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What the Laws of War Allow

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Posted on Apr 16, 2012
WikiLeaks

Two men carry wounded Reuters driver Saeed Chmagh to a van moments before U.S. soldiers opened fire from an Apache helicopter half a mile away, killing them.

By Chase Madar, TomDispatch

(Page 2)

Here’s another recent example of a wartime atrocity that is perfectly legal and not a war crime at all. Thanks to WikiLeaks’ Iraq War Logs, we now know about the commonplace torture practices employed by Iraqi jailers and interrogators during our invasion and occupation of that country.  We have clear U.S. military documentation of sexual torture, of amputated fingers and limbs, of beatings so severe they regularly resulted in death.

Surely standing by and taking careful notes while the Iraqi people you have supposedly liberated from tyranny are getting tortured, sometimes to death, is a violation of the laws of war.  After all, in 2005 General Peter Pace, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, publicly contradicted his boss Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld by commenting into a live mike that it is “absolutely the responsibility of every American soldier to stop torture whenever and wherever they see it.” (A young private working in Army Intelligence named Bradley Manning, learning that a group of Iraqi civilians handing out pamphlets alleging government corruption had been detained by the Iraqi federal police, raised his concern with his commanding officer about their possible torture.  He was reportedly told him to shut up and get back to work helping the authorities find more detainees.)

As it turned out, General Pace’s exhortation was at odds with both official policy and law: Fragmentary Order 242, issued by Donald Rumsfeld’s Pentagon, made it official policy for occupying U.S. troops not to interfere with ongoing Iraqi torture.  And this, according to some experts, is no violation of the laws of war either. Prolix on the limits imposed on the acts of non-state fighters who are not part of modern armies, the Geneva Conventions are remarkably reticent on the duties of occupying armies. 

As Gary Solis pointed out to me, Common Article 1 of the Fourth Geneva Convention assigns only a vague obligation to “ensure respect” for prisoners handed over to a third party.  On the ground in either Iraq or Afghanistan, this string of words would prove a less-than-meaningful constraint.

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Part of the problem is that the laws of war that aspire to restrain deadly force are often weakly enforced and routinely violated. Ethan McCord, the American soldier who saved the two wounded children from that van in the helicopter video, remembers one set of instructions he received from his battalion commander: “Anytime your convoy gets hit by an IED, I want 360 degree rotational fire.  You kill every [expletive] in the street!”  (“That order,” David Glazier, a jurist at the National Institute for Military Justice, told me, “is absolutely a war crime.”)  In other words, the rules of engagement that are supposed to constrain occupying troops in places like Afghanistan and Iraq are, according to many scholars and investigators, often belittled and ignored.

Legalized Atrocity

The real problem with the laws of war, however, is not what they fail to restrain but what they authorize.  The primary function of International Humanitarian Law is to legalize remarkable levels of “good” military violence that regularly kill and injure non-combatants.  IHL highlights a handful of key principles: the distinction between combatant and civilian, the obligation to use force only for military necessity, and the duty to jeopardize civilians only in proportion to the military value of a target.

Even when these principles are applied conscientiously—and often they aren’t—they still allow for remarkable levels of civilian carnage, which the Pentagon has long primly (and conveniently) referred to as “collateral damage,” as if it were a sad sideline in the prosecution of war.  And yet civilian deaths in modern war regularly are the central aspect of those wars, both statistically and in other ways.  Far from being universally proscribed, the killing of high numbers of civilians in a battle zone is often considered absolutely legal under those laws.  In the pungent phrase of Professor David Kennedy of Harvard Law School, “We should be clear—this bold new vocabulary beats ploughshares into swords as often as the reverse.”

The relative weakness of the laws of war when it comes to preventing atrocities is not simply some recent debasement perpetrated by neoconservative Visigoths.  Privileging the combatant and his (it’s usually “his”) prerogatives has been the historical bone marrow of those laws.  In the Vietnam War, for instance, the declaration of significant parts of the South Vietnamese countryside as “free-fire zones,” and the “carpet bombing” of rural areas by B-52s carrying massive payloads were also done under cover of the laws of war.

