"I was just following orders"

Discussion in 'Archive: The Senate Floor' started by KnightWriter, Jan 15, 2005.

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  1. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    So even beyond that problem, how do you define a war crime/crime against humanity given a murky issue?

    Except it isn't as "murky" as you are making it out to be.

    Even if you, as an individual, don't agree with the definition of a war crime, it is codified in international law, and that's the standard that is used.

    In the US, war crimes are defined in Section 2441 of the US Code. In international law, they are specifically listed in Geneva II, August 1949, and Hague IV, articles
    23, 25, 27, or 28.

    All are integrated into the US UCMJ, and I'd assume other Western nation's military law as well.

    All of the above constitute what the standard of judgement will be.
  2. Cyprusg Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 16, 2002
    star 4
    lol, this is like my tenth straight post I haven't been replied to.... I suck.

    Crix, Cyp, I'm sorry for being vague and not specifically spelling it out..

    What I said was a joke about you making a joke. He said "who is there really to decide what is right and what is wrong, am I right" to which you replied "I don't know what this means" as like answering his "am I right?" with basically saying "I don't know, what is right?". Get it?

    But anyway, reply to me, I'm feeling neglected.
  3. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    Does somebody need a hug?

    You know how the computer monitor makes your typed words glow just so...
  4. JediTre11 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 25, 2001
    star 4
    The Hague treaty doesn't modify itself according to the situtation. They are the constants that can be applied equally, no matter the situation.

    I'm not sure that would be relevant. Did Germany adopt that treaty? Besides you still can't punish the winners of a war. Not logistically speaking anyway. Such is an obvious situation in which the UCMJ can't be applied. You can certainly try, but it would be like trying to convict President Bush of War Crimes. There is a case perhaps but what then, put him in jail? If you've got a big enough army then you can do whatever you want as long as that army remains in power.
  5. Loopster Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Sep 26, 2000
    star 4
    When does the fact that you may be shot if you disobey an order come into the equation?
  6. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    In old John Wayne movies?

    Seriously, I know this is a flippant reply, but I think there is a lot of misperception about the internal procedures in the military.

    What context is your question set in?
  7. Loopster Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Sep 26, 2000
    star 4
    I'm pretty sure that disobeying orders in Nazi Germany meant you got shot.
  8. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    Ok, Nazi Germany..I guess we won't know, unless we contact someone who served back then.

    Because that idea wouldn't apply to the US military.

    Or were you simply interested in the idea that the threat of death would compel an individual to act against his own instinct or better judgement?
  9. Loopster Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Sep 26, 2000
    star 4
    Yeah, sorry I didn't mean to imply the US military would shoot those not conforming with orders, I meant it as a general response to the topic.
  10. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    Actually, that's why I asked. It is a possible penalty during time of war, but it can't simply be carried out on the battlefield.

    For reference, here's the passage from the UCMJ:

    892. ART. 92. FAILURE TO OBEY ORDER OR REGULATION
    Any person subject to this chapter who?
    (1) violates or fails to obey any lawful general order or regulation;
    (2) having knowledge of any other lawful order issued by any member of the armed forces, which it is his duty to obey, fails to obey the order; or
    (3) is derelict in the performance of his duties;
    if the offense is committed in time of war, by death or such other punishment as a court-martial may direct, and if the offense is committed at any other time, by such punishment, other than death, as a court-martial may direct.


    The key of course, is the idea of the lawful order, and the fact that the court martial procedure is still followed.

    The US military hasn't executed anyone since 1961.

    There are currently 7 soldiers who are sitting on death row at Fort Leavenworth, although all are convicted of capital crimes such as murder or sexual assault.
  11. J-Rod Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 28, 2004
    star 5
    It is, often, a judgement call.

    Int the case of Abu Ghrabib, Not follwing orders would have been the best. So long as you file a complaint up the chain of command.

    Under less obvious circumstances, it is best to follow orders and question later.

    Even in Abu Ghrabib, had one of the offending soldiers later became concerned, and reported the action after they did it, they probably would have not received any real punishment.
  12. Cyprusg Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 16, 2002
    star 4
    Even in Abu Ghrabib, had one of the offending soldiers later became concerned, and reported the action after they did it, they probably would have not received any real punishment.

    So it's better to beat someone to a pulp than to possibly receive a slap on the wrist? Wow, christian ethics at it's finest right here. Personally, I'd rather take the risk of punishment than to do something I know is wrong.
  13. J-Rod Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 28, 2004
    star 5
    So it's better to beat someone to a pulp than to possibly receive a slap on the wrist? Wow, christian ethics at it's finest right here. Personally, I'd rather take the risk of punishment than to do something I know is wrong.

