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Old 09-01-2009   #21
William F. Owen
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Just War
I have to say I am pretty cynical about any construct of a "Just War", especially one that is largely the product of European Culture.
However, I do believe no armed force should "target" civilians. That is not to say there are circumstance where their deaths are largely unavoidable.
I also believe that any man, woman or child, that carries, operates, or directly supports weapons systems should not expect their gender or age to protect them. That is not to say that good judgement and some compassion may not be called for. I don't want anyone killing some 8-year old kid carrying ammunition for his father. - no problem with killing the dad who allows his kid to do that though!
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Old 09-01-2009   #22
M-A Lagrange
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I must say that the first time I met a 12 years old stone boy armed with an RPG, I almost pee on me. I was protected only by a piece of paper from his chief... That wasn't much.
I do agree that killing children, women... is not to be done. But as said some COS I met in Bunia: a 12 years old boy with a gun is may be a 12 years old boy but it is also a guy with a gun and less aware of what he is doing than an adult. Well not really if both are under drugs.

But you pointed out all the difficulty to have a civilian oriented war or even instrumentalisation of humanitarian aid. Abu Suleyman was stating: "who you help is the important issue, not the structure of the conflict." Well if you do not help starving under 5 children then you have a problem, cause at the end, you end up in practicing, even indirectly, violence on innocent civilians. Kids can barelly being charged for their parents choices, not talking about women in contexts as Afghanistan. On the otherhand, your feeding you enemi.

"I have to say I am pretty cynical about any construct of a "Just War", especially one that is largely the product of European Culture." (William F. Owen)
"My view is that ends and methods are both necessary but not sufficient conditions of justification. Any attempt to define a war as just without looking at both of them will result in a lot of tail chasing." (Abu Suleyman)

What is interresting from your and Abu Suleyman comments is that it seems like there is a cultural interpretation of "Just war". North Americans would have a different view on Just war compare to europeans.
Also, the actual concept of just war (based on proportionality, response to an agression...) is a US concept brought by M. Walzer. It was a critic of US way to conduct war in Viet Nam. (on this, it's not me, it's you)Would that mean that US army is having a double look at it ? Assimetric war would justify an disproportionated response or would that just be missing the point in such confrontation?
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Old 09-01-2009   #23
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Interestingly, the ICRC produced a major research report entitled People on War in 1999 which used opinion surveys to ascertain what different societies (including those with recent bitter experience of armed conflict) thought about the IHL and the laws of war.

The findings are interesting, especially since they do suggest emerging norms across multiple cultures. (Then again, it is often the attitudes of combatants, not civilians answering a poll, that may be most important--and those may be rather different.)
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Old 09-01-2009   #24
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"Then again, it is often the attitudes of combatants, not civilians answering a poll, that may be most important--and those may be rather different"

Well, there is one aspect of wars that is often under estimated, it is the participation of civilians into it.
One of the aspect I have witness and experiment a lot is the useof farming as a civilian tool to conquier land and also urbanism.
This has been used by Kagame after the genocide to reorganise the population setlements in Rwanda. Instade of preserving the wide spread villages urbanism scheme that was the norm before with houses on the top of the ills and fields in the valley. He concentrated settlements into valleys and obliged people to rebuild villages in a "european style" where he could have more grip on them. Also, this allowed him to spoil land from the Hutu (not saying I like the interharmwe, far from it).
In DRC, the Nande reconquiered land in Ituri by being the very first one to come back,pushed by civilian authorities. This allowed them to occupy "legaly" villages left by the original populations that were too traumatised to come back. It also alowed them to occupy "free" land through agricultural relief programs by distributing farming land that they used to military loose but to which they had access as they were the political winners.
In South Somalia, it is not land access that has been instrumentalised but access to water. Kenyan somaly were denied development by their government as they voted to be Somaly in the 60. So they manage non maintenance of water points, increasing artificially drought. This results into increasing inter ethnic conflicts and "force" donors and humanitarian actors to come and implement every 4 years the same projects based on conflict mitigation, peace promotion and water access. They also manage to recover livestock. They either send on other part of the kenya/Ethiopia/Somalia triangle and keep somewick old cattles they let die to increase the symbols of drought.
Also, in an attempt to settle the conflict in Somalia, NGO and UN agencies tryed to talk to elders and traders. They found out that all those civilians were either fully supporting war or were basically trading with various groups to support their efforts of war or increase existing tensions that would serve their business.

