Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

The contradictions of counterterrorism

(Conal Gallagher/Flickr)

The recent offensive in Mosul, conducted by a coalition of U.S. and Iraqi forces, demands reflection of the political activist, the citizen and more importantly those who claim to have a moral sensibility.

On March 17, U.S. forces launched an airstrike on the Iraqi city of Mosul that “may have killed more than 100 people,” according to the Washington Post. As reported by the Post, “If confirmed the number would mark the biggest loss of civilian life in a single incident since the coalition’s air campaign began 2 1/2 years ago.”

This apparent and egregious disregard for human life, conducted under the auspice of “counterterrorism,” is deserving of analysis.

In the current era of the “war on terror,” it is relevant to define those actions we deem to be “terroristic.” The U.S. Code of Federal Regulations provides an excellent definition: “unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.”

Notable, and relevant to the discussion of international counterterrorism, is the term “unlawful.” Who is to determine what constitutes as lawful or unlawful? In domestic affairs, this question is answered rather simply: the state — namely the United States. Any violation of this law, that is to say any terrorist act perpetrated in the United States, is met with serious consequence and justifiably so. There is no justification for such actions.

But what do we say of international affairs? By what law, and by consequence by what supranational entity, do states submit themselves to? The political idealist, and much of the world, would argue that all states should be subservient to international law and its arbiter, the United Nations. It is not unreasonable, therefore, to conjecture that the United States should abide by those standards; for if a standard is a standard, it should apply to all and not some.

The United Nations, as it currently stands, is unable to come to a consensus on an internationally-recognized definition of terrorism. However, it acknowledges that terrorism invalidates rules of warfare — like those found in the 1949 Geneva Conventions.

The Convention states: “Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely … To this end, the following act are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons: violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds…”

The Convention is clear. Any invalidation of these stipulations is considered woefully unlawful and immoral by the most elementary of standards. The “March 17 incident” is an invalidation of both those guidelines set forth by the United States’ own domestic law and the internationally recognized parameters of warfare.

Benevolent intentions (i.e. spreading the seeds of democracy) are irrelevant to those victims of aerial bombardment or, by definition, terrorism. One might be forced to ask, at this point, how is it that the United States military and political apparatus can conduct itself in this manner? With disregard for law and ethics, and more injuriously, that it can unilaterally denounce that which it purports?

Apologists of this vein of staunch militarism will perhaps entertain the notion that these damages are collateral and are not the intended target. The implication of this proposition is revealing. It is therefore justifiable for a higher cause to disregard hundreds if not thousands of lives as long as the “target” is achieved. (This conclusion calls from the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 — an event hardly conceived, in popular recollection, as heinous as those conducted on September 11, 2001).

The United States government continues to unilaterally and selectively decide that which it deems to be “terroristic,” disregarding its own criterion and continuing to demonstrate a level of hypocrisy almost unparalleled in the course of human history. The “March 17 incident” is only one of many incidents that have occurred in this month alone that have demonstrated — with remarkable volume — the current administration’s agenda and, by consequence, its views on the worth of foreign, especially Iraqi and Syrian, citizens. It is one that calls for further analysis and criticism.

Josh Raposa is a Collegian contributor and can be reached at [email protected].

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    ArafatApr 5, 2017 at 7:40 pm

    We should charge the Nobel Prize recipient, Barrack Obama, with war crimes. That’s the message I get from your article.