Voluntary Human Shields

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When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, he captured hundreds of foreign workers and forced them to be his human shields. He stationed them at power plants and refineries, critical points of infrastructure that would be targets in a military campaign to cripple Iraq.

The deployment of human shields is a strategy to discourage those with the bombs, to threaten them with unnecessary civilian casualties in a conflict. It is also a war crime. But when the human shields are volunteer peace activists hoping that their presence in Iraq will help deter a war there, strategy and criminality aren’t so easily defended. Especially when the enemy is happy to host them.

Mission unclear. Sizing up the good intentions and the potential consequences of voluntary human shields.


Tom Malinowski, Washington Advocacy Director for the Human Rights Watch

Paul Eliopoulos, former prisoner of war and involuntary human shield during the Gulf War

Michael Birmingham, a peace activist with Voices in the Wilderness

Captain Lawrence Rockwood is a former US Army intelligence officer who is now a human rights activist and adjunct professor of history at Cal State San Marcos.