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« Democrats Have Union Labels On Their Bumper Stickers. | WILLisms.com | Wednesday Caption Contest: Part 63 »

The Devil Hath Power to Assume a Pleasing Shape

With the current Israeli counterattacks on Hezbollah in Lebanon, the issue of delineations has come to the forefront once again. With Hamas, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda, the Taliban, Afghanistan, Lebanon, and the Palestine Authority, the lines of demarcation between governments and terrorist organizations are growing more and more blurry. Likewise, the distinctions between combatants, guerrillas, terrorists, and civilians is becoming more and more difficult to discern.

How does one define a nation? Hezbollah has a clearly defined geographical area, a military force, provides services to those who live in its territory. They even have their own flag, which features a hand clutching an AK-47. It has been seen waving proudly next to the UN flag in a UN base in southern Lebanon. Hamas has all that and more -- they won an election to control the Palestinian Authority. And the Taliban was the de facto government of Afghanistan.

Finally, all three organizations have openly declared and waged war against established nation states.

The difference between combatants and civilians used to be a binary factor, a simple matter of black and white. If one was a combatant, one put on a uniform and fought. If one was a civilian, one did one's level best to stay out of the line of fire.

Guerrillas began to blur the distinction. They were combatants who doffed their distinctive uniforms, fading into the wilderness or general populace when not actively fighting. Finally, civilians who took up arms when convenient and carried out their attacks became "terrorists."

So, how does one differentiate a terrorist from a civilian? Sadly, unless one catches the terrorist in the act of committing terrorism, it's very difficult. Once the terrorist drops his gun or bomb, he's just another civilian. Further, terrorists make an art out of appearing like civilians; that's why the suicide bombers are so successful.

Hezbollah claims that only a few of their fighters have been killed, and the vast majority of those who have died were civilians. Perhaps many were, but I strongly suspect that a large number were Hezbollah members or supporters. As Ralph Kinney Bennett notes, the civilian populace is a nuisance to Israel -- but an invaluable, essential resource to Hezbollah.

The answer, I believe, lies in the Geneva Conventions.

I have written at length about the Conventions, and how they are no longer relevant to the situation in the world today. I still stand by those criticisms, but they are of the Conventions' current application and interpretation. I harken back to the basic precepts of the Conventions, and one principle in particular:

It is the obligation of the combatant to protect the innocent from harm.

This is being applied to Israel to denounce their strikes, but there is a further application. It is the duty of the combatant to protect the innocent by absenting themselves from civilians. To get away and stay away from those who are not actively involved in the fighting.

The Geneva Convention is explicit on this matter: civilians are never to be used as human shields. To willingly endanger civilians thusly is explicitly forbidden, and the responsibility for any casualties is solely upon those who seek such shelter -- and not upon their enemy who fires the fatal shots.

The complication is that Hezbollah is not a signatory to the Geneva Conventions. And as a non-state entity, nor are they eligible to sign on to them.

I believe we should consider treating certain non-state entities as the equivalent of states. When an organization reaches a certain point of activity and prominence, it is essentially a state in all but name. While others may reject the notion of granting these groups the status and legitimacy of statehood, the advantages of holding them to that level of accountability are numerous.

The first is that acts of war could be answered with declarations of war. In the current example of Israel vs. Hezbollah, Israel could simply declare that a state of war exists between the two, and it intends to do war upon Hezbollah until it is destroyed or surrenders. Hezbollah has repeatedly stated that it considers itself at war with Israel, so the concept of Israel simply returning the animus is not so great an extrapolation.

As a de facto state, further, Hezbollah could be held accountable to higher international standards. It can be argued that Hezbollah has taken over a portion of Lebanon and is the rightful successor to the Lebanese government – and as such, is bound by the international agreements and covenants the Lebanese government has signed.

In the case of Hamas, it is even easier. “Palestine” does not have official sanction as an independent nation, but Hamas has won and election and assumed the reins of power over the Palestinian Authority. They levy taxes, pass and enforce laws, regulate their borders (albeit in a very sloppy and self-serving way), make agreements with other nations – in brief, they fulfill nearly all the perquisites for a legitimate government. Therefore, acts carried out by their members in their name, when not repudiated and rectified, are to be considered actions of a national government.

If those actions are acts of war, then it is upon the aggressed-upon party to determine whether they will accept or decline the invitation to wage war.

I recognize the problems some may have with giving such recognition and status to what are little more than politically-motivated criminals and sociopaths, but overall I think the “advantages” they receive will be outweighed by the tremendous simplifying effect this will have on nation-states currently bedeviled by such amorphous bodies.

