Steve Sachs Duke


Thursday, April 03, 2003


"We are all Israelis now." Until recently, I always drew a distinction between two types of suicide bombings: those directed at soldiers, and those directed at civilians. The latter were simply abhorrent. The former, however, although disconcerting, seemed potentially legitimate as a tactic. The soldiers were combatants and knew their lives to be in danger; the use of suicide bombs seemed to be merely one more way to conduct the fight. (True, the bombers don't wear uniforms, but U.S. special forces don't exactly walk around with big American flags.) So long as only soldiers were targeted, and the cause (by assumption) were just, why would a suicidal bombing be any different than a suicidal Pickett's Charge?

I no longer think that way. What changed my mind was this:

In a statement tonight, the Army said that at 4:30 local time this afternoon a civilian vehicle approached a military checkpoint on Route 9 near Najaf, about 100 miles south of Baghdad.

The Army said soldiers at the checkpoint motioned for the vehicle to stop but were ignored. The soldiers then fired warning shots, which were also ignored by the driver, the Army said.

The soldiers then fired shots into the engine of the vehicle, ``but the vehicle kept moving toward the checkpoint,'' the Army said.

"Finally, as a last resort, the soldiers fired into the passenger compartment of the vehicle," the statement said.

The Army said that upon further investigation, it determined that 13 women and children were in the vehicle. Seven of the occupants were killed, two were wounded and four were unharmed, the Army said.

The suicide bombing on May 29, which killed four U.S. soldiers, also killed these seven women and children. Any responsible military faced with suicide attacks would have to fire at oncoming vehicles, in order to protect its own troops. The May 29 attack succeeded, in that it forced the American military to distance itself from the population and regard all Iraqis as potential threats. It deliberately created a situation where innocent civilians would be exposed to greater risks--and was recognized as doing so at the time:

"It's a shame they are doing that because now we're going to have to treat every civilian vehicle like it is hostile," said Staff Sgt. Bryce Ivings. "If we accidentally kill a civilian because they took a wrong turn and came at us, it will be on their (the Iraqi leadership's) head."

As the NYT ed page has pointed out, that was exactly the point. Iraq has better ways of killing American soldiers than suicide bombings (though, thank God, not many). But what these bombings can do is make the U.S. look absolutely awful in the eyes of the world--can make it, in short, look like Israel:

Israeli troops at a checkpoint shot and wounded a pregnant Palestinian woman in labor and killed her husband today as the couple tried to reach a hospital -- a day after another pregnant woman was shot in an almost identical case at the same West Bank roadblock, Palestinians said...

According to the army, soldiers opened fire when a car tried to get past an earthen barricade blocking the road, and ignored soldiers' orders to stop. When the driver attempted to reverse to detour around the temporary roadblock, soldiers shot at the car, the army said.

After the car came to a stop, Hayek opened the door and began yelling, "baby" in English, she said. Soldiers approached, and began administering first aid, placing her and her father-in-law on stretchers, she said.

I had never before entertained the idea that these civilian deaths might be a deliberate terrorist tactic. Now I can't imagine that they wouldn't be.

This is why suicide bombings, regardless of their targets, can be instances of terrorism. Those who employ a dangerous tactic in wartime are at least partly responsible for its consequences; these accidental deaths are most certainly on the heads of those who kill under cover of civilian dress. And when the very purpose of an attack is to produce these deadly mistakes, when the lives of innocents become mere instruments to produce useful propaganda, then the effect is to turn civilians into weapons of war--just as surely as destroying buildings with a hijacked airplane.




Blog Archives

Front page
XML Feed


© 2011 Stephen E. Sachs


Anglia Regnum