The people's voice of reason


FECKLESS: lacking initiative or strength of character; irresponsible, useless, worthless, incompetent, inefficient, inept, good-for-nothing, idle, slothful, indolent, shiftless, spiritless, apathetic, aimless, unambitious.

At 2128 local time, on the night of 16/17 May 1943, the first of 19 British Royal Air Force (RAF) Lancaster bombers took off on OPERATION CHASTISE: The raid to attack German dams in the Ruhr. In arguably the most perfect example of a center of gravity analysis turned operational mission in all of WWII, these bombers took-off in order to destroy the Moehne, Eder and Sorpe dams, thus impeding industry in the Ruhr region. In the process of destroying the Moehne and Eder dams using the Barnes Wallis bouncing bomb, the RAF damaged the Sorpe and attacked two secondary dams, the Ennepe and Bever. The British lost 8 airplanes, had 53 men killed, 3 were made prisoners of war and in return, some 600 German civilians were killed and close to 1,000, mostly Soviet prisoners of war and slave laborers. The overall success is a matter for another discussion.

On the night of 13/14 February 1945, in two waves, a total of 799 RAF Lancaster bombers departed their bases in England in order to bomb the Saxon capital of Dresden. As a result of the most controversial of all European bombing raids, in addition to the destruction of most of the city, some 25,000 German civilians were killed. One month later and half a world away, on the night of 9/10 March in OPERATION MEETINGHOUSE, 729 of General Curtis LeMay’s B-29 Superfortresses, burned out and destroyed over 16 square miles of the center of Tokyo. In the deadliest air raid in history, over 100,000 Japanese civilians were killed and over 1,000,000 were made homeless.

There are two main points here. First, anytime I can fenagle a WWII example, by now I am sure you guys know that I am going to do it. Secondly, and most important, as hundreds of German and Japanese cities lay in ruins, many people were determined to put limits on what bombers could and could not due in the future. As sad as it may seem, and disheartening to many, there were absolutely no laws governing aerial bombardment in WWII. None. Although the wholly unratified Hague Rules of Air Warfare were published in February 1923, they were not actionable nor legally binding in anyway. Rightfully, something needed to be done about this. Much was learned and many target types and target sets that were fully legal, no matter how morally objectionable in WWII, had to be reviewed with limits placed upon many of them. This was to include targets like dams, dykes and the area bombing of cities.

Let’s flash forward 77 years and 9 nine days from Dresden and the world witnessed the Russian Federation invading the sovereign nation of Ukraine. To say things have not quite gone to plan for the Russians would be an understatement. But because of this, the Russians have played loosely with international law and began attacking those targets that since WWII have been codified as being off limits.

1. Aerial bombardment. Let’s understand that aerial bombardment also includes missile attacks. Article 51(5)(a) (Rule 13) of the 1977 Additional Protocol I states among others that the following types of attacks are to be considered as indiscriminate: a) an attack by bombardment by any methods or means which treats as a single military objective a number of clearly separated and distinct military objectives located in a city, town, village or other area containing a similar concentration of civilians and civilian objects. Article 3(9) of the 1996 Amended Protocol II to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons further provides: “Several clearly separated and distinct military objectives located in a city, town, village or other area containing a similar concentration of civilians and civilian objects are not to be treated as a single military objective.” In regards to these protocols, the Russian Federation itself has stipulated, “It is prohibited to attack as a single military objective (target) a number of clearly separated and distinct military objectives (targets) located in a built-up area or place containing a concentration of protected persons and objects, and launch any indiscriminate attacks.”

There can be absolutely no doubt that the Russians, with the intense shelling, bombing and rocket attacks against solely civilian targets and significant areas within Ukrainian cities, are in complete violation of this law. It is not up for debate.

2. Practice Relating to Rule 42. Works and Installations Containing Dangerous Forces. Dangerous forces according to International Humanitarian Law are works and installations whose attack may cause the release of dangerous forces and consequent severe losses among the civilian population. They are mainly dams, dykes and nuclear electrical generating stations.