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By Investment Fraud Lawyer, May 14, 2012 at 9:13 pm Link to this comment

I agree with the final statement of Private Bradley. “just because something is more subtle, doesn’t make it right”. The law has so often been changed so that certain actions that were deemed wrong or unlawful is suddenly allowed. This usually happens when the government needs something to be done with the least obstructions, decides to challenge the law, and if they cannot change the law, will hire their legions of lawyers to find a loophole. As a lawyer, sometimes I find that unbecoming of the supposed justice.

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vector56's avatar

By vector56, April 18, 2012 at 3:56 am Link to this comment

“I was shown a video, with a seen similar to this one,  by a former Marine that showed some men planting a roadside IED.”

Stop right there! These guys were not “planting IED’s”; they were just standing around on a Conner in their city; in their own country that never attacked us! They in no way threaten the invaders.

Watch the video again, you missed something important.

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By vector56, April 17, 2012 at 7:26 pm Link to this comment

“I haven’t watched the vid for a long time, but seem to recall that the pilot
reports that he’s got bad guys in sight and asks permission to shoot them…am
I remembering incorrectly?”

You really need to take the time and watch the video again.


“he’s got bad guys”; referring to those we kill as “bad guys” was make popular by the Bush thugs and eagerly picked up by the Corporate Media.  First we put this generic tag on those we labeled “Terrorist” and now we apply it to anyone we gun down.

Two reporters asked a few local Iraqis to take them to a scene where an earlier altercation happen between US troops and local civilians. One guy in the group had a rifle (which is legal in Iraq) slung over his shoulder and the other 10 were unarmed. These guys were a kind of neighborhood watch group who escorted the two reporters. As the men stood on a Conner in their own fucking country talking “Crazy Horse 18 hovered over them. They looked up, saw the gunship, but did not run and hide. These fools figured that they were not going anything wrong, so they had no reason to run or hide.

Listen to the audio of the pilot talking to head- quarters; this son-of-a-bitch flat-out lied about the situation in order to get the “ok” to murder these young men.

At one point the pilot was “drooling” at the idea of opening fire on these defenseless human beings standing below them like “DoDo Birds” to stupid to run for their lives.

Listen to the audio!

After they open up on these people with 30 or 50 caliber guns one of the reporters (wounded) managed to crawl away. Crazy Horse 18 hovered over him and the pilot begged him to pick up anything that looked like a weapon (listen to the audio)! Keep in mind that the one guy who had a rifle never took it off his shoulder, everyone else was unarmed.

A few minutes later a “Good Samaritan” who was driving his two kids to school happen to see the dieing man and stop with two of his friends to take him to a local hospital. Crazy Horse 18 would have none of this; they pumped more 30 caliber bullets into the dieing reporter and killed the three men who stopped to help him! They also, shot up the van with his two children in it.

Watch the God Dam video you fucking monster and tell be again that this was an “accident” and these were “bad guys”!

A few weeks before this Crazy Horse also gunned down Iraqi prisoners who were trying to surrender to them:

“Under the 1907 Hague regulations, it is forbidden “to kill or wound an enemy who, having laid down his arms, or having no longer means of defense, has surrendered at discretion”.”

These guys came out with their hands up (white flag and all) and Crazy Horse 18 called HQ to tell them that they wanted to surrender to them. HQ radioed back, “there are no procedures for surrendering to a helicopter”, so Crazy Horse 18 Gunned them all down as they stood there with their hands in the air!

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/oct/22/iraq-war-logs-apache-insurgents-surrender

Crazy Horse 18 is guilty of multiple war crimes.

Isn’t convenient that the “war on terror” has set the standard for how we engage even the countries who never attacked us; one standard, reduce them all to “bad guys” and show no mercy! “Kill the all and let God sort them out!”

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By heterochromatic, April 17, 2012 at 4:56 pm Link to this comment

vec—- it’s not me being heartless, it’s the fucking nature of fighting against
ununiformed enemies.

my damn question was entirely serious….there’s no intent to kill civilians
there…it’s just the type of ugly mistake that’s a part of war.

