Sunday, 4 May 2008
[first posted 23rd April]
There are many useful phrases in war. "Collateral damage" is used quite a lot. It suggests that the death of civilians - old people, the ill, non-combatants, dissidents, men, women and children - was an unfortunate accident and that the dead simply found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Warmakers need such a phrase. It's illegal to target civilians and when civilians are targeted "as part of a plan or policy or large-scale commission of such crimes," the perpetrators can find themselves up before the International Criminal Court.
But some countries opt out. China and the United States of America refuse to accept the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. The establishing Treaty was signed by President Clinton but George W. Bush "unsigned" the Treaty. One of the reasons the Bush administration gave was the protection of United States soldiers and officials who might be prosecuted for war crimes and crimes against humanity. President Bush and his officials have thus made themselves immune from prosecution for torture, even though key members of Bush's administration met to discuss exactly what torture techniques could be used on suspects.
At least the Bush administration is coming to an end ... and that used to fill me with relief. I've been worried about John McCain's apparent willingness to continue a hundred-year occupation of Iraq, which sounds like a hundred year war to me. But the Democrats seem to have a chance, even though the continuing contest probably damages their chances. And that used to strike me as a good thing, whether the winner were Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton.
And then Hillary Clinton answered a question about Iran. What would she do as president if Iran launched a nuclear attack on Israel. It says something about American politics that she wasn't asked what she would be if Israel launched a nuclear attack on Iran, although that's a more likely scenario. At the moment Israel is the only nuclear power in the Middle East.
Hillary Clinton's reply isn't entirely clear, though this useful blog from The Times includes a video clip of the interview. She said: “I want the Iranians to know that if I’m the president, we will attack Iran. In the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them." Her words sound horribly as though she's considering a pre-emptive strike. And she doesn't bother to use the euphemism "collateral damage". She threatens a whole country and the 71 million people who live there with annihilation. That sounds like a war crime to me.
I'm in no position to campaign against Hillary Clinton. Although Britain feels increasingly like a United States colony, I can campaign only for and against my own elected representatives. But I'm angry that Hillary Clinton, whose supporters proclaim that she is the great hope of feminism, can advance such views.
Hillary's supporters often charge women who oppose her with betrayal of feminism. When I was involved in the Women's Movement, it was concerned with the rights of all women, not just Americans. I don't see how any feminist can vote for a candidate who threatens the "obliteration" of millions of women with their children and families.
The picture is of Nagasaki, by the way - before and after the single nuclear bomb was dropped. Nuclear weapons were smaller then.