Laws of Land Warfare

A lot of people are yammering about the Geneva Convention and the Laws of Land Warfare right now. Most of them have no real idea what they are talking about. Some marine shot a wounded guy dead and NBC caught the whole thing on tape. Not having been there or seen the tape, I cannot speculate on whether or not the killing was a war crime or legitimate. I can only provide you with a ground eye view on some of the issues involved. Take everything I say with one caveat: I got off active duty in '93. I do not know what changes may have come about since then.

First off, remember one important fact. David Drake first wrote this down in the afterword to a Hammer's Slammers compilation. The sentiment probably predates him, though. The guys on the ground out there in Jihadistan or wherever are going to do whatever they think they need to do to come home alive. There are limits to this depending on the individual, but it's a pretty good rule of thumb.

Keep in mind some incidents that have happened in Fallujah. Using a white flag to draw troops into an ambush. Boobytrapping corpses. Taking hostages. Torturing civilians. All of these are acts prohibited under the various Geneva and Hague Conventions. Given all of these acts, the idea that the terrorists are protected under the Conventions is pure lunacy. One is protected under the Conventions and accorded status under it only if you abide by its restrictions. To be precise:

Members of other militias and members of other volunteer corps, including those of organized resistance movements, belonging to a Party to the conflict and operating in or outside their own territory, even if this territory is occupied, provided that such militias or volunteer corps, including such organized resistance movements, fulfil the following conditions: (a) that of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates; (b) that of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance; (c) that of carrying arms openly; (d) that of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.
That last one there, d? That's kind of a problem for these people. Well, actually, a through d are all honored in the breach by the Islamofascists. Guess that lets the terrorists out right there, doesn't it? The Convention clearly do not apply to these individuals. As a matter of regulation and policy, the US military tries to abide by the Convention even when engaged with forces who are not signatory to the Conventions. The marine can be prosecuted for violating orders and the UCMJ. But prosecuted for violations of the Conventions? No chance in hell. By their own demonstrated conduct, the terrorists operating in Fallujah have placed themselves out of the bounds of the Conventions.

There is also an automatic out to any charges that the marine will use if the military is dumb enough to prosecute him. If you are acting in self-defense, you are justified in killing every and any thing that moves. If that marine seriously felt he was in danger and his fellow marines were in danger when he capped the guy, he will walk away from any charges brought. Think I'm imagining this? It's the iron-clad defense. A fairly famous case (within the Army, anyway) concerns a soldier who shot three unarmed civilians dead in Panama. He believed one of them had a grenade, and, well, automatic weapons aren't very precise sometimes. He was court-martialed. He was found not guilty because he had acted to save his life and the lives of his fellow soldiers.

The Corps will, and should, investigate this incident. The Corps has larger issues to worry about, so it has to take these precautions. But will they prosecute this marine? I doubt it, although they may bow to currently fashionable stupidity. If they do prosecute him, he'll walk.

Personally, I could care if he was wounded. Make the streets run red with their blood and build a pyramid of skulls in the city square. What matters is killing the terrorists before they kill more of our troops.


Blogger Carl said...

Good analysis--I agree entirely:



1:45 PM  

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