Tuesday, October 22, 2013

War Crimes? Seriously?


So I saw this headline on Google News today: "Rights groups: Some US drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen may be war crimes
". Really? Are you serious?

Okay, I have mixed feelings about drones. Let's be up front about that. I have issues with a weapons system being remote-controlled from hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away being used to kill people and blow things up. But that's not what I'm going to rant about.


This particular rant is due to this story over at Fox (and other places, like CNN).

Amnesty International may be a swell bunch of folks whose only wish is to protect us from evil. Then again they may just be a bunch of meddling liberal do-gooders who only rant and rave about the wrong-doings of the United States and her allies. My jury is still out on that. But here's a bit from Wikipedia:

Amnesty reports disproportionately on relatively more democratic and open countries, arguing that its intention is not to produce a range of reports which statistically represents the world's human rights abuses, but rather to apply the pressure of public opinion to encourage improvements. The demonstration effect of the behavior of both key Western governments and major non-Western states is an important factor: as one former Amnesty Secretary-General pointed out, "for many countries and a large number of people, the United States is a model," and according to one Amnesty manager, "large countries influence small countries." In addition, with the end of the Cold War, Amnesty felt that a greater emphasis on human rights in the North was needed to improve its credibility with its Southern critics by demonstrating its willingness to report on human rights issues in a truly global manner.
Well of course they report "disproportionately" on what most of us would consider to be "the good guys". Those countries they don't report on have the worst human rights abuses and they generally don't give a flying fire truck what some international organization thinks.

But I'm not really here to rant about AI as I am here to rant about the concept that war can somehow be regulated or controlled once war breaks out.

All you can really do is lay down some ground rules which pretty much state: "these are the things you shouldn't do, and if you lose the war, you'll be punished for it by the folks who won the war". Truthfully, those sorts of ground rules only work if everyone agrees with them and abides by them.

If every nation did that there would be no war.

The majority of the planet's population would no doubt agree that 1) war is bad and 2) starting a war should be illegal. Of course, people only agree to this if everything is hunky-dory in their country and they have no claims to any territory which may (or may not) have been held by their country in antiquity.

I'm sure any Argentine would immediately point out that Las Islas Malvinas used to belong to Argentina, Britain should give them back. Unfortunately (for Argentina I suppose) the inhabitants of the Falkland Islands are quite content to be subjects of the British Crown and have no wish to be ruled from Buenas Aires.

One could view the current state of the world as a game of musical chairs which has ended. The people who managed to get chairs have made rules indicating under what conditions the people who didn't manage to grab a chair when the music stopped can get one now. It's all very convoluted and complicated but the bottom line is that the territories now controlled by the big powers will tend to stay controlled by the big powers. Those territories not controlled by the big powers will be controlled by whomsoever the big powers decide should control those territories. Whether the people who live there like it or not.

I'm quite sure the Narragansetts, Niantics, Pequots, and Wampanoags would love to have Rhode Island back. The Europeans took it away from them, basically by killing those who objected or otherwise overpowering those who didn't really care to lose their ancestral homelands. But that was a long time ago. No one would seriously want to give the original inhabitants their land back. Though I, for one, would be ecstatic if we put them back in charge of Rhode Island. The current bunch of ee-jits in Providence aren't doing such a great job of running the place.

So back to this drone thing (as I see I've gotten way off track).

We are fighting a war. Many in the U.S. and around the world seem to have forgotten this little piece of information. It seems that there are a group of people who don't like us and wish to kill us given the opportunity to do so.

So we kill them first, given the opportunity to do so. Sometimes we use drones. Sometimes the wrong people get killed. And yes, that's a bad thing.

I'm pretty sure the Pakistani grandmother mentioned in the Fox news article had nothing to do with 9-11 or the bombing of the USS Cole. I'm sure she was a very nice lady who was just minding her own business. I think it's terrible that she was killed.

Now I'm not going to say that all of those folks killed on 9-11 were minding their own business and had nothing to do with infidels sullying the Holy Lands or the alleged suppression of the "Palestinian" people. But they died anyway. (But I did mention it, and though "two wrongs don't make a right", it's also true that "what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander". Insert your own favorite platitude here.)

