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To disregard human rights is to disregard justice

Editor:
    The Herald did well to place the "U.S. dropping more bombs" story on the front page (June 6), and the Associated Press special correspondent, Charles J. Hanley, did not shirk a reporter's duty when he carefully noted early in the piece that the bombing "at more than twice the rate of a year ago … appears to be accompanied by a rise in Iraqi civilian casualties."
    A further ramification from the horrible increase in civilian casualties reaches our own shores, our laws and customs, and even our attitudes. The bombing undermines our understanding of human rights. To say so, however, may prompt the reply that war always entails ruination and "collateral damage," for, of course, military as actions are not formulated with human rights in mind. Be that as it may, our Constitution, especially the first 10 Amendments, the Bill of Rights, depends upon human rights, as does much of international law. To disregard human rights is to disregard justice.
    The question of civilian rights in war is a very old and much debated matter. For centuries, in the Christian church and in international law, the question of "jus in bello," what is right to do in war, has been argued often. The "Oxford Companion to Philosophy" (1995, "war, just," p. 905), summarizes: "The two most important conditions for 'jus in bello' were that the means employed should be 'proportional' to the end aimed at (that is, the war should not be fought in such a way as to constitute a greater evil than the evil the war was intended to remedy), and that it was not permissible to kill 'the innocent' (understood to mean non-combatants, civilians)."
    But the Iraq war was an unnecessary invasion following a long period of U.S. and British complete domination of Iraqi air space. That domination of air has continued to such an extent that bombing can continue at will. Being careful about civilians near the targets would be difficult even if Iraq were not in civil war; but with battle lines or combat areas changing because of indigenous conflicts, the chances of bombing inaccurately increase despite exacting technology.
    Reporter Hanley says the increase in bombing "reflects increased availability of planes from U.S. aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf." This suggests perhaps the most damaging long-term harm to our own country — an unthinking, might-makes-right habit of action. However, the rights involved, civilian and military, do not originate from might. They originate from human existence.
Luther Scales
Statesboro

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