The rules of war
The Tamil Tigers attacked a Sri Lankan naval transport with seven hundred men on it. The transport was saved by its escorts but not before one of the accompanying warships was itself destroyed. At least seventy persons have died on both sides of the naval battle. The Times of London reports:
The Navy said that 17 crewmen were killed when Tiger suicide bombers rammed into a fast-attack boat off the northern tip of Sri Lanka. It also said that it had sunk 5 rebel vessels, killing about 50 Tamil Tigers. The transporter, which was carrying 710 troops, sought refuge in Indian waters.
“They went for the Pearl Cruise [the transporter] with unarmed soldiers on board and [a truce monitor] flag on the top. It’s a big violation,” said Major General Ulf Henricsson, the head of the Nordic Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission. “It’s almost the same as terminating the ceasefire by will,” he added, saying that there had been shelling in Trincomalee and Sampur in separate attacks in the east of Sri Lanka
The Washington Post has more details.
"About 15 LTTE boats including suicide boats attacked one of our vessels transporting 710 soldiers," Dassanayake said. "Navy fast-attack boats escorting the vessel engaged the Tiger boats and one of them was destroyed by a suicide boat," he said, adding there were about 20 sailors on board the stricken vessel. ... Helen Olafsdottir, spokeswoman for the European-led Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission, said a truce monitor was in the troop carrier with the soldiers. "This is very serious," she told BBC television. "It is getting worse."
So much for the Geneva Convention. Diplomats are supposed to be "protected persons" under international law but a whole buildingful of them were blown up at the Canal Hotel in Baghdad on August 19, 2003 by terrorist attackers. According to Wikpedia:
The explosion occurred while Benon Sevan, director of the "Oil for food program," was holding a press conference. Sevan was among the wounded. The explosion damaged a spinal cord treatment center at the hospital nearby and the shockwave was felt a mile away. ... There is speculation that Sérgio Vieira de Mello, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, may have been specifically targeted in the blast due to the proximity of the explosion to his office. The UN building may have been chosen due to its limited security.
Recently members of the Christian Peacemaker Teams were kidnapped by thugs or terrorists in Iraq, and one of them was killed. The rest were resentfully rescued by Coalition forces. Now fighting between warlords and Islamists has broken out in Somalia. According to Forbes:
A radical Islamic force battled for a strategic road Thursday in a continuing struggle with secular warlords for control of the northern half of Somalia's capital, which has left at least 130 people dead. ... Militia loyal to the Islamic Court Union, a grouping of radical Islamic leaders banded together in a self-appointed court system, have been fighting since Sunday to capture a strategic road through northern Mogadishu from the secular Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counterterrorism. While the alliance has held the road through Sii-Sii, the court union has controlled the neighborhoods on either side.
The alliance accuses the union of having ties to al-Qaida, while the Islamists say the warlords are puppets of the United States. The courts are popular in Mogadishu because in recent years they have provided the only form of governance in the city. ...
Somalia has had no effective central government since then, although a U.N.-backed transitional government has been set up in Baidoa, 150 miles west of Mogadishu. Some of the warlords behind the secular alliance are members of the transitional parliament, though they are fighting the Islamists on their own.
It's doubtful whether either the warlords or the Islamists have much regard for the Laws of War and one wonders what exactly the "U.N.-backed transitional government" actually does. British Defense Secretary John Reid created a stir by suggesting that the Geneva Convention be updated to reflect the realities of terrorism. "The legal constraints upon us have to be set against an enemy that adheres to no constraints whatsoever." It is probably fortunate that a European has posed this question because this ball really belongs in the court of the transnationalists. Any attempts to obtain realistic rules of engagement against terrorists by a US administration will be branded as fascistic. So lets pose the question: how should one deal with combatants who have no regard for ceasefires, women, children, flags of truce, churches, mosques or the Rules of War?