This persists in the Vietnam retrospectives of the popular press, as evinced in a Newsweek article:.
It was, especially, a war fought without boundaries, spilling over among a civilian population of women and children and constantly tumbling into transgressions Another was ordered to throw an old woman down a well, then drop a grenade on her. There is a consensus in the literature that atrocities are part and parcel of counterinsurgency, although these arguments are countered by others that emphasize the political cost.
Again, the nature of low-intensity conflict runs counter to certain American values. The propensity to commit atrocities in counterinsurgency warfare has been addressed by military historian John M. Gates, who contrasts the American nineteenth-century experience with the present.
The conclusion drawn from the turn-of-the-century Philippine experience was that the army then made at least some effort to calibrate the machinery of pacification in accordance with the law of war of the time. In places as remote from each other as El Salvador and Afghanistan, one sees an acceptance of widespread and seemingly indiscriminate terror against civilians as a primary technique for dealing not only with insurgents and their supporters, but with the uncommitted as well.
At present, the laws of war are frequently ignored. The court-martial of the brigadier general that commanded the Samar campaign may be a case in point: No top officers in Vietnam were the object of such attention. The record on both Vietnam and the Philippines suggests, however, that courts-martial for war crimes resulted by and large in slaps on the wrist. At times, charges brought were not commensurate with the seriousness of the offense, and sentences adjudged by courts-martial in Vietnam sometimes were so light as to eliminate any deterrent effect.
This fact may have contributed to an attitude of laxity and indifference regarding war crimes As of 21 May , 29 Army personnel had been convicted of war crimes in Vietnam, and confinement had been adjudged against 15 of them. Data available for 13 of these men show that on the average they served In , for example, army regulations required just one hour of instruction on the Geneva and Hague Conventions during basic training and an annual refresher course. An army inquiry in the aftermath of the My Lai scandal the Peers Inquiry recommended that a new approach to training in the laws of land warfare be required.
It was recognized that practical interpretation of the rules of war was required in order to make the lesson stick. A s officer training course took this practical approach, for example on the matter of illegal orders:. While an American soldier must obey promptly all legal orders, he must also disobey an order which requires him to commit a criminal act in violation of the law of war An order to execute a prisoner or detainee is clearly illegal. This was not to be the case. In practice, counterinsurgency became increasingly marginal to the mainstream military in the s and even more exclusively the province of the Special Forces and associated units from the other services.
The development of human rights training materials for American officers leading American regulars in counterinsurgency scenarios had little impact.
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The counterinsurgency wars of the s and s were fought largely by local forces, trained by U. Special Forces. So long as the norms of special, unconventional warfare allowed for breaking the law, the rules of war could have little effect. The explanation of the special approach to war crimes in counterinsurgency may well lie with the changing concepts of warfare since Army in did not distinguish between the conventional war in which military law and regulations are, for the most part, unambiguous and ironclad and unconventional war in which discretionary powers to go outside the law are written into a doctrine designed to cover special circumstance.
The varying scenarios of Indian-fighting, the Civil War, and the subjugation of the Philippines prompted changes in regulations and operational orders and legal provision for reprisal killings but not a wholesale suspension of norms of military discipline, law, and order.
Amateur Soldiers, Global Wars: Insurgency and Modern Conflict
Assassination and abduction are illegal special operations employed offensively for sociopolitical purposes. A footnote to a chart outlining decision-making levels within the U. Duane R. A similar interpretation appears in a paper delivered at a joint Services symposium on terrorism in Guy B. The tendency to wage war without declaring war, as in unconventional warfare and counterinsurgency, sometimes makes the distinction purely academic. The school, opened in to train personnel from all services, teaches killing by stealth. According to Captain Steven L. It teaches assassination from a concealed position, firing over long distances with a high-powered rifle Snipers are invaluable for light infantry maneuvering and night-time defense, and are gaining new importance in an era of terrorism, according to military leaders Training at the instructor school is secretive.
The marines, who feel gung-ho about the program but are wary of controversy, show