I haven’t watched the vid for a long time, but seem to recall that the pilot
reports that he’s got bad guys in sight and asks permission to shoot them…am
I remembering incorrectly? 


try not to infer from my saying that it’s not a prosecutable crime that I’m happy
about it or indifferent or something…......

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By vector56, April 17, 2012 at 4:46 pm Link to this comment

heterochromatic; are you really a heartless moron or do you just play on on TV?

“on what charge?  killing people he thought to be legit targets who turned out not
to be? “

Shooting people standing on a Conner talking.

Tracking an unarmed wounded man, begging him to “move” so you can shoot him some more.

Killing passers by who stop to help the dieing man

You callous animal; that is the point of this post! What was done should not have been litigate!!!

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By heterochromatic, April 17, 2012 at 4:27 pm Link to this comment

on what charge?  killing people he thought to be legit targets who turned out not
to be?

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By vector56, April 17, 2012 at 4:02 pm Link to this comment

Getting back to the subject; anyone know if the pilot of Crazy Horse 18 were ever brought up on charges?

If not, that “goon” (audio recording) who was creaming in his shorts to shot those people on the ground should at least be made famous! What kind of monster hovers over a wounded man and begs for the opportunity to put more bullets in him?

This is the face of war (to use Moonraven’s phrase) you “patriotic pimps” go out of your way to hide from us!

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By moonraven, April 17, 2012 at 12:32 pm Link to this comment

.....

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By heterochromatic, April 17, 2012 at 12:18 pm Link to this comment

don’t sweat it, goatboy, we assume anything from you is without brains.

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By moonraven, April 17, 2012 at 12:09 pm Link to this comment

That should have been without brains.

Translating in a hurry these days.

Personal attack from peon IGNORED.

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By heterochromatic, April 17, 2012 at 11:56 am Link to this comment

fetherhead wrote—-“Folks in Faluya are upset and ashamed that because of the
chemical wespons used by the gringos there, babies are being born with brains.”-
——


unfortunately for you, there weren’t bombs dropped prior to your hatching.

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By moonraven, April 17, 2012 at 10:08 am Link to this comment

Folks in Faluya are upset and ashamed that because of the chemical wespons used by the gringos there, babies are being born with brains.

http://www.aporrea.org/internacionales/n203181.html

This won’t bother anyone in the Us, of course, as most gringos have been born without brains for decades.

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By heterochromatic, April 17, 2012 at 10:06 am Link to this comment

moonie——go apologize to your parents for your ugly mind and small dishonest
heart.

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moonraven's avatar

By moonraven, April 17, 2012 at 9:57 am Link to this comment

diman:

To relax or contract an intellectual sphincter, one first has to have an intellect.

heteronym is one poster here who wil never be accused of that.

He is so stupid and so blind he doesn’t even know the government he pimps for so patrtiotically killed those folks in the WTC.

Waaay beyond pathetic.

Folks that stupid are very dangerous.

They’ll kill you if you come between them and their addiction to patriotic ilusions.

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Tesla's avatar

By Tesla, April 17, 2012 at 8:54 am Link to this comment

1. Iraq and Afghanistan did not attack the WTC &
Pentagon.
2. The outpouring of cash, scholarships and moral
support lavished on the families of the Twin Towers
victims comes pretty close to justice when you hold
it up against just about any other similar situation.
3. Our troops are NOT heroes. They are at best pawns
in a chess game played by those who have never served
or have their progeny serve (be sacrificed).
4. The systematic removal of our moral compasses,
rights and ability to discriminate between right and
wrong have left Americans rudderless in a world that despises us for our hubris.
5. As our actions have shown ever since that fateful
day in 2001, we have earned every last shred enmity
from a world that sees us clearly for what we are.

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By diman, April 17, 2012 at 7:26 am Link to this comment

Hetero take a deep breath and relax your intellectual sphincter.

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By heterochromatic, April 17, 2012 at 6:52 am Link to this comment

and information clearing house is a pile of bullshit, di…..suitable for half-witted
folks to follow.

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By heterochromatic, April 17, 2012 at 6:50 am Link to this comment

diman—- try re-reading what it was that i wrote. I didn’t say that we weren’t
killing people.

