Tuesday, October 08, 2013

We are all war criminals

The Red Cross paints a target on its chest:
The International Committee of the Red Cross have called for video games to punish crimes committed in battle by adhering to real-life international war conventions.

“The ICRC believes there is a place for international humanitarian law (the law of armed conflict) in video games,” the organization that works worldwide to provide humanitarian help for people caught in war zones said in a statement on their website. “The ICRC is concerned that certain game scenarios could lead to a trivialization of serious violations of the law of armed conflict,” they added. “The fear is that eventually such illegal acts will be perceived as acceptable behavior.”[…]

Bernard Barrett, a spokesman for the organization said they were not trying to censor games or spoil people’s fun, but rather, “make clear that there are rules in battle and that certain acts are illegal.”
 I can't imagine I'm the first game designer to read this and think, "hmmm, what if the Red Cross was taken over by liberal fascists and started behaving like liberal fascists usually do...."



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Anonymous Beau October 09, 2013 1:36 AM  


Thank you for hearing the petitions lifted up to heaven this evening. Of these we await your response; not wavering in unbelief, but growing strong in faith, giving glory to God. We are in your hands Lord Jesus, Amen.

Anonymous Grinder October 09, 2013 2:33 AM  

Golf Pro, you are right. I can't prove that there is a widely held impression. What I should have said was that there are events that occurred that suggest that perhaps there are some individuals within police forces who feel it is permissible to kill those who have killed or injured police officers instead of make a live arrest when given the opportunity.
Personally I strongly believe that in addition to police officers who actually perform extra-judicial killings are many more who would do so if given the cause and opportunity. Furthermore, I believe this belief in the killings being justified by police officers extends beyond the police themselves and into the judiciary that fails to hold such police forces and officers to account. It is hard to know exactly what these people believe in and I draw inferences from their conduct. Why I believe all this to be true may well be that I simply watch too much t.v.

Anonymous dh October 09, 2013 10:52 AM  

The Manhattan Project cost $2 billion in its day, or upwards of $20 billion in today's money, but then the war effort cost America upwards of $3 trillion in modern money. There were four bombs made, so each was worth about $5 billion.

The $3T number is very interesting. That actually is not that big of a number considering the scale of WWII.

Blogger Markku October 09, 2013 11:10 AM  

You abide by the rules of war, and reprise for violations of the rules of war, to keep your enemy abiding by them

In the Finnish army the argument was that you abide by them to prevent the enemy from using the atrocities as propaganda to rally the troops.

Blogger Markku October 09, 2013 11:15 AM  

Considering who the enemy is likely to be, the concept that you don't torture them for moral reasons would have been an extremely tough sell.

Blogger Tom Kratman October 09, 2013 3:43 PM  

Indeed, that sounds like one of those things liberals whose minds lock up at all that ickiness would say, Markhu. But, in fact, the objectives are to reduce the needless suffering, hence the hate, hence to bring about an easier resoration of peace, because reprisal is the only method of enforcement proven to work or likely to work on any scale.

And, yes, that particular argument against torture really falls flat on anyone who already believes that you use torture.

Interestingly, I once had dinner in Gettysburg sitting next to the very lovely Saara Karhu, then - maybe still - a member of the Finnish Parliament Defense Committee. Why? Why because I got to make the seating arrangments, of course. Course, she's gotten older now.

Blogger Markku October 09, 2013 4:14 PM  

Indeed, that sounds like one of those things liberals whose minds lock up at all that ickiness would say, Markhu.

No, it was told to us soldiers by an officer as the reason why we must not do it ourselves, nor follow an officer's command to do so if given.

