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:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

December 07, 2016
Michael Schwalbe
What We Talk About When We Talk About Class
Karl Grossman
The Next Frontier: Trump and Space Weapons
Kenneth Surin
On Being Caught Speeding in Rural America
Chris Floyd
In Like Flynn: Blowback for Filth-Peddling Fascists
Serge Halimi
Trump, the Know-Nothing Victor
Paul DeRienzo
Flynn Flam: Neocon Ex-General to Be Trump’s National Security Advisor
Binoy Kampmark
Troubled Waters: Trump, Taiwan and Beijing
Tom Clifford
Trump and China: a Note From Beijing
Arnold August
Fidel’s Legacy to the World on Theory and Practice
Dave Lindorff
Is Trump’s Idea To Fix a ‘Rigged System’ by Appointing Crooks Who’ve Played It?
John Kirk
Cuba After Fidel
Jess Guh
Repeal of Affordable Care Act is Politics Playing with the Wellbeing of Americans
Eric Sommer
Team Trump: a Government of Generals and Billionaires
Lawrence Davidson
U.S. Reactions to the Death of Fidel Castro
John Garvey - Noel Ignatiev
Abolitionism: a Study Guide
Clancy Sigal
Caution: Conspiracy Theory Ahead!
December 06, 2016
Anthony DiMaggio
Post-Fact Politics: Reviewing the History of Fake News and Propaganda
Richard Moser
Standing Rock: Challenge to the Establishment, School for the Social Movements
Behrooz Ghamari Tabrizi
Warmongering 99 – Common Sense 0: the Senate’s Unanimous Renewal of Iran Sanctions Act
Norman Solomon
Media Complicity is Key to Blacklisting Websites
Michael J. Sainato
Elizabeth Warren’s Shameful Exploitation of Standing Rock Victory
David Rosen
State Power and Terror: From Wounded Knee to Standing Rock
Kim Ives
Deconstructing Another Right-Wing Victory in Haiti
Nile Bowie
South Korea’s Presidency On A Knife-Edge
Mateo Pimentel
Some Notes and a Song for Standing Rock
CJ Hopkins
Manufacturing Normality
Bill Fletcher Jr – Bob Wing
Fighting Back Against the White Revolt of 2016
Peter Lee
Is America Ready for a War on White Privilege?
Pepe Escobar
The Rules of the (Trump) Game
W. T. Whitney
No Peace Yet in Colombia Despite War’s End
Mark Weisbrot
Castro Was Right About US Policy in Latin America
David Swanson
New Rogue Anti-Russia Committee Created in “Intelligence” Act
George Ochenski
Forests of the Future: Local or National Control?
December 05, 2016
Bill Martin
Stalingrad at Standing Rock?
Mark A. Lause
Recounting a Presidential Election: the Backstory
Mel Goodman
Mad Dog Mattis and Trump’s “Seven Days in May”
Matthew Hannah
Standing Rock and the Ideology of Oppressors: Conversations with a Morton County Commissioner
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
#NoDAPL Scores Major Victory: No Final Permit For Pipeline
Fran Shor
The End of the Indispensable Nation
Michael Yates
Vietnam: the War That Won’t Go Away
Michael Uhl
Notes on a Trip to Cuba
Robert Hunziker
Huge Antarctica Glacier in Serious Trouble
John Steppling
Screen Life
David Macaray
Trump vs. America’s Labor Unions
Yoav Litvin
Break Free and Lead, or Resign: a Letter to Bernie Sanders
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail