by Real_PHV_Mentarch | 4/12/2008 04:52:00 PM
Here is a U.K. report from September 2006, concerning the 2004 Fallujah offensive in Iraq (pay particular attention around the 1:20 mark):

This illustrates well how easily any specific action, within the context of a military operation in progress, can lead to a war crime (in this specific case: that of directing attacks against civilians).

There we had a massive offensive in progress, with bombs blowing everywhere and bullets flying left and right. What is the civilian population to do? Stay in their homes while the war rages on all about their homes?

Some would immediately answer yes - they should have stayed put in their homes, if only because of the current "surgical bombing" capacity of the U.S. military which enable a precise strike of valid military targets. Now, assuming that the regular folks of Fallujah at the time happened to be keenly aware of this and that they could somehow manage to remain calm and collected to not give into fear while sheer Hell was happening all about them, such an argument nevertheless remains as insipid as it is bereft on any reasoning depth.

Indeed, laser-guided bombs and missiles usually allow precise targeting. But considering the average payload of said bombs and missiles, any precise targeting capability is rendered a moot point once explosion occurs - for the blast and shock wave alone can, and will, destroy/kill anything and anyone nearby (within a sizable radius at that) in addition to its intended target.

That is why civilians at Fallujah had no choice but to flee their homes in order to seek succor in neighborhoods where there was little (or not) fighting. And folks did indeed run away from their homes - whether out of cool and calm reasoning (yeah, right), or out of primal fear and compelling instinct to survive (much more likely).

And this is obviously what the crowd in the video was doing.

The problem? The pilot who spotted this crowd did not establish whether they were armed individuals or not (and let's put aside for the moment that the pilot was obviously not being shot at by anyone in this crowd - otherwise he would have reported it). In addition, his command did not ask, but rather simply gave him the A-OK to bomb the fleeing crowd.

It took some 30 seconds between the crowd being spotted by the pilot, his command giving the OK to bomb, and the crowd to be obliterated.

Decisions have to be made quickly and swiftly during a military offensive - you wait a tad too long and the lives of soldiers can, and will, be lost. So the pilot's command never thought of asking for the confirmation that armed hostiles were in the crowd, nor did the pilot even think of doing just that - assuming here that he had the time and the means to do so.

In the heat of the moment, all that mattered was that there was a crowd of people moving in a street within a combat zone - and therefore, they were automatically assumed to be hostiles.

Hence why, as well as how, a war crime can be committed in the full earnestness and chaos of a military operation.

The same dynamic applies with regards to friendly fire. Here is but one example:
A friendly-fire incident killed one Canadian soldier and wounded 36 others in Afghanistan (...) Pvt. Mark Anthony Graham (was) killed when a garbage fire lit was mistaken for the smoke and fire of an intended target and strafed by the U.S. air force.

Fighting had been fierce in the Panjwaii district, where soldiers were attempting to secure a section of Highway 1, a major thoroughfare across Kandahar province that had been under control of the Taliban.


The report, by a board of inquiry called to look into the incident, found that the morning of the attack, Charles Company, 1st Battalion, the Royal Canadian Regiment, had lit a fire to burn their refuse on the rocks of Ma'sum Ghar before heading back into the battle zone.

Graham, a former Olympic track-and-field athlete, had been standing at the fire, warming up.

Air strikes had been called into the fight zone the day before, after four Canadian soldiers -- Sgt. Shane Stachnik, Warrant Officer Frank Robert Mellish, Pte. William Cushley and Warrant Officer Richard Francis Nolan -- had been killed in the fighting.

U.S. aircraft were in the area keeping up the pressure, and the pilot of the A10-A was tasked with strafing a target that moments earlier had been hit by a guided bomb dropped by another American aircraft.

He was supposed to use the fire and smoke generated by the bomb to identify where he was to shoot.

"He mistook a garbage fire at the Canadian location for his target without verifying the target through his targeting pod and heads-up display," the report said.
The point? War is Hell and chaos. Why then take the risk of committing war crimes by sending men and women to fight and die in wars of choice?

Whether by accident or, even worse, by intent (two examples here and here), war crimes are almost inevitably committed at one point or another of any ongoing massive military operation - especially within urban theaters.

Even more so within the context of insurgencies, when troops are never sure of who the enemy is.

Just one more reason why the military approach in the so-called Global War on Terror(TM) is a tragic sham and a catastrophic failure, being nothing more than a callous political exercise.

So the obvious question is: will the deciders (at the very least) behind the Afghanistan and Iraq wars be ever brought to justice?

After all, it is the deciders who send the troops to war, who establish the rules of engagement, as well as of the treatment of captives (civilian or otherwise).

Unfortunately, the answer to the question is not bloody likely:

For indeed - the Bush administration (to the man and woman) signed on to implement torture of detainees.

And both the House and Senate ended up supporting it all.

And, indirectly, all of this was likewise supported by the American people who elected those political cowards, calculators and outright incompetents - from 2000 through 2006.

Through it all - the wars, the reports of torture and other war crimes, the revelations of the lies and illegalities from the Bush administration - the elected representatives of the U.S.A. and, by proxy, the American people, not only did nothing to impeach this administration but instead passed the necessary laws to essentially provide retroactive protection from prosecution to this same administration.

That is, in essence, what history will record and what the rest of the world will remember.

Now, if you think that any member of the Bush administration will be instead prosecuted by another country (or even The Hague International Court) for their war crimes, I say to you "guess again" (emphasis mine):
August 2003:

U.S. President George Bush signed into law the American Servicemembers Protection Act of 2002, which is intended to intimidate countries that ratify the treaty for the International Criminal Court (ICC). The new law authorizes the use of military force to liberate any American or citizen of a U.S.-allied country being held by the court, which is located in The Hague. This provision is dubbed the "Hague invasion clause".
In other words: the U.S.A. has already threatened officially to go to war in order to prevent any American from being prosecuted for war crimes in another country - even an allied one.

Altogether, the actions and laws passed by the U.S.A. since 2001 have lead essentially to this (which speaks by itself):

So here we are now - with the U.S.A. having shown itself over and over again quite capable of acting like a rogue state in defiance to the rest of the world of nations, all in order to get revenge for 9/11 (at least, that is how the narrative still goes).

With me, a Canadian, being bewildered through it all, always wondering about my American friends: why have they done this to themselves?

Although the answer is out there, it still breaks my (progressive) heart.

(Cross-posted from APOV)

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