Analysis: Goldstone comes back to bite the Brits

Leaks on mass civilian casualties in Afghanistan could form basis for Goldstone style prosecutions against American, Britain and other coalition countries.

July 26, 2010 23:27
2 minute read.
Goldstone in Gaza.

Goldstone in Gaza 311 ap. (photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)


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This weekend’s release of thousands of secret official files about coalition operations in Afghanistan paints a harrowing picture of the fog of war, most troubling of all of the accidental killings by British soldiers of hundreds of innocent civilians – revellers at wedding parties, kids in school buses, ordinary people going about their daily business who tragically found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Given that the Taliban systematically hides behind the civilian population this sort of thing is, of course, inevitable. Nonetheless, it is understandable that the revelations by Wikileaks have caused embarrassment to the governments of all the coalition countries.

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But for those coalition countries in Europe – Britain first among them – who are currently cheerleading the passage of the Goldstone Report on Gaza through the United Nations, this is more than an embarrassment. In the light of Goldstone, it represents an outright threat to the security of their soldiers on the ground as well as to their national interests in international tribunals.

In my experience, the Mideast crowd at the British Foreign Office and its equivalents elsewhere in Europe tend to be a little on the slow side. So let me spell this out, so there is no ambiguity.

International laws, norms and procedures to a great extent operate on the basis of precedent. So when Britain and other European countries allowed the Arab dictatorships to push a report through the United Nations specifically designed to criminalize the Israeli military’s attempts to deal with terrorists hiding behind a civilian population in Gaza, they simultaneously set a precedent for all countries, including their own.

Now that it has been revealed – via official documents – that British soldiers, for example, have been involved in exactly the same kind of operations against exactly the same kind of terror groups using exactly the same tactics and resulting in exactly the same kind of outcomes in terms of the loss of civilian lives, British soldiers and ministers could face exactly the same kind of censure and penalties as Israel.

This could range from the purely verbal assaults of the kind mounted by European governments during Operation Cast Lead, right up to prosecutions in international tribunals or through universal jurisdiction laws in countries around the world that have adopted them.

Of course, I am using Goldstone as both a concrete precedent in its own right, but also as a proxy for the whole panoply of terror-appeasement policies and norms that outfits such as the British Foreign Office have allowed to develop, or have actively supported, in the international community over decades.

The Foreign Office and its equivalents are thus proved not merely to have been engaged in the vilest of discriminatory hypocrisy over Israel, Goldstone and all that it represents, they are shown to have been deliberately and willfully allowing a depraved anti-Israeli agenda to take precedence over their own national interests.

I didn’t realize that undermining one’s own military or one’s own national interests was what our diplomats were being paid to do. Perhaps they would care to comment?

The writer is director of international affairs at the Henry Jackson Society in London. He is the author of A State Beyond the Pale: Europe’s Problem with Israel.

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