All War Crimes Originate at the Top
by Dr. Robert D. Crane
We should welcome the fact that the U.S. government is now officially prosecuting American war criminals, if only for PR purposes. Better a show trial than none at all.
The current case about the American murder of Iraqi prisoners of war is remarkable only because it has come to court. The torture and murder of POWs has been SOP for thousands of years but has been turned into a fine art by Americans only in our recent wars, ironically at the very time that it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep such covert activities secret.
In Korea, where I was the chief Russian interrogator from 1951 to 1953, my life was threatened if I ever told Congress, which I intended to do, about the routine torture at Eighth Army Headquarters and about the accidental “deaths” of POWs we had captured. These deaths were accidental only because our orders were to keep the prisoners alive for possible future interrogation by higher authorities. It is difficult to apply torture just enough to break the prisoners but not enough to kill them.
In war, killing is always routine, which is why resorting to war should be restricted by the just war doctrine. In Vietnam, American enlisted men killed their own officers for stupid orders, so much so that almost the entire West Point class in one year was killed, many by their own men.
Shortly before I went to Vietnam for Richard Nixon in 1967 to investigate the domino theory used to justify the war and the risk of the spread of Communism throughout Southeast Asia, I had an argument with a major who was assigned to the Hudson Institute as part of his fast track promotion. He told me in all seriousness that if he ever got the chance he would assassinate the American reporters who were critical of the war effort, and he implied that I sounded like one of them.
To claim that only enlisted men commit war crimes is bizarre. In general principle, all war crimes originate at the top.
What amazes me is that anyone would expect that the crimes of Americans in the Middle East can be stopped, since they are an inherent part of every war. We should be more selective in our wars, and not pretend that we can avoid crimes once we are at war and are following the almost universal slogan “no substitute for victory.”
The the present Middle East war, the greatest victory would be to get over our hang up on eliminating the forces of evil, since evil can be overcome only by pursuing justice as a greater good. One can marginalize evil but never defeat it.
The greatest victory by all concerned would be mutual agreement on implementing the Islamic concept of hudna, as this was first introduced by Prime Minister Isma’il Haniya in his inaugural foreign policy speech.
One perspective on hudna has been further developed in the three position papers on the subject in The American Muslim::
Hudna: A Long Range Strategy For Conflict Resolution, Dr. Robert D. Crane;
Preparing the Way For HudnaIrfan Husain;
Hudna: Those Who Life By the Sword Shall Die By It, Dr. Robert D. Crane.