What Is A War Crime Exactly?

Categories: Military, Opinion

What is a war crime? Since the topic is so prevalent give then high profile cases that have recently graced our headlines, we figured, we’d get the real deal info-reel for everyone and then, of course, our take. Duh.

Good old internet dictionary pulled up this definition of a war crime for us, so we figured it’s a great place to start.

 “An action carried out during the conduct of a war that violates accepted international rules of war.”

Pretty self-explanatory, but also kind of vague. It means others, not your nation, it means the court of public opinion due to political pressure and whathaveyou kind of has a say in what a war crime is. The most blatant and obvious example of a war crime that comes to everyone’s mind is The Holocaust. No doubt, no ifs, ands, or buts. Thems was war crimes on an epic scale. And once more for good effect, f*** those guys.

Alright, now what does the actual Geneva Convention say, let’s take a look.

“Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat (out of capability to wage war) by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria. To this end, the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:

                     violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;

                     taking of hostages;

                     outrages upon dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment; and

                     the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.

                    The wounded and sick shall be collected and cared for.”

There’s a lot more obviously, the Geneva Convention is long and scrupulously studied. We’ll focus on the part “Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat (out of capability to wage war) by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause.” 

So, the question is, did the three men (one convicted, two others awaiting trial) actually commit war crimes? Do they deserve our hatred and disdain? Are they a scar on our otherwise honorable military traditions?

One could make the case that given the nature of asymmetric warfare and the enemies tendency to blend into the populace to avoid detection, that any lie told in order to evade capture so that they could get back to their dastardly deeds, means they are still actively fighting. From a certain perspective. Hostile act, hostile intent right? So the “prisoner” is not out of the fight per se.

If ‘Steve’ convinces ‘Todd’ that he is not a terrorist piece of shit, despite actually being one, even while in custody with the intent to be released…is that not a hostile act? If ‘Steve’ convinces ‘Todd’ that he doesn’t want to blow up the next American convoy, despite his absolute intentions to do so, is ‘Steve’ not still actively engaging in the fight? Depends on your point of view. Some may say yes, some may say no. One thing we won’t do is be pissed off at ‘Ryan’ who knows ‘Todd’ is getting manipulated and smoke checks ‘Steve’. F*** ‘Steve’. 

War is a horrible thing, and to believe that an absolute right or wrong answer is always readily available is a pipe dream propagated by those who’ve never had to make questionable decisions amidst questionable circumstances. It’s war. It doesn’t excuse the behavior, but the ‘clear’ lines of morality that are at times questionable here at home, sometimes, become even more blurred.

Maybe what these guys did was not cool (the actual facts in the Gallagher case have yet to come to light), but war crime…with that designation, they’re being lumped in with the Mai Lai Massacre…to us, that just doesn’t seem right.

They may not abjectly innocent, but from what we’ve read, they were far far far from bloodthirsty maniacs. They were acting to protect their men. May have been uncouth or improper, even unprofessional, but war criminal…nah.

 

Know what we're sayin fam?

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