Thursday, July 28, 2016

Putin and Trump's Sippenhaft Solution: Terrorizing the Innocent in the Name of Defeating Terrorism

by Nomad

Trump's solution for defeating terrorism may sound like a "get-tough" policy. In fact, it's merely a war crime regularly used by fascists. Still worse, it plays into the hands of our enemies.

Mainly as a result of his entertainment value, candidate Donald Trump was able to say a lot of unpresidential things during the primaries. And this went largely unchallenged by the bewildered and negligent news media.

A lot of things Trump bellowed flew under the radar. The nuttiness was coming at us fast and furious. There were quite a few things that Trump said that should have made intelligent people shudder. We can dismiss the majority of these things as Trump's usual morass and an attempt to satisfy his seemingly-insatiable need for attention. 

However, a few of his remarks demand a closer inspection because they are were used to underpin some of his "solutions" to American's challenges. 

How Trump would Deal with Terrorism

One of Trump's remarks made during the interview at Fox News t had to do with how he (personally) would defeat terrorism. 
The problem with America's war on terrorism, according to Donald, was that we were attempting to wage a "politically correct war." What was needed was a more robust approach.  Namely, when it came to dealing with terrorists, "you have to take out their families. "
Presumably, he wasn't referring to taking out the relatives to dinner in lower Manhattan followed a Broadway show. The term, "take out," generally, means in military parlance "to kill."

The reaction to this remarks by the top brass in the US military was immediate and categorical. General Michael Hayden, a retired United States Air Force four-star general and former Director of the National Security Agency, stated 
"Trump’s pledge to kill family members as being among his most troubling campaign statements.
Hayden added that the military would refuse to follow illegal orders such as the intentional killing of terrorists’ families. 
"If he were to order that once in government, the American armed forces would refuse to act..You are required not to follow an unlawful order.That would be in violation of all the international laws of armed conflict.”
In response to Hayden, Trump wasn't overly concerned. Au contraire, Trump said, as Commander in Chief he would see to it that his orders were followed.
“They won’t refuse, they’re not going to refuse me — believe me.”

Clearly, General Hayden understands something that Trump clearly does or will not. "Taking out" the families of terrorists would constitute collective punishment, a serious violation of international law. It is very much related to individual criminal responsibility, a principle that has been around as long as the concept of justice.
It was first officially internationally recognized as a war crime in 1899 in Article 50 of the 1899 Hague Regulations. That article states that
No general penalty, pecuniary or otherwise, can be inflicted on the population on account of the acts of individuals for which it cannot be regarded as collectively responsible.”
That would include "taking out" anybody's family, we can conclude.
Since that time, international agreements have cemented this position against collective punishment.
Article 87, third paragraph, of the 1949 Geneva Convention III provides that “[c]ollective punishment for individual acts” is forbidden.
In addition, more recently:
Article 22(2)(a) of the 1991 ILC Draft Code of Crimes against the Peace and Security of Mankind, states that “collective punishment” is an exceptionally serious war crime and a serious violation of the principles and rules of international law applicable in armed conflict.
These are facts that Trump cannot deny. He is in effect pushing for the US military to commit an international war crime.   


"Threats and actions taken against innocent people," writes Robert Loeffel in his book, Family Punishment in Nazi Germany: Sippenhaft, Terror, and Myth,  "are recognized as a core component of state-orchestrated terror."

In fact. when Trump proposed this solution he probably didn't realize that the Nazis commonly applied this principle.
Under the Nazis, the practice of holding families liable for acts committed by enemies of the states became a cornerstone of the fascist ideology.  

It even had an official name-"Sippenhaft."
Over the entire history of the Third Reich, Sippenhaft punishment ranged from murder or imprisonment (temporary or long term) of various family members, frontline postings- most especially to penal or punishment units- for members of the military, to less life-threatening but nontheless important consequences such as loss of citizenship, employment, pension or education opportunities.
Keep in mind, that this punishment was directed at family members, not the accused. One act of resistance could, therefore, destroy an entire family and leave them absolutely destitute.

Originally, it was applied against Hitler's political enemies back as far back as 1933 and proved to be a satisfactory path to political supremacy.
From political enemies, it was a small step to expand the same rationale to include all Jews. Ultimately, guilt by blood was the justification for Hitler's final solution in which millions of innocent people were exterminated.

Eventually, as the regime began to stagger and contort, family liability punishment became widely (and viciously) used against Jews but for anyone who was deemed an enemy of the state.

Right up until the last days of the regime, the policy of Sippenhaft was used as a means of intimidation against all who might have been having second thoughts about the wisdom of the Furher. 

The full ugliness of the Sippenhaft principle emerged after the failed 20 July plot to assassinate Hitler in July 1944.

Many people who had committed no crimes- indeed had no information to provide the authorities- were arrested and punished solely because they happened to be related by blood to suspected coup plotters. Entire families, parents, wives, and children- were all "taken out" as retribution.
A decree of February 1945 threatened death to the relatives of military commanders who showed what Hitler regarded as cowardice or defeatism in the face of the enemy. 