Posted by Jay Tea · 26 July 2006 05:00 AM


reminds me of the Taliban harboring Al Qaeda. Lebanon for all their talk never really did anything to stop Hezbollah. UN resolution 1559 was never even enforced. Isreals UN recognized borders had been crossed 24 times by Hezbollah and preemptive to their last crossing and murdering of 8 isreali soilders and kidnapping of 2 they used artillery to pound Isreal, not to mention all the rockets relentlessly fired over the border into isreal for the last year. And you know the world media was all over the dead isreali children calling for the destruction of hezbollah.........not It is simply amazing how Isrealis are made out to be the bad guys here. Hezbollah has no land demands from isreal, this isn't about land for them. it is pure hatred of the jewish state and jews. why can't people understand get that through their heads. it is really sad.

Posted by: christian at July 26, 2006 07:18 AM


Your argument is interesting, however academic. Assuming there was someone to declare such a condition existed, those oppossed would simply declare it invalid. (ie, Right vs Left).

Terrorist organizations like armies do not exist in a vacuum. They need the support of some population for food, shelter, etc. Isreal is not going to destroy Hezbollah, and they know it. What they are doing is destroying the support structure that allows it to opperate. If in the process the Lebanees decide it isn't worth having Hezbollah in their midst, and throw them out so much the better, but I don't think they have much hope of that.

The old saying that "armies march on their stomachs" holds true for terrorist organizations also. One could almost say that in this case there are no civilians, just the terorist and their support structure. I can still remember the Palestinians dancing in the streets, when the towers came down.

Posted by: USMC Pilot at July 26, 2006 07:32 AM

Would you intentionally kill your neighbors children?

If your neighbor was constantly putting rounds through your livingroom window, and the police (in this case the UN) wouldn't do anything about it, most likely you would eventualy start shooting back, even though the posibility of hitting one of his children existed.

Posted by: USMC Pilot at July 26, 2006 07:48 AM

Good points Jay. The problem is who would enforce them? The UN? The EU, Canada and the US Left all think that the US and Israel should "turn the other cheek" after each and every attack so we could "talk" to them. But how do you talk or negotiate with terrorists?

So here we are, the appeasers in the US, EU and Israel have allowed terrorists to dig-in and attack our innocent civilians over the past three decades - all in the name of diplomacy. The appeasers are still calling for cease fires and diplomacy, but where has it gotten us?

Unfortunately for them, W and now Israel have said enough is enough and are fighting back. Appeasment for so many years has let the terroists dig-in and given them an upper hand in this fight. If we would have had less "diplomacy" in the past and more stick, the fight would be over by now and we'd have peace. The appeasment crowd has made it far more difficult to fight this war.

I wonder what would have happend if Churchill and Roosevelt would have tried to appease Hitler, like Joe Kennedy and Chamberlin wanted to do? We'd all be talking German and Japanese right now - that's what.

Posted by: lakestate at July 26, 2006 08:42 AM

Would you intentionally kill your neighbors [sic] children?

-- If my neighbor stood behind his child and drew a bead on me? Yes.

wrt Statehood:

-- I agree with the intent of granting statehood to non-state organizations; it would assign certain rights and responibilities to their members. But it wouldn't solve this problem. Hez is operating within another country that does not have the means to enforce their will upon the violent group.

Consider this hypothetical situation:

- What if a rebel group were living in Hawaii and launching terrorist attacks on the Phillipines? What if the US wasn't strong enough (or didn't want) to find and imprison these nere-do-wells. How should the PI respond? Petition the UN?


If I were in the PI, I would support invading HI and cleaning up the mess.

Well, in my opinion, a similar situation exists. The governments of Leb and Pal have been unable (or unwilling) to control the terrorists in their territory. Given that, the victim of the terrorism is acting in the best interests of their citizens by doing what those ruling governments cannot (or won't).

Palistine should have statehood. Hez should not.
In both cases, these lands have been essentially invaded by covert Iranian armed forces for the purposes of performing acts of war on another country.

The people living in this area think it is easier to support the terrorists than to try and throw them out. They feed them and provide protection. Right now they may have no choice, but in years past, they made their choice.

Now they scratch the fleas from the dogs they have laid down with.

Posted by: _Jon at July 26, 2006 09:21 AM

While I do agree that the Geneva Conventions need a clarifying update to better define conflicts against non-nation-state organizations, it is not completely useless. Your basis for the statement seems to be that nobody holds Hezbollah accountable to GC, but that is moot. Nobody holds anyone accountable to GC except the opposing party. Enforcement of GC is managed through a system of reprisal - if one party to the conflict fails to adhere to the GC, the GC explicitly states that the opposing party is fully within their rights to engage in acts of reprisal - violations of the GC conducted against the offending party, in order to punish them. Affording them nation-state status would be tremendously inappropriate, as it would provide Hezbollah greater protections, without requiring any greater responsibility. By not declaring as a nation-state, not forming a responsible and identifiable military organization, Hezbollah loses the protections the GC affords prisoners.

