I plead guilty. I am guilty of an egregious sin of omission, for which I owe every reader of this blog (especially those SF veterans I know are reading it and critiquing their young protege), a profound apology. I am guilty of the sin of hubris. You see, one of the critical lessons pounded into young Special Forces candidates' heads during the Q-Course (at least when I went through JFKSWCS, and I assume still) is that, besides all the cool tactical training and gunfighter schooling, you have a moral obligation to make sure the host nation (HN) forces you are training/advising know, understand, and practice, the Law of Land Warfare. I placed too much faith in the inherent morality of the American patriot movement.
There is an old cliche that there are no rules in a war. That is, to put it as mildly as I am capable, utter nonsense. Every war, from Cain and Abel's sibling rivalry, until today, has been moderated by rules. Too often, throughout history, of course, there have been acts committed that, anyone but Satan himself would agree were crimes against humanity. Even our own nation's military has committed these. The legal crutch of precedence however, does not justify these acts, for they are unjustifiable. It certainly does not justify future actions of immorality by any so-called Liberty Resistance Movement, whose sole claim to legitimacy can be said to be the moral high ground.
There are seven basic legal principles that are supposed to bind any and all actions by contemporary U.S. military forces. They are:
- Observances of fundamental human rights will recognize the dignity and worth of the individual and the fundamental freedom of all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion. Human rights violations will not be tolerated. As with violations of the law of war, U.S. soldiers will report human rights violations when they become aware of them.
- Civilians shall be treated humanely and may not be used to shield military operations.
- EPWs (Enemy Prisoners of War) and civilian detainees will be treated humanely and IAW (In Accordance With) the provisions of the Geneva Conventions.
- U.S. soldiers are entitled to similar humane treatment should they fall into the enemy's hands.
- Orders to commit war crimes are illegal and must be disobeyed.
- Soldiers who violate the law of war will be held responsible for their actions. Superiors who order violations of the law of war are criminally and personally responsible for such orders, as are subordinates who carry out the orders.
- Weapons, munitions, and techniques calculated to cause unnecessary pain and suffering are forbidden.
Sherman's March to the Sea:
A war crime, writ large, by any sane man's definitions. Sherman's men burned civilian homes, slaughtered livestock, and left an entire region of their non-combatant countrymen destitute and exposed to the elements and ravages of winter. Any "southron" knows the stories by heart, because they're still engraved, deeply, by the points of bayonets, on the soul of the South.
The firebombings of Dresden, atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, et al:
A war crime, albeit considered justified at the time, due to the limits of technology, and the fact that the actual targets were war-time industrial facilities. Nevertheless, any planner with sense should have anticipated the loss of civilian life that would occur. Any leader should have considered that and cancelled the operations. Would it have led to a harder fight, and more GIs lost in combat? Yes. Would it have lengthened the war, and required a larger expenditure of Allied human capital? Yes. Would it have been the more moral course of action? Yes. I would even argue that it would have been less costly in the long view of history, because the collective guilt we as a culture have felt since, led to 60+ years of propping up the defenses and economies of both Germany and Japan.
Do I expect regime security forces to adhere to the above rules in a case of armed civil war within the U.S? (Do I have "dumb motherfucker" tattooed on my forehead?)
The point is not that, "Well, they did it at Waco and Ruby Ridge, so we should be able to do it too!"
The point is not that "the ends justify the means," because they don't.
The point is that, there are several key issues that must be recognized, in regard to this specific topic, in an UW environment. All the pontificating by Walter Mitty's and armchair generals and keyboard commandos on the internet to the contrary, these are immutable realities in unconventional warfare.
- You will not win if you abuse the sensibilities of the civilian populace. Yes, the regime will have the mass media on their side. They may even manage to "shut down" the internet (people who fear that eventuality give, I believe, the government entirely too much credit). They cannot stop people from talking however, no matter how Orwellian their systems become. People notice what actually happens, and they talk about it. If the good guys are playing by good guy rules, and the regime is stomping on puppies and smacking infants heads against door frames, people will talk about it, and it will lend support to the resistance in the long term. If, on the other hand, the "good guys" are murdering mothers and children, because "they support their stormtrooper dad/husband," people will notice that too, and it will rob the resistance of their moral high ground in the eyes of the public.
- Killing family members does NOT "demoralize" the fighters. It pisses them off, and makes them want retribution. Look at our experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq, for just the most recent examples. We inadvertently drop a JDAM on a village, and suddenly enemy recruitment numbers go through the roof. We piss on some holy books and every Mohammned, Salah, and Osama in the Islamist world is trekking across the mountains to strap Semtex to his chest and strike a blow against the infidel. It's not just a Muslim thing, folks. I'm a pretty laid back, chill kind of guy in day-to-day life. I walk away from fights every chance I get. Fuck with my wife or kid though, and it'll take a god-damn Abrams running me over to stop me from gouging your eyes out and skull-fucking you to death. What makes you think the local stormtrooper is any different? The fact that he doesn't recognize what he's doing is immoral and illegal, or doesn't care, doesn't mean he doesn't love his wife and kids.
- It's immoral to target non-combatants. There is no belief system I know of, anywhere in the world (even orthodox Islam) whose religious doctrinal texts says it's okay to murder people. Targeting non-combatants is murder. Killing in self-defense? Perfectly moral, perhaps even a moral imperative (I believe so). Killing in pre-emptive self-defense? Still moral. If I know a guy is hunting me, why shouldn't I be allowed to hunt and kill him first? Killing some woman because she married a young man who grew up to become your town commissar? Murder. Hell, maybe she despises what he's become just as much as you do, and is looking for a way to do her part. You don't know.
I'm not going to make this into some long-drawn out lecture article. The men I know who have experienced war and violence outside of the movie screen, don't feel the need to shed blood needlessly. Our hands have enough blood on them. I don't have nightmares about the men I've killed, and I'll not hesitate to kill again if necessary. I'll even run to the sound of the guns to protect my family, friends, and community. I will not go looking for the fight though, and I will never condone, nor even entertain the notion, of killing innocents. In my experience, that is best relegated to the would-be tough guys who haven't experienced the reality of watching someone bleed out in the dirt, wondering why they drew the short straw that day. We all have a personal moral code we have to adhere to. Mine doesn't condone murder. Mine demands protection of the innocent, even when I despise someone they love. I'd rather "throw my life away" for a moral stand, protecting some douchebag's wife or kids, than live to be 110. At least my children will know I lived and died my beliefs, and stood up for morality.