Thoughts on the military and military activities of a diverse nature. Free-ranging and eclectic.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Human Shield.

This is coolbert:

The human shield.

A disreputable practice that unfortunately has been practiced by armies throughout history. By modern standards, this practice is a violation of the Laws of Land Warfare.

It is a known fact that the Mongols [well, these were the Mongols, what would you expect??] utilized human shields. When invading a land, they would capture and drive in front of them peasantry that would act as human shields. This was used especially when besieging a fortified city or a castle. An effective technique that causes great consternation for the defenders. What to do??

In the movie, "Breaker Morant", incidents of where human shields were used during the Boer War [1900] were mentioned. It seems the pesky Boers were proficient at mining railroad tracks used by the British military. Many military trains would run over one of these mines and set it off, derailing the train and causing casualties and all sorts of mayhem. Some enterprising Britishers thought up to use Boer prisoners as human shields. Tied Boer POW's were placed on flatcars that ran in front of the steam locomotives. As the train ran down the tracks, if the tracks were mined, the first car to set off the mine would be the flatcar with the Boer prisoners on it. They would all be killed or badly wounded. Voila, the practice of mining the tracks stopped almost at once.

There is another mention of human shields being used in Vietnam from an interesting book that has been out for some time now. This book is called "Devil's Guard". Supposed true story of a French Legion battalion in Indo-China consisting of Germans, many of whom were members of the Waffen SS. One chapter describes how a convoy to relieve a besieged French fort was able to pass through guerrilla country [Viet Minh], unmolested. Vietnamese villagers, women, children, old people, were piled onto trucks escorted by tanks that drove through an area infested by guerrillas, guerrillas that had previously wiped out several French relief columns. Loud speakers were used to broadcast the voices of the villagers as they transitted the road on route to the besieged fort. The convoy made it through without a scratch or a shot being fired!!

And of course we all remember the time Saddam Hussein made a threat to use western "guests" as human shields for his vital installations, such as the oil fields. Would place the "guests" around these installations and dare the coalition air force to bomb. The threat of course would be that bombing would kill these shields and cause all sorts of anguish among members of the coalition. Was threatened, but did not happen.

Now, in recent times, we find the phenomenon of "volunteer human shields". Persons using their bodies in a voluntary and reckless manner to stop a military action. The idea is that no military will dare to do what they are doing, if the voluntary human shields are in the way. To bomb will cause excessive human casualties and will become an impermissible tactic [bombing].

This phenomenon appeared first in Serbia, during the 90 day bombing offensive a few years ago. To stop allied air forces from bombing bridges, power plants, etc., Serb civilians would place themselves either near or atop these installations, and dare the allied forces to bomb. The idea is that the threat of mass civilian casualties would cause the bombers to stop and end the conflict, or at any rate, diminish it. It did not happen!

We find this same use of voluntary human shields in Israel and Palestine today. When these 50 ton armored Israeli bulldozers come to demolish a bunch of Arab homes, foreign volunteers sympathetic to the Palestinian cause attempt to place their bodies between the bulldozers and the homes to be demolished. This tactic has not had a good record. Several people, including a young women [Rachael Corrie], have been run over in such attempts to be a human shield.



Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home