Have you ever noticed that groups like AI or Doctors Without Borders, while do-gooders all, (and I DO mean that in the nicest way possible), have a very strong tendency to bash those that try to follow humane treatment of others, while ignoring those than are enjoined in genocide and other sadistic behaviors? While I may or may not agree with all of the following, I think Denbeste does a good job of 'fisking' the latest: http://www.denbeste.nu/cd_log_entries/2003/12/HumanRightsdigitalwatch.shtml Stardate 20031212.1208 (On Screen): Human Rights Watch, and other such groups as Amnesty International, claim to be non-partisan advocates of human rights around the world. But they have long since demonstrated that they are far from being non-partisan. I wrote about them http://denbeste.nu/cd_log_entries/2003/03/WarCrimes.shtml and http://denbeste.nu/cd_log_entries/2003/03/Panderingtothemembership.shtml last spring.) Human Rights Watch is in the news again, with a new report. Although Coalition military operations in Iraq caused an unprecedentedly small number of civilian casualties relative to the kinds of large scale ground combat which it involved, Human Rights Watch says it was still too many, http://msnbc.msn.com/id/3693864/ The report concludes that an accurate tally of innocent deaths in the Iraqi war is impossible to tabulate and doesnt attempt to detail the number of civilians killed by U.S. forces killed. It does cite an Associated Press estimate that at least 3, 420 Iraqi civilians were killed during major combat operations. Military planners overall made extraordinary efforts to avoid civilian casualties, Human Rights Watch Executive Director Ken Roth told NEWSWEEK. But they fell short of doing everything feasible to avoid civilian death. The distinction sounds small. Civilian casualties are a grim reality in any large-scale conflict and while military planners may speak euphemistically about collateral damage, so long as war is fought where the innocent live, it seems inevitable that some will die. Still, under the Human Rights Watchs interpretation of Geneva Convention protocols, military combatants are required to do everything in their power to preserve innocent life. Everything feasible meets the standards of international law. Extraordinary efforts does not. In other words, even though there were so few civilian casualties, and even though HRW doesn't know how many there were, it knows that we committed war crimes because HRW thinks it could have been even fewer. The distinction between "extraordinary efforts" and "everything feasible" doesn't just sound small, it sounds like sophistry. It's word games. And it's cleear that they don't understand what feasible means: The report gives the Pentagon high marks for its advanced plans sensitivity to civilian life. Roth says, however, that the military sometimes ran into trouble when it had to think on its feet. Where the system broke down sufficiently, he says, is when it came to targets of opportunity, targets that arouse unexpectedly in the course of the war. Feasible means "practical, realistic". Decisions on how to deal with what HRW calls "targets of opportunity" in the heat of battle have to be made rapidly; that's the nature of combat. The report also suggests U.S. forces may have the pushed the envelope on acceptable casualties with their high profile attacks on the Iraqi leadership. The military used alluring Mission: Impossible tactics in its attacks on Saddam and his inner circle, tracking the GPS coordinates from Baathist leaders satellite phones to attempt to pin down their whereabouts. The report claims that while [the U.S. military] did not kill a single targeted individual, the strikes killed and injured dozens of civilians. Leadership target attacks were so dangerous to civilians because the coordinates gleaned from satellite phones are imprecise, giving locations within 100-meter radius. Its as if you took a football field and sort of swung it around the goal post, Roth says. If youre in the middle of an urban setting, there are a lot of buildings in that area. Because the Iraqi leaders deliberately put those kinds of targets in the middle of dense concentrations of civilians, there was danger to those civilians when those targets were attacked. However, it was the Iraqi leadership who committed the war crime. Using civilians as human shields is explicitly forbidden. But if one side does so, the other side is not considered to have committed a war crime if some of those civilians subsequently die or are wounded. However, as summarized in these news reports, the logic of this report seems to be that if anything bad happened, which could conceivably be interpreted as a war crime, then responsibility for it must be born by the US and UK. For instance, it's well known that since fall of the Iraqi government, during the period of coalition control over Iraq, there have been various attacks launched by insurgents. Some of those have specifically targeted coalition forces, and some have targeted such groups as the UN, and many of them have specifically targeted Iraqis. There was, for instance, a suicide bombing attack against a mosque in southern Iraq which killed or wounded hundreds of Iraqis. And even in cases where the insurgents make attacks targeting Coalition forces, it's common for the majority of victims to be Iraqi civilians. Is it a war crime to detonate a carbomb with the deliberate intention of killing civilians? You bet it is. Whose crime is it? Logic would suggest that the insurgency should be held responsible, but HRW blames it on the US and UK, or so the BBC reports. There were caches of arms and explosives all over Iraq, thousands of them big and small. Most of those attacks are being carried out using weapons the insurgents recovered from those caches. If only the Coalition had done a better job of finding those caches, there would be less available for the insurgents to use. QED. Actually, the BBC report says that HRW does condemn our opposition. There's one sentence to that effect. Newsweek's coverage of the HRW report doesn't mention that at all; it concentrates fully on HRW criticism of the Coalition. After a war in which we went to extraordinary lengths to protect civilians while our enemy actively slaughtered them, the news coverage of HRW's report concentrates almost exclusively on our failings. Is it being misreported? A quick look at the HRW home page suggests it probably is not, http://www.hrw.org/ . The most recent press release begins: U.S.: Hundreds of Civilian Deaths in Iraq Were Preventable Cluster Munitions, Decapitation Attacks Condemned (New York, December 12, 2003) Hundreds of civilian deaths in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq could have been prevented by abandoning two misguided military tactics, Human Rights Watch said in a comprehensive new report released today. The Principal Findings section of the report itself includes this as its fourth paragraph: The investigation showed that Iraqi forces committed a number of violations of international humanitarian law, which may have led to significant civilian casualties. These violations included use of human shields, abuse of the red cross and red crescent emblems, use of antipersonnel