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By diman, April 17, 2012 at 6:39 am Link to this comment

heterochromatic

“we dropped a whole lot of bombs, but that don’t prove that we were killing civilians with them”

This is quite a statement at this point in time I should say, you know what, try this site for a little bit of enlightenment http://www.informationclearinghouse.info or even better http://www.cryptome.org where, if you try really hard and dig in, you can find high resolution pictures of the same people your country didn’t kill.

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By heterochromatic, April 17, 2012 at 6:37 am Link to this comment

vec—- you’re just bullshitting with that.

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By vector56, April 17, 2012 at 5:20 am Link to this comment

“the 3000 in my town didn’t get any justice either and they never will.”

heterochromatic;

Those 3000 got their graves soaked in the blood of about 2 million Muslims after 9/11; many young “fresh” children under 8 years old. I am sure that their deaths will be “milked” by the Oil Companies to murder millions more Muslims going forward and goons like you will cheer them on until the last drop of oil is extracted from under their feet.

As far as the victims of 9/11 receiving “justice”, it will never happen because if we knew the truth it would be the beginning of the “second civil war” that America might not survive.

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By heterochromatic, April 16, 2012 at 8:55 pm Link to this comment

Vec—- justice is a rarity on this planet and the Iraqi people haven’t had any for a
hell of a long time and aren’t on their way to getting any.

the 3000 in my town didn’t get any justice either and they never will.

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By vector56, April 16, 2012 at 7:36 pm Link to this comment

“It was a horrible bullshit war and a fuckin disgrace,”

No, it was much more than that; it was the mass murder of people who did nothing to us; do the Iraqi people get the same justice you demand for the 3000 Americans?

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By heterochromatic, April 16, 2012 at 7:14 pm Link to this comment

vec—- you offered stuff as factual…. don’t call me crazy because you were just
guessing and can’t back up the claim.

It was a horrible bullshit war and a fuckin disgrace, but that doesn’t entitle you to
add fictive claims to the mess.

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By vector56, April 16, 2012 at 7:01 pm Link to this comment

“we dropped a whole lot of bombs, but that don’t prove that we were killing
civilians with them”

heterochromatic; you are truly “mad”!

That being said; ever heard the Christian parable of “the Good Samaritan”?  Checkout the guy in the van who stopped to help the dieing reporter as the “good old Christian boys” in Crazy Horse 18 hovered over him begging for orders to finish the job.

Being a “Good Samaritan” ended his life and maimed his children for life.

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By heterochromatic, April 16, 2012 at 6:49 pm Link to this comment

vec——I’m saying that you ought to be a bit more rigorous in backing your
assertions.

we dropped a whole lot of bombs, but that don’t prove that we were killing
civilians with them…..and it doesn’t provide any numbers to back up your
assertions.

we surely did kill a bunch of civilians but you’re just not correct that it was us that
killed most of the civilians who were killed. so damn many died and most of them
died by unknown hands.

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PatrickHenry's avatar

By PatrickHenry, April 16, 2012 at 6:41 pm Link to this comment

War isn’t new and the rules which are supposed to keep the mayhem in check are quite clear.

http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/instree/y3gctpw.htm

Only fools with lawyers try to redefine the outlawed acts like no one will notice they are fools doing such.

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By vector56, April 16, 2012 at 6:26 pm Link to this comment

So, you are saying all those cluster bombs and White Phosphorus we dropped on Iraq missed, and the million plus men women and children killed themselves?

You can’t have it both ways; “shock and Awe” like the German “blitzkrieg” (lighting war) leaves a lot of bodies in it’s wake.

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By heterochromatic, April 16, 2012 at 6:15 pm Link to this comment

vec—- i can certainly deny your assertions. they ain’t facts because you claim
them to be.

it ain’t at all true in Afghanistan and it wasn’t at all true in iraq either.


http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2012/jan/03/iraq-body-count-
report-data

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By vector56, April 16, 2012 at 6:07 pm Link to this comment

gerard;

I can not argue with your logic!