Blogger Markku October 09, 2013 4:37 PM  

And the army is definitely not very liberal. Here's one of the popular marching songs:

A bunch of hippies came with a red Moskvitš pick up truck
I don't like hippies, I load my RK-62 with a smile
RK-62 keeps popping, hippies keep falling
One tries to get away, but a shot to the back of the head stops it

Punaisella avolavamossella
saapui joukko pitkätukkia
Pitkätukista pidä en
RK:n lataan hymyillen
RK 62 nakuttaa
Pitkätukat lakoaa
Yksi karkuun yrittää
niskalaukaus sen pysäyttää

Blogger Tom Kratman October 09, 2013 5:15 PM  

Yeah, but it's bullshit, Markhu. Of all the reasons to abide by the laws of war or reprise against violations of them, enemy propaganda is about the least important, since he'll lie anyway. And, by the way, officers can sling utter bullshit in all armies, at all times, and all places. Did I? No, but note that I retired as a lieutenant colonel, too. Officers also tend to be selected for political reliability and docility, most places, most times. As such, in a liberal society they'll talk liberal bullshit, even as if they believe it. Indeed, some of them may believe it; note that tabless bitch Odierno insisting that the burden of proof for X standards has shifted to the armed forces, the better to integrate women, quite without respect to what it will do to the armed forces.

Blogger Markku October 09, 2013 5:22 PM  

Russians already expect to be lied to by the authorities, since it's pretty much the national policy. But if they witness these atrocities themselves, or hear from those who have witnessed them, they are much more likely to really believe it. Or, if the state is able to point to the place it was supposed to happen in, and there are actual eyewitnesses there. And hence the soldiers are much more likely to fight to the last man instead of surrendering, if they suspect they'll be tortured themselves.

Blogger Tom Kratman October 09, 2013 5:41 PM  

A small amount of noise in the great symphony - called "Our enemy is wicked" - every country's propaganda machine can generate. But it is still not the main, nor even a big, reason, historically.

Blogger Markku October 09, 2013 5:46 PM  

What would be the motivation to lie on that point, if there indeed was a better reason? Don't get me wrong, the expectation among the men was always that if an officer says something, it's probably bullshit. But there's usually a reason to opt for the bullshit instead of the truth.

I mean, the assumption (correct in my opinion) was that we're already going to want to torture. An appeal to universal morality is going to achieve very little at that point. Nor would it have been any good to say that the Russians will return the favor - the expectation is that the Russians live and breathe atrocities. Nothing that we'd do would make any difference.

Blogger Tom Kratman October 09, 2013 5:57 PM  

He'll lie to protect his OER (or whatever the Finnish Army's equivalent is), or his standing, or to avoid an ass chewing, or, just maybe, he believes the pravda. But it's still a trivial concern, real war, real world.

The thing is, the laws of war are not a lot more than gentlemen's agreements to refrain from X mostly or purely gratuitous violence in exchange for the enemy refraining from doing the same. That means any party to a conflict can set a lower standard - they can use gas, say, and then both parties will use gas. No biggie. We don't usually do that because gas tends to be a pain in the ass for both parties with no real advantage to anyone once both sides are using it...historically. (However, if only one side has gas - Japan in China, Italy in Ethiopia - you ought not be surprised if it's used.)

Hmmm...discussion that touches on law of war, in the course of covering Tranzi stupidity and iniquity, here:

Blogger Markku October 09, 2013 6:02 PM  

I'm starting to suspect that you originally thought I was disagreeing with you, and that this was supposedly the argument for any army in whatever situation. No, I meant exactly what I said, no more and no less: "In the Finnish army the argument was..." I merely mentioned it.

Inherent was the assumption that at that point the Russians will already have committed them, because they are Russians. And we'll want to do some torturing ourselves in order to feel better about what has already happened to people we care about.

Blogger Tom Kratman October 09, 2013 6:42 PM  

I didn't get a strong sense of disagreement, just the laying out of a particular army's position. I happen to disagree with that position, but I have no doubt that you've reported it accurately. That said, the preposterous post from Duke that brought me into this discussion has sort of tripped my "areyoufuckingpeopleonDOPE" sensor, so I _may_ have been more aggressive than strictly called for.

Anonymous ChicagoRefugee October 09, 2013 11:17 PM  

A day late - literally - but I can't help but ask WHY on earth any sentient, non-moonbat human being would even consider donating to Catholic Charities?

As the one of noisiest and most self-righteous proponents of unlimited immigration, their actions have demonstrably impoverished working-class Americans, destroying their schools, neighborhoods and livelihoods. Among the few beneficiaries of their actions are, strangely enough, Catholic clerics who benefit from full pews, fattened budgets and improved self-regard.

