I think we must be due some kind of prize. This is the 50,000th war in a row to have violated the "laws of war."
The documentation comes from Human Rights Watch which reports that last August 31st U.S. and Iraqi air strikes "drove ISIS forces away from the town" of Amerli. No doubt many people died and were maimed and traumatized (also known as terrorized) by those "air strikes," but that's just part of war, which it wouldn't be ethical for Human Rights Watch to question.
What concerns Human Rights Watch is what began on September 1st. About 6,000 fighters for the Iraqi government and various militias moved in, with their U.S. weaponry. They destroyed villages. They demolished homes, businesses, mosques, and public buildings. They looted. They burned. They abducted. In fact they behaved exactly as troops taught to hate and murder certain groups of people had behaved in the 49,999 previous recorded wars. "The actions violated the laws of war," Human Rights Watch says.
Human Rights Watch recommends that Iraq disband the militias and care for the refugees who have fled their wrath, while holding "accountable" those responsible for the documented violations of the "laws of war." Human Rights Watch wants the United States to establish "reform benchmarks." The possibility of ending participation in the war, creating an arms embargo, negotiating a ceasefire, and redirecting ALL energy into aid and restitution doesn't arise.
The "laws of war" are not laws of physics. If they were, the first law of war would be:
People instructed to murder will engage in lesser crimes as well.
Laws of war, unlike laws of physics, are just not this sort of observation of something that always happens. On the contrary, they are laws that are always violated. Human Rights Watch explains:
"International humanitarian law, the laws of war, governs fighting in non-international armed conflicts such as that between Iraqi government forces, government-backed militias, and opposition armed groups. The laws of war governing the methods and means of warfare in non-international armed conflicts are primarily found in the Hague Regulations of 1907 and the First Additional Protocol of 1977 to the Geneva Conventions (Protocol I). . . . Central to the laws of war is the principle of distinction, which requires parties to a conflict to distinguish at all times between combatants and civilians. . . . While Iraqi government forces may have destroyed property for military reasons in some cases, Human Rights Watch found that the large-scale destruction of property by pro-government militias in the cases detailed in this report appear to violate international law. . . . In the instances detailed above, it appeared militias destroyed property after fighting had finished in the area and when combatants from ISIS had fled from the area. Therefore it suggests their justification for the attacks may have been for punitive reasons; or in order to prevent Sunni residents from returning to the areas from which they fled."
So, the next time you're murdering large numbers of Sunnis, and the ones designated as combatants have left, please begin behaving decently to all the others. Do not torture anyone you wounded while trying to murder them. Do not destroy people's homes with thoughts of punishment or demographic change in your head, but rather ponder military objectives while burning houses, and as quickly as possible get back to the acceptable and legal efforts to kill combatants, especially whenever possible with bombs from airplanes whose pilots have been carefully instructed to only intend to kill combatants and whose commander in chief defines "combatant" as military-aged male.
~ David Swanson serves as Secretary of Peace in the Green Shadow Cabinet