The Eichmann Defence – “I was just following orders!” – didn’t work for Eichmann, nor should it have. Nor did it work for William Calley at Mai Lai. It’s a scandal, then, that we all let it pass for Romeo Dallaire in Rwanda. He and his men were armed. And yet, because they were sent as observers only, they stood by and watched slaughter after slaughter rather than intervene.
Ah, but they couldn’t have intervened without endangering themselves.
A soldier who won’t endanger himself isn’t. Isn’t what? A soldier. And a road covered in dead bodies doesn’t need a witness to how they got there.
And the same holds for the so-called no-fly zone being called for in the skies over Ukraine. To count as enforcing a no-fly zone, NATO fighters could be armed with air-to-air ordnance only. Beneath them, clearly visible, are batteries of Russian artillery levelling civilian apartment blocks, schools, and hospitals.
Oh but we can’t intervene because we only have air-to-air missiles.
Then carry a few air to surface missiles aloft with you.
Oh but we can’t because then in not intervening we’d just be following orders.
Kofi Annan should never have put Dallaire and his men in that position in the first place. But neither should Dallaire have accepted such an assignment. Putting American pilots in the sky – and for their part their taking to the sky – to observe but not interfere in the slaughter of innocents, is just the Eichmann Defence all over again. “If you see something say something!” is why we have cell phones. But “If you see something do something!” is why we have soldiers.