They are also among the leaders in the refugee racket - doing quite well by doing good - and sticking it to the taxpayer in the process. "Minnesota" Somalis waging jihad? Catholic Charities & Lutheran Services did that. Give 'em a hand, folks!

They were also huge advocates and supporters of Obamacare. While the trampling of their religious liberties and potential sale/transfer/closure of their hospitals & clinics in the name of "reproductive rights" is troubling in its implications, it would also be poetic justice. They sought to coercively offload - i.e. socialize - their charitable duties onto the population as a whole? Then let us coercively socialize their assets to achieve the task.

Though doctrinaire Tranzis disdain their religious motivation, Catholic Charities is the epitome of a Tranzi organization and a blot upon the American landscape.

Oh, and JDC's "Food for the Poor" program most likely impoverishes indigenous farmers, destroys local economies, breeds long-term dependence and actively prevents agricultural self-sufficiency. But the busy bodies feel SO good about themselves and that's all that counts, right?

/rant off

Blogger Duke of Earl October 10, 2013 8:35 AM  

Conversely, to claim we abide them them only to spare our own ever so tender feelings, is to place those feelings above the lives of, oh, say, the defenseless civilians who will be most harmed by violations of the law of war. Which is, once again, preposterous and, worse, utterly immoral.

Feelings? I point you back to the article.

Blogger Duke of Earl October 10, 2013 8:44 AM  

The quote was from a German Commander to one of his pilots who would later spare the crew of a damaged American bomber because he saw it as dishonourable to attack a defenceless target.

The American pilot, Brown, and the German pilot, Stigler, became as close as brothers when they met almost fifty years after that event.

Blogger Tom Kratman October 10, 2013 8:55 AM  

Ah, so it is not your personal position? Good.

I'm familiar with the story. As for the German, he should have been shot for dereliction of duty.

Blogger Jordan179 October 10, 2013 3:38 PM  

I think that this is pretty damned funny. The main force degrading the observation of the Laws of War are the tranzis themselves, because they focus all their efforts on those countries who best adhere to them (America and the rest of the West) while giving a pass to the countries (and NGO's) who most deliberately and routinely violate them (the Third World and the Terrorists). And the Red Cross is worried about video games?

Blogger Jordan179 October 10, 2013 3:40 PM  

I killed 11 blacks the other day in an online game of chess. Does that make me a bad person?

Yes. Plus, I bet the whites started the war first! ;-)

Blogger Duke of Earl October 10, 2013 5:25 PM  

I'm familiar with the story. As for the German, he should have been shot for dereliction of duty.

I see. Common decency has no place in your version of war.

Good to know.

Blogger Tom Kratman October 10, 2013 5:50 PM  

This comment has been removed by the author.

Blogger Tom Kratman October 10, 2013 5:52 PM  

Common decency includes making as sure as one can - when making sure is one's duty - that the people engaged in burning your cities down- also your women and children alive, have the minimum possible chance to do so. Letting them live to come back and bomb some more, when you can kill them first, is a violation of common decency and your duty to those women and children. Conversely, you think that giving one's enemies the maximum opportunity to burn one's women and children alive _is_ common decency? You think that placing your personal, ever-so-sensitive feelings ahead of your duty to protect your women and children is decent? If so, that's disgusting to know.

Blogger Duke of Earl October 10, 2013 5:59 PM  

What you've basically said is that you would have shot a man who spared one of your countrymen, thus acting as a disincentive for others to do the same in future.

So what are we left with? Sound El Degüello, and give no quarter?

Blogger Duke of Earl October 10, 2013 6:11 PM  

If that's the case, and given that when it comes to bombing the women and children, Americans are far more often the givers than the receivers, 9/11 being about the first attack on American soil by an outside agent since Pearl Harbour, it would suggest that those who want to "kill Americans" are entirely justified.

