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Legitimate targets of resistance?

  1. Jun 26, 2005 #1

    Hurkyl

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    This thread is to investigate the question of what constitutes a legitimate target by resistance forces. The main scenario under consideration is Iraq, but I imagine much would apply to the Israeli-Palestinian situation as well.

    The title asks it all -- what are legitimate targets for a resistance force?

    When starting this thread, I decided that I'd look at the first three links I got off of doing a Yahoo! news search on "Iraq" that looked like they contained examples of insurgent action, just to get started.

    They were:
    http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/20050626/ap_on_re_mi_ea/iraq_the_images_1
    http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/20050626/ap_on_re_mi_ea/iraq_050626111836
    http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/afp/20050626/wl_afp/iraq_050626112117


    At this point, I've only read a little bit of the first link. Now, reading through them...


    Some examples of insurgent actions (not intended to be a representative sample) from the first link:


    "Underneath is the body of a 10-year-old girl, killed in her neighborhood by a roadside bomb."

    "In photograph after photograph, burned-out wreckages hulk under highway overpasses, straddle sidewalks, slam into the sides of tanker trucks."

    "From a helicopter hovering near the Syrian border, an image is made of 10 dead men, outlined by an expanse of desert ... They are thought to have been off-duty Iraqi soldiers, dressed in civilian clothes, driving two minivans across the desert toward a vacation in Baghdad."

    "an Iraqi translator kidnapped five months ago with a French journalist"


    From the second:

    "The first attack happened at a police headquarters in Mosul, killing 13 policemen and two civilians and wounding six more"

    "a suicide bomber blew himself up in a parking lot outside an Iraqi army base, killing 16 and wounding seven more, Walter said. Almost all the victims were civilian workers arriving at the site"

    "a suicide car bomb struck an Iraqi police convoy near a checkpoint, wounding four police officers"

    "a suicide bomber trailed by five cars loaded with armed insurgents slammed into a wall outside the home of an Iraqi special forces police officer in the Sunni triangle city of Samarra, killing at least nine people on the street"

    "insurgents rounded up eight police officers at a checkpoint outside the western city of Ramadi, then marched them into their office and shot them to death,"


    And from the third:

    "The bomber drove a pickup truck loaded with explosives concealed under a cargo of melons to the back wall of the Al-Hadba police station"

    "a deputy police chief in Baghdad, was gunned down outside his home"

    "One of the attacks involved insurgents blowing up a dog strapped with explosives as a police convoy drove by."

    "the disfigured bodies of nine Shiite sheep dealers were brought home to their native Karbala province"

    "on Saturday the bodies of five poultry dealers were found south of Baghdad, after the discovery of six bodies north of the capital the previous day."



    I don't know if we can tell if these are typical insurgent actions or not, but anyways...

    I think it's clear that many of these examples should not be considered legitimate targets... do I have agreement on this?


    Do people think police forces should be legitimate targets?

    What about off-duty military personel?



    We see that frequently there are civilian casualties. Do you think insurgents appear to be trying to avoid civilian casualties in attacks against the police and military? Or are the Iraqi government and coalition forces negligent for placing legitimate targets near population centers? Or, are these simply acceptable casualties?
     
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2005
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 26, 2005 #2
    this business of targeting the populations began in the late 19th century, and has been a terrible turn of strategy. Prior to that, populations were considered prizes for the victor, not to be harmed.

    A legitimate target would be anyone bearing arms (government-related or not), or in some kind of armed service (yes, including police), or government officials or infrastructure.

    While it is impossible to ensure that civilians are not injured or killed during a conflict, every best effort should be made to avoid it.

    It is my belief that the US military does the best that they can to engage targets in a traditional battlefield setting, and not within civilian centers. Because they are nice people? No, because that is what they are best equiped to handle. That is what they have been built to do - to fight conventional scenarios where civilians are not involved. To deny them that ability is to create an uneven playing field, which is exactly what the insurgents are trying to do. That is also why the insurgents could care less about how many civilians are killed.
     
  4. Jun 26, 2005 #3

    Art

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    Is this a mistype or is there something new starting we don't know about? :biggrin:
     
  5. Jun 26, 2005 #4

    Art

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    You've obviously never heard of Ghengis Khan :biggrin: He made a policy of slaughtering the entire families of those he killed during his conquests to ensure nobody ever came looking for revenge. Mmmm a little like Bush jr :rofl:
     
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2005
  6. Jun 26, 2005 #5

    Art

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    Here we go. We now have it officially from D. Rumsfeld himself that the Iraqi insurgents fighting against invaders are NOT terrorists. Russ et al please take note. :tongue2:

    As everybody knows the US never negotiates with terrorists and so Rumsfeld has rightly confirmed these Iraqi insurgents are not terrorists.
     
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2005
  7. Jun 26, 2005 #6
    yes, but this was not a policy that caught on the way it did in Europe, Asia and the US. For the first time, weapons were designed whose sole purpose was to eliminate the mass populace. That had never happened before.
     
  8. Jun 26, 2005 #7

    Hurkyl

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    Government officials? Really? Any official, no matter how low level or innocuous his position?
     
  9. Jun 26, 2005 #8
    in the course of a war, the enemy government may have other installations in support of their own war effort - logistical bases, for example, or power plants, etc. the bombing of these facilities may be deemed advantageous, and so unfortunately low-level officials (clerks, workers, etc.) may be destroyed with them.

    i see this as justified both morally and according to the prescribed rules of war.
     
  10. Jun 26, 2005 #9

    Hurkyl

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    So it's not that the officials are targets, but that their loss is acceptable because of their presence in something that is acceptable. You wouldn't, say, condone killing each of the plant's workers in their homes while they sleep, right?
     
