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Friday, September 20, 2002


The horror and tragedy associated with the devastating loss of innocent human life attributed to that chilling phrase 'collateral damage' should not blind us to the fact that just as 'all that glitters is not gold', so all that is 'collateral' is not unavoidable. Fortunately side by side with the increasing resort to armed force as a way of resolving local and regional disputes, and the 'strong' interventions on the part of the international community which normally follow in order to terminate them, we also have a growing body of international jurisprudence which seeks not only to limit the quantity of suffering any would-be tyrants can inflict on their citizens, but also to let them, as well as those who would bring them down, know that there will be a subsequent price to pay for any who would make light of the value of human life and liberty.

The economist Paul Krugman has, in another context, drawn attention to a phenomen known as a 'backward induction' point which he tells us comes from a game theory inflection point that rapidly shifts the odds of potential outcomes due to anticipatory action on your opponent's part. It is to be hoped that the laudible activities of the Mary Robinsons and Physicians for Human Rights of this world serve in some measure to create a kind of backward induction point analogue, where the rather gruesome players in this macabre game - in the current case the future Dostums and Mohamed Omar's - anticipating consequent action on their opponents part rapidly shift their actions towards a different set of potential outcomes. That being said, perhaps a more classic, behaviouristic concept known as dissuasion could serve our purpose just as well.

The United Nations will investigate alleged war crimes and mass graves in Afghanistan, where many people died under suspicious circumstances, a top U.N. official said on Thursday. Up to 1,000 Taliban or al Qaeda fighters reportedly suffocated in airless container trucks after surrendering to Northern Alliance forces under Uzbek warlord Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum late last year. Dostum denies deliberately killing Taliban prisoners, but admits around 200 may have died while being transported to a prison near Dostum's northern stronghold of Shiberghan. Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N. special envoy for Afghanistan indicated the probe would encompass several sites, including some suspected victims of the Taliban, the Islamic group that ruled most of Afghanistan before being ousted by U.S.-backed forces after the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States. Physicians for Human Rights, the Boston-based human rights group that discovered the grave at Dasht-e-Leily and has helped the U.N. mission in Afghanistan carry out a preliminary assessment of what happened there, welcomed Brahimi's statement and volunteered to assist in any investigation.
Source: Yahoo News

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