Should American  bombs and missiles actually land in Syria, a more or less substantial number of Syrian noncombatants would be killed. For the most part, these anticipated losses would be the result of a Syrian regime resort to "human shields," that is, to the legally unacceptable practice of moving civilians into designated military areas, or into those places most apt to be targeted. In  jurisprudence, the precise name for this violation of humanitarian international law is "perfidy."

Perfidy represents an egregious violation of the law of war, one expressly identified as a “grave breach,” in Article 147 of Geneva Convention No. IV. The principal formal effect of any perfidy committed by Syrian President Bashar Assad would be to immunize the United States from any legal responsibility for inflicting "collateral harms." Nonetheless, once American resorts to force had actually generated Syrian civilian casualties, most of them glaringly burned and bloodied, the perilous power of "the image" would quickly trump the authority of any law.

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