  11. Jun 26, 2005 #10

    Art

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    Legitimate targets for resistance fighters;
    1) The armed forces of whomever it is they are resisting whether off-duty or not.
    2) Collaborators - the level of retribution depending on the degree of collaboration. eg French women who fraternised with German troops were 'tarred and feathered'
    3) Military structures - bases, barracks etc..
    4) Military logistic supplies
    5) Infrastructure useful to their enemy (roads, bridges etc. used for troop deployment)
    6) Detention centres used to hold or interrogate captive resistance fighters
    7) Enemy intelligence agents
    8) Senior political figures of the enemy
     
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2005
  12. Jun 27, 2005 #11
    shouldn't the rules be the same whether they are resistance fighters or not?
     
  13. Jun 27, 2005 #12
    I would see no problem with that. If they are working for an enemy government (or terrorist group) in a state of war, they are fair game.

    If they were civilians not directly employed by a government, military or terrorist organization that would be a different story.
     
  14. Jun 27, 2005 #13
    what about conscripts and forced labour?
     
  15. Jun 27, 2005 #14

    Pengwuino

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    they are legitamate because you dont really have a clue whether someone volunteered or was forced to fight.

    I think one thing the OP didnt take note of is that a victim is different then a target. If a child gets killed in Iraq, its normally because he was an unintended victim of something... not because he was the target
     
  16. Jun 27, 2005 #15

    Art

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    Yes, absolutely. So in my mind anyone who targets non-combatant civilians either deliberately as a strategy or as a consequence of reckless attacks against legitimate targets are commiting terrorist acts. Thus by this definition Zarqawi's group has committed terrorist acts and some of the American attacks have been terrorist acts as evidenced by the high civilian death toll wreaked by both sides. http://www.antiwar.com/casualties/
    I see the Iraq conflict as shades of grey. It is Bush's simplistic 'Us 'good' them 'Bad'' that irritates me. To my mind Iraqi nationalists who do not target civilians and are fighting against invading forces hold the highest moral ground of all the parties in the conflict.
     
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2005
  17. Jun 27, 2005 #16

    russ_watters

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    As far as international law is concerned (ie, the Geneva Conventions), the answer to the first question is a little sticky, but the second is a straightforward no, if by "off duty" you mean away on leave or outside the base for non-military purposes. quetzalcoatl9's summary of the current standard is pretty good.
    Art, the second quote from Rummy says quite clearly that there is more than one group that we're fighting - some can reasonably be classified as insurgents, some cannot. We're negotiating with the legitimate insurgents (apparently), but not the terrorists.
    Ehh, its a little more specific than that. Yes, the government installations are important, but also, in the same way that you would try hard to kill a general and his staff, you'd try hard to kill the Sec Def or President and his staff. Essentially, the personal targets are limited to the military chain of command and their staff or government workers with military value.
    What is your definition of "high civilian death toll"? The civilian death toll for this war was likely the lowest for this intensity of conflict in the history of warfare. Ie, historically, the civilian:military death ratio for a war where a country is invaded and taken over is typically extremely high. Often higher than 1:1. Best guess, the ratio for this war was something on the order of 0.03:1. (based on an estimated 15,000 civilian deaths and 500,000 Iraqi military)
    It appears to me that you see actions involving others in shades of grey and actions involving the US directly in black and black.
     
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2005
  18. Jul 4, 2005 #17

    Art

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    Which Russ if you check back on my posts has been the point I have consistantly made. The act of firing at invading troops does not a terrorist make. Good to see you have now come round to agree with me on this.
    Again if you read what I have written I referred to individual acts as possibly constituting terrorism. For example if you flatten an apartment block with 500 lb bombs because you suspect (or even know) there is an insurgent inside, resulting in the deaths of civilians then to my mind this falls into the realm of reckless disregard of civilian life. Another example would be the 500 civilians murdered when the US military targeted an air-raid shelter in Gulf War part 1.
    To save you from having to 'think' about what I meant I have spelled it out quite clearly; that the same rules apply to all sides. If someone on this forum tried to justify the mass murder of civilians by suicide bombers (which you will note no-one has) I would take issue with them just as I take issue with people who try to justify excessive and/or mis-directed force when used by the US.

    Nazi Reich Marshal Hermann Goering, before committing suicide at the Nuremberg Trials, said:
     
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2005
  19. Jul 4, 2005 #18
    When this war is over, the insurgents will have to answer to the Iraqi government for their conduct. The Iraqi government has already decided that the insurrection is criminal, has and continues to try and convict insurgents on a range of charges from criminal posession of weapons and explosives to murder, treason and crimes against humanity. There is no internationally recognized legal status for these insurgents. So, there doesn't seem to be any such thing as a legitimate target for insurgents to strike.

    Same thing applies. Politically, there is pressure for Israel to release terrorists, but there is no general principle in law that prevents Israel from detaining, trying and convicting terrorists in criminal courts.

    Rev Prez
     
  20. Jul 4, 2005 #19

    Art

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    Don't you think whether or not the insurgents have to answer to the current Iraqi government will depend on who wins the ongoing war? Afterall I don't remember the Vichy government in France getting to put the French resistance fighters on trial after WW2 or for that matter I don't remember hearing of George Washington being tried for treason by the British after the American insurrection of 1770 - 1783 :smile:
     
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2005
  21. Jul 4, 2005 #20
    I have no desire to discuss endgame in Iraq with you. Just to be clear, that means I'm not interested in what you personally have to say about it. That said, please go on.

    Rev Prez
     
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