It is clear from current laws that a 1943 style dams raid is now not a legal attack.

Article 56 of the 1977 Additional Protocol I provides: “Works and installations containing dangerous forces, namely dams, dykes and nuclear electrical generating stations, shall not be made the object of attack, even where these objects are military objectives, if such attack may cause the release of dangerous forces and consequent severe losses among the civilian population. Other military objectives located at or in the vicinity of these works or installations shall not be made the object of attack if such attack may cause the release of dangerous forces from the works or installations and consequent severe losses among the civilian population.”

It further stipulates that “In all cases, the civilian population and individual civilians shall remain entitled to all the protection accorded them by international law, including the protection of the precautionary measures provided for in Article 57. If the protection ceases and any of the works, installations or military objectives mentioned in paragraph 1 is attacked, all practical precautions shall be taken to avoid the release of the dangerous forces.”

Even the Russian Federation’s military manual agrees with these Articles by stating, in part, that especially dangerous objects are nuclear power stations, dykes, dams “whose destruction may release dangerous destructive factors and consequent severe losses among the civilian population. These objects shall not become the object of attack even when they are military objectives if attacking them may result in the above-mentioned consequences.”

The Russian targeting of the Pechenihy Dam on the Siversky Donets River in northeastern Ukraine is a clear violation of this. The attack caused much flooding on the Inhulets River and as reported by the British Defence Ministry, “As Russian commanders become increasingly concerned about their operational setbacks, they are probably attempting to strike the sluice gates of dams, in order to flood Ukraninan military crossing points.” Even Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky’s home city of Kryvyi Rih has been flooded, reportedly after Russian strikes against hydraulic structures burst a major dam.

Likewise, the shelling on or near the Zaporizhiahia and Pivdennoukrainsk nuclear plants are also in gross violation of not only Protocol I but the Russians own military doctrine. This article is not intended to be a summary of all the violations committed by Russian. Even the Russian attempt to annex land in Ukraine by force is strictly illegal according to U.N. Charter Article 2(4) and 51.

My point in this Robservation is not so much what Russia is doing but what in the heck is the U.N. doing about these clear violations of international law? Yes, on 2 March 2022, the General Assembly passed Resolution ES-11/1 condemning the Russian invasion and telling them to get out of Ukraine. Uhhh, they are still there and apparently not leaving anytime soon. Then in August of this year, a joint statement confirmed the Russian invasion as illegal. Although 141 countries condemned the invasion, so what? What now?

Much like its beleaguered and worthless predecessor, the League of Nations, the U.N. seems powerless to do anything about the situation in the Ukraine. And if there is ever a clear-cut case where they should be doing something meaningful, all we hear are crickets. It is like walking down the street everyday and seeing the biggest, meanest German Shepherd on the planet barking up a storm every time he sees you; tearing at his leash to get at you. Scary stuff and you run in fear at the sight of him. Then one day he breaks free and charges you. When he jumps on you, you suddenly realize he has no teeth and no claws. He is nothing but all noise. No power. Worthless as a guard dog but perhaps nice to have around to make you look important or intimidating. Such is the U.N.

In these cases, it always seems as if they are looking for America to send our money and weapons in addition to be willing to spill American blood to cover for their inadequacies. If not in this situation, exactly what good is the U.N.? There is no better case than this for the U.N. to do something positive. Is this not why they exist? You had better believe if Israel invaded Egypt or some other country, they would have a lot more to say about it. And don’t think other countries like China and North Korea aren’t taking notes. Personally, like any mega bureaucracy, once it is in place it seems to take on a life of its own. Good luck getting rid of them. Since I know that will never happen, and perhaps they do serve some greater purpose other than using up vast sums of American money, maybe they can one day make a difference in war torn parts of the world as their original charter preamble states, “We the peoples of the United Nations determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, . . .” In other words, do your job!


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