During a recent heated debate in the newsroom, one of my colleagues asked me if I considered President Bush to be a war criminal.
Knowing an affirmative answer would certainly ruffle some feathers, I hesitated. I wondered if starting an unnecessary war was, in fact, a violation of the Geneva Convention. It's not, but I can tell you a few things that are.
First, let's backtrack to what began the aforementioned debate. Ariel Sharon and Bush were standing together at a recent press conference and I called Sharon a war criminal.
Well, perhaps I should have said "accused war criminal," but I think the case against him is pretty solid.
Rule 13 in the Geneva Convention clearly states "Attacks on civilians and undefended towns are prohibited." Let's put aside for now the accusations that Sharon was involved in the 1982 massacres at the Palestinian refugee camps at Sabra and Shatila. I have watched the man order attacks that, if they are not directly targeting civilians, certainly seem to have no concern for what happens when one shoots a couple of rockets into a street that's crowded with those pesky non-combatants.
But to others Sharon is just a tough leader, surrounded by enemies and fighting for the survival of his people. And, granted, he is certainly not the first to violate Rule 13.
Indeed, it would appear that everybody, including the United States, tossed that rule in the garbage during World War II.
Now, the Geneva Convention was written in 1864, so I can only assume that Rule 13 was part of the original document although apparently rules are added when needed. However, the firebombing of Dresden and, of course, the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were attacks on civilians as much as the bombing raids on London. Well, on more selective bombing raids one could say that we were targeting military installations around the cities, but that's just not the case in those three cities.
In those cases, the entire city was the target, but since they weren't "undefended" I guess maybe that doesn't count.
Let's see, then there's Rule 7, "Killing anyone who has surrendered is prohibited." I'm pretty sure that armies throughout history have flaunted that one.
Hey, I think we're pretty good about following Rule 12, "An army that takes control of another country must provide food to the people in that country." Yeah, we definitely feed people after we take over their country.
But here's an interesting one. Rule 3, right there at the top, prohibits the discharge of projectiles like bullets and rockets from balloons.
Now, technically we haven't violated that convention, but it seems to me that the spirit of that rule (again, the Geneva Convention was written in 1864) is to prohibit air wars. Well, that one should perhaps just be taken right off the books, eh?
I have no room here to go into all the other rules of the Geneva Convention here, but feel free to Google "Geneva Convention" or just go to www.factmonster.com where I found my list. Going over it, I can't see one that I can really say Bush has violated.
Well, except for a few about the treatment of prisoners of war and so forth, but that's just really complicated.
But the whole concept of "Rules of War" is universally considered silly because war is just an awful, horrible thing to do. The act of war in general is criminal unless you really, absolutely, positively must fight one.
So let's just put that one on top, the new Rule 1, to replace the prohibition on using chemical weapons. A nation shall not start a war unless it is truly, absolutely, demonstrably unavoidable, usually resulting from a direct attack by one nation involved in the war on the other nation involved in the war.
Now, I think that would make a fine rule for us to write down and then completely ignore.
Ed Brock covers public safety and municipalities for the News Daily. He may be reached at (770) 478-5753.