Wednesday, January 26, 2005

In war, are there terrorists?

Interesting report of an Italian case in which terrorism charges were dropped because the alleged acts existed within a context of war. The men were accused of recruiting suicide bombers etc to go to Iraq, seemingly after hostilities had broken out in that country.

Unpalatable as this ruling may seem, taking into account the outrage by Italian politicians who see this potentially gutting anti-terrorism laws put in place after Sept 11 2001, and in no way defending terrorism, this legal position seems thoughtful. I mean, bombing bridges, factories, and flying a plane into the Pentagon may be thought of as terrorist attacks under normal circumstances, but  during a war a clandestine infiltration of enemy territory to destroy war capacity is if not respected (by the victim) it is at least more common tactic. In fact, clandestine missions (performed by our side) enjoy respect and pride in popular culture.

The true irony would be if the declaration of a War on Terror, so useful in galvanizing American popular opinion in favor of military action against those (arguably) uninvolved in Sept 11, were to result in unsuccessful prosecution of those captured because a war permits different standards of behaviour.

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