Posted by: cyfir at July 26, 2006 09:30 AM

I blogged about this subject a few days ago, although I left the conclusion open.

But we certainly need to rethink how we approach modern low-intensity protracted wars that involve whole populations brainwashed into believing that they are all holy warriors.

Posted by: Mike at July 26, 2006 10:30 AM

Actually I disagree... brigands are brigands and the Geneva convention provides for them. They are to be dealt with summarily as the war criminals they are.

Posted by: DANEgerus at July 26, 2006 12:06 PM

you righties are starting to wise up to the idea that Israel only exists because of it's abliity to manipulate the US and UN. were we in a state of anarchy israel would have been driven out of their illegal state in 1967. they are a beaurocratic terrorist state

Posted by: lester at July 26, 2006 01:12 PM


We righties don't want them driven out, and you lefties don't have the balls!

Posted by: USMC Pilot at July 26, 2006 03:59 PM

"were we in a state of anarchy israel would have been driven out of their illegal state in 1967. they are a beaurocratic terrorist state" lester

Since you didn't chose the 1948 war, are we to understand that you agree with the original borders?

If you hold that Israel's very existance as a country in the ME is illegal, upon what do you base this assertion?

Do you hold that the ancestral jewish claim to Israel is invalid? If so, is it the force that the Roman's used in expelling the Jews from Israel which invalidates the Jewish claim? A case of might makes right?

Or is it the length of time that passed between 70AD and 1948? If so, what length of time qualifies in your view? What justification do you offer in support for whatever amount of time you think appropriate?

Please provide your rationale for the assertion that Israel is an 'illegal state'.

Posted by: d_Brit at July 26, 2006 04:26 PM

"Or is it the length of time that passed between 70AD and 1948"

yes, you cannot come back to a country after nearly 1900 years and kick everyone who lives there out. the canaanites, philistines and israelites had shared the land anyway. it was never a jewish state.

that's not even my point. my point is: if the pigrims had come to america and there were 300 million indians with a simliar level of civilization, there never would have been an america. we were lucky because they bought our lies and there were more of us than them. israel doesn't have this advantage. the arabs were on to their designs from the begining and have never accepted them.

it's far safer for a jew in america, england or australia than israel. how many jews died in israel this week like 80? how many died in england: none i bet. or rather, none were killed for being jewish or zionists or whatever.

it's the same with taiwan. if china wants to take taiwan, what are we gonna do? fight a naval battle against taiwan??

It was easy to back taiwan and israel when islam and china were nothing. things change.

Posted by: lester at July 26, 2006 04:56 PM

naval battle against china i meant

Posted by: lester at July 26, 2006 05:00 PM

You're all over the place there lester but I think I get you.

You asserted some popular PC historical inaccurracies like " we were lucky because they bought our lies and there were more of us than them."

Actually there were far, far more indians than europeans until about the early 19th century. Remember the europeans at that point had been in the americas for well over 300 yrs.

As for lies being responsible for the decline of the American Indian, that a real stretch. Guns, Germs and Steel were far more likely causes.

Posted by: d_Brit at July 26, 2006 05:18 PM

Ok lester, so the Jewish claim to the land of Israel is invalidated by their loss of it?

"it was never a jewish state." Here's another historical inaccurracy. Besides the Bible, BTW accepted by Islam, we have numerous evidence of the existence of Israel, as a Jewish state, not least of all from Roman historians.

That canard disposed of, lets 'fine-tune' your objection as to time. How long is enough? 500 yrs? 100 yrs.? 50yrs.?

Or is it, as I suspect, simply that they lost the land and the arabs occupied it?

Posted by: d_Brit at July 26, 2006 05:25 PM

d brit- your right i was all over the place there sorry. there were mamny battles up until the 19th century between indians and the european settlers. we didn't beat the indians with some UN mandate. we fought them. if indians had similar weaponry and , stretching the analogy, some kind of Indian media to alert indians around the country, the results would have been far less favorable to the europeans. and I wasn't trying to be PC I was trying to be fair. the state seal for massachusetts, my home state, used to have an indian saying "come and help us" or something. obviously it didn't quite work out that way.

I was going to post a link to a pdf file of henry cattan's "palestine before 1917" but the page is broken for some reason. but jews claims to israel is as exaggerated as the Crusades.

