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And the rock cried out, "No hiding place!"

Confederate Yankee calls attention to this story out of The Courier Mail, where Iran has placed 1,000 athletes around its nuclear-refining plant to protect it from attack.

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.


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Comments (19)

I remember watching the new... (Below threshold)

I remember watching the news about the murders of the athletes. Islamofacists have no respect for life. The terrorists in Palestine use the same tactics of hiding in hospitals, schools, and using abulances to transport guns and murderers.

Lefties in such groups as ISM, Code Pink and others by their tactics encourage the carnage of Israeli civilians to continue.

When we do act to take at the mad mullahs and the mad president's nuclear program, we have no choice but to ignore the "volunteers" who are clustered around the facilities.

And that is the legacy of those who continually violate the rules of "Sanctuary".

This was almost as brillian... (Below threshold)

This was almost as brilliant as Bill Whittle's essays, Jay Tea. Especially about ISM and Code Pink. Too bad there is nothing that will get through to them and make them see their folly.

And here I thought the titl... (Below threshold)

And here I thought the title was via Lucifer's Hammer...

Minor bit of analogy error ... (Below threshold)

Minor bit of analogy error Jay. "That is why they fixate endlessly on the speck in the West's eye, while ignoring the mote in their own."

Speck and mote are the same thing. Doesn't mean the statement is wrong by doesn't have the impact I think you were going for. The biblical reference refers to a "beam in thine own eye".

There are many variations but the basic KJ version is "Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, But considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?"

So, IMHO, if you changed "speck" to "mote" and "mote" to "beam" it would have the bigger impact I think you meant.

What Faith+1 said.... (Below threshold)

What Faith+1 said.

Well said. So then, how do... (Below threshold)

Well said. So then, how do we go about encouraging Code Pink to head for Israel to stand around in front of clubs and restaurants to guard against what's probably coming after the Palestinian 'elections' considering the leadership vacuum in Israel? Mass mail campaign? Veteran group fund raisers to pay their airfare?

Jeez, the threat of Iranian... (Below threshold)
B Moe:

Jeez, the threat of Iranian nukes isn't enough? Now you want to threaten Israel with Code Pink? Have you no mercy?

They are acknowledging t... (Below threshold)

They are acknowledging that we place a far greater value on innocent life, on human life, than they do.

That's almost right, Jay. We place far greater value on the lives of Iranian civilians than they do. We'll do everything possible not to kill innocent civilians even though they have been put into the line of fire by their leaders. They don't value the lives of innocents on either side of the equation.

Good post Jaytea. I'd wonde... (Below threshold)

Good post Jaytea. I'd wonder if the Iranian civilians know about this other than the poor souls who have been "volunteered" to protect the plants. When they do, the part about the mullahs -
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.- is certain. I think the Iranian civilians are honest enough and smart enough to enhance this for what it really is. And without having to read this post.

QUESTION: International law... (Below threshold)

QUESTION: International law says that it is unlawful to intentionally use military force against civilians. Under those rules, is the following scenario illegal:
(1) My country warns your country that we are going to bomb a certain target after a certain day.
(2) Your country responds by surrounding the target with civilian hostages.
(3) My country hits the target as planned, killing many civilians hostages.

Don't say the "Court of World Opinion", because let's face it. If the US does it, it's always bad, but if, say, Russia, does it, nobody will notice.

Legally and morally: whose fault is it?
I told you that I was going to hit it.
You put people in danger.
The choice to use force is mine.
But if you hadn't put people there or failed to get them out in time, they wouldn't have been harmed.

I don't have an answer. I suspect that a narrow reading of the law is slightly against it. But it is an interesting idea that we may want to use in the future.
(1) This is an opportunity for a Muslim extremist to become martyr. You are invited to come to the target area to become a martyr, so that we can kill you before you reproduce and teach your children to hate infidels.
(2) We get to remind the world that these autocrats are very good about ordering others to their deaths, but they don't believe in their own religion enough to risk standing in the target area themselves.
(3) We play to our strengths: blowing things up from high altitude. You can, of course, try air defense. We're even better at destroying air defense systems. (Then we'll destroy the target.)

Does anyone know how international law comes down on this?

B Moe: you might have a poi... (Below threshold)

B Moe: you might have a point there...how about ACLU lawyers, instead of Code Pink?

kevino, it is the responsib... (Below threshold)

kevino, it is the responsibility of combatants not to put civilians at risk by siting military facilities in civilian areas, quartering troops among civilians, dressing as civilians, etc. So the responsibility would be on the defender in this case: putting civilians into a declared target definitely strips those civilians of their protections, whether or not we actually go ahead with the attack.

International law ... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:
International law says that it is unlawful to intentionally use military force against civilians.

Are you sure about that? If true then that means M.A.D. is and has been unlawful. This couldn't have been the law during WW2, as all sides targeted civilians. The entire concept of “total war” relies on targeting civilians, so it would be interesting to know when this law was passed and by who.

I wonder if the athletes realize the bomber pilots can't see them?

Mac Lorry:Geneva C... (Below threshold)

Mac Lorry:

Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War [GC IV]
Adopted on 12 August 1949

Jeff Medcalf:Thank... (Below threshold)

Jeff Medcalf:

Thanks. That's an interesting view. The current state of the law may agree with you, too, even if the target (e.g. a nuclear facility) is a civilian asset.

In looking into the issue, I found this example from the Kosovo campaign about bombing a radio station:
[Yes, that's the Air Force Law Review]

According to military sources, there was considerable disagreement between the United States and French governments regarding the legality and legitimacy of the target, and there was a lively public debate regarding the selection of Yugoslav civilian radio and television as a target group. The NATO attack was originally scheduled for April 12, but due to French disapproval of the target, it was postponed. According to military, media, and Yugoslav sources, Western news organizations, who were using the facility to forward material from Yugoslavia, were alerted by NATO government authorities that the headquarters would be attacked. Attacks also had to be rescheduled because of rumors that foreign journalists ignored warnings to leave the buildings. When the initial warnings were given to Western media, the Yugoslav government also found out about the intended attack. When the target was finally hit in the middle of the night on April 23 ... authorities were no longer taking the threats seriously, given the time that had transpired since the initial warnings.

kevino,Thanks for ... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:


Thanks for the link. However it's not international law, it's a treaty.

Article 3, which is the one that protects civilians starts with the phrase "In the case of armed conflict not of an international character..."

Article 4 states that "Nationals of a State which is not bound by the Convention are not protected by it."

Even if Iran is a party to the treaty, there's no protection for civilians in an international conflict.

Mac Lorry:Sorry, but... (Below threshold)

Mac Lorry:
Sorry, but treaties and conventions are law.

Article 3:
If we attack Iran, that's international.

Article 4:
We have in the past played by the rules even when engaged in countries that didn't sign the treaty. Look at the example I gave above. A civilian radio station was bombed only after noticed was given.

It really does blow my mind that the Air Force has a Law Review publication and the Air Force lawyers are apparently on duty 24-7 to examine target selection for legal issues.

Article 3 specifies protect... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:

Article 3 specifies protections of civilians, but starts out by saying that it's protections do NOT apply "In the case of armed conflict not of an international character...”

You are right that "If we attack Iran, that's international", and as a result the protections of Article 3 do NOT apply.

kevino,Correction:... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:



Article 3 specifies protections of civilians, and starts out by saying that it's protections apply "In the case of armed conflict not of an international character...”

You are right that "If we attack Iran, that's international", and as a result the protections of Article 3 do NOT apply.

Sorry, I had too many NOTs.






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