE THIRD of the Japanese people (25-30 million) would have died of starvation, disease, poison gas and conventional weapons during a prolonged ground conquest of Japan. The Japanese Army planned on locking up the Emperor, seizing power and fighting to the bitter end once the US invasion started. Thank God for the atom bomb - killing 150,000 - 200,000 Japanese at Hiroshima and Nagasaki saved 75-80 million lives. One of whom would have been the writer's father, an infantry lieutenant who survived Okinawa.

So the United States has within living memory made a decision to commit genocide on a whole people as a matter of state policy. We didn't have to do it because the Japanese Emperor knew we'd do it."

Posted by: Tom Holsinger at November 27, 2006 05:29 PM