None Dare Call It Perfidy

There’s this Russian company whose latest marketing video is going viral:

It’s a new missile system that disguises its launchers as shipping containers. And in the snappy videos, two countries are shown. One of them — the “blue” country — deploys scads of traditional military weapons (my slightly-above-layman’s eye recognizes US-made equipment like M1 Abrams tanks, C-5 cargo planes, and Humvees) along the border with the “red’ nation. The “red” side then sends out ordinary shipping containers by truck, train, and sea — one of each is actually a missile launcher, which fires and wipes out “blue’s” forces.

It’s an ingenious system. Without looking too closely, it’s hard to tell which of the generic big steel boxes contains four missiles, and which contains ordinary cargo. There’s pretty much no way to tell the threatening container from the harmless ones.

Pity it’s a violation of the Geneva Conventions.

Article 37.-Prohibition of perfidy

1. It is prohibited to kill, injure or capture an adversary by resort to perfidy. Acts inviting the confidence of an adversary to lead him to believe that he is entitled to, or is obliged to accord, protection under the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, with intent to betray that confidence, shall constitute perfidy. The following acts are examples of perfidy:
(a) The feigning of an intent to negotiate under a flag of truce or of a surrender;
(b) The feigning of an incapacitation by wounds or sickness;
(c) The feigning of civilian, non-combatant status; and
(d) The feigning of protected status by the use of signs, emblems or uniforms of the United Nations or of neutral or other States not Parties to the conflict.

(Emphasis added)

The reason for this law, as in so many laws of warfare, aren’t based on abstract moral notions. They’re based on brutal pragmatism. In this case, combatants are not supposed to disguise themselves as civilians because once that becomes common, then the opposing side will simply decide that any “civilians” might be a threat and react accordingly.

In this case, once it’s clear that “blue” has missiles disguised in unmarked shipping containers, then the only logical, sensible thing to do is to attack any and all shipping containers. And if, in the process, a lot of innocent shipping — and people moving that shipping around — get blown up, so be it.

This war crime is practically an art form among the Palestinians. Murdoc has a picture that reputes to show a garbage truck converted into a rocket launcher, while their use of ambulances to transport terrorists and weapons is thoroughly documented.

Ambulances, like many civilian institutions, are protected from attack by a tacit agreement: if they are not used for warfare, then they will be left alone. If they are used for openly military purposes, then all such institutions lose their protected status.

Things like cargo containers — and the vehicles and people who transport them.

Things like ambulances.

Things like schools.

Things like hospitals.

Things like mosques.

We should pay very close attention to any nation or group that buys this missile system. And we should inform them that the instant they do anything remotely hostile, every single cargo container and every single facility designed to work with cargo containers will immediately be considered a valid military target — because we don’t know which ones have the missiles. Every cargo ship, every flatbed truck, every crane, every port cargo-handling facility — all are on the target list.

And that’s simply the way it has to be.

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