What had begun as means of attaining power, of threatening political adversaries, became a method of oppressing a scapegoat minority.
Finally, it was remodeled into a barbaric method of enslaving his former supporters and driving his entire nation off a cliff. 

The Most Effective Tool of Fascist Regimes

As Trump has made abundantly clear for the last year, he is not a man who has learned any of the valuable lessons of history.
Even though the collective punishment of families -especially when applied outside of the theater of war and on home soil, represents a deadly threat to democratic principles and the rule of law, Trump can dismiss all objections as misguided political correctness.

As one source points out, even though human right laws do not explicitly outlaw collective punishment, such a policy would constitute a violation of specific human rights, in particular, the right to liberty and security of person and the right to a fair trial.
In its General Comment on Article 4 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (concerning states of emergency), the UN Human Rights Committee stated that States parties may “in no circumstances” invoke a state of emergency “as justification for acting in violation of humanitarian law or peremptory norms of international law, for instance … by imposing collective punishments.”
Collective punishment has long been considered the tool of fascist regimes.
Yet, no country should consider itself immune from accusations. For example, one country that has made use of collective punishment in its own war on terrorism has been Israel.
(Having said that, even Israeli war hawks would probably balk before openly supporting the murder of terrorists' families.)

In demolishing the homes of families of Palestinian terrorists by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip, the state of Israel has been condemned by human rights groups and the UN for its use of this form of collective punishment.

Between 1967 to 2005, the state of  Israel destroyed hundreds of Palestinian homes in the occupied territories as a punitive measure. Like Trump, the rationale for these demolitions was deterrence. In other words, it was designed to teach the homeless grandmothers and babies a lesson in zero tolerance. 
The authorities argued that harming the property of the families of Palestinians who perpetrated attacks against Israelis or who were suspected of involvement in attacks would deter others from carrying out such attacks.
However, in early 2005 the Israeli Defense Minister reversed this policy and adopted the recommendation of a military commission He ordered that the razing of homes as a punitive measure henceforth cease. 
His decision was made partly in view of the commission’s finding that the deterrent value of demolitions had not been proven, and that the policy may, in fact, have the opposite effect

Ten years later, the policy was inexplicably renewed. Since October 2015, Israel has returned to house demolitions as a way to punish the families of Palestinians who perpetrated attacks against Israelis or are suspected of perpetrating or aiding such attacks.

For pretend-tough guys like Trump, these illegal acts by a US allies are simply practical solutions to a vexing problem. Like torture.
What of morality and legality? Those are loser concepts, according to a man like Trump. He will not be swayed by those politically-correct objections.

Aside from the moral and legal dilemmas, there's the question of effectiveness.
According to Yair Rosenberg, senior writer for the Scroll, the conventional wisdom has been that collective punishment is a step in the wrong direction.
According to the New York Times, no less than an Israeli military commission in 2005 “found that it [home demolition] rarely worked as a deterrent and instead inflamed hostility.” The Wall Street Journal similarly reports that “a 2005 study by the Israeli military recommended ending the practice after finding demolitions didn’t deter potential attackers.” Even the U.S. State Department has echoed this line in opposing the home demolitions, labeling them “counterproductive.”
However, a more-recent study found demolitions have proved to be effective and caused terror attacks to decline by between 11.7 and 14.9 percent. At least, in the months immediately following the demolition. 
The effectiveness in the longer term is another story. In any event, the damage such a policy has had on Israel's image is unquestioned. 

Another country which has made use of the practice that Trump advocates is Putin's Russia.  

