Friday, December 30, 2011

War Crimes and the American Conscience Part I

During downtimes for my training with Farmers, I was able to read an interesting book from 1970 entitled “War Crimes and the American Conscience.” The book was an analysis of US war crimes committed in Vietnam in the light of the principles of the Nuremburg conference; the recorded notes of the 1970 Congressional Conference on War and National Responsibility. Below are some excerpts.

“If we work up to the level of our technology in terms of the wars we are prepared to fight, the sky is the limit; There will be absolutely no control over what the United States can do, because it is the most powerful nation in the world and has the most advanced military technology. We will use other tactics, we will fight ‘clean’ Vietnams, where our hands don’t get dirty, where we fly in the stratosphere, not seeing what we are hitting and killing. - Hans Morgenthau Pg 27

“It is also a reality, I think, that no American President will look upon himself as a possible perpetrator of war crimes. It could not occur to him, it could not occur to the American people – except to the young – that war crimes are something that can be charged to Americans. – Daniel Ellisberg Pg 31

“The blind destruction of whole villages with artillery or from the air, on the grounds that one had drawn fire from somewhere in these villages, would seem on this basis [Nuremberg Conference Definitions of War Crimes] to be a war crime. - George Wald Pg 75

“As a nation, we have abdicated our responsibility to differentiate between means and ends in the execution of our foreign policy. We turned this responsibility over to an Executive who is not bound in the conduct of foreign policy by much more than his own perception of the world and the consciences of those who surround and advise him. – William R. Corson Pg. 91

“Can any country such as the United States, with its predominant military and economic power, with a position so commanding in the world, carry out warfare against a weaker state, without in fact pressing its advantage to the limit of its own assessment of its own security? When the United States has exercises restraint, it has done so only in response to perceived threats from a stronger or equally strong power.
The basic issues is the permissibility of basing a foreign policy on our unilateral determination to use violence whenever and whenever we see fit, to achieve ends as we determine them. This basic notion of how we use our military power really has to be attacked before we can work out ground rules for managing the violence on the battlefields. – Richard Barnet Pg 98

“Turning now to the rest of the American population and its response to My Lai, we can identify at least three psychological mechanisms called forth to avoid facing such unpleasant truths. The first is denial, ‘The massacres didn’t really happen or have been exaggerated.’ The second is rationalization, ‘War is hell.’ And the third, in a way more politically dangerous, is the mobilization of self-righteous anger; ‘Stop picking on our boys. The Vietnamese had it coming to them. You [the bearer of the news] ought to be sent to Vietnam to fight.’ - Robert Jay Lifton Pg. 106

“When we go into a village, we classify all the people into different categories. But these categories do not depend on something we perceive about them; they depend on what we do to them. If we kill them, they are Vietcong. If we capture them and tie them up, they are Vietcong suspects. If we grab them and move them to a camp, they are hostile civilians. Having don this to many people who are in fact innocent, the definitions we have imposed become real. The men who have been tied up or tortured actually become our enemies and shoot real bullets at us, but still we are facing the shadow of our own actions. – Robert Jay Lifton Pg. 111

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