With all decent Americans focusing on President Bush's military orders as having caused the death of hundreds of thousands, one tends to forget President Clinton's orders also took thousands of innocent lives with missile attacks in three countries.
[ The following was originally published by Window, a Hong Kong magazine, July 16, 1993, as "Any Recourse for Iraqi Mother?" - The author, an American musician, berates the mass media for presenting officials' justification of military strikes that kill innocent children". ]
July 16, 1993,
The individuals accused of attempting to assassinate former US President [George Walker] Bush in Kuwait have been arrested and face trial.
US President Clinton announced that he ordered precautions to "minimize loss of innocent lives." Twenty-four missiles were fired into a large crowded city and only eight people were reported killed, so apparently the US military succeeded in following his directive.
However, the world keeps hearing about American respect for individual human rights. What about the individual human rights of this child?
We can assume that no one intentionally targeted this child, so no murder charge would be filed. But a charge of manslaughter seems appropriate and consistent with American jurisprudence.
Had President Clinton announced that he had ordered the military to take all precautions so that no innocent life would be lost, the problem of whom to indict would be complicated indeed.
In that case, a charge of manslaughter could hypothetically have been brought against military personnel for disobeying a presidential order by intentionally seeking the deaths of innocents whom the president had ordered spared. Perhaps even the corporation that manufactured the missiles could be indicted, for false claims of missile accuracy. Could a charge of negligence be brought against US military intelligence personnel who programmed the target?
But the president said quite clearly "minimize." The one-and-a-half-year-old's life is the minimum part of the president's order. It is not legitimate and logical to ask whether this child had any human rights which were violated by President Clinton's order stipulating minimum loss of innocent lives?
Had the US proposals been agreed upon at the Vienna International Conference on Human Rights, could the mother of this Iraqi sue the US government in a UN court?
Certainly no one could compare this intentional murder by a mentally disturbed person with a military order from the leader of the world's only superpower. But the question of what constitutes lawful respect for individual human rights of all people glaringly applies to any case of violent retaliation.
Former President Bush's human rights were threatened, and although he was unharmed, some non-American lives or rights to life were deemed expendable in what was described by Clinton as an appropriate retaliatory response. The child's death becomes appropriate.