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By gerard, April 16, 2012 at 5:58 pm Link to this comment

vector56:  ... and then they shoot back at you—unless they are women, children or old and sick persons who are “incapacitated” which means “unable to cope” which usually means lacking in ability to shoot back, or shoot straight, or unarmed, or asleep in their beds, In other words, helpless.

How jolly!  Let’s not look for other ways to solve our differences.  Let’s just go on making the military industrial complex richer and causing more mothers, wives, grandparents and children to have nightmares and wake up in tears, teeth chattering, while they remember in hollow silence someone they used to love so much—but lost—through no fault of their own.
  How utterly heroic of grown men and women who know better than to kill people!  How noble and uplifting for the human race!  What could be more worth living for than kicking in someone’s door in the middle of the night and strafing everything that moved in the ray of your flashlight?  Rat-a-tat-tat! You’re dead!  So exciting. So spiritually rewarding!
Just like in the movies!  Wow!  Rockets’ red glare, y’all. Semper fi! It ain’t over till it’s over!

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By vector56, April 16, 2012 at 5:54 pm Link to this comment

“blooded killing….. and in a war where some of those doing the killing don’t wear
their team togs, there’s more likely to be people killed by mistake. “

heterochromatic; my “team” is humanity; and very few people get killed by mistake.


Here a few “fact you won’t like, but can’t deny;

Who kills more (innocent) civilians, Al-Qaeda or Our Troops?


Who kills more Women, Al-Qaeda or Our Troops?

Who kills more “children”, Al-Qaeda or Our Troops?


The answer to all of the above is our Troops!  Anyone want to call me a a liar? 


If the above is true,than it must follow that the “war on Terror” is a lie!

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By heterochromatic, April 16, 2012 at 4:48 pm Link to this comment

I also have noticed that whenever there’s a war, there’s abig bunch of cold-
blooded killing….. and in a war where some of those doing the killing don’t wear
their team togs, there’s more likely to be people killed by mistake.

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By vector56, April 16, 2012 at 3:46 pm Link to this comment

Awhile back Stephen Colbert had Julian Assange on his show and spent most of his time accusing Assange of being unfair for naming the video “collateral murder”.

Most of the MSNBC fake liberals like Rachel MadCow avoided the video like the plague.

How can anyone in their right mind “support the Troops” when they see this orgy of “cold blooded murder”, and listen to the callus monsters who piloted “Crazy Horse 18”? The job of the corporate media is to make sure most American who support the war never see the “dirty side of mass murder”.

I agree with gerard in that war/violence is ugly and has “no” redeeming qualities!

I also agree with diman; “you shoot back”.

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By gerard, April 16, 2012 at 1:54 pm Link to this comment

moonraven, I know that, too. 

diman, Thanks, but that’s just not my purpose, or my style.
  Although, come to think of it, back in high school a thousand years or so ago, Browning, who was the principal’s son (wouldn’t you know it?) took me out to “teach” me how to shoot straight using a pistol.  I surprised us both—but it didn’t teach me anything I didn’t already know—instinctively.
(As you may have already noticed, I have a hard time avoiding double meanings, but this time I really didn’t mean double.) PS apropos of shooting things: I was also pretty good with a bow and arrow—that is, till a bow broke and the end of the top half nearly put my left eye out. That was enough of that!  .

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By diman, April 16, 2012 at 1:14 pm Link to this comment

Gerard it is not a puzzle it is simple - you shoot back.

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By gerard, April 16, 2012 at 1:10 pm Link to this comment

moonraven:  I’m fully aware of that.  Anyhow ...

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By moonraven, April 16, 2012 at 1:04 pm Link to this comment

Gerard:

Just let yourself be flushed.

You and a handful of others does not constitute a critical mass of anything.

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By gerard, April 16, 2012 at 12:57 pm Link to this comment

Behavior like this is loathsome beyond words. Tremendous courage,cooperation, intelligence and persistenceare are required of us if we are to get rid of the atrocities of mechanized violence. “Us” is you and I, here and now—not he, she, and them over there tomorrow. The puzzle is how to do it without creating more of the same criminality.

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By moonraven, April 16, 2012 at 12:01 pm Link to this comment

Gringos love shooting fish in a barrel!

They think that’s sporting.

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