In the Wall Street Journal, Thane Rosenbaum opines on the civilian status of the killed Gazans:

The asymmetry is complicated even further by the status of these civilians. Under such maddening circumstances, are the adults, in a legal and moral sense, actual civilians? To qualify as a civilian one has to do more than simply look the part. How you came to find yourself in such a vulnerable state matters. After all, when everyone is wearing casual street clothing, civilian status is shared widely.

The people of Gaza overwhelmingly elected Hamas, a terrorist outfit dedicated to the destruction of Israel, as their designated representatives. Almost instantly Hamas began stockpiling weapons and using them against a more powerful foe with a solid track record of retaliation.

What did Gazans think was going to happen? Surely they must have understood on election night that their lives would now be suspended in a state of utter chaos. Life expectancy would be miserably low; children would be without a future. Staying alive would be a challenge, if staying alive even mattered anymore.

The argument is this: Are Gazan civilians really innocent in all of this? After all, they voted for Hamas, didn’t they? Aren’t they therefore responsible for the actions of that government? Do they really have a rightful claim to innocence and the usual civilian immunity from military attack?

I’ve read this argument before. Osama bin Laden himself made this argument in response to those who said that 9/11 was an unjust attack because it targeted civilians:

(3) You may then dispute that all the above does not justify aggression against civilians, for crimes they did not commit and offenses in which they did not partake:

(a) This argument contradicts your continuous repetition that America is the land of freedom, and its leaders in this world. Therefore, the American people are the ones who choose their government by way of their own free will; a choice which stems from their agreement to its policies. Thus the American people have chosen, consented to, and affirmed their support for the Israeli oppression of the Palestinians, the occupation and usurpation of their land, and its continuous killing, torture, punishment and expulsion of the Palestinians. The American people have the ability and choice to refuse the policies of their Government and even to change it if they want.

As usual, I wonder how far people are willing to go with any of these just war arguments. Do these arguments also apply to the West? Is it just to target American civilians in attacks because they elect the government that conducts so many unjust military operations abroad?