Posted by: lester at July 26, 2006 06:35 PM


Actually a naval battle against China would not be that difficult since they have little or no navy. The Taiwnaees are a democratic peoples to whom we have pledged our support. Would you have us so easily go back on our word. Like most lefties, you a strong on principle until it becomes a hinderance to your very ordered idea of life.

Posted by: USMC Pilot at July 26, 2006 06:44 PM

USMC- I'll take you at your word, but China is on it's way to becoming a superpower. what then? and what if we are stretched thin by the 7 or 8 wars the neo cons want: north korea, sudan, somalia, Iran?

Posted by: lester at July 26, 2006 06:53 PM

lester, had the indians had the same weaponry presupposes the same underlying structure needed to invent and produce that weaponry. That aside, given equivalency of means, the indians would have much more successfully defended their territory.

As to China, Taiwan will be a source of potential conflict with the US unless the forces of capitalism and openness introduced into China bring about political change prior to China's military ascendency.

Posted by: d_Brit at July 26, 2006 07:03 PM


I'm waiting for you to respond to my prior post:

"Ok lester, so the Jewish claim to the land of Israel is invalidated by their loss of it?

"it was never a jewish state." Here's another historical inaccurracy. Besides the Bible, BTW accepted by Islam, we have numerous evidence of the existence of Israel, as a Jewish state, not least of all from Roman historians.

That canard disposed of, lets 'fine-tune' your objection as to time. How long is enough? 500 yrs? 100 yrs.? 50yrs.?

Or is it, as I suspect, simply that they lost the land and the arabs occupied it?

Posted by: d_Brit at July 26, 2006 07:07 PM


"what if we are stretched thin by the 7 or 8 wars the neo cons want"

It is your basic premis that is wrong. Neo cons( what ever the hell that is) don't want war any more that soldiers do (since they are the ones who do the dying). China as a super power is not a threat, since it will be a economic super power not a military one. Even if they become extremely powerful militarily, MAD will always be the prevailing factor. It kept the Soviet Union at bay, and I doubt that the Chinees will ever be willing to spend that much money to equal what the Soviets had.

The thing that makes the world a more dangerous place is not confronting rouge nations and terrorist organizations as soon as they appear. This entire mess would never have happened had President Carter had the guts to do the right thing when our embassy in Iran was taken. An immediate and massive retalliation against Iran would have shown the world that we were not to be messed with.

Posted by: USMC Pilot at July 26, 2006 07:24 PM

first of all, if you don't know what a neo con is you better ask somebody. read the weekly standard they are pushing for a war with Iran now. even though we have two failed half wars still going at several billion per month to the american taxpayer. Many of whom don't believe in the mission, in iraq anyway.

Neither you or I can predict where China will be in 20 years but I am assuming they are going up rather than down. They currently own a sizaeble portion of our debt.

The US had no business supporting the shah. he was a tyrant. khomenie ended up being worse, but like battista in cuba, they only knew that in retrospect. they had a democratically elected president mossadeugh and the US and brits drove him out and put the Shah in. the iranians who took americans hostages went over the line, but they were vitims of the shah's regime which was supported by the US. Besides, we DID get them back. It was called the Iran-Iraq war and it went on for 8 years.

the US is a republic not an empire. we have no interest or right in getting into other countries affairs. particularly with two massive unprotected borders any terrorist could waltz through any day of the week.

Posted by: lester at July 26, 2006 07:31 PM


still waiting...

Posted by: d_Brit at July 26, 2006 08:01 PM


"failed half wars"?

War is not a sports event with four equal quarters and a half time. You fight till you win, or you loose.

You change topics so quikly that I am having trouble keeping track of which ones you want me to respond to. Are we on the borders now, or is China's pending superpower status still worth discussion.

BTW, it isn't getting into other countries affairs, when you bomb the hell out of them for taking your embassy.

Posted by: USMC Pilot at July 26, 2006 08:12 PM

Sorry, have to sign off for now. Putting in new carpeting tomorrow, and have to shut down the computer.

Posted by: USMC Pilot at July 26, 2006 08:14 PM

I hate it when trolls hijack a thread....

Posted by: _Jon at July 26, 2006 10:06 PM

and kick your ass doing it. you guys can nit pick at my STYLE all you want. I don't care. You're not gonna convince me that spending money on unneccasary wars is anything other than socialism. Israel and the defense industries can get their welfare and nanny state protection from China is they really can't make it on their own.

d brit- what is it you want to know? China is not going to follow your rules for becoming a superpower. the soviet union was a brutal oppresive one. the arab world is not going to accept israel no matter how democratic or modern they become. IN fact, the modernization will simply give them bigger and better tools to drive their zionist enemies into the sea.

as far as when does the land no longer belong to you? when you leave. one second after you leave. Israel has managed to take land and they will have to fight for it forever or abandon it. I suggest the latter. It's not that great a neighborhood.

