Wednesday, August 23, 2006

War Crimes

Some people are apparently in a tizzy over Amnesty International accusing Israel of deliberate war crimes. (Thanks, Adam, for the link.)

Now, this really is one of those cases where the facts can be disputed - did Israel mean to target every building that was destroyed? - but some basics are pretty obvious, namely that Israel targeted bridges, roads, and power plants in its war against Hezbollah.

Whether you think Israel was just or not, those are also clearly war crimes. Indiscriminate destruction of civilian infrastructure is prohibited under the Geneva Conventions. Which is why Amnesty International accused NATO forces of war crimes in Kosovo for the exact same reason.

The problem - for the militarily-inclined world leader - is that the international law regarding conduct of war is pretty clear, and also pretty stringent. So things that are par for the course of any military campaign these days - such as targeting bridges and power plants - are actually forbidden. Amnesty is exactly right in calling these war crimes, and the rest of the world will ignore their accusation for much the same reason.

The question that Amnesty is also raising - that Israel deliberately targeted civilians in its bombings - is far more difficult to prove. But let Amnesty present it's evidence, and let the IDF rebut it. The odds are, in any major military engagement, that some accidents are going to look like crimes, and - admit it - some soldiers, airmen, or generals will commit crimes. Airing these incidents properly, and prosecuting those (if any) responsible, is a good thing. And Israel is already far, far better at holding its leaders accountable than some war-crime-committing nations I could mention.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It may be difficult to prove deliberate targeting of civilians, but it's equally difficult to write off the over 90% civilian kill ratio as collateral.