to the Taleban the white flag is a symbol of defiance, and not surrender
Eric LaMont Gregory
It is often said that our economy does not need a conductor, its not like an orchestra, in a free market individuals unless hampered by government meddling will move resources around the economy to their advantage and in the process create wealth, generate jobs and promote prosperity.
Our military does not operate that way, it needs a central command structure, a hierarchy if you will, to amass resources and deploy them to achieve objectives and protect our most important military assets in the process, and that is the service men and women who carry out the tactics on the ground.
When command fails, people get killed, wounded or maimed, unnecessarily.
One of the important features of the white flag is as an internationally, but not universally, recognized sign of a plea for a truce, ceasefire, or a request for negotiation; a parlay. The most recognised use of the white flag however, is to symbolise surrender. And, it should be noted that the white flag is most often but not exclusively employed by the weaker side in a conflict.
A white flag is meant to signify that an approaching negotiator is unarmed, and intends to parlay, that is, to communicate directly with an opposing force during a cessation in hostilities. There are rules that apply to both sides in a conflict in relation to the use of the white flag. And, amongst those who adhere to the rules of war a person carrying or waving a white flag is not to be fired upon, nor is a person carrying a white flag allowed to open fire on ones adversary.
The improper use of a white flag is forbidden by the rules of war and a violation constitutes a war crime, perfidy.
There are numerous recorded examples of perfidy, a breach in the proper use of the white flag, in the history of ancient as well as modern warfare. Combatants have used the white flag as a ruse to approach and attack their enemies. There are also instances where fighters carrying white flags have been fired upon by opposing forces and wounded or killed.
As stated the white flag is widely accepted as a way of temporarily halting hostilities, but this convention is not accepted by everyone who is engaged in an armed conflict.
The conventions and protocols which support the proper use of the white flag, the rules of war as it were, carry with them an understanding that those who do not adhere to the rules of war in the conduct of their hostilities, are not protected by the rules of war. And, this is a very important concept. Those who do not follow the rules, are not protected by the rules.
For example, the rules of war forbid combatants from attacking civilians and from hiding amongst civilian populations to carry out their hostile campaigns. Therefore, a combatant who hides in a civilian population to attack their enemies, or a combatant who kills civilians in the conduct of their war activities have, by the rules of war, committed a war crime; a crime against humanity.
The case against Slobodan Milosevic. There is no evidence or proof that Milosevic ever entered Srebrenica or any of the other places where large numbers of civilians were killed in the Bosnian War. And yet, soldiers under the command of the President, and Commander-in-Chief of the Serbian armed forces systematically killed civilians in the conduct of their war efffort.
The rules of war, recognise the inevitability of civilian casualites in war, and though always regretable as long as civilians are not specifically targeted, the incidental killing of civilians does not constitute a crime in war. However, when civilians are targeted and systematically attacked by combatants and it can be shown to be a intergal part of a war plan, such as ethnic cleansing, under those circumstances attacking civilians constitutes a war crime. And, thus Milosevic was arrested and made to stand trial at The Hague.
Remembering that those who do not adhere to the rules of war, are not protected by them, the horrible events of 9/11 and the subsequent arrest and detention of those involved by the US Military can be seem to conform to international agreements.
First, those who carried out the attacks considered themselves combatants in a war against the United States. They hid among the American civilian population while planning their attacks. And, on that faithful day they hijacked e.g., took forcible control of a several civilian passenger aircrafts while in transit, taking the people on board hostage, and diverted those civilian aircraft and used them as weapons to kill thousands of American and other civilian nationals within the United States.
This discussion began with the statement that the white flag is an internationally, but not universally recognised symbol of the desire of one party or the other in a conflict for a truce.
However, there are two main reasons the white flag is not universally recognised as a sign of truce. On the one hand, not every group involved in an armed conflict adheres to the rules of war, and as importantly there are people and cultures that simply ascribe a different meaning to the white flag. That is to say that the white flag has a significance, a meaning, in some cultures that conveys a separate and different reality from that given to it by those who are signatories to the various conventions and protocols that recognise the white flag as a sign of truce. And, it is not beyond the realm of reasonableness that something as simple as a white piece of cloth could have been used at sometime during the long period of recorded human history to convey other meanings. And, it has.
Although, and admittantly the white flag has a long history as a sign of truce, there are some uses of the white flag that actually predate the development of the white flag in the protocols governing the relationship and the conduct of combatants and the protection of civilians in war.
An example, is the significance given to the white flag within some Islamic cultures, where since the 7th Century the white flag has been used as a symbolic reminder of Muhammad's first battle at Badr.
During the Afghan Civil War, the Taleban fought under the banner of a plain white flag. And, when the Taleban seized control of Kabul in 1996, and established the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the white flag became the national flag of Afghanistan, representing to the Taleban 'the purity of their faith and government'.
It is to be understood that the Taleban in Afghanistan fight under the banner of the white flag. To the Taleban it is the symbol of defiance, and not a symbol of surrender.