Blogger Tom Kratman October 10, 2013 6:15 PM  

No, what I have said is that he should have been shot for dereliction. But, me being American and all, and not around at the time anyway, HIS commander should have had him shot. What _you've_ basically said is that, amidst the reality of a war where burning down cities with intent to kill the maximum feasible number of civilians in about the worst possible ways is routine, it is more important that the combatants feel good about themselves, however despicable the justification, than that they realize the kind of war they're in, realize their duty, and act on that duty. There is no objective legitimate justification for your position nor for that Hun pilot's. None. He put his feelings over his duty to his own women and children, There can be nothing more disgusting or vile. Except maybe for ignorantly applauding it.

Blogger Tom Kratman October 10, 2013 6:27 PM  

You open up an interesting analogy, Dukie. Imagine a hijacked cargo plane, with no large numbner of passsengers, heading to take down a skyscraper. Thousands of civilians will die. But, our F16 pilot, recognizing the common humanity of the Al Qaeda type he sees through the windshield of the cockpit. neglects to fire. The plane hits, Thousands who could have been saved are murdered. Applaud the F16 pilot, why don't you, for his common decency? The only moral difference between the two examples is immediacy, but there is no difference as to certainty, and no difference as to the wickedness, selfishness, and sheer evil of putting one's personal feelings ahead of one's duty.

Blogger Tom Kratman October 10, 2013 6:34 PM  

Or, here we go:

That hun pilot may as well have done that, to that mother and her twins, to whom he owed a duty, by his own hand.

Blogger Duke of Earl October 11, 2013 6:22 PM  

Except, at least according to AC Grayling, Americans had rejected the deliberate targeting of civilian centres which was being engaged in by German and British bombers. At least that was the case in the European theatre, they weren't so noble against Japan. Dresden, with all its horror was still two years away, and by that time Brown had probably completed his tour of duty and returned to the US. The choice by British commanders to deliberately bomb civilian targets in 1942 was heinous though.

Your analogy is flawed because you're comparing a damaged bomber with minimal offensive capability with a clear and present danger. Perhaps the bomber pilot would be back in another plane, perhaps he wouldn't be. I'm sure, if Stigler had encountered Brown subsequently piloting a bomber he would have shot him down without hesitation and rightly so, just as that F16 pilot would have shot down the airliner.

A more comparable analogy is shooting a wounded and defenceless enemy combatant in the back because he might come back at some other date. Whilst such things have happened, I recall a story of New Zealand soldiers in WW2 who had taken prisoners who then received orders to get rid of them, have dinner with them the night before, kill them in the morning, it makes an ugly thing even uglier. It also provides justification for those who say "[insert soldiers of whatever nation here] are animals, kill them all, offer no terms of surrender." Wasn't that basically what you were saying about abiding by the rules of war in order to minimise post conflict hatreds? In military law, what would be the status of a soldier who shoots a helpless enemy?

Stigler himself saw it that way. His commander in Africa, Gustav Rödel, had told his pilots outright that if he ever heard of them shooting a man in a parachute, he would shoot them himself. To Stigler, Brown and his surviving crew were much like that man in a parachute, practically helpless. His honour wouldn't let him pull the trigger.

Honour is a funny thing, it doesn't exist in any objective sense, but men have been willing to live and die for it as far back as we remember. Even in the US there are records of duels to the death fought for the most trivial of reasons for the sake of honour. For a soldier raised in the German tradition honour was more important than life.

Yours is the most utilitarian and pragmatic of justifications, a dead enemy, dead by any means, is not a threat, but that is a justification that can be taken too far. Enemies have sons, sons can grow up into future enemies, (so can daughters) so kill them, kill their sons (and daughters) their extended family, friends, people from the same area, their countrymen, indeed everyone remotely connected to them to any degree. I've no doubt you would shy away from such a "total war" approach because I believe you to be a good man, so we'd agree there is a line that has to be drawn. We just draw the line in different places.

Blogger Tom Kratman October 11, 2013 8:14 PM  

No, we used a moral figleaf of theoretically trying to do something else, while still participating eagerly and gleefully in the firestorm bombings of Hamburg and Dresden.

