Tuesday, October 29, 2002
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About that Russian raid
OxBlog is commenting on my multiple Jimmy Carter posts, so it only seems fair to weigh in on their debate about the propriety of the Russian raid on Chechen terrorists over the weekend (Click here, here, and here for the latest news updates; here's the best summary of the Blogosphere's take.)
My view on this is pretty simple. Did the Russians act justly in their actions and methods? Yes and mostly yes. The decision to attack seems justifiable. It was the Chechens that violated jus in bello when they initiated the terrorist operation in the first place. Regardless of whether the Chechens are linked with Al Qaeda, their actions in Moscow were specifically designed to put the lives of non-combatants in mortal jeopardy.
Their methods (the use of some kind of opiate gas) to knock out the terrorists was hardly unjust, and seems to have been designed to minimize the loss of life that a smash-and-grab rescue attempt might have precipitated. Now, there's no question that the logistics were botched -- the failure to inform hospitals, emergency workers, or even their own commandos, for example. However, that's a policy failure, not a moral one. The method of attack seems eminently just.
What gives me serious pause was the decision to execute on the spot terrorists with explosives strapped to them that were already unconscious. Surely, this was an excessive and vindictive act, as clear a violation of jus in bello as you can get. Even the National Review suggests this part of the raid was problematic (see below however).
"The liberal Union of Right Forces party called on Monday for a parliamentary inquiry to determine how Chechen rebels managed to stockpile such quantities of arms and explosives in Moscow and why medical experts had been so poorly prepared to treat the freed hostages after special forces stormed the theater, the party's leader, Boris Nemtsov, said on national television.
Nemtsov said the inquiry should also focus on the extreme secrecy and security measures applied to hospitalized victims, many of whom still have not been allowed to see relatives."
In other words, the Russian media and political classes are acting in a manner consistent with genuine democrats -- questioning whether better planning might have substantially reduced the loss of life. Good for them.
UPDATE: Several e-mails arguing that the Russian commandos had no choice. Parapundit writes in, "Some of them had bombs strapped to them. Imagine what would have happened if one had regained partial consciousness and blown themselves up." Mike P. writes in, "They're knocked out, but you don't how hard they're knocked out or if they're merely faking, and if only one wakes up enough to push his detonator it's all over. They're possibly boobytrapped (and you probably don't know where the trigger is which amounts to the same thing), so you can't disarm the explosives or remove the terrorists without a high risk of disaster."
These are valid points, but wouldn't the appropriate course of action be to ensure they stay unconscious rather than kill them?
Tom H. raises an interesting comparison: "International law permits summary execution of pirates caught in the act. The same principles apply to terrorists caught in the act." For those lawyers out there -- is this true?posted by Dan on 10.29.02 at 02:50 PM