Trump's Role Model: Vladimir Putin

In March, the New York Times ran an article on Putin's use of collective punishment in dealing with the terrorist threat posed by Chechen rebels.
By law, Russian security services have no authority to specifically target relatives. But the intelligence forces seldom let a detail like the lack of a legal basis interfere with their activities.
Like Trump, Putin could not be bothered with political correctness. The Chechen terrorists- every bit as vicious as ISIS- were a serious threat to the stability of Russia and, in Putin's mind, little details like international laws were not to stand in his way.
The Russian approach, enough to make supporters of waterboarding wince, has by some accounts been grimly effective. Abductions of family members unwound the rebel leadership in Chechnya, for example.
Despite a lack of evidence of direct involvement, the families of rebels/terrorists became pawns for the Russian government.
In Chechnya and neighboring Dagestan, they routinely burn or demolish the houses of people suspected of being insurgents or terrorists. Most strikingly, whole extended families are rounded up in high-profile cases, and are often held until the militant either gives up or is killed.
Regardless of the effectiveness, this is clearly not the methods of a democratic nation but of a regime not unlike ISIS.
Relatives were used as “hooks” to lure in militants. If the militant did not switch sides, the family member disappeared. Chechnya had about 3,000 to 5,000 unresolved disappearances from 2000 to 2005 or so.
The article quotes Ekaterina Sokirianskaia, an analyst at the International Crisis Group, and an expert on the Caucasus, who said:
“There is a systematic abuse of the family members of insurgents. There can be short-term results, but I wouldn’t call it a success. You can prevent some episodes of violence at the moment, but you are radicalizing whole communities. When innocent Muslims are targeted for the expediency of security services, this legitimizes the jihadist cause.”
Trump's solution is no solution, and in fact, it is probably going to make matters worse in the long run. Putin's security strategy has created a fertile soil for ISIS in Chechnya. Earlier this year, The New Yorker pointed out:
Chechnya’s homegrown insurgency has been replaced by another pressing security threat. Islamic State propaganda has taken root inside Chechnya, especially among the younger generation.
Putin's Sippenhaft policy has helped to radicalize a new generation of ISIS terrorists. The article notes that, according to Chechen law-enforcement agencies, somewhere around between "three and four thousand Chechens have traveled to Iraq or Syria to join the group." 
Most had fled Chechnya for Europe sometime during the First and Second Chechen Wars, but around four hundred to five hundred are believed to have gone directly from Chechnya to the Middle East. (This, in part, explains the falling levels of violence inside Chechnya, experts on extremism in the Caucasus say: the more hard-core and committed fighters have left.)
So any claims of success must be measured the policy's unintended effects. In that respect, Russia didn't resolve its domestic terrorist threat. It internationalized it. Russia, to put it another way, successfully exported it to its ally Syria. 

And there's a more serious, a more corrosive effect.

Terrorism and Free Nations

The methods that both Putin and Trump enthusiastically support are simply not applicable to any country that professes to believe in the rule of law and that respects prohibitions against collective punishment. 
The policy might sound tough, but it promulgates a host of dangerous consequences, with limited long-term benefits. 
In addition, whatever success Putin has had in this regard must be weighed against the cost incurred in destroying institutions vital to a respectable democracy.

The promise of Russian rebirth following the fall of the Soviet empire has all but vanished under Putin.  By defeating terrorism in his nation, Putin has destroyed any possibility of an open and free Russia. 
That's probably the greatest tragedy of all. 

To be sure, terrorism is an affliction of free states with a functioning free press, the right to free speech and the right to protest or petition the government. A terrorist organization sees these vital democratic institutions as opportunities and weakness. A free press, for example, is manipulated in such a way as to exaggerate and propagate the terror.
Fascist states have more than enough tools to suppress a terrorist group. This cure, however, is toxic to liberty. The same repressive methods a government uses to counter terrorist threat can be turned against its own citizens, suppressing all dissent. 

The cost of a world without terrorism cannot be a world without freedom. And no respectable leader should force his or her citizens to choose between these two unpleasant alternatives. 

No respectable citizen- no matter how fearful or how angry- should ever support (or tolerate) a man who has vowed to punish and intimidate the innocent in the name of defending the nation. 

September Attacks and Trump's Little Fib

In Bin Laden's November 2002 "Letter to America", he provided a list of al-Qaeda's motives for their attacks. (As if insanity and barbarity can ever be explained.)
Among the self-serving justifications for committing this atrocity upon the innocent was
support of Russian "atrocities against Muslims" in Chechnya and the American-Israeli alliance.
Given that, some might conclude that this policy of retribution against families simply provides the fuel for future jihadists. It plays into the hands of our enemies.

When asked during the debates about his controversial remarks about his vow to "take out" the families of terrorists, Candidate Trump characteristically fell back on his own brand evidence. How could he support a position in which families of terrorists could be punished for crimes they didn't commit? 
Here's how he responded:
“Well, look. When a man flies into the World Trade Centre and his family gets sent back to where they were going – and I think most of you know where they went, and by the way, it wasn’t Iraq – but they want back to a certain territory, they knew what was happening.
For some reason, Trump the brave hearted hesitated at directly accusing Saudi Arabia, forgetting that he had already made that claim in an earlier debate.  
(The reason for this hesitation perhaps isn't that he might offend an ally. In fact, in spite of accusing Saudi Arabia of being behind the 2001 attacks on other occasions, he is still doing business there.)

Trump claimed that the wife of one of the attackers knew in advance of the impending September 11 attacks and left the US two days prior to the attacks because "they wanted to watch their husbands on TV, flying into the World Trade Center."
In a GOP debate in December, Mr. Trump said that friends, family members and girlfriends of the terrorists “were put into planes and they were sent back, for the most part, to Saudi Arabia. They knew what was going on. They went home and they wanted to watch their boyfriends on television”.
This allegation about a single event then is Trump's sole justification for breaching international law and for undermining the foundations of democracy. This is his rationale for following his idol Vladimir Putin's path to an autocratic state in which the innocent are terrorized as much by the state as by the terrorists.
But... wait a second.

The problem is, as pointed out by the Independent, none of the 9/11 hijackers, at least, according to the 9/11 Commission report, had a wife, girlfriends or family member in America during the days or months leading to the attack.

Trump had apparently made the whole thing up.