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Human Shields: Not Above the Law By: Roman Lajciak
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, September 23, 2003

The Left is notorious for having double standards concerning questionable conduct. Which norms are applied depends on the ideological persuasion of the person concerned and the effect the relevant action has on their political position. Liberal outrage at the fine imposed on Faith Fippinger, an individual who has violated both the US and international law, as well as betrayed her country, is yet another such case of double standards. Leftist media is trying to absolve her from the legal implications of her actions, because these suit their political agenda of opposing the United States of America at every available opportunity.

Faith Fippinger travelled to Iraq before the war to act as a “human shield” against U.S. bombing, despite the fact that the U.S. issued a warning to the “human shield” prior to the war that their exploits were illegal under U.S. and international law. Fippinger stayed with an Iraqi middle class family living next to the object Saddam’s government assigned her to protect: the Daura oil refinery near Baghdad. During her stay in the former pariah state, Fippinger spent some money – she claims it amounted to only about $200 on food and emergency supplies – and thus violated the U.S. and UN sanctions imposed on Iraq that prohibited "virtually all direct or indirect commercial, financial or trade transactions with Iraq." For this breach of the sanctions, Fippinger the Treasury Department has fined her $10,000. So far she has refused to pay, declaring that she does not want to contribute funds to the ‘U.S. arms build-up.’ The fact that the Treasury Department is threatening to deduct the sum from her assets, such as Social Security or retirement funds, should she not pay up is eliciting a response from the Left. The extremists allege the government is simply trying to silence free speech. That charge is clearly preposterous, as the administration, of course, took no action against the myriad domestic protesters against the Iraq war at home or abroad, as long as they stayed within the law.


Apart from ignoring sanctions, Fippinger also willingly endeavoured to aid the enemy of the United States, since her actions were an attempt to deny the U.S. military the opportunity to destroy a target with some military value in Iraq. This could be interpreted as treason, albeit not in a severe form.


The exoneration of Fippinger is being accomplished through a tortured presentation of the facts. For example, some media have presented the Daura refinery as a facility providing electricity to schools, hospitals and other innocents in the region, conveniently fail to mention the fact that the petroleum products from the refinery also have military uses. In any case, the U.S. never intended to destroy Iraqi oil infrastructure, as that would hamper America’s efforts to rebuild Iraq after the war. This policy was made clear by U.S. assurances to minimize collateral damage, so her “shielding” of the refinery was completely needless.


Another argument the Left uses is that the U.S. government is targeting Faith Fippinger for speaking out about the horrors of the war, not for breaking sanctions. Supposedly, other U.S. citizens that travelled to Iraq as “human shields” but have not been as vocal after their return are not being fined. This is nonsense. Apart from Fippinger, Ryan Clancy, a 26-year-old record store owner, has also been fined $10,000 and is following Fippinger’s lead in refusing to pay. Furthermore, according to an August 13, 2003, article in ABC News Online at least 5 other former “human shields” have already been contacted by the Treasury Department to pay up. It is possible that more fines will follow, since altogether about 20 U.S. citizens have participated as “human shields” in Iraq. Fippinger’s publicity made it easy for the government to identify her, so she was among the first to be charged. Nonetheless, given the fact that other breachers of the sanctions have also been charged, it is clear that she is not being singled out, as many on the Left seem to believe.


Perhaps surprisingly, Fippinger does not have an extensive history of association with the militant Left. Her life was summarized by an article in the March 21, 2003, issue of the St. Petersburg Times. Faith Fippinger is a 63-year-old retired elementary and high-school teacher of blind children. Her mother was a real estate agent, her father an engineer and she also had one brother, John Fippinger, 63, who used to be a high-school football coach. Fippinger grew up with her family in Chicago. She enrolled at the Illinois State University and studied special education for the blind. Having concluded her studies, Fippinger roamed the world extensively. She lived in Alaska, travelled on ships as a deckhand and worked abroad. Such work included “teaching children under tents in an Australian village“ and directing an institute for the blind in Fiji. Four years ago Fippinger moved to Sarasota, where she continues to live today.


The former schoolteacher‘s interests did not include activism until the Iraq War. She is interested in Buddhism, enjoys playing tennis and reportedly “adores” opera and theatre. The article in St. Petersburg Times quotes her brother’s description of Faith Fippinger as, “dedicated to helping the disabled as well as some of the underprivileged people, no matter where they might be.“ This testimony is borne out well by the fact that she made teaching blind children her vocation. It appears that the retired educator had her heart in the right place in most circumstances.


Why then, did somebody, so clearly intent on helping people everywhere break the law in order to make her way to protect the rule of a brutal dictator? The answer lies in the propaganda spread by the Left about the purpose and the likely conduct of the war in Iraq. The far Left presented the then-impending Iraq War as an imperialist and racist undertaking set on acquiring crude oil, humiliating the Arabs and fulfilling President Bush’s alleged personal vendetta against Saddam Hussein. Various sources including the UN also predicted that the war will have a disastrous impact on the lives of the Iraqi people and forecast that the conflict will result in an outflow of 500,000 refugees. Some even insisted, against the weight of all evidence, that the U.S. was purposefully going to target civilians. It is no wonder that after being exposed to a bombardment of misinformation, some people would come to believe that opposing the United States was doing the Iraqis a service. Faith Fippinger is one of the victims of leftist propaganda. It is truly sad that she was driven so far as to break the law.


Nevertheless, it is the responsibility of the government to ensure equality before law, regardless of the reason for which it was broken. Faith Fippinger is a well-meaning victim of the Left – although the administration and the courts ought to hold her personally accountable for her conduct. Unlike what the Left claims free speech is not an issue here – Fippinger could have easily expressed her opinion and protested to her heart’s content inside the United States. Plenty of other misguided leftists did just that and were in no way penalised by the U.S. government.


Let the sad example of Faith Fippinger’s mission to Iraq serve as a warning to well-meaning people against trusting the bluster of the Hate America Left. These partisans must use their heads as well as their hearts before they commit themselves to breaking the law and causing more harm than good. And the nation must uphold the principal of equality under the law: Just as the Treasury Department has declared, Fippinger must pay her fine or have the sum confiscated from her other assets.

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