Earlier this week, when it was revealed that Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann had escaped Europe and fled to Argentina on a passport issued by the International Committee of the Red Cross, I was shocked and disgusted.
And then, as I thought about it some more, I was dismayed.
I should not have been shocked.
The International Committee of the Red Cross, which has won the Nobel Peace Prize three times (and its founder won the first Peace Prize for that feat), has spent years “cruising” on its reputation, while repeatedly doing things that should have caused reasonable people to at least question the organization, if not revile it. Their role in aiding Nazi war criminals to escape justice (along with elements of the Catholic Church) are just part of it.
For years and years, the ICRC allowed its affiliate, the Red Crescent, to block the admission of the Red Star of David (Magen David Adom). The arguments used were that the Star of David was an “offensive” symbol due to its association with the state of Israel. (The fact that many Muslim nations feature a crescent on their flag, and the Red Cross itself is derived from the Swiss flag, was conveniently overlooked.) Thanks to that blocking, the Magen David Adom spent years without the protection of the Society. This meant that terrorists could freely fire on their ambulances, leading to the development of armored amublances and other such innovations. (I strongly suspect that the terrorists would have fired anyway had the ICRC given their protection to the MDA, but it would have at least been a decent symbolic gesture.)
Meanwhile, the Red Crescent has not seen fit to impose any sort of sanction on its own members for their conduct. Conduct such as allowing its ambulances to transport suicide bombs or be used as getaway vehicles for terrorists conducting attacks.
And last summer, in Lebanon during the Israel-Hezbollah conflict, the Red Cross claimed that two of its vehicles had been attacked by Israel. A lot of observers looked at the photos put forth by the Red Cross and had serious doubts about whether the damage could have been caused by any sort of military ordnance. Chief among them was the legendary “Zombie,” who put forth a very serious challenge to the accounts. Zombie’s analysis was attacked by Human Rights Watch, but that criticism was thoroughly rebutted by Zombie him/herself.
To the best of my knowledge, the ICRC has not adjusted its statements saying that the ambulances were attacked, nor its implication of Israel in the “attack.” Nor has it demanded that the Palestinian Red Crescent stop directly aiding terrorist attacks.
Now, the ICRC is not to be confused with the American Red Cross. The ARC is affiliated with the ICRC, but is merely a member and has little sway with the larger organization. The ARC has had a few scandals in its time (mainly involving financial matters and, when AIDS was still developing, some issues regarding blood screening), but by and large has done yeoman’s work in humanitarian service. They also long championed Magen David Adom for membership in the ICRC, and offered them their support for years. I am a long-time blood donor to the Red Cross, and have my six-gallon pin kicking around somewhere.
But the International Committee has much to answer for, and needs to remember the ideals and works that earned them those Nobel Peace Prizes — prizes from the era when that award actually meant something, and was not purely a political football.