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Dale Amon of Samizdata writes:

I don't always agree with what SecDef Rumsfeld says and I find his statements on volunteer human shields to be particularly wrong:

"And I want to note, again, it is a violation of the law of armed conflict to use noncombatants as a means of shielding potential military targets -- even those people who may volunteer for this purpose. Iraqi actions to do so would not only violate this law but could be a -- could be considered a war crime in any conflict. Therefore, if death or serious injury to a noncombatant resulted from these efforts, the individuals responsible for deploying any innocent civilians as human shields could be guilty of grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions."

There is no such thing as a "voluntary human shield".

But there is. If I voluntarily use myself as a shield, I am one.

The words cancel each other out and leave... just another ordinary enemy combatant.

Not a combatant (no gun...), and not ordinary, but yes an enemy.

Any British, American, Australian or person of whatever nationality who makes a decision, of their own free will, to intentionally place themselves in harms way in defense of a combatant's facilities should be treated like any other member of that combatant's forces.

Rumsfeld is completely right. Their attack on America is to try and hurt the US politically, through immoral means. It's committing suicide and blaming the US. (Reminiscent of suicide attacks in Israel). So, it definitely should be a war crime, and they should not be treated like any other enemy combatant. You don't shoot people without guns without a damn good reason. And we won't go around killing these people. That'd be horribly immoral. They know that. That's the whole point of their attack: they want to remain in a position where they shouldn't be killed, while doing everything they can to provoke their own deaths. (Think Palestinians throwing stones at Israeli soldiers and tanks.) Rumsfeld is right that if some die because they get in the way, it's not our fault (morally), but that's true only as long as we don't intentionally kill them.

Elliot Temple on February 24, 2003

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