Let's be clear: what killed the civilians walking the streets of Baghdad that day in 2007 was not "war crimes," but war. And that holds for so many thousands of other Afghan and Iraqi civilians killed by drone strikes, air strikes, night raids, convoys, and nervous checkpoint guards as well.
Who, after all, writes the laws of war? Just as the regulations that govern the pharmaceutical and airline industries are often gamed by large corporations with their phalanxes of lobbyists, the laws of war are also vulnerable to "regulatory capture" by the great powers under their supposed rule. Keep in mind, for instance, that the Pentagon employs 10,000 lawyers and that its junior partner in foreign policy making, the State Department, has a few hundred more. Should we be surprised if in-house lawyers can sort out "legal" ways not to let those laws of war get in the way of the global ambitions of a superpower?
It's only fair that the last words on the laws of war go to Private Bradley Manning, now sitting in a prison cell in Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, awaiting court-martial for allegedly passing troves of classified material to WikiLeaks, documents that offer the unvarnished truth about the Afghan War, the Iraq War, and Guanta'namo. They are taken from the instant-message chatlogs he wrote under the handle of "bradass87" to the informant who turned him in. The young private saw very clearly what so many professors and generals take pains to deny: that the primary function of the laws of war is not to restrain violence, but to justify it, often with the greatest lawyerly ingenuity.- Advertisement -
(02:27:47 PM) bradass87: i mean, we're better in some respects" we're much more subtle" use a lot more words and legal techniques to legitimize everything"
(02:28:19 PM) bradass87: but just because something is more subtle, doesn't make it right
Chase Madar, a TomDispatch regular and author of a new book, The Passion of Bradley Manning (OR Books), is a lawyer in New York. To listen to Timothy MacBain's latest two-part Tomcast audio interview in which Madar discusses the Manning case and his new book, click here for part 1 and here for part 2, or download it to your iPod here. Madar tweets @ChMadar https://twitter.com/#!/chmadar.- Advertisement -
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Copyright 2012 Chase Madar