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.

Categories: Editorials, Everything You Wanted to Know About What's Going On in the World But Were Afraid to Ask

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4 replies

  1. Is there a difference in culpability between Eichmann following orders to kill millions of people and Dallaire following orders to do nothing but observe?

    Liked by 1 person

    • At the risk of sounding like a Nazi apologist, Eichmann didn’t kill anyone. He was ordered to see to the transportation of inconveniences to the Reich to the camps. He was judged culpable – and rightly so I think – of being complicit in their subsequent murder. Dallaire had the means to protect the Hutu’s Tutsi inconveniences and was ordered not to do so. He had an obligation NOT to obey that order. Neither of their respective refusals would have stopped either genocide. I grant we might have independent reasons for being more forgiving of Dallaire than Eichmann, but not on the grounds that the latter was less complicit than the former. Coincidentally I wrote a paper on precisely this issue as it relates to Pius XII.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. If NATO does try to close the skies to attenuate a war crime, I believe the Air Tasking Order will include all the weapons and support necessary to shoot everything on the ground or in the air that has a Z on it. It’s not really a no-fly zone when you are fighting a peer adversary in an active war zone. It’s just plain war. Like Germany tried to achieve during the Battle of Britain. Attack the radar sites, the runways, the SAMs that want to shoot you down, and yes, any Russian planes that venture up to fight. Bomb the artillery that is shelling Kyiv and Kharkiv and Mariupol, if you can find it, remembering that much of it is mobile and shooting from inside Russian territory, especially the short-range ballistic missiles. Granted many of the gun-howitzers and Stalin’s organs are probably in Ukraine and amenable to destruction with precision-guided munitions. It will be a target-rich environment as they say, at great cost in planes until you neutralize Russian SAMs. Once the SAMs are gone, bring in the B-52s to crater the Russian border zones.

    What NATO’s commanders will not do is put their planes and pilots at risk without full authority to shoot at whatever threats they can find, especially if the purpose of the exercise is to save civilian lives. But to do that, NATO will be bombing Russia. Just as long as that’s clear. You have made good arguments that we could probably get away with it and make Putin fold, especially since artillery (including missiles) is about the only way left he has to prosecute his war as Plan C. (Here I’m sounding like the Walter Groteschele character in Fail Safe (played by Walter Matthau in the movie.).

    In defense of Gen. Dallaire: When we put guns into the hands of our uniformed citizens, we want to be sure they won’t shoot if ordered not to, especially when deployed in foreign countries. His force, much diminished after the Belgian government pulled its soldiers out from underneath him, did manage to shelter, under its armed protection as ordered, some thousands of Tutsi in various sanctuaries around the city of Kigali until Kagame’s RPF came to the rescue (more or less.) If Dallaire had disobeyed his orders from the Canadian government and started his own private war against the government of Rwanda (committing soldiers from nations other than Canada), those people would have been murdered too, once the Rwandan Army had finished off his little force. I know it doesn’t seem much against 800,000. Or perhaps the Hutu blood lust would have been quenched with the first one felled with a Canadian rifle bullet. A rotten mission given him by a rotten organization.

    Neither Eichmann (nor pretty well anybody connected with the Holocaust) nor Calley had to be coerced into doing what they did. (“You want us to do this thing we’re normally not allowed to? Where do we sign up?!”) “Following orders” was an excuse made up after the fact to make themselves look less like monsters, is all..

    Liked by 2 people

    • Once again, Leslie is right. NATO couldn’t deploy warplanes to keep the Russians out of Ukrainian airspace without protecting themselves from Russian ground-to-air missile sites, some of which, as Leslie points out, will be located in Russian territory. So now a no-fly zone over Ukraine becomes an attack on Russian territory. So it really is a case of go big or go home. Needless to say, I’d like to see NATO call Putin’s nuclear bluff and go big, but then Armageddon aside, southern Alberta isn’t in the crosshairs of that bluff. As to Leslie’s qualified defence of Romeo Dallaire, it looks like I’m going to have write another full blog entry on the subject. Just as soon as I’ve prepped a couple of lectures I have to give tomorrow, the first on the ontology of national borders, the second in the Philosophy of War. Never let it be said philosophy isn’t about the real world!

      Liked by 1 person

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