Thursday, September 13, 2007

For once, Tehran's response to the US may be right

In an article published today in the Taipei Times, I turn to a US court decision last week to allow the families of the 241 US marines killed by the Lebanese Hezbollah organization in the 1983 bombing of the marines barracks in Beirut.

By arguing that families of soldier victims can sue individuals, groups or governments responsible for killing soldiers while the latter are in the line of duty, District Judge Royce Lamberth is not only turning military duty into a fantasy — where, against logic, killing a soldier who is occupying your country means breaking the law — but he is also opening a can of worms Washington had fain make sure remained closed. For if, as in the case at hand, a government (Iran) that is suspected of sponsoring an otherwise independent organization (Hezbollah) can be sued by a third party (the US), then it would follow that the families of, say, an Iraqi man killed by the US-trained Iraqi military could seek reparations from the US — or, for that matter, the families of slain Palestinians could sue the US government for its support and arming of the Israeli Defense Force, and so on, ad absurdum, from Colombia to Indonesia to wherever else the US is propping up security forces in the name of security, an endeavor that, sadly, is only intensifying (for more on this, see, among others, Robert Kaplan's Imperial Grunts and Dana Priest's The Mission).

Sad as it is for soldiers meaning good to be killed in the line of duty, and howsoever their mission is regarded back home, using terms such as peacekeeping or liberation or stabilization, the truth of the matter is, being a soldier in a foreign land entails a series of risks — deadly risks — that cannot, ex post facto, be questioned in the court of law. Unless, that is, the families of the victims are (a) suing their own government for sending soldiers into a situation that was illegal in the first place; (b) the means utilized to kill said soldiers were deemed illegal by the Geneva Convention — e.g. chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear; or (c) the victims were not military but rather civilians, in which case said attack would indeed constitute terrorism and justify prosecution in court.

Readers can access the full article, titled “For once, Tehran’s response to the US may be right,” by clicking here.

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