    Two problems with your way;

    1) Unless it obviously is un unlawful order, you are not following orders.

    2) you, as a soldier, never have all the information as to what is going on.

    It is usually best to follow orders and question them later.
  14. Cyprusg Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 16, 2002
    star 4
    1) Unless it obviously is un unlawful order, you are not following orders.

    So?

    2) you, as a soldier, never have all the information as to what is going on.

    Well in this case, they really did. The orders came down to get them ready for interrogation, how they did that was really up to the soldiers. No commanding officer told them to make a pyramid of prisoners and take photos.

    But regardless if you're the type of person that's going to do something that you know is wrong merely because of orders than what kind of human being are you? That's really the problem with this whole thing, all excuses and no accountability. If more people said "I don't care the repercussions, I'm not doing this because I know it's wrong" you wouldn't have situations like Abu Grahib. Sometimes all it takes is a leader to stand up and say "this is wrong, I'm not doing it" and the sheep will follow your lead.
  15. J-Rod Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 28, 2004
    star 5
    But regardless if you're the type of person that's going to do something that you know is wrong merely because of orders than what kind of human being are you?

    If you know it is an unlawful order, it is your duty to not perform it. Such as the prison scandel.

    But, as with all laws, right and wrong isn't always clear. If you have doubts, you risk the mission by not following what may be a lawful order. Carry out the order and then question it.

    Unless you know it is unlawful.

    Remember, the topic isn't exclusively about the prison scandel. In which case the order was unlawful and obviously so.
  16. KnightWriter Administrator Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 6, 2001
    star 8
    Remember, the topic isn't exclusively about the prison scandel.

    Indeed not :). Was just indirectly used as a starting point.
  17. TripleB Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 28, 2000
    star 4
    To get back to what I said earlier, It is also entirely possible that these bunch of PFC's and Specialists were somehow able to do what they did behind the back's of their Officers and Non-Com's. I often had a hard time looking at "rear area echelon soldiers" as being the equal of front line troops and it does not suprise me to see that if these people were able to do it behind their backs, that we are talking about negligence of command on these people's parts.

    That being said, I generally agree with what is being said on this thread.
  18. Bant428 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 22, 2002
    star 4
    So I completely understand why they would make up excuses for doing what they did. It's no different than probably what most of our grandparents say by justifying racism, "it was a different time" they say. Well screw that, there are plenty of people still alive that don't have to say "it was a different time" because they stood up for what's right and didn't follow the herd.

    Too true. I've read about a pair of Southern sisters who freed all the slaves on their enormous plantation and worked as abolutionists and white people helping escaped slaves along the Underground Railroad. And by no means is such behaivior limited to Americans; Hindus hiding Muslims during riots in India is only one example of many acts of compassion that will, in the future, be considered "ahead of their time" (hopefully, if progress isn't hindered by worldwide surges of conservatism).

    The example that was used- focused on a soldier, who even though he voluntarily joined the military, didn't like being sent to Iraq, so he threw a grenade into the command tent of his own unit.

    If you guys are actually claiming that you see nothing wrong with a soldier who tries to kill his fellow teammates, simply because he doesn't like an order, I think this is one area where we won't find a common ground.


    Nobody's saying that it's right -- the example merely proves the problem in the logic of allowing soldiers to disobey orders. You yourself stated that soldiers could disobey for religious reasons -- the Muslim in your example obviously did not want to kill fellow Muslims. That's a religious reason; is it justified?

    I think not, but who gets to determine what religious criteria is legitimate in disobeying orders? Tough question, and one that I don't have an answer for.

    In the case of Nuremburg the orders were only unlawful because Germany lost the war. The accused haven't lost the war yet.

    If you've ever watched "The Fog of War", former American Secretary of State McNamara relates a similar idea. In reference to the atomic bomb, he said something to the effect that what we Americans did would have been a war crime had the Axis powers won.
  19. Cyprusg Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 16, 2002
    star 4
    But, as with all laws, right and wrong isn't always clear. If you have doubts, you risk the mission by not following what may be a lawful order. Carry out the order and then question it.

    But this thread, at least as I understood it, is dealing with situations that are clearly wrong, or at least we feel are clearly wrong. If you think a situation is wrong, and you carry out that order anyway, I can't say much for you as a person. Maybe it's understandable, but not justifiable.

    Remember, the topic isn't exclusively about the prison scandel. In which case the order was unlawful and obviously so.

    I realize that, my earlier replies were dealing with the issue as a whole, I brought up Abu Grahib because you commented on it.
  20. TripleB Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 28, 2000
    star 4
    In the case of Nuremburg the orders were only unlawful because Germany lost the war. The accused haven't lost the war yet

    Unfortunately, this does not really get applied.

