- Enemy combatants threw 12,000 people into pits, caves and crevices which were subsequently sealed using explosives?
- Soldiers of an army in alliance with another committed 3,500 documented rapes against the women of the allied country over the course of three years?
- Combatants used captured soldiers as human shields, forcing them to walk through minefields to clear the way for them?
- Once the losing side of an international war surrendered, the winning side was then responsible for the rapes of up to two million women and children and the subsequent execution of over 240,000 civilians?
Probably not. All of these examples were committed by the United States and her Allies during and after WWII.
The idea that there are "rules of war" is an oxymoron especially when one considers that even the Greatest Generation were comprised of rapists, torturers and murderers.
The hypocrisy lies with anyone whose nation engages in war unethically and only cries foul when the enemy engages in war unethically (as if ethics and war even exist in same universe.)
Hypocrisy being a truly benign sin when war is considered - I mean, which is worse, a sadistic torturing psychopath or a hypocrite?
So what ARE the most basic 'rules of war?'
Kill the enemy.
Take their shit.
That's pretty much it, gang. Sure, we can all agree to a series of treaties governing how armies treat civilians, prisoners of war or wounded soldiers but the only way to enforce such agreements is to go to war. Which is a cul de sac of logic, a Catch-22 that is inescapable. Humans are good at a lot of things: invention of new technologies to improve communication, ways to extend our lives long after the natural expiration date, methods of lying to fool one another into believing ridiculously stupid mythologies and ways to improve our lives with bullshit we don't need. Humans are really only great at a few things: justifications for subjugating other humans into slavery, procreating far past the safe occupancy level of the planet and consume everything in our path, and making war on Others.
The slightly more complex rules of war are still a fairly simple cycle:
- Find (or manufacture) an enemy.
- Market the need to eradicate that enemy and gain followers to that cause.
- Organize and then go kill this new enemy.
- Once the enemy is killed or at least thinned out, take their stuff (land, resources, children, dignity.)
- Once those resources begin to run out, begin again at Number 1.
How we go about these rules is off the table as long as we can find ways to hide the truth of our extreme measures to achieve them.
- Black people whom we have enslaved are released from slavery. Make these free slaves the enemy.
- Gin up the whites (whether slaveowners or not) to view them as low in intelligence, filled with rage and violence, foment fear of them which evolves to anger. Hire police officers who have been indoctrinated to see these black people as the enemy.
- The KKK, the white legal authorities, the laws, the very police officers hired to protect property more than lives.
- Appropriate the culture, take the neighborhoods, fund their schools and infrastructure far below that of everyone else in the country.
- Do it again. And again. And again.
The key missing from the rules is that when employing Number 1, change the narrative just slightly. Use different language but access the same set of fears used earlier. When the enemy fights back, use that as proof of the existing narrative of rage and violence. If it wasn't so inherently evil, you'd have to applaud its brilliance and efficiency in execution. The Nazis used it. The French have used it. The Russians used it. America has used it more often and better than almost any nation in history - we even make our losses in war seem like victories. We use it internationally. We use it on our own citizens. We have taken the most human of instincts and refined it to Art.
The only thing that could possibly stand in the way of this extraordinary cycle is to defuse Number 1 as quickly as it is used. Information, common ground, stories of universal humanity in the face of the warmongers finding and defining an enemy is the monkey wrench in this machine. Once the masscult decides someone is the enemy, looking carefully and rigorously at this new enemy and seeing past the stereotypes and jingoism is the only way to stop the madness. This is monumentally difficult because it is in our very nature to go to war - we fucking NEED an enemy to feel like we are meeting our full potential.
In the world of Jurassic Park, human beings are the carnivores. Human beings are the T-Rexes and Veloceraptors. We are the Killer Whale who eats his trainor's head in front of a paying crowd. We are the bull that gores the fucking vicious idiots who wave the red capes and stab it to death for sport. We are also the vicious idiots.
Seek out stories. Share them with one another. Do not be the monsterous, vengeance seeking sheep that those in power count upon to bolster their propaganda. Use this internet thing to do more than post pictures of your meals and babies and pets. Use this extraordinary tool for information and become informed about those labeled the enemy. Resist fear of the Other. Take in refugees, march with those protesting injustice, listen to those who are so easily lead into war.
To act humanely is anything but humane. Be better than human beings are designed to be. Or at least try.