So far, I do agree that military behaviour is one important aspect of war. But civilian behaviour is also influencing war and not always (far from that) unpurposely.
It is the same with the problematic of drug production. In somehow, drug production and insecurity resulting from it becomes a rational choice for poor farmers households. Soldiers protecting them are not always providing what is the most beneficial for them in an economic perspective.
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Old 09-01-2009   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by M-A Lagrange View Post
To come to Stan.
Well, it is all the problem that your pointing out. Having a discriminative approach of distributing aid in a location leads to violence among civilian. In counter insurgencies, this is counter productive. We faced the same in DRC in 2007/2008 and I spend with a couple of foes a hell of a time to explain it to the UN.
But in a military approach of relief, being discriminative may help. What you have to target is a larger range of people.
Hey MA,
In our case, the water being pumped (and the food provided by NGOs) was intended for everyone to include those who were actively part of the genocide. All told approx. 800,000 in two camps. It was however the Zairian army opposed to free drinking water and not the target population (Tutsi, Hutu, etc.). There were far worse things the FAZ did back then besides sell water.

I appreciate and understand your view on the issue. I think most of us also felt that we could have been more discriminative with the provision of relief, but that was not our choice to make at the time with over 4,000 people dying of cholera each day.

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Targeting villages would be my advise (not saying I have the holy truth in my hands). This allows to impulse an auto regulation obligation in the community. But providing aid is limited, you have to couple it with security in a barter like: you help me and I protect you and provide aid. You try to #### me I stop every thing and even more. But that would definitively fall under unjust war and unjust humanitarian action.
Although I was talking in general about the refugee crisis in Goma, I'd like to comment on your post further.

Having lived amongst the Zairois for nearly a decade in friendlier times, I have to confess that most of the villages there were already (literally) targets of their own military and government. Any sort of pressure we could have applied would have be a waste of time, and resulted in just more dead villagers. (Unjust) Humanitarian actions should also take into account that more people will ultimately suffer from our inaction.

Honestly, much like Tom opined, I was hoping Mount Nyiragongo would have busted her seams and sent those folks to the promise land.

Regards, Stan
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Old 09-01-2009   #26
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Insofar as some seem to have taken my comments to indicate otherwise, I just want to say that I strongly believe that Conduct of War rules are a good thing, whether they are the Code of Chivalry or the Geneva Convention. Children and other non-combatants are not and should never be targets.

However, I treat the conduct of war as separate from the 'Just War' rightly or wrongly because I view the decision to go to war as separate from the conduct there of, mostly because in modern times the people who make decisions about the two are separate. Decisions to go to war is almost always made by politicians, whereas most war crimes are commited by individuals or groups thereof in the armed forces. It is conceivable that a political body would both declare an unjust war and then regulate that the war be conducted in such a manner that is against the law of land warfare. However, it is equally concievable that even in an unjust war, soldiers could conduct themselves in an honorable manner, and vice-a-versa.
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Old 09-02-2009   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Abu Suleyman View Post
Decisions to go to war is almost always made by politicians, whereas most war crimes are commited by individuals or groups thereof in the armed forces.
So what is a war crime? I have some pretty set ideas about War Crimes, but these are vastly at odds with what the UN/NGOs/media wishes/chooses to call war crimes.
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Old 09-02-2009   #28
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Hey Abu,
What you describe is basically the rule of Just war that is making the distinction between entering into war for a Just reason and conducting war in a Just manner. (Jus in bello and jus at bellum)
Why wars are declared or occure is different from how they are conducted. The aim of this is to preserve the humanity of the combattants by accepting that war are spaces in the real with different rules and moral understanding. But saying that, the warriors or soldiers still have and are part of humanity. What political leaders may ask them to do may be unjust and then the responsability lies in the hands of the decision makers. But also, as Stan pointed out, combattants have the obligation to refuse unjust or illegal orders. The definition of unjust or illegal orders is unclear and vague, I agree.
And I would not dare to juge whitout knowing the responsability of individuals in a war zone. Choices made are harsh and difficult under high pressure. But still law as the realisation of moral standing in the real has to be preserved.
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Old 09-02-2009   #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
So what is a war crime? I have some pretty set ideas about War Crimes, but these are vastly at odds with what the UN/NGOs/media wishes/chooses to call war crimes.
Article 8 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court is the best single summary of war crimes (plus the more serious categories of genocide and crimes against humanity in Articles 6-7).
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Old 09-02-2009   #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
So what is a war crime? I have some pretty set ideas about War Crimes, but these are vastly at odds with what the UN/NGOs/media wishes/chooses to call war crimes.
I suspect that if we were to break out our respective definitions of what we think war crimes are most of us here would have a pretty similar definition. I almost %100 certain, based on reading Wilf for so long that we would have no meaningful disagreement.

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Originally Posted by M.A. Lagrange
Why wars are declared or occure is different from how they are conducted. The aim of this is to preserve the humanity of the combattants by accepting that war are spaces in the real with different rules and moral understanding. But saying that, the warriors or soldiers still have and are part of humanity. What political leaders may ask them to do may be unjust and then the responsability lies in the hands of the decision makers. But also, as Stan pointed out, combattants have the obligation to refuse unjust or illegal orders. The definition of unjust or illegal orders is unclear and vague, I agree.
We are in %100 percent accordance. I treat the two as different, but both essential elements of a moral war. If your war for a good reason is conducted in an immoral way, it is not a moral war, and no amount of humanity in an immoral war makes it ok. I only separate warfighters from politicians for analytical purposes, and (a little) because their choices are of a different character.


Quote:
Originally Posted by M.A. Lagrange
And I would not dare to juge whitout knowing the responsability of individuals in a war zone. Choices made are harsh and difficult under high pressure. But still law as the realisation of moral standing in the real has to be preserved.
Also agree. Here I am talking about general theoretical level questions. Theory is important because (well constructed) it is a constant and gives us the measuring stick against which we can evaluate the real world. However, when dealing with individual cases I would be very hesitant to pass more than a cursory "If...then..." evaluation of the situation, and only after enough time had passed to let all of the facts come out.

Indeed, while not condoning true warcrimes, I think we are sometimes too harsh on warfighters. The stakes are higher in war, and therefore mistakes have greater consequences. To treat things that occur in a war zone the same way we would deal with them if they happened at home is probably a bad thing to do.
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Old 09-03-2009   #31
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Default Can humanitarian aid be used to perpetrate a war crime?

By definition: no. But an over instrumentalisation of it would then oblige to consider humanitarian aid, even conducted by civilians, as a military actions. Then it may become a war crime by access denial. Denying humanitarian aid to access may allow war crimes to happen. Then it is a military responsibility and the whole military chain of command that has to be examined. From the private that did not let humanitarian aid enter to the Chief of the Armies and the whole government that gave the orders and signed them.
But could humanitarian actors perpetrate a war crime? The answer is the less clear. The example given by Tom of MSF redraw from Goma while 4000 people were dying per day could be interpreted as such if they were the only one present. The non assistance of ICRC to war prisoners and civilian in concentration camps during WWII could be seen as such as they were the only one to access. The too often negation of his responsibility inside ICRC nowadays is not only due to the shame that comes from his non action. At that time being anti-Semite was well accepted into Swiss high bourgeoisie and intellectual circles.
There again we are stuck in the definition of direct involvement of the chain of command.
In a "build" perspective of counter insurgency, this has to be looked at twice.
An unequal access to aid would lead to a war crime if massive number of civilians, especially "innocent" ones dies from it. The use of food and medicine embargo is still proscribed (had for Good reasons). But still we end up in the problematic of independence of humanitarian aid which, part from ICRC and MSF, is a joke.
Therefore humanitarian actors do have a responsibility, which is quite equivalent as the one of military, in distributing or not access to aid.
The ground guy executes orders from intermediate officer with the difference that he does not have the responsibility to not apply the order or redirect the aid. At the contrary of a soldier that has the responsibility to not apply illegal order.
As in the military, intermediate humanitarian officer will then deny his responsibility in putting the blame on the donors whom do have a political agenda.
But there also NGO do have, in the best case, social agendas with political goals and objectives…
Then the question is no more rhetorical and can/needs to be addressed.
Could humanitarian aid or actors being involved with direct responsibilities in a war crime?

