Laws of Warfare

Gents,I left the army in August 1990. I spent part of my terminal leave watching the invasion of Kuwait in a bar in Bangkok. I even had a good squaddy laugh at the antics of the ‘Harabs’, who where soon to be my employers for the next nine years.
In my day life was so much simpler. We had the Geneva Convention, and just what defined an enemy soldier was much easier to understand and treat.
As I understood things, enemy troops where not to be harmed / violated, use of physical restraint, handcuffs was banned. This was already complicated by the practice of plastic tywaps in N.I. but that was a ‘Police’ action and so justified. Enemy soldiers captured out of uniform or, as wIth German forces in WW II, in that of your troops, could be tried and if convicted executed by act of Court Martial.

These days insurgents in local civilian dress carry and use arms and then seem to expect the same treatment as Regular Forces.
The Geneva Convention is quoted by journalists as though it applied to all combatants and not just Regular troops.

Have the above Laws/Rules of war changed?
not that I know of mate,
but the general hair pulling, brow beating and wailing of your average lefty liberal tree hugging guttersnipe, sorry journo (i know they're not all like that), see's any force as the same.

which means so do the general public!

They don't believe the way that we will be treated by these 'irregular' forces, or even care until they can use it as a story full of outraged indignation. Mistreatment only leads to hero's and martyrs, they don't seem to appreciate the pain at the time.

As is always said, "there are no athiests in fox holes" the same goes for journo's, they can only report bad news
Insurgents are covered in the Additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions (1979). Unfortunately, like most laws written by diplomats, it's not an easy document to apply. However, it does grant combatant status to irregular forces provided they are at least semi-organized and wear some form of unifying indicator to show their status.

There are two key problems with the Additional Protocols:

1. They're extremely fluffy and hence open to broad interpretation.

2. Unlike the Geneva Conventions, they aren't considered International Common Law and only signatories are bound by their strictures. The most significant non-signatory to date is the USA. Surprised, anyone?

That said, I heard the Conventions quoted routinely during the Iraq War in circumstances that had little or nothing to do with them. For example, nothing in the GCs explicitly forbids either the use of hand-cuffs or hoods on PWs. It just requires PWs to be treated humanely and in a way that neither harms nor humiliates them.

What is the status of contractors working directly for the US Military?

LOAC also recognises "Levee en masse" (forgive the spelling) ie, if a local population arms itself to repel an invading force, which I'm sure some smart arrse lawyer could twist to include the invasion of a soverign state without UN mandate (thanks Dubya).


War Hero
I will take this opportunity to express my utter disgust at these Protocols. The impression I formed at the time they were being introduced was that they were promoted by African dictators and their dupes in the West in order to shift the balance of power in Africa away from white mercenary soldiers (who are denied protected status) and towards any tribesman with a gun, no matter how savage, drugged or undisciplined.

It's difficult to discuss this problem in a way that does not invite accusations of racial prejudice. All I will say is that in the chaos of Africa, a small number of trained and disciplined soldiers could make a big contribution to improving things overall - see Sierra Leone - and the idea of denying them the protection of the Geneva Convention is both foolish and wicked. Not that you would expect gunmen loyal to, say, Mugabe, to observe its provisions anyway.

Ahh, I feel better now.

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