War Crimes? Pffaww…

It’s a good rule of thumb never to let the military conduct its own misconduct investigations. If you don’t follow that advice, you’ll end up with results like this one:

The Israeli army on Monday said it will not press charges against officers who ordered the use of cluster bombs during last year’s war in Lebanon, brushing off international criticism that the weapons unnecessarily put Lebanese civilians at risk.

Announcing the results of a more than year-long probe, the army said investigators determined Israel’s use of cluster bombs was a “concrete military necessity” and did not violate international humanitarian law.

That’s one heck of a conclusion. By almost every account, even the limited use of cluster bombs is a serious violation of international law. There’s a reason for this: there is little accuracy involved in the dropping of cluster bombs, making civilian casualties nearly inevitable. With munitions that release an array of smaller submunitions, the bombs are highly indiscriminate and often remain unexploded until children or other non-military targets come into contact with them.

And, according to UN sources, Israel dropped 4 million cluster bombs, of which 1 million are assumed to be still unexploded. It’s no surprise then that on a regular basis in southern Lebanon there are heartbreaking reports of little kids having their arms or legs blown off by still-active submunitions.

Author: JEB KOOGLER

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9 Comments

  1. I’m curious exactly what is the law they violated, if Israel is a signatory to it. Under Article 85 of the Geneva Conventions, it is a war crime to launch “an indiscriminate attack affecting the civilian population in the knowledge that such an attack will cause an excessive loss of life or injury to civilians.” Under the Hague Conventions, Article 22 and 23, “The right of belligerents to adopt means of injuring the enemy is not unlimited,” and “It is especially forbidden to kill treacherously individuals belonging to the hostile nation or army.” If they just fired the cluster bombs at areas where there were no civilians or/and areas where there was active opposition then by my understanding they did not violate anything.

  2. Bones_708. You make a good point and I don’t know the circumstances of Israel’s use of cluster bombs. I think your argument presumes that the bombs will be detonated upon impact or shortly thereafter. However Israel’s use of these bombs, which don’t explode right away is tantamount to setting booby-traps or planting bombs to damage civilians. You might argue that the children shouldn’t play in areas that were battlegrounds- but what part of Lebanon hasn’t been a battleground or at least fired upon?

    I think if the target of the cluster bombs was a military base- where there is no reasonable expectation of civilians (and if civilians were present, then too bad for them- but that’s like jumping out of the frying pan into the fire) then Israel would have a right to use cluster bombs. But not in civilian areas where there is more than a reasonable expectation that civilians will find them days, weeks, months later and be killed.

    Likewise, if there is an active insurgency in a civilian area, I think the use of munitions that exploded right away, during the course of combat, would be acceptable too. The idea being that civilians would (hopefully) have left or at least taken shelter, therefore civilian casualties would be kept to a minimum. Unfortunately it’s war and civilians will always die for one reason or another.

  3. I think if the target of the cluster bombs was a military base- where there is no reasonable expectation of civilians (and if civilians were present, then too bad for them- but that’s like jumping out of the frying pan into the fire) then Israel would have a right to use cluster bombs. But not in civilian areas where there is more than a reasonable expectation that civilians will find them days, weeks, months later and be killed.

    The problem is there is no backing in law or history for that interpretation. On the contrary. Example: Destroying a hospital is a violation, but as soon as you take fire from that hospital you can turn it into a crater without regard to who might be in it. This is whole acceptable within the laws of war. Individual govt may have different policies, but that doesn’t matter. On the whole if the actions are to attack the enemy and/or to protect yourself not to injure or terrorize then it’s usually legal.

  4. Israel’s crime was dropping a significant portion or most of the cluster bombs at the end of the conflict, not the beginning. What they did was a scorched earth maneuver as an malevolent act to punish Lebanese civilians for their tacit support of Hezbelloh.

  5. Civilians in the areas of concern were warned to leave beforehand. They shouldn’t have been there.

  6. I think we need to keep in mind that use of these cluster munitions is more akin to laying land mines.
    So limited use over a military installation might be strategic, but come on, 4 million?

  7. Israel is not a signatory of the convention banning use of landmines, of course the US also has not signed. If they were they would not be committing war crimes but violating a treaty. Not the same thing. The areas that these were used were areas unoccupied, i.e. a zone adjacent to the border, and sites that directed fire against israel. They didn’t shower the things randomly, which would have been a violation, but used them to interdict specific targets.

  8. Rudi show me where any significant amount were put on a totally civilian target. Anyplace, just one. Mind you it would need to be in the final weeks because that would be when they wanted to “punish” the Lebanese civilians. Personal I have not come across one case of that happening. And your rhetoric is clearly purposely distorted or ignorant. Half of the cluster bombs were fired in the final weeks, not “Most” as you assert. The 4 million is BS also (sorry Rudi I know this was not you so this is not towards you) They fired 2500 or so rounds to reach 4 million sub-munitions there would have to be 1500 in each artillery round. There are not. Hundreds maybe, but not over 1500. The figure for the US in Iraq was over 200,000 sub-munitions in 1204 cluster bombs. So being generous that would put it at 500,000 right? Does anybody have a more accurate number? Human Rights Watch puts it at “a minimum tens of thousands of sub-munitions were used, and possibly hundreds of thousands”. A far cry from 4 million. While there was very few reported civilian casualties when the attacks occurred, and they were in areas with heavy Hezbollah activity. By the way everyone realizes that Hezbollah used rockets carrying sub-munitions against Israel right? Against purely civilian targets with no military value at all?

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