By Sherwood Ross
The Pentagon’s new Law of War Manual(LOWM) sanctioning nuclear attacks and the killing of civilians, “reads like it was written by Hitler’s Ministry of War,” says international law authority Francis Boyle of the University of Illinois at Champaign.
“Historically, this is a terrible development,” he added in an exclusive interview with this reporter. “We are reducing ourselves to the level of the Nazis.”
The grim, 1,165-page-long document, issued in June by the Defense Department’s Office of the General Counsel, also sanctions the use of napalm, herbicides, depleted uranium, and drone missile strikes, among other barbarities.
Boyle points out the new manual is designed to supplant the 1956 U.S. Army Field Manual 27-10 written by Richard Baxter, the world’s leading authority on the Laws of War. Baxter was the Manley O. Hudson Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and a Judge on the International Court of Justice. Boyle was his top student.
Boyle is the leading professor, practitioner and advocate of international law in America. He drafted the U.S. implementing legislation for the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention known as the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989.
“Over the years, 27-10 has proven to be a total embarrassment to the Pentagon because it sets forth a fair and accurate statement of the Laws of War both as of 1956 and as of today,” Boyle says. He termed the new manual a “warmongering” document.
The new document seeks to distinguish between “legitimate” and “illegitimate” acts of military violence against civilian targets, using the criterion of military necessity,” points out Peter Martin of the World Socialist Website. “Thus, acts of mass slaughter of civilians could be justified if sufficient military advantages were gained by the operations.”
The bulk of the document, Martin continues, “amounts to a green light for military atrocities, including mass killings.”
Martin said the most comprehensive previous such document, the 1956 Pentagon field manual, did not state that civilians, unlike military personnel, should be spared “unnecessary suffering” because it assumed… “that any deliberate targeting of civilians was illegal and a war crime.”
Among the flagrant violations of international law sanctioned by the Pentagon’s new LOWM, Martin writes, are:
# Legitimizing the use of nuclear weapons. LOWM states, “There is no general prohibition in treaty or customary international law on the use of nuclear weapons.” This flies in the face of a number of existing international covenants. Under the UN Charter as interpreted by the World Court in its Advisory Opinion on the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons, even threatening to use nuclear weapons, as the U.S. and Israel have threatened Iran, is illegal and thus a war crime.
# Authorizing the use of banned incendiary weapons such as napalm, herbicides (as Agent Orange in Viet Nam), depleted uranium munitions (as used in Iraq). Napalm, for example, is banned under Protocol III of the 1980 UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.
# Authorizing the use of cluster munitions, mines and booby-traps, the LOWM rationalizes that “the United States is not a Party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions.” (That’s a disgrace, of course, when the overwhelming majority of nations have signed it.)
# Defends drone missile attacks, both by the Pentagon and intelligence outfits such as the Central Intelligence Agency, declaring flatly: “There is no prohibition in the law of war on the use of remotely piloted aircraft…” To the contrary, targeted killing off the battlefield is prohibited.
# Authorizes the use of exploding hollow-point bullets, stating the U.S. is not a party to the 1868 St. Petersburg declaration banning their use. (At this writing, the U.S. is only 147 years late.)
In sum, the move by the Pentagon to supplant the 1956 manual with the LOWM represents an effort to justify the excesses of its trillion dollar-a-year war machine, one that is as large as the next dozen nations combined.
The Pentagon today operates some 900 military bases globally, allegedly for “defense,” and engages in warfare in a dozen countries. The new Pentagon manual illuminates in bold print the downward drift of the U.S. from a democratic to a totalitarian society.
LOWM has received no play in a media “following orders to conceal from the American people…the Pentagon’s preparations for new and more massive war crimes, along with the destruction of democratic rights spelled out in the U.S. Constitution,” Martin says.
Indeed, it seems TV “news” stations beam more commercials than news stories, and news reports of carnage inflicted by the Pentagon are virtually non-existent. War? What war?
(Sherwood Ross is an award-winning free-lance journalist who formerly reported for The New York Herald-Tribune, The Chicago Daily News, and major wire services. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org)