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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 3)

IHL has certainly changed in some respects.  A century ago, the discourse around the laws of war was far more candid than today.  Jurists once regularly referred to “non-uniformed unprivileged combatants” simply as “savages” and the consensus view in mainstream scholarly journals of international law was that a modern army could do whatever it wanted to such obstreperous, lawless people (especially, of course, in what was still then the colonial world).  On the whole, the history of IHL is a long record of codifying the privileges of the powerful against lesser threats like civilians and colonial subjects resisting invasion.

Even though the laws of war have usually been one more weapon of the strong against the weak, a great deal of their particular brand of legalism has seeped into antiwar discourse. One of the key talking points for many arguing against the invasion of Iraq was that it was illegal—and that was certainly true.  But was the failure to procure a permission slip from the United Nations really the main problem with this calamitous act of violence?  Would U.N. authorization really have redeemed any of it?  There is also a growing faith that war can be domesticated under a relatively new rubric, “humanitarian intervention,” which purports to apply military violence in precise and therapeutic dosages, all strictly governed by international humanitarian law.

Here is where the WikiLeaks disclosures were so revealing.  They remind us, once again, that the humanitarian dream of “clean warfare”—military violence that is smoothly regulated by laws that spare civilians—is usually a sick joke.  We need to wean ourselves from the false comfort that the law is always on the side of civilians.  We need to scrap our tendency to assume that international law is inherently virtuous, and that anything that shocks our conscience—that helicopter video or widespread torture in Iraq under the noses of U.S. soldiers—must be a violation of this system, rather than its logical and predictable consequence.

Let’s be clear: what killed the civilians walking the streets of Baghdad that day in 2007 was not “war crimes,” but war.  And that holds for so many thousands of other Afghan and Iraqi civilians killed by drone strikes, air strikes, night raids, convoys, and nervous checkpoint guards as well.

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Regulatory Capture

Who, after all, writes the laws of war?  Just as the regulations that govern the pharmaceutical and airline industries are often gamed by large corporations with their phalanxes of lobbyists, the laws of war are also vulnerable to “regulatory capture” by the great powers under their supposed rule. Keep in mind, for instance, that the Pentagon employs 10,000 lawyers and that its junior partner in foreign policy making, the State Department, has a few hundred more.  Should we be surprised if in-house lawyers can sort out “legal” ways not to let those laws of war get in the way of the global ambitions of a superpower?

It’s only fair that the last words on the laws of war go to Private Bradley Manning, now sitting in a prison cell in Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, awaiting court-martial for allegedly passing troves of classified material to WikiLeaks, documents that offer the unvarnished truth about the Afghan War, the Iraq War, and Guantánamo.  They are taken from the instant-message chatlogs he wrote under the handle of “bradass87” to the informant who turned him in.  The young private saw very clearly what so many professors and generals take pains to deny: that the primary function of the laws of war is not to restrain violence, but to justify it, often with the greatest lawyerly ingenuity.

(02:27:47 PM) bradass87: i mean, we’re better in some respects… we’re much more subtle… use a lot more words and legal techniques to legitimize everything…

(02:28:19 PM) bradass87: but just because something is more subtle, doesn’t make it right

Chase Madar, a TomDispatch regular and author of a new book, “The Passion of Bradley Manning” (OR Books), is a lawyer in New York. To listen to Timothy MacBain’s latest two-part Tomcast audio interview in which Madar discusses the Manning case and his new book, click here for part 1 and here for part 2, or download it to your iPod here.  Madar tweets @ChMadar https://twitter.com/#!/chmadar.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter @TomDispatch and join us on Facebook.

Copyright 2012 Chase Madar

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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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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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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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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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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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