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Thoughts on The Iranian Situation

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on January 11, 2020 10:27

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The tragic downing of an airliner in Iran underlines the dangers inherent in a war situation: unpredictable events carry unforseen results. Yet mankind has spent the last four thousand years trying to find ways of regulating exactly this sort of conflict, and preventing this sort of tragedy. The victims of the Ukrainian Boeing deserve a mature response.

Thomas Hobbes described the life of man, in a primitive society, as 'solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short'. No wonder then that people spent the last four thousand years trying to regulate conflict.

Hammurabi of Babylon, in the present war-wracked Baghdad, erected a stone pillar in 1770 BC with his famous laws inscribed in it, for all men to see and uphold. And while the Code of Hammurabi does allow an "eye for an eye" punishment, blood feuds or private retribution was not recognized. 

The Code of Hammurabi, carved in stone. Photo Louvre

The Vikings, independent and hard fighters, knew that violence would not resolve their conflicts, and were poineers in setting up democratic institutions such as the 'Althing' or open-air assembly, where disputes would be heard and laws made in the presence of everyone. 

In Africa similar traditions exist: a traditional Kgotla or court, where the village headman or tribal chief would hear a dispute, allowing everyone to claim and counter-claim, until a consensus has been reached. Then a binding decision would be taken and announced by an elder. Disputes between Chiefs would be brought before a Paramount Chief. 

Matters between sovereigns were brought before the gods, and in Europe that worked until the Holy Roman Empire ended. But centuries of conflict in Europe only came to an end when 'The Peoples of the United Nations' decided, at the end of World War II to set up a supreme law and conflict resolution mechanism.

Hence the stirring words of the Preamble, accepted in San Franciso in 1945. In this frame the Nurenberg trials prosecuted Nazi war criminals. One of the important Nurenberg Principles held that wanton destruction of cities, towns and villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity, would constitute a war crime.

Likewise the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilians in Time of War ruled in its article 33 that collective punishment of innocent people to punish guilty individuals constituted a war crime. 

It is clear that the acts of war or terror perpetrated by the likes of Bin Laden against those he considered his legal, divinely sanctioned enemies, transgressed these rules of war, and thus action taken against him was justified. 

But when we see the present situation of threats of massive retaliation for just one death, destruction of cultural sites, and devastation on a massive scale, one wonders where the balance lies. 

The Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif committed his country to submit to international law, and the Iranian Government publically admitted to the 'tragic mistake' of shooting down the Ukrainian airliner. This is what one would expect from a mature government. 

Theodore Ropp wrote that war was 'just another form of politics', but an inaccurate and inefficient form. 

Mature governments should now step in and end this useless and dangerous conflict. 

 

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on January 11, 2020 10:27

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Source: HuffPost
5

Iran initially denied that a missile downed the Ukrainian airliner for days.

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