landmines, location of military objects in protected places (such as mosques, hospitals, and cultural property), and a failure to take adequate precautions to protect civilians from the dangers of military operations. The Iraqi militarys practice of wearing civilian clothes tended to erode the distinction between combatants and civilians, putting the latter at risk, although it did not relieve Coalition forces of their obligation to distinguish at all times between combatants and civilians and to target only combatants. I find myself being in the peculiar situation of defending Saddam, at least with regard to one allegation. Use of antipersonnel landmines is not a war crime. There has been a proposal to ban them, but I think the treaty in question is deeply flawed. Anyway, I doubt that Saddam signed that treaty. But the rest of that list is accurate, though it is not complete. For instance, they don't mention how the defenders of Basra deliberately fired on and killed Iraqi civilian refugees fleeing the city. And their list doesn't really make clear just how common these abuses were by Iraqi forces. So I'll give them points for at least mentioning the war crimes of our enemies, but not many points, because in context the point of this paragraph is to say, "And now that we've gotten that out of the way, we can concentrate on the Coalition." That last sentence is the segue into the main body of the summary. It's a "but". Iraqi forces committed widespread atrocities and routine and massive violations of the laws of war, but... And you know what's coming next: ...but America is the real villain. The agenda and target are clear just from the URL: http:/hrw.org/reports/2003/usa1203/. And the final section of the summary page consists of a series of bullet points on things that the Coalition did wrong. This was not a non-partisan attempt to evaluate how everyone behaved, and to try to evenhandedly determine whether war crimes were committed, how commonly, by whom, and with what consequences. The purpose of this report is to condemn the US and UK. The judge is a hanging judge. In other words, the news reports are indeed accurately reporting the thrust of the report. Newsweek was more accurate than the BBC. Any balanced and truly non-partisan analysis of human rights violations and allegations of war crimes would be expected to use the majority of its word count describing the worst violator, wouldn't you think? But this report has only one major section which describes Iraqi atrocities. The majority of the report concentrates on Coalition performance. Why is this so partisan and one-sided? Several reasons, not given in order of importance: First, there's at least a small chance that the US and UK might well listen to HRW and might well modify their behavior. Saddam is no longer in power, and there's no chance at all that those who are now fighting against us in Iraq and elsewhere would pay any attention to anything HRW says. Human Rights Watch is "searching under the street light". Second, because deep down they hate us. These groups, and others like the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, are part of what Fonte calls "Transnational progressivism", and they view strong nations which are capitalist, nationalistic, who defend their sovereignty as their worst enemies. America is top of that list. Third, because of something I have referred to as compassionate racism,(ADDED: There is a deeply hostile racism, a rabid xenophobia typified by the Klan. But there's a different kind, a gentle paternalistic racism where the members of the under-group are loved and yet not respected. They are not treated like trash, but rather like children. That also lay beneath the early "ask yourself why they hate you" rhetoric. I described it this way) read it yourself: The philosophic justification for the "root causes" argument that we've heard so much about is the idea that the people who attacked us were motivated by what we ourselves had done to them earlier. But it goes deeper than that: if we are responsible, then they cannot be. And that can only be because they are not capable of being responsible. They are not truly adults; they are children or beasts who respond to conditions in predictable ways. We do not hold children to the same standard of responsibility as we hold adults, and these racists don't hold the people of the world to those standards either. If by our acts we brought this tragedy upon ourselves, then had we acted differently we would not have. Which means that we have a paternalistic obligation to control how everyone else in the world behaves, through our acts towards them. They will merely react to us; all responsibility is here. We are the only moral thinking people on earth and thus the only ones who can sin. If we can only bring ourselves to be sufficiently kind and generous to them, then they will live good lives. They are innocent, they cannot know sin, for they are not sufficiently sophisticated to do so. They are less than we are. This is deeply loving and compassionate chauvinistic contempt. Even if Saddam and his government committed massive atrocities, wogs like him aren't expected to live up to the same standards as real humans do. Fourth, because "non-partisan" international agencies now seem to be allergic to saying or doing anything which even hints that they might approve of something that the US did. Fifth and most important, that's because the majority of HRW's contributing members are part of the hard-leftist anti-American crowd. Any honest appraisal of the conduct of both sides in Iraq would have ended up giving the US and UK top marks and would have utterly condemned our opponents. But HRW's membership isn't interested in facts or in logic. If HRW had written a report as comprehensive as this one which tried to even-handedly evaluate both sides, and which applied wordcount proportional to the severity of violations by each side, then it would have concentrated almost exclusively on Iraqi atrocities. That's because virtually every atrocity and war crime which happened in Iraq was committed by Saddam's forces. But if HRW had done that, their contribution receipt rate would have dropped like a stone. (That's assuming anyone at HRW might even be motivated to do such a thing, which appears doubtful.) Human Rights Watch, and other similar groups like Amnesty International, are actually digital watches. They are selectively blind; they do not watch everyone equally. As far as they are concerned, assaults on human rights only matter if they're done by Americans or anyone that is friendly with America. Amnesty International had a long record of condemning Saddam for his pervasive abuse of Iraqi civilians, but once he faced American military might, AI went silent. His abuses continued and may have gotten worse, but once he became a formal enemy of America, Amnesty International no longer seemed to care. And in this current report, HRW's comments on Iraqi atrocities are perfunctory and token. Their behavior is disgraceful. Sadly, it is also consistent. The world could use a high-profile non-partisan group willing to shine a spotlight on the worst abuses of human rights around the world. It's too bad Human Rights Watch isn't it.