Another fact important to understanding the premise of this presentation is that after the 'shock and awe' phase of an American war effort the conduct of the war outside of obvious tactical manoeuvrings by the military comes under the aegis of the State Department. This includes significant input into the rules of engagement soldiers operate under. Stated simply, the rules as to who may shoot at whom; with what weapons they may use; and under what circumstances they may use them comes under the control of the State Department. And therefore, the title - On Condoleezza's watch.
The State Department's primary aim is to conduct the war in a way that will allow for peaceful relations with the local population after the war is over. In other words, to direct the fighting phase so as to win the hearts and minds of the civilian population who it is hoped will run the political affairs after hostilities have ended, and with whom we can conduct normal realtions.
Why is an understanding of these facts important to American citizens?
In Afghanistan in the early days of the war pitting American forces against Taleban, al Qeada, and a host of other foreign nationals, Libyans, Syrians, Indonesians and others who were in Afghanistan to support the Taleban regime, Islamic fighters would fire upon US soldiers from within a Mosque.
The calibre of weapons our soldiers used at that time would allow them to return fire to repel the sniper attacks but given the calibre of the weapons used would not only protect them from repeat fire but would also do considerable damage to the structure of the Mosque itself. The Mosque minarets from which the snipers were firing would under return fire from our troops literally crumble.
And, given the State Department's concern for the lie of the land after hostilities had ended, and considering that the destruction of Mosques might leave bitter associations within the civilian population, the big guns were taken away from of our soldiers and replaced with weapons of about one-tenth the fire power.
These weapons were not capable of destroying the sniper's favorite hiding place within in the minarets of the Mosque.
Now that the Islamic snipers felt safe within the minarets a newer and more deadly game developed on the battlefield. The use of the white flag of perfidy.
Once the location of the sniper fire was confirmed, American soldiers, even with their smaller and less powerful weapons would surround the Mosque. Many of these Mosques are connected to outside structures by a series, a maze of tunnels. The problem for the Islamic fighter was whether with so many American soldiers surrounding the Mosque the use of the tunnels might lead to their discovery. After Vietnam and the discovery of the tunnels used by the Viet Cong, American forces developed listening devices and other surrveillance techniques to dectect the use of such tunnels.
Once surrounded the Islamic fighters would wave a white flag at which time the American forces would cease firing upon them. State Department negotiators would be called in to affect the surrender of the surrounded snipers in the Mosque. The Islamic fighters would always agree to surrender the following morning, but during the night they would affect their escape and move to their next sniping position from which to try and kill, wound or maim coalition forces.
This is confirmed by negotiators having met with the same snipers in different locations on a number of separte occasions.
The rationale behind our honoring of the 'white flag of the Taleban regime' by our negotiators is that if the American soldiers were to continue their hot pursuit after the white falg was displayed, it would provide a media coup for the Taleban. Just imagine the MSNBC headlines 'American soldiers fire upon white flag waving Islamic fighters'. When in fact, the headline should read 'Taleban fighters firing from within Mosques' use ruse of the white flag to avoid capture'.
This argument is of course false. First, the Taleban are not signatories to the conventions and protocols which respect the white flag's use as a sign of truce in war. Second, the use of protected structures like a Mosque or a Church, hiding among civilians, from which to carry out acts of war is itself a violation of the rules of war. And, third the white flag is the banner under which the Taleban conduct their war effort. Remembering that it is the American and coalition forces who are placed at risk by this ruse, our negotiators can demand that the rule requiring that those wishing the white flag to be honoured must be unarmed. And, there is nothing in the rules that would not allow our soldiers, given the confusion caused by the Taleban's use of the white flag as a sign of their adherence to the Islamic principles of jihad, from assuring that the person waving the flag is in fact unarmed, and that they leave the Mosque whose use as shelter to snipe is a violation of the rules of war.
And, as to the MSNBC media frenzy scare, it would, is, possible to let the media into the war zone to film and document these incidences for themselves. These acts of perfidy, these acts that breach the conventions and protocols that protect those who use the white flag properly.
In a nutshell, American soldiers have and continue to be killed, wounded, and maimed by Taleban Islamic fighters whose white flag is the banner under which they carry out their war against their sworn enemies, American soldiers. And, advance their war aims, by using the white flag knowing that their enemy the Americans give a differnt interpretation to and honor their own meaning given to it, inspite of facts to the contrary, for reasons other than the realities on the battlefield.
As long as the Americans continue believe that the Taleban's use of the white flag is a sign of their willingness to recognise a convention to which they are not party. And, do not recognise that the Taleban simple employ the white flag and let the Americans think it means whatever they want to, to serve their own aims, which is to carry out attacks on our troops with impunity. Our negotiators, our State Department will continue to asssist the Taleban in doing so. TRhe white flag of perfidy and the rules of engagement that of forces operate under have increased American casualties on Condoleezza's watch.