Dealing With Human Shields in War

‘Human Shields’ Granted Entry Visas

So suppose you are the military commander (or the civilian in charge, FTM). How do you react to human shields such as these? Are they to be given more deference than ordinary enemy civilians? Less? The same?

What about involuntary human shields?

There are two aspects to the question, moral and political. My feeling is that from a moral perspective, these voluntary human shields should get less deference than ordinary civilians. Almost none, in fact. But as a practical matter, killing a bunch of Western civilians might not help the public rally around the war, which is something to be taken into account. OTOH, I don’t it would that much of an effect, and furthermore, a noticeable policy of favoring these people over others would open up charges of hypocrisy and double standards.

As for involuntary human shields, I would think the same standards that apply to ordinary civilians should apply. Which is (AFAIK) avoid harm as much as possible, but if necessary blast away.

The same consideration as any other non-combatant.

The rights of non-combatants do not depend on their views, or whether we agree with them.

With the involuntary type i must agree - take as much care as possible to avoid hurting/killing them.

The <i>voluntary</i> ones however are a different story altogether. In a moral sense i see them as having declared themselves as having the same status as combatants. ie: they become legitimate targets in their own right.

I can understand that this may not help public morale (the whole ‘shooting westerners’ reaction). However, a person who willingly places him or herself in the path of war, with the intention of providing moral or material support for one party or the other, automatically puts themselves forth as a semi-combatant at best - even though they may not in fact bear arms themselves.

I imagine that much of your topic is directed at those who are entering Iraq as self-described human shields? Frankly, and in full knowledge of what I am saying, to hell with them. They are making a conscious choice to do this, and ought to be aware that a display of support for this regime in this way could get them killed. Free will. On the other hand, I do feel sorry for those inadvertantly caught up in this mess - Iraqi civilians

I think your thinking is inconsistent. If volunteers get less respect that civilians, shouldn’t captives get more respect?

I disagree with both. Non-combatants are non-combatants, and assuming a just war, all non-combatant casualties have the same costs, morally. I don’t think you become more of a combatant by volunteering to be in the war zone.

Politically, I agree with you that the public relations impact may be to make war less likely.

Psychologically, however, it may make the current administration more likely to wage war. This (they would think) would show that they believe their cause to be so just that they are willing to sacrifice western lives.

Another interesting question is about what will happen when the US wants to start bombing while the UN inspectors are still in Iraq. Will we bomb anyway? Or get the inspectors to leave and lose the element of suprise?

I don’t know, UDS. By voluntarily going to Iraq to be human shields do they stop becomming “non-combatants”?

I see the slipperly slope here. I don’t want to see a policy of “don’t bomb that building, Brittish people live there.” “Go ahead and bomb the other one because only those cheese eating Frenchmen live there, though”.

On the other hand, these people are actively going into harms way to oppose the war. To give them the same treatment as regular non-combatants would only encourage this tactic, no?

I think there is a parallel - a limited parallel - between, say, a red cross volunteer and a human shield.

The one seeks, for humanitarian reasons, to alleviate the consequences of conflict. The other seeks, for humanitarian reasons, to avoid or prevent the conflict. Both recognise that they may render support to one or other of the combatting sides - by returning to health a soldier who might otherwise have died, by preventing an attack which would otherwise have taken place. Helping one side is not their objective, and it may even be an unwelcome (to them) consequence of what they do, but it is a consequence they are prepared to bear in pursuit of their goal.

On this basis, should human shields not have the same consideration as red cross volunteers?

Did anyone see West Wing last week, when there was an uprising in ‘Equatorial Kundu’ and Kundunese were being slaughtered left and right, and everyone’s reaction was ‘Are the Americans [diplomats etc who were being airlifted out] okay?’ I think they meant it ironically (I hope so).

But as long as that is the attitude (it doesn’t matter what happens to Them, as long as the Americans are alright), as long as American lives are automatically valued more than Kundunese (or Iraqi), people will try to exploit it for their purposes, i.e. peace.

I happen to agree: If you (the gvt) have such disregard for Iraqi life, and American lives are inherently more valuable (which seems to be what’s happening), then I can use the value my life, as an American (I’m not American, this is for argument’s sake), as a tactic in the peace movement.

Or is my life worth less if I choose to put it in the line of your fire?

Mmm. Perhaps there is a status somewhere between “soldier” and “wholly uninvolved civilian who just happens to be there”. See my preceding post on red cross volunteers.

And would encouraging people to oppose war be so terrible?

Oh, and nogginhead - whether or not the weapons inspectors pull out first, when the US and the UK bomb Iraq there won’t be any “element of surprise”. I think the Iraqis already suspect that this might happen.

If there is a red cross camp on a location that we need to bomb, wouldn’t we just ask them to move?

The same consideration cannot be applied to the human shields. They won’t move. So, I say we bomb anyway. To do otherwise would only encourage the behavior, similar to agreeing to terrorist demands encouraging terrorism.

Hmm. IIRC, it is against the rules of war to protect military assets with civilians. Therefore, if these civilians try to protect military assets with civilians (themselves), will they not be responsible for the loss of civilian lives if they are killed, and therefore be considered combatants posthumously?

It’s necessary to assume the war is just. I don’t see a lot of well-intentioned anti-war protester going to Nazi Europe in 1944.

So, no: if the war is just, then no one will be encouraged to do this.

Also, treating them as ordinary non-combatants doesn’t encourage the behavior, since there are lots of non-combs there already. It conly encourages the behavior if we treat them as more valuable than the natives, which no one here is arguing.

If they stick themselves on top of a legitimate target, watch out. Don’t expect the tide to stop because you asked it to.

You think?
Seriously, though, they might not know when it will happen. If not, it will be momentarily surprising.

This is an interesting question. ISTM it might depend on factors yet to be determined. When war is imminent, will most of these boob decide to leave? Will Saddam let them leave? Where will they be? Will Iraq make it a point to station them near the foremost military targets? How will we know where they are? Will their positions be publicly announced or reported?

Anyhow, my answer is the same as UDS’s. They should be treated like any other non-combatant.

Well, then thanks for contributing your opinion that these people are ‘boob[s]’.

You’re welcome. The word “boob” seemed more genteel than “Islamofascist dupe.” :stuck_out_tongue:

I like you December, I really do. Please don’t be offended but when you do that kind of jokes, I don’t really know if you are joking.
If I am being to sensitive don’t hesitate of sending me to the pit.

Back to the op, they should be treated as non-combatants. According to both the Hague and Geneva convention they can not be treated as armed personal.

A Red Cross volunteer goes into potentially hostile situations as a neutral party with the intent to assist those in need. A “human shield” is going into the same situation with the intent to disrupt American military operations.

If these people want to protest the war, that’s their right. But once the shooting starts these “human shields” are knowingly creating a situation that puts American servicepeople at risk, should their presence even be considered in an operation. In many ways, they are closer to a spy or saboteur who gives information or other aid to the enemy.

It’s hard to argue FOR the situation. I mean, if they were Red Cross volunteers, they wouldn’t be camping out on bomb targets – they’d be rolling bandages and prepping to help the wounded, feed the hungry, and so on, right? Noble goals.

Also dangerous ones. “Lending Aid And Support To The Enemy” and all that was what got John Walker sent to prison… possibly forever, or at least until the current wave of jingoism passes.

The Human Targe-- um, SHIELDS, sorry – the Human Shields aren’t technically providing aid or support. They are camping on bomb targets for the specific purpose of protesting the actions of the American government.

Of course, the fact that they are also providing moral support and propaganda value for the Iraqi regime means that if the government wants to try the survivors for treason… they can do so. Easily. Particularly since John Ashcroft and the gang invalidated the Constitution, as far as “them dang terrorists” go.

…but I digress. Should we bomb them?

Well, first of all, I’m not so sure we should be invading Iraq anyway. But, for the sake of argument, let’s say that we have determined that Saddam IS in fact Osama Bin Laden, and that he personally arranged the 9/11 attacks. Plenty of justification, there.

…in which case, I would say yes, bomb the unholy fuck out of them. If one disagrees with the actions of the American government, there are avenues of protest and action one can take RIGHT HERE, and I frankly hope we take them before The Shrub gets reelected and screws things up even more.

Going over to Iraq of all places, providing Saddam with a propaganda victory, and camping out on a bomb target… well… let’s face it, these folks is idjits, and bombing them into basic particles will simply raise the average IQ of the human race a fraction of a point…

Oh, yeah – I’d also draw a HELL of a line between “noncombatants who don’t wanna die and are fleeing the battle zones, or would flee if they could, or had anywhere to flee TO…”

…and “noncombatants who enter a combat zone in order to interfere with the actions taken by heavily armed combatants.”

The two groups are NOT the same thing. By a long shot, so to speak…