No, your analogy is flawed in comparing a parachutist from a downed aircraft with someone still in an aircraft. There is no legal bar - none, got it? Zero, zip, zilch, nada, none (I used to teach this shit at the war college; don't argue the point) - to continuing to engage that aircraft. Clear and present danger is not the standard in war. Any threat can be engaged. Almost any harm done to weaken your enemy is legitimate, and the exceptions do not cover damaged bombers trying to escape. Period. (And, by the way, the bar on shooting parachutists from downed planes has never made sense. it is, however, at least the law as it stands.) The only way for that aircraft to make itself untouchable would be to effect a surrender in the air and turn back toward Germany to land.

There is no honor in dereliction of duty. It is dishonorable in the last degree.

Blogger Markku October 12, 2013 4:27 PM  

The only way for that aircraft to make itself untouchable would be to effect a surrender in the air and turn back toward Germany to land.

According to the Wikipedia article, this is exactly what the German pilot suggested first over the radio. The American refused. Then the German suggested that he land in Sweden, which was neutral territory. The American still refused. At this point, the German had absolutely and unambiguously the moral high ground. But after that second refusal, his duty for his own military would have required to shoot the plane down.

Morally, what saves the German is that Nazis weren't exactly the moral beacons of the world. A duty to Nazis could be argued not to be a duty to God.

Blogger Markku October 12, 2013 4:36 PM  

Just for the sense of sportmanship, I'm a bit embarrassed that we betrayed Hitler in Lapland the way we did. I like open hostility, and not this frenemy bullshit.

But then again, he torched Rovaniemi in revenge, so I guess I'll just call us even.

But yeah, Hitler, if you can hear me from down there, it was kinda weasely.

Blogger Tom Kratman October 12, 2013 5:50 PM  

I don't think that does save him, morally. He had a duty to his country, which was not exactly coequal with the party, to his civilians, and to his military, which were also not the same as the party, to do us all the harm he could consistent with the laws of war. To us he had no duty but one of absolute good faith to follow those rules. He put his own feelings ahead of those duties. Hence, he should have been shot. Even from our point of view it would be better he'd been shot, since he is a bad example to all soldiers, everywhere.

In 98 a reserve unit asked me to be a subject matter expert for a officers' staff ride through the Ardennes. They'd all prepared presentations for certain stops along the battle's route. For reasons unknown, maybe because they were more than half civilian in outlook, several of them keyed on this German battalion commander around Losheim, IIRC, who spent half an hour or so talking a group of American soldiers into surrender, when he could have blown them up in a second. "Oh, it;s so heart's so's so Christian..." Finally I couldn't fucking stand it anymore. I stood up, walked to the front of the bus, took over the microphone, and began to explain, "No, it's none of those things. it is simply dereliction of duty, and none of you ought to aspire to emulate it. This guy didn't legally have to give even one demand for surrender. He elected to, well... okay, _once_, maybe. But this was a life or death offensive for the cause for which he'd signed on. Time - seconds, let alone large fractions of an hour - was key. He had no right - his duty to his country and his fellow soldiers were superior - to waste so much as half a potentially key minute, let alone half an hour. He should have been shot and, if you ever find yourself in similarly desperate circumstances and emulate him, so should you be shot."

Blogger Tom Kratman October 12, 2013 5:57 PM retrospect, that was in 97.

Blogger Markku October 12, 2013 7:41 PM  

He should have been shot and, if you ever find yourself in similarly desperate circumstances and emulate him, so should you be shot.

I'd still do it, no matter if I'd be shot.

Blogger Markku October 12, 2013 7:46 PM  

In fact, I've thought about war, and whether I'd be more likely to be killed by the Russians or Finns. I've concluded it's about 50:50.

Blogger Markku October 12, 2013 7:51 PM  

Although three times out of four the thought experiment ends up in being executed by Finns.

Blogger Tom Kratman October 12, 2013 9:23 PM  

Your choice, as long as you're up for paying the price. I, on the other hand, in that Hun battalion commander's boots, wouldn't even have bothered with a demand for surrender, since that would have taken time which was not mine to give.

Blogger Markku October 12, 2013 9:26 PM  

Your choice, as long as you're up for paying the price.

Cowardice is a sneaky thing, and I've learned to not grandstand in advance. But I believe I am.

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