Friday, June 28, 2013

Killing non-enemy civilians rather than enemy soldiers is ALWAYS a war crime

From the Napoleonic Wars in the 18th century to the Sanctions against Iraq in the 21st century the Anglophone countries (led by the English) have shown a consistent preference for killing non-enemy civilians from a safe distance over risking their own precious necks killing enemy soldiers in face to face combat.

Clearly this is cowardly behavior,  but is it also immoral ?

Whether or not targeting non-enemy civilians over enemy soldiers  is illegal under international law is pretty irrelevant : if the voters in the erring nation and general world opinion don't hold strong views on this breach in international law, there will be no real consequences for that nation's leadership.

By the way, I am avoiding the highly vexing question of the morality of killing members of an enemy nation who have been forcibly conscripted to work in war-related activities versus those who have been forcibly conscripted to actually fight as soldiers.

Because one has only to think of WWII  Japan, forcing all of its  young children and elderly grandparents to gather pine roots to make aviation fuel for fighter bombers attacking American troop ships, to realize that there is no absolute division between totally innocent civilian and totally guilty soldier in a Total War, only a long grey continuum.

Just who are these "non-enemy civilians" who are killed ?

 (And let us not be evasive and just claim that they died of hunger and stress related disease or from bombing, as mere byproducts of an action aimed at the enemy ---- as if their deaths came as a total surprise.)

They are the citizens of neutral countries, occupied countries, your side's colonies and perhaps even citizens of your own country.

I say citizens because sometimes the military of all these countries also die as byproducts of actions aimed at enemy countries - yes their job is military but they die, in a very real sense off-duty, as if civilians.

Very few if any nation on Earth for the last 100 years or so actually routinely feeds itself entirely on the food grown on its own soil.

Most trade food they grow too much of , in exchange for food they can't grow at all or only grow seasonally.

Even America sells grains and meat to buy bananas and coffee and the rest of the world must do far more than that to feed their people.

A blockade of  even just one small enemy country never just stops there.

This is because they usually can still hope to get their imports in and exports out by buying and selling with a nearby intermediate neutral country (or whole variety of neutral countries) who act as a mere transit point and middleman between that enemy country and all the rest of the neutral countries in the world.

Meanwhile even the companies in the country at war with that enemy country feel they should still be able to sell to neutral countries.

But their government frets that their neutral-bound goods will actually and ultimately end up, via a series of neutral intermediaries, in the hands of the enemy !

At the very beginning of  September 1939 only three relatively small countries were in direct total war : Germany versus France/England. Poland was being swallowed up and the rest of the world was neutral or quite distant from direct combat.

But it still felt like a globe-encompassing war, right from day one, to the whole world.

Why ?

Let's not overdo the Phoney War versus Blitzkreig War comparisons in the Fall of 1939.

Because even before their ultimatums expired, the French and English had in place a highly efficient world-wide blockade system while the Germans were caught red-faced with their scarce civilian shipping mostly stuck in enemy or neutral ports.

Worse, many of the elements of their own blockade system not yet even manufactured, let alone be up and working.

Shipping on the High Seas, all over the world, from a hundred countries and colonies, was already being stopped by France/England and sometimes by Germany and questioned about their cargoes and their destinations.

World Trade (trade essential for virtually every country's mere national survival) was totally disrupted and this immediately meant hunger for many.

Poorer people in all the world's countries are quickly vulnerable when they are thrown out of work because their country's export trade, in which they work or depend upon, is no longer there.

Perhaps in time alternatives are found for all and in the mean time middle class people can live off their savings, but the very poorest feel hunger within weeks.

As happened after the declaration of WWII : even in English and French colonies, as well as in the poorer neutral countries in Europe.

In practise everything is embargoed , in and out : everything is seen as a war-related  material, even things like food and wool and leather.

Just before WWI , Germany produced almost all of the world's surgical instruments and life-saving medicines : the Allied embargoes their sale abroad so that even their own military and civilians suffered, let alone the rest of the world.

In WWII, the Allies held a monopoly on penicillin and intended to kept it from everyone but their least-injured of frontline troops.

In Iraq, they kept all medicines and medical supplies from that country - from insulin to antibiotics to surgery instruments.

Iraq soldiers died as a result - but even more so, so did poor children and the poor elderly because whatever supplies did slip in, always and per usual went first to high government officials and the moderately afflicted frontline troops and then a little trickled down to the well off and well connected.

The civilian death toll from the Iraq sanctions equalled that of WWI's blockade and approached that of WWII's blockade.

Invading Iraq, getting rid of the government and then getting out, would have been the most moral thing to do.

As it would have, vis vis Hitler, in WWII.

But the English keep on getting away with imposing immoral (and perhaps even worse ineffective, so additionally immoral) blockades rather than having an army big enough to directly and quickly engage and defeat the enemy.

It just has to stop......

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