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Tough Issues at Heart of Disagreement Over Iraq

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 19, 2003 – Opposition to U.S. initiatives on Iraq are not surprising, given the complexity of the issues confronting the world, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said today.

The secretary told a Pentagon news conference that democracy indicates there should be discussions on the issues of war and peace in the new security environment.

"These are tough issues. They're complicated," he said. "It's relatively simple when there is an attack on Pearl Harbor or when Germany occupies two or three countries in World War II."

The case is not as simple when confronting 21st century threats. A rogue state having weapons of mass destruction changes the calculus. "It is weapons of vastly greater power in the hands of people who have demonstrated their willingness to use them," he said. "They've threatened their neighbors and us and others."

The threat is serious. The secretary said he believes it will take some time before people realize that the threats today preclude a 20th century response.

Rumsfeld said that while the diplomatic phase with Iraq continues, people should remember the nature of the dictatorship. "For decades, Saddam Hussein has demonstrated that he will not hesitate to take life even on a massive scale," he said.

The secretary specifically mentioned Hussein's use of human shields. During Operation Desert Shield, the six-month coalition buildup in 1990 between Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and the Persian Gulf War, Hussein placed foreign workers around military targets. He even called his hostages "human shields."

"It is a practice that reveals his contempt for the norms of humanity, the laws of armed conflict and, I am advised, Islamic law, practice and belief," Rumsfeld said.

The principle that civilians must be protected lies at the heart of The International Law of Armed Conflict. "It is the distinction between combatants and innocent civilians that terrorism, and practices like the use of human shields, so directly assault," Rumsfeld said.

The secretary said Hussein deliberately builds mosques near military facilities and uses schools, hospitals, orphanages and cultural treasures to shield his military forces.

"These are not tactics of war; they are crimes of war," he said. "Deploying human shields is not a military strategy; it's murder, a violation of the laws of armed conflict and a crime against humanity."

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Air Force Gen. Richard Myers said press reports indicate that 100 "human shield" volunteers from London have arrived in Baghdad.

"I want to note again that it is a violation of the laws of armed conflict to use noncombatants to shield potential military targets -- even those people who may volunteer for this purpose," Myers said. "If death or serious injury to a noncombatant results from these efforts, the individuals responsible for deploying any innocent civilians as human shields could be guilty of grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions."

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