People die in wars. It sucks but it happens. Modern generals (and admirals) like to call this "collateral damage". I suppose if you have to have a handy phrase for that sort of thing, that one will do.

Most of those who died in Dresden in 1945 were not uniformed members of the German Wehrmacht or Waffen SS. They were civilians, trying, no doubt, to mind their own business and praying that the war wouldn't touch them. But it did. Thousands died. In World War II millions of civilians died. Yes, millions. They were "collateral damage" in modern parlance.

What they really were was "in the way". Somebody decided to have a war where they lived. Bullets start flying, bombs start dropping and people die. Sometimes not the ones who are actually fighting in the war, sometimes they're just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

It sucks. It's terrible. But it's not a war crime.

Intentionally targeting civilians is a war crime. Killing them accidentally is a tragedy. At least the United States and her allies try to avoid killing civilians. Sometimes at the cost of the lives of our men and women in uniform. And you know what? Many of us who served and are serving now have no problem with that concept. You protect the weak and the innocent as best you can. Sometimes dying instead of putting innocents in harm's way. Think of the pilot of a crippled aircraft who will sacrifice his/her own life to guide the aircraft away from buildings on the ground. They could eject and live but that bird may hit a school or a hospital, so they ride it in. And die.

But sometimes it happens. Especially if you have no one there, on the ground. A drone can't really be relied upon to protect the innocent. It's a machine. And the folks controlling that machine are far, far away.

But I'd rather have the drone there to take out the terrorist leader. Putting troops on the ground would be a mess. Because it would take a lot of them. And pretty soon those local "innocents" aren't going to be happy about these armed foreigners running around killing people and breaking things. They may turn to less than innocent activities. My point of view is that if you support the enemy, you ARE the enemy.

So Amnesty International should S.T.F.U. on this one. As much as I can't stand the current administration, they are NOT guilty of war crimes because of these drone attacks in Pakistan.

One could argue that they are guilty of many things, but war crimes is not one of them.

And that's my two cents.

What do you think?

36 comments:

  1. It's a war crime. To verify that all one need do is postulate that the damage and injuries were inflicted by the U.S. Army or the IDF instead of by the drone pilot. Instant war crime for killing civilians.
    OTOH, we are not at war so how could there be any war crimes?

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  2. "One could argue that they are guilty of many things..."
    Incompetence?

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  3. Hmmm...I've got to think on this a while...YES to everything.

    What is AI's position on cutting off the heads of people because they are not Muslims? I kinda have a problem with that.

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    1. Shhhhh. You're not supposed to mention the bad things that they do. (At least I gather that's the case with the MSM. I'm sure that AI's position is similar.)

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  4. So I'm a callous bastard. Almost anything that reduces the casualties suffered by our people is fine with me. Innocents? Why isn't it their responsibility to control their own areas and expel the people bringing doom down on them? Diffficult? So what, still their responsibility.

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  5. So Amnesty International should S.T.F.U. on this one.

    Is what I think too.

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  6. Fortunately, or unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to release ordinance on a real target. I sat a lot of alert where I had real weapons, some a lot bigger than others and where I sat in the cockpit looking at the tower, fervently praying that I would NOT see a green light. Was I prepared to go, yes. Would I have gone, I certainly think so. Was I scared, you betcha!
    All that in preparation to the use of drones. I think drones are absolutely perfect for campaigns such as Linebacker II. Very heavy defense, everybody on the ground not in a shelter is bad. The good guys are not in any danger. Go for it.
    However, I think our methodology of using drones now is flawed. Yes, drones can orbit for hours (the one argument for use of drones in this environment I agree with)...But not everyone on the ground is our enemy and a mistake becomes strategic in it's ramifications. I'll confess that I don't know anything about the command and control structure and the weapons free decision making, but what video I have seen appears to me to be less clear than what I could see out of my jet. Confirming a target seems more difficult. I'd hate to have to swear that what I just whistled an LGB on was a Taliban Commander Meeting instead of a Afghan Wedding. So, color me as thinking Sec Gates was a bit hasty in going all in with USAF drones and firing the CincUSAF for not complying as quickly as demanded.