PS: Rome Status are the best definition I have found up to now and whit which I agree 100%. Like said Abu, if we all met, we would have a 99,999% agreement on what is a war crime definition and fight with details for the pleasure of a good rhetorical talk.
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Old 01-23-2010   #32
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Default A Humanitarian war crime to come?

From Reliefweb. Nothing to add.

Quote:
Sudan revokes licenses of 26 aid groups in Darfur, warns dozen others
Friday 22 January 2010
January 21, 2010 (KHARTOUM) –The Sudanese government announced today that it has revoked the licenses of 26 relief groups operating in Darfur while warning 13 others that they must conform to the country’s laws within 30 days or face the same fate.
Sudan official news agency (SUNA) carried a decree by the government’s registrar for the of Voluntary and Charitable Organizations Ahmed Mohamed Adam saying that the decision was taken in line with the laws governing the work of aid groups in addition to agreements between the government of Sudan and these organizations.
The determination also came upon a review of the reports submitted by the assessment teams of the specialized technical departments of the Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC), the decree said.
The following groups have their licenses cancelled according to the decree; 1- Prospect Sudan 2- Counterpart International 3- Feed the Children 4- Food for the Hungry 5- Safe Harbor 6- The Halo Trust 7- Right to Play 8- Air Serve 9- Mercy International 10- Global Peace Mission 11- Population Media Centre 12- Sudanese International Development and Relief Association (SIDRA) 13- Royal Dutch Aid 14- Canadian Association for African Development 15- SPEG- Holland 16- Norwegian League for Disabled 17- African Association for Development 18- Health Assistance for Children (HAFC) 19- Nabata Charitable Foundation 20- Impact 21- Cins- Italy 22- Ulfa Aid 23- Joint Projects Organization 24- Arabic Centre for Immigrant Labors 25- Tomp/Germany 26- Human Relief and Peace.
According to Adam, the abovementioned groups “have not carried out any activities” and failed to renew their annual permits or submit required reports.
The second set of organizations received an unspecified warning to adjust status in accordance with the law but no details were furnished. They include Stromme Foundation 2. Veterinaraires Sans Forntieres- Germany 3. Planned Parenthood 4. (International Centre for Agricultural Research in Dry Area(ICARDA 5. Deniz Feneri 6. International Blue Crescent Relief 7. Handicap International 8. (Education Action International (Former was University Services Org 9. Movimondo 10. Sudanese Mothers for Peace 11. Panos Sudan 12. Eritrean Islamic Relief 13. One Earth.
In a related development a study made by Belgian scientists published in The Lancet medical journal said that the overwhelming majority of deaths in Darfur can be attributed to diseases such as diarrhea.
According to Reuters, the researchers said their results showed that any reduction in humanitarian aid can cause deaths rates to increase sharply.
Last year, the Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir ordered more than a dozen aid groups out of Darfur after his indictment by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
“Adequate humanitarian assistance to prevent and treat these potentially fatal diseases is essential," Degomme and Guha-Sapir wrote. "The full effect of the expulsion of non-governmental organizations from Darfur is still not known, but the increased mortality rate during a period of reduced humanitarian deployment in 2006 suggests that we should fear the worst”.
"More than 80 percent of excess deaths were not a result of the violence," said Olivier Degomme and Debarati Guha-Sapir of the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of disasters in Brussels.
They said a violent peak in early 2004 was followed by "protracted phase of increased disease-related" deaths caused by people living in conditions of unsanitary conditions with little or no healthcare infrastructure.
The United Nations experts say at least 300,000 people have died from the combined effects of war, famine and disease in Darfur, and that some 2.7 million are displaced by the seven year conflict.
(ST)
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Old 10-30-2010   #33
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Hi. First time poster here. Interesting reading on the thread.

One book that I think adds some well-written views to it is Linda Polman´s War Games - the story of aid and war in modern times (2010).

Polman is a journalist, and she has written several books on the less talked about sides of aid-work (...The Crisis Caravan...We did nothing: why the truth doesn´t always come out when the UN goes in...etc.). War Games has some pure rage in it, and it goes through how aid can help wars continue, help destabilize regions, and how victims often can play the aid-workers. Very good read.
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