USMC- supporting the shah was a much worse act than holding hostages at an embassy.

and fine, two FAILED wars in afghanistan and Iraq.

Posted by: lester at July 27, 2006 11:21 AM

Thank you lester, finally you answered the question. No offense but do you suffer from attention deficit disorder? I never brought up China, you did. You're so over the place you appear to be having difficulty keeping things straight.

"as far as when does the land no longer belong to you? when you leave. one second after you leave." lester

Strictly speaking, the ancient Jews didn't 'leave', they were forced off the land by the Romans. But I get what you mean.


However, then by your own reasoning, the Palestinians have NO valid claim to the land of Israel. They were forced to relinquish political control of the land by the UN. The Palestinians 'left' Israel 50 years ago!

If the Jewish claim to Israel was 'canceled' by Roman use of force and time elapsed, how can you or Muslims honestly avoid the charge of hypocrisy when considering the Jewish claim to Israel by right of conquest?

In three wars, 1948, 1967 and 1973 Israel established its 'right' to its national existence through force. Islam lost and to the victor go the spoils...

In each of the wars, Israel was attacked, so it cannot be claimed that they gained the land through unlawfully taking land from other nations.

And the Jews did NOT force all the arabs off the land. The UN mandate merely set political boundaries. Over a million arabs live in Israel, the majority on the land and houses their family occupied in 1947.

Are Muslims hypocrites? Are they sore losers? After all, Muslims started the wars with full expectations of taking the land back through force. When they lost, will they now cry, as children, unable to accept the 'rules', that they established?

Yes they will cry and do. Israel's only fault is that they haven't finished what the arabs started.

Your assertion that Israel is a 'terrorist' state is no more true than the assertion that you're an asshole...

Wait, your being an ignorant jerk is true. My bad.

Ok, but you get the idea. Don't you?

Just in case the 'idea' is a little too complex for you lester, I'll simplify. You said, Israel in 70AD lost their claim to Israel "one second" after they were forced to leave the land. That means the Palestinians 'lost' their claim to 'Palestine' one second after the 1948 peace treaty.

And if you claim otherwise, based on your own words, it makes you a hypocritical asshole.

Posted by: d_Brit at July 27, 2006 03:05 PM

oh no. israel has rightfully won it. that's why hamas isn't whining for a repeal on the balfour declaration. but can israel keep it without the threat of US force is the question. if you were a conservative who believed in free markets, the "hidden hand" would be in the arab worlds favor without the "artificial" US protection.

as far as who started what wars, 48 and 67 were terrorist acts by israel to secure territory. 1973 was indeed started by the arabs.

"And the Jews did NOT force all the arabs off the land. The UN mandate merely set political boundaries. Over a million arabs live in Israel, the majority on the land and houses their family occupied in 1947."

no, they didn't force ALL the arabs off their land but they did force TONS of arabs off the land . deir yassin massacre ring a bell? they just had a celebration in israel for the king david hotel bombing. ariel sharon is probably the most effective terrorist ever.

yes, to the victor goes the spoils. we agree on that my friend.

Posted by: lester at July 27, 2006 03:37 PM

"they did force TONS of arabs off the land"
Not in 1948 they didn't.

"ariel sharon is probably the most effective terrorist ever"
Using the word terrorist as loosely as you do, that 'honor' would have to go to Stalin.

Israeli 'terrorism' is always a reaction to unceasing, unacceptable arab attacks. Even good people, pressed hard enough occassionally do bad things. The Islamists do them as a matter of course.

In the final analysis, the difference between the Israeli's and the Islamists is expressed in one word. Shame.

When Israel's crimes are pointed out, they feel shame.

When the Islamists crimes are pointed out, they deny that when they do them these are crimes, and joyously yell Allahu Akbar!

If you can't see the difference, you're morally blind.

If you can see the difference and knowingly deny it, you are morally culpable.

Posted by: d_Brit at July 27, 2006 06:35 PM

brit- I guess we just have different readings of the history of this conflict. I'm pretty sure most israelis would not deny the deir yassin massacre or king david hotel bombing. quite the contrary they are proud of them. nelson mandela was a terrorist. now he is a celebrated human rights guy. just out of curiosity, have you ever read any palestinian histories / opinions on the issue?

Posted by: lester at July 28, 2006 12:29 PM