Thursday, 17 November 2005

Insisting on a Higher Standard

White phosphorus should not be used as a weapon - period.

Regular readers know that I have a high tolerance for a diversity of opinion, while espousing my usually liberal but rarely strident views. I have a very low tolerance, however, for sanctioning the mistreatment of others, regardless of who they might be.

When Bush nominated the architect of a policy which sanctioned inhumane interrogation techniques to be the chief law enforcement official of the land, I cried foul. When Cheney seeks exceptions to a universal no torture policy, that's not just unwise, it is immoral.

War is an awful, awful business, and it is with good reason that one of just war theory's precepts is that it be used as a last resort. Bush's decision to go to war with Iraq looked more like one based on a last opportunity, not a last resort, and hence I unambiguously opposed it, and marched against it, before we went in. Once in a war, civilian casualties are all but unavoidable. I don't deny that compared to many previous wars, a great deal of effort was placed on minimizing civilian casualties in this one. As the war lengthened, it was inevitable that more lapses in this effort would occur, and it seems likely that one of the most scientifically credible studies which was under-reported in the mainstream American media estimated 100,000 Iraqi deaths, mostly civilian, one year ago. It matters not that the opportunity to go to war may have been lost, with the U.N. inspections process still underway and making progress, it was not a last resort. Period.

So when an Italian source reported about one week ago that the incendiary white phosphorus had been used against a civilian population in Falluja, I was concerned. I did not jump on the story which was being roundly debunked in much of the right leaning press and blogosphere, as I am disinclined to lend credence to a single source without corroboration. Yesterday's admission by the Pentagon that the chemical, colloquially known as 'Willie Pete', had been used as a weapon in Falluja, represented a change in their story from their claim of a week ago:
The US initially denied reports it had used white phosphorus as a weapon in Falluja in November 2004, saying it had been used only for illumination and laying smokescreens. However, the Pentagon has now confirmed the substance was used as an "incendiary weapon" during the assault.
(read the whole thing)

Though they continue to deny that it was used against civilians, and argue that its deployment was not illegal, is it any wonder that such claims have lost credibility with much of the world now that their story has changed?

I will not apologize for my insistence that my nation be held to a higher standard when it comes to the treatment of our enemies, suspected enemies, or those who may be caught in the crossfire.

When Senator Bond was debating Senator Durbin last week in defending his vote against McCain's amendment prohibiting torture and inhumane treatment, he fell back on the argument that the rules would prohibit treatment which is typical for our own recruits at boot camp. Well maybe we should look at our treatment of our own forces, but we should not give carte blanche to unknown agents to interrogate unknown prisoners at unknown locations outside the constraints of international law. Insisting on a higher standard is what America should be all about.


Jack Whelan said...

We unleash the dogs of war, and this is what happens. Once the dog's out the gate, you can't control him. That's why war is always the last of the most remote options. That's why even the liberal interventionists were as wrong as the neocons. You gotta to keep those dogs on a tight leash.

Daniel Kirkdorffer said...

This is an outrage we condone through our silence.

-epm said...

It bears repeating the obvious for those still blinded by denial:

The United States has lost one of the most powerful weapons any nation could hope for: the ability to draw others to its side merely through its credibility as a moral authority.