Since when did "war criminal" start to mean "honored guest of the realm?"
February 25, 2010 § 19 Comments
There are three classes of persons we must consider in warfare.
First, there are innocents. Innocents are those who are not in any way engaged in any attacking behaviors, where “attacking behaviors”, for the sake of argument at least, include any activity proximately supporting the war. We must never kill innocents deliberately, no matter what consequences flow from not doing so. Accidents do happen, and are expected to happen, on the interstate highway system and in wartime. Proper care must be taken to avoid signate accidents, but in both venues – highway system and wartime – they are generally unavoidable.
Second, there are enemy soldiers. Soldiers fight in uniform under the laws of war or provide supplies, etc to the war effort. It is licit to kill them on the battlefield, when necessary, and yes, the battlefield includes the supply lines. When we capture them we owe them – to the extent of our ability to reasonably provide it – medical care, three hots, a cot, and (always) POW status. Name, rank, and serial number are all we are entitled to from them. If they attempt to escape, they are thereby deliberately making themselves active combatants again: a POW in the process of attempting escape becomes, qua escape attempt in process, an active combatant. As always, killing legitimate soldiers and support personnel is only licit when it is necessary in order to stop an attack. POW’s must be released when hostilities cease.
Third, there are criminals acting outside the laws of war. (Thus the term “war criminal”). Criminals may be killed in the process of committing a crime, if necessary. They may be captured, killed while attempting to escape capture (if necessary), interrogated, put on trial (military or civilian), and even executed if doing so is necessary to protect the common good. Interrogation may (or may not) involve plea bargaining with respect to their criminal status and sentencing.
Complicity of leadership in war crimes makes them war criminals also.
It is not permissible to torture, rape, abuse, or perform other intrinsically immoral acts on criminals.
There is no other kind of person: there is no subhuman “illegal enemy combatant” distinct from a war criminal.
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