Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Spanish Court Takes on US

Spanish High Court Judge Santiago Pedraz has issued an arrest warrant for three US soldiers involved in a battle in Iraq in which a Spanish cameraman was killed. A US military investigation had already determined that the soldiers acted properly in the encounter and their return fire was justified. (ABC: Spanish judge issues arrest warrant for US troops).

The Spanish court is seeking extradition for the three soldiers, a request that the US will certainly not grant. A States Department spokesman stated, "I just cannot imagine how any U.S. soldier can be subject to some kind of foreign proceeding for criminal liability when he is in a tank in a war zone as part of an international coalition." Simply put, there is no way the US would or should allow US military personnel to be tried on foreign soldiers for actions taken while prosecuting a war.

The presence of reporters on the battlefield is also problematic. Their presence there puts military personnel at risk and also compromises the mission objectives. What comes to mind are images of Geraldo Reviera drawing a map of US troop movements in the sand while on assignment as an embedded reporter for Fox News. He was immediately removed from the unit and ordered out of Iraq, but the damage was already done. In fact, he should not have been there in the first place.

Reporters that do insist on staying in a battle zone must acknowledge that they are at serious risk. Their safety is not guaranteed, and since they are willingly and knowingly placing themselves in harm's way, soldiers are not liable for the reporter's injury or death. If you can't accept that risk, then stay out of the battlefield. Foreign governments that have issue with actions taken by US military personnel on active duty in a war zone are welcome to take their case to the US State Department. What will not happen, however, is any extradition of US soldiers to foreign governments when their actions have already been cleared by the US military. Our soldiers will most certainly be protected from foreign courts seeking to make political statements. In case anyone wonders why the US refused to accept the World Court, I submit this action by Spain as "Exhibit A".


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