I had a lengthy piece half-written about the obscenity of using civilians to safeguard military targets, but then realized I had just re-worked Bill Whittle’s brilliant essays (if that isn’t too redundant). Sanctuary I and Sanctuary II. So why don’t you go refresh yourself there, and I’ll wait right here for you to come back.
Whoops, I forgot how much time properly appreciating a Whittle piece takes. My apologies, and I hope I didn’t lose anyone.
Now, let’s take the general principles of Whittle’s piece and apply them to this case in Iran. They are deliberately using civilians to protect a military installation. Let’s establish a few truisms first:
1) Civilians that deliberately interpose themselves into a potential combat situation have forfeited all the protections their status would otherwise entitle them to.
2) Combatants that consciously use civilians as shields assume full responsibility for their safety, and should suffer all the recriminations and responsibilities for any deaths or injuries that may ensue.
3) There is no refuge for warriors. Once one declares oneself a combatant, you are a legitimate target, and the onus is solely on you to keep civilians from harm.
But there’s an even finer point to be made here: this mere announcement by Iran is a huge moral victory for the West, and a crushing moral defeat for the Mullahs.
They are acknowledging that we place a far greater value on innocent life, on human life, than they do. They honestly believe that we have such respect for civilians that we will let them hide their nuclear facilities behind willing human shields and stay our hand.
This, much like Gandhi’s and Dr. Martin Luther King’s approach, only works when your opponent has a conscience to appeal to. It is utterly dependent on your adversary simply not having the stomach to continue their brutality.
Imagine, if you will, the people of the International Solidarity Movement expanding their operations from defending terrorist homes and tunnel entrances from destruction by Israeli bulldozers, and riding buses and attending religous services. Do you see a suicide bomber climbing on board a bus, seeing the earnest young ISM volunteer, and deciding they simply couldn’t kill such an innocent idealist? Or some anti-war activist going to Iraq and standing around in a marketplace, hoping to forestall the slaughter of more innocents? Code Pink dispatching its members to shelter a girl’s school in Afghanistan from Taliban remnants?
No, of course not. And the reason is simple: they know, deep in their hearts, that such tactics would be futile. They would be throwing their lives away for nought.
But like the drunk looking for his car keys under the streetlight, where he can see, and not where he dropped them, they feel the urge to do SOMETHING, to do ANYTHING. So they go looking for where they can achieve something, and so they turn on those groups that have a conscience to appeal to. Their only tool is a hammer, so they are desperately looking for a nail to hit.
That is why they fixate endlessly on the mote in the West’s eye, while ignoring the beam in their own.
That is why Iran thinks that using these “volunteer” athletes to shelter its nuclear plant will work.
And that is why we must not give any consideration to those athletes. For to defer from our course will be to make countless future civilians hostages to capricious tyrannies, who will see Iran’s victory as a shining example of how to defeat the West.
When you declare limits on yourself, you mainly provide your enemies with a map on how to defeat you. If we declare that hospitals, for example, are sacrosanct, then every hospital will double as a military base — as is already being done in Iraq. If schools are protected, then likewise they will all be fortified. During the 1991 Gulf War, Saddam constructed civilian bomb shelters above his most sensitive communications facilties — and paraded the bodies as “evidence” of our “war crimes” when we struck them anyway.
As Southern Yankee reminded us, Steven Spielberg’s “Munich” is serving to remind us how in 1972 the Palestinians deliberately murdered 11 Israeli Olympic athletes — with the support of most of the Islamic world. Now, nearly 34 years later, Iran wants us to think of athletes as being above the fray.
They would be — if they didn’t deliberately insert themselves into harm’s way.
(Error corrected. Thanks, Faith+1 and Silver.)
Yes, the title does come from an old spiritual via Babylon 5. I’m a geek. Sue me.