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    Replies
    1. Point taken Juvat.

      With kids in the cockpit, that stuff scares me.

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  7. I was reading about Gideon (Old Testament hero in Israel). As he was pursuing his enemies, who had for years tormented the residents of the Jezreel Valley by raiding the villages, stealing anything that wasn't nailed down (and probably lots that was nailed down as well) he asked some of the locals for food for his army. The locals , hedging their bet, refused to help until Gideon had sudued their enemies. At that point Gideon vowed revenge when he came back. Charles Spurgeon, an English preacher from the late 1800's summed it up well "but when a man is at war, he is not in the habit of sprinkling his adversaries with rosewater. War is in itself so great an evil that there are many other evils necessarily connected with it".
    An early 200's blogger Old AFSarge also said it well...So Amnesty International should S.T.F.U. on this one.

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    Replies
    1. Excellent Biblical reference Greg.

      Methinks the Reverend Spurgeon may have seen battle himself. At least he understood it.

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  8. What do I think? Nail - Head. War sucks, anything that reduces OUR casualties is good.

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    1. War does suck. If you don't want one, don't start one.

      Concur with your last.

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  9. The standard answer of MY generation of fighter pilots was/is "FUCK "EM IF THEY CAN'T TAKE A JOKE!" (Hell it's of all fighting men of my generation. I once heard the retired 1st Sea Lord of the RN Henry Leach who was Sea Lord at the time of the Falklands war say EXACTLY the same thing about the sinking of the Belgrano.) (Or was it Admiral Sandy Woodward the Task Force Commander?)

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  10. Such is the problem when you don't kill them all . . . there are those left to complain.

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    1. There is the old "kill 'em all, let God sort 'em out."

      War is cruelty and cannot be refined...

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  11. Whether you agree with the tactic and the motivations behind it is irrelevant. Unfortunately, the article does not state with specificity what "war crimes" - chapter and verse -the US or allies has committed. If the actions violate positive law, agreed to by the US and the international community, then they are war crimes. It's hard to believe, though, that the Obama Administration would intentionally and flagrantly break any laws.

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    1. Agreed Mark. You make some good points.

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    2. Thou shall not intentionally target civilians . . . done.

      Schools and hospitals - - done.

      Not Intentionally target international aid groups - duh

      and religious institutions - provided they are not being used as refuges by the enemy - they turned them into a target by using them as weapons caches and places like that. . .

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    3. War is nasty and dangerous...

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  12. Very simple, the US adopts a sane immigration policy and a sane foreign policy and terrorism is no longer an issue. We bring ALL of our troops home. We end ALL aid to EVERY other nation in the world. We end ALL immigration and remove ALL non-citizens and all dual citizens. Then the goat herders in Outer Booliestan is no longer a threat to the US. Defending any nation other than the US is not our responsibility. Supporting any other nation is not our responsibility.

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    Replies
    1. George Washington did warn us about foreign entanglements didn't he?

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  13. I think that you're right, but I also think that to appease all of the nimrods that still call President Bush and V.P. Cheney "war criminals", we should just extradite Obama and Biden to whatever tribunal wants to convict them of something and then call it a day.

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    1. That approach would work for me on a visceral level.

      Not sure of the legal niceties, but then again, I'm not a lawyer.

      Rumbear?

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    2. Why only Obama and Biden? Lets make it a 6-pack and send Bush,, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Panetta. I would not complain one damn bit if Dianne Feinstein, Barbara Boxer, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and John Boehner (still chewing on John McCain, but I'm inclined) were accidentally seated (or stacked, doesn't matter) on the transport. I would support bombing them to hell if they threatened to send them back.

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    3. We have the transport.

      Send 'em all. The administration, the House, the Senate, the Supreme Court. I'm sure they're all guilty of something.

      Hhmm, is incompetence against the law?

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  14. As usual AI put the 'generic' statement out there... Collateral damage IS a sad fact of war, but if we have a methodology to minimize US deaths, we should use it... Think "A" -bombs...

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    Replies
    1. That they did.

      And you think big. I like that.

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)