Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! CounterPunch is entirely supported by our readers. Your donations pay for our small staff, tiny office, writers, designers, techies, bandwidth and servers. We don’t owe anything to advertisers, foundations, one-percenters or political parties. You are our only safety net. Please make a tax-deductible donation today.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

War Rules

by DIANE CHRISTIAN

“All’s fair in love and war.”
-popular saying

“All’s fair in love and war” is usually taken to mean that nothing’s fair in love or war, that anything goes, and regular rules don’t apply. Concepts like ‘crime of passion’ and ‘fog of war’ indicate reduced responsibility. You may do things in the extreme states-like have and revenge sex, and kill-which you cannot do otherwise. Honor killing to avenge sexual misconduct or shame is sanctioned in some societies and war is sanctioned in most.

What are the rules of war? For us, the Geneva Conventions-distinguish combatants and civilians, and care for the wounded, prisoners of war, victims of armed conflicts. Also don’t use asphyxiating or poison gases, expanding bullets, or bacteriological weapons. (Forbidding land mines continues to be debated in international forums.) The great Chinese warrior Sun Tzu suggested in the sixth century BCE that there should be some limit to the waging of war. The idea of ‘rules’ suggests limit and control and reason. In practice the rules are often ignored or waived as stopping war is more difficult than starting it. The Marine appetite to ‘get some’ is not easily converted to ‘humane care.’ The soldier you shoot who dies is enemy dead; the sniper you wound who languishes is your humane responsibility. In the US Civil War, Confederate Officer Henry Wirz was executed for murdering Federal prisoners of war. Robert MacNamara, Secretary of Defense during the Vietnam War, mused in the film “The Fog of War” that the civilian bombing of Tokyo he planned in World War II, would have been a war crime if we had lost the war.

In pursuing the invasion of Iraq, the US administration flouted the UN international forum, contemned and then announced compliance with the Geneva Conventions, and sought legal opinions arguing that when in a state of war the President has absolute and overriding powers-specifically with regard to torture and detention. The Executive Director of Human Rights Watch said “the horrors of Abu Ghraib were not simply the acts of individual soldiers. Abu Ghraib resulted from decisions made by the Bush administration to cast the rules aside.”

War rules for Caesar were absolute and overriding-he razed, decimated, destroyed every resisting inhabitant, sowed salt in the earth. He led his legions personally, as did Napoleon and Sun Tzu. Our war president has not. Like his major war counselors, he pursues war from a safe distance, as do proponents of torture like Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz, whose legal reasoning is basically that all’s fair in war.

Whereas nothing’s fair in war.

DIANE CHRISTIAN is SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor at University at Buffalo and author of the new book Blood Sacrifice. She can be reached at: engdc@acsu.buffalo.edu

 

DIANE CHRISTIAN is SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor at University at Buffalo and author of the new book Blood Sacrifice. She can be reached at: engdc@acsu.buffalo.edu

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
September 30, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Henry Giroux
Thinking Dangerously in the Age of Normalized Ignorance
Stanley L. Cohen
Israel and Academic Freedom: a Closed Book
Paul Craig Roberts – Michael Hudson
Can Russia Learn From Brazil’s Fate? 
Andrew Levine
A Putrid Election: the Horserace as Farce
Mike Whitney
The Biggest Heist in Human History
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Sick Blue Line
Rob Urie
The Twilight of the Leisure Class
Vijay Prashad
In a Hall of Mirrors: Fear and Dislike at the Polls
Alexander Cockburn
The Man Who Built Clinton World
John Wight
Who Will Save Us From America?
Pepe Escobar
Afghanistan; It’s the Heroin, Stupid
W. T. Whitney
When Women’s Lives Don’t Matter
Julian Vigo
“Ooops, I Did It Again”: How the BBC Funnels Stories for Financial Gain
Howard Lisnoff
What was Missing From The Nation’s Interview with Bernie Sanders
Jeremy Brecher
Dakota Access Pipeline and the Future of American Labor
Binoy Kampmark
Pictures Left Incomplete: MH17 and the Joint Investigation Team
Andrew Kahn
Nader Gave Us Bush? Hillary Could Give Us Trump
Steve Horn
Obama Weakens Endangered Species Act
Dave Lindorff
US Propaganda Campaign to Demonize Russia in Full Gear over One-Sided Dutch/Aussie Report on Flight 17 Downing
John W. Whitehead
Uncomfortable Truths You Won’t Hear From the Presidential Candidates
Ramzy Baroud
Shimon Peres: Israel’s Nuclear Man
Brandon Jordan
The Battle for Mercosur
Murray Dobbin
A Globalization Wake-Up Call
Jesse Ventura
Corrupted Science: the DEA and Marijuana
Richard W. Behan
Installing a President by Force: Hillary Clinton and Our Moribund Democracy
Andrew Stewart
The Democratic Plot to Privatize Social Security
Daniel Borgstrom
On the Streets of Oakland, Expressing Solidarity with Charlotte
Marjorie Cohn
President Obama: ‘Patron’ of the Israeli Occupation
Norman Pollack
The “Self-Hating” Jew: A Critique
David Rosen
The Living Body & the Ecological Crisis
Joseph Natoli
Thoughtcrimes and Stupidspeak: Our Assault Against Words
Ron Jacobs
A Cycle of Death Underscored by Greed and a Lust for Power
Uri Avnery
Abu Mazen’s Balance Sheet
Kim Nicolini
Long Drive Home
Louisa Willcox
Tribes Make History with Signing of Grizzly Bear Treaty
Art Martin
The Matrix Around the Next Bend: Facebook, Augmented Reality and the Podification of the Populace
Andre Vltchek
Failures of the Western Left
Ishmael Reed
Millennialism or Extinctionism?
Frances Madeson
Why It’s Time to Create a Cabinet-Level Dept. of Native Affairs
Laura Finley
Presidential Debate Recommendations
José Negroni
Mass Firings on Broadway Lead Singers to Push Back
Leticia Cortez
Entering the Historical Dissonance Surrounding Desafinados
Robert J. Burrowes
Gandhi: ‘My Life is My Message’
Charles R. Larson
Queen Lear? Deborah Levy’s “Hot Milk”
David Yearsley
Bring on the Nibelungen: If Wagner Scored the Debates
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail
[i]
[i]
[i]
[i]