    No member of the VietCong have ever been tried for war crimes for what they inflicted upon US POW's.

    Because unfortunately, they did not win.

    So whoemever made the above statemetn was unfortunately right.
  21. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    You yourself stated that soldiers could disobey for religious reasons -- the Muslim in your example obviously did not want to kill fellow Muslims. That's a religious reason; is it justified?

    I said no such thing. I have been providing factual support to illustrate what the UCMJ actually says.

    That was someone else merely expressing their opinion.
  22. redxavier Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jan 23, 2003
    star 4
    Even if you, as an individual, don't agree with the definition of a war crime, it is codified in international law, and that's the standard that is used.

    In the US, war crimes are defined in Section 2441 of the US Code. In international law, they are specifically listed in Geneva II, August 1949, and Hague IV, articles
    23, 25, 27, or 28.


    Whilst they are specifically listed in international law, they are NOT specifically defined. That's whats important.

    It's not about getting individuals to agree on these definitions, but on nations agreeing... because it's international law. And no nation wants to fight a war with one hand tied behind its back.

    It's not murky because it's a moral question, but because different nations will define their actions (and possible war crimes) within the context of their own necessity.

    The US will never admit to war crimes in a dozen countries around the world. Why? Because the US government doesn't consider them as war crimes. Collateral damage is just one new justification.

    Americans, because they weren't defeated by the Vietnamese, have been able to escape punishment for war crimes in the Vietnam War. No, I'm not talking about My Lai, I'm refering to the general strategies and tactics of that war. The use of napalm, Agent Orange, the indiscriminate bombing of civilians (sorry... suspected VC)... the environmental destruction etc.

    The problem is that the Geneva and Hague conventions are out of date... which is convenient for Americans because their arsenal includes technology that has been invented since then.

    The important thing is to distinguish between a war crime and a regulation. USMCJ is a list forbidding American soldiers to do, it doesn't serve as document on crimes against humanity.

    One soldier humiliating iraqi prisoners is not a war crime, it's a breach of the USMCJ that's been written in accordance with the Geneva convention. However, a group of soldiers humiliating iraqi prisoners as part of a widely employed strategy with intent to humiliate these prisoners is a war crime. Of course, 'humiliate' is a open word, just like torture can mean many things.

    Take Guantanamo Bay... it's so easy for a nation to bend the rules, even their own, by merely playing on the language used to write them. This is why war crimes are a murky issue.




  23. BenduHopkins Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 7, 2004
    star 4
    I can't think of one religion off the top of my head that prohibits fighting for your country.

    That depends on how one interprets "thou shalt not kill."

    Also, lawyers and pundits are saying that the soldiers should have not followed orders to torture, and if they disobeyed, they could have gotten off scott free. Well, an order is an order in the army, and if the law establishment is going to say soldiers should stop doing things they think are innapropriate or wrong, then soldiers should legally be able to go AWOL if they disagree with the morality of the war.

    Soldiers have to protect themselves if they feel their commanders are war criminals. And if they feel Bush is a war criminal (which by some defendable point of views he is) they should be able to defy that war criminal to protect themselves against any criminal proceedings should the world court ever take this administration to task.
  24. DarthKarde Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2002
    star 5
    I think that we can all agree that this can be a difficult area for soldiers. While an illegal order is invalid and as such should not be carried out it is not always straight forward. Most soldiers are not legal experts and may face a situation where they are unsure as to the legality of an order. My view is that a soldier should only be punished for following orders where it can be reasonably shown that he knew the order to be illegal. I also think that in most cases it would unreasonable to punish a soldier for following an illegal order in a combat situation.

    Obviously what happened at Abu Graihib cannot be defended by such arguements. There can be no doubt that orders to carry out such blatant torture were illegal and that any soldier who has had basic training would know that.

    It's movie myth where a soldier yells something like "I formally protest this course of action!!" and the commander yells something like "Objection noted-fire the torpedos anyway!"

    Incidently this myth is based on the centuries old naval traditions of certain nations (Spain being a prominant one) where senior officers would hold a 'council of war' and dissenting opinions were noted for the record.
  25. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    Soldiers have to protect themselves if they feel their commanders are war criminals.

    Soldiers need to protect themselves according to the actual standard of law, not their own personal feelings.

    This concept isn't any different than the one that exists in the civilian world, it simply has different applications.

    If, for instance, a person "feels" he is right by firebombing a bunch of SUV's out of environmental concerns, doesn't make his actions any less felony criminal damage.

    That's really why the standard of law exists, be it military or civilian.

    I don't know why some people want to change it into a double standard just because it's the military.
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