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Be nice when you kill!
You can't shoot me, I'm wounded!
It all looks so silly now when we see reenactments of our own Revolutionary War. The same silliness appears
when we see the French Militia in their French Revolution. The solders wore brightly colored suits, dressed like targets for those
deadly round leaden musket balls.
You’ve seen the pictures. British or French soldiers dressed in handsome
red overcoats and white pantaloons. Bright brass buttons, braids and ornaments adorn their chests. The soldiers line up, shoulder
to shoulder, looking like a red and white tsunami. When the troops saw the enemy, half of them dropped to one knee and half stood
upright behind them. A commander yelled “fire” and the guys on their knees would let loose a blast of musket balls. As the knee guys
reloaded the standing men would fire their muskets. You get the picture.
In the meantime the American patriots
were dressed in their black or grey wool farming clothes and hiding behind trees, statues and barns. The British troops were yelling
“foul.” The British commander, brushing a speck of dust from his red jacket and straightening his tri-cornered hat said, “I say, what
kind of a war is this? Those Americans don’t fight fair. We can’t even tell who we’re fighting. They simply must begin wearing uniforms
so we can tell whom to kill!”
Americans in the 1960’s and 1970’s had a similar problem as the British had
two hundred years previous.
American soldiers went to Vietnam, dressed in their fatigues, metal helmets,
shiny boots and efficient killing gear strapped to their backs and around their waists. There was no doubt that they were American
The Viet Cong militia, dressed in their rice paddy duds wandered around our soldiers, looking exactly
the same as the Vietnamese who liked us. They, too, hid behind trees, bushes and huts and as soon as they saw an American soldier
dressed neatly in fatigues they knew they were the enemy and they shot them.
A neatly attired and frustrated American Major, bivouacked
in Saigon, straightened his newly ironed camouflage shirt, adjusted his shiny, black belt, buffed his right boot on the back of his
left leg and said, “What’s with these Cong people! We can’t tell if they’re friend or foe. How the hell are we to know whom to kill?
Somebody’s got to do something about this. This ain’t fair!”
All of this is a commentary on the utter insanity
of war. The killing, the mutilation, the terror, the cruelty. All done in the name of “doing good.”
have been meeting for scores of years, attempting to make some intelligent rules for warfare. The rules of the Geneva and Hague Conventions
have become icons of futility.
War is killing. War is cruel. War is atrocities. War is the art of creating
death from life.
How can we talk of “war crimes” when war itself is the crime. The object of war is to slay
and/or disable the opponent. The energies of the Conventions in Geneva and The Hague should be directed at the avoidance of war rather
than its conduct.
It’s possible that modern combatants, reading the current rules of proper warfare, could
use them to find ways to best their opponents. In the 2003 war in Iraq, Iraqi troops waved a white flag and then opened fire on the
U.S. soldiers who approached them to accept their surrender. This act is prohibited under the rules of the Geneva Convention.
The Hague Convention “prohibits” the destruction of cultural property – things like artwork, literature, artifacts. As the American
soldiers in Iraq found, “it is illegal to misuse a white flag.” It is also illegal to “attack a defenseless person.” Also, there is
a ban on weapons whose purpose is to maximize pain and suffering.” Genocide, the systematic destruction of a particular group of people
based on nationality or ethnicity is prohibited.
Sick or wounded troops must be treated humanely. It’s illegal
to kill, mutilate, torture or perform “biological experiments” on a wounded combatant. The dead are to be collected, examined (only
to be sure that the person is in fact, dead). Bodies must be treated with respect.
No physical or mental
torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war. Prisoners who refuse to answer may not be threatened,
insulted, or exposed to any unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind.
Two of the articles of the
Geneva Convention state that (a) Violence to life and person, in particular, murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and
torture are prohibited; (b) Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment is prohibited.
There are currently 134 wars being waged on our planet as you read this. Every second of every minute of every day there are people
killing each other. I doubt if many of those involved in these wars have read the articles contained in the Geneva or Hague Conventions.
Perhaps some day we humans will gather at Conventions and formulate rules to avoid war, rather than create
rules of how to properly kill each other.
We have come a long way since those days of the Redcoats versus
the Revolutionaries. We’ve learned how to kill in larger numbers. We’ve learned that there aren’t many penalties for breaking the
rules of war.
What we haven’t learned is how to live together. How not to cripple, mutilate, wound, maim
and kill each other.
Maybe someday there will be a convention on how to avoid war. Then maybe we could get
rid of the disconcerting rules on how to “properly” wage wars.