War Crimes

It is rather upsetting to learn of British soldiers who posed in triumph with the dead body of one of their enemies, while other soldiers took pictures. This behaviour is contrary to the Geneva Convention, but perhaps we can forgive these young men who we send to fight in wars that cannot be won for the glorification and wealth of their political masters.

In war bad things happen; I heard Mr Paddy Ashdown talk about the war crimes, as he called them, committed by the Serbs when they bombarded and shelled villages in Bosnia, during the civil war in Yugoslavia, as we called it then. Mr Ashdown was quick to describe that shelling as a war crime which is not without its own irony, for if that action constituted a war crime then how should we classify the bombing of Dresden in February 1945 which killed 25,000 civilians?

No doubt similar arguments could be deployed in defence of bombing of Dresden as the shelling of Serb villages.

The problem with international law is that is usually administered by the victors of the war, who concentrate their energies on the sins of the vanquished and leave the sins of the victors unpunished, except for a few “bad apples” usually of middle or low military rank. It is unheard of for a war tribunal to try a politician on the winning side of any serious conflict.

There are serious issues which raise serious questions about the possible criminality of politicians. It would be interesting and more importantly just to see George Bush and Tony Blair tried for war crimes, and for President Obama to be tried for ordering people to be killed by the use of drones. However these and other politicians can escape the consequences of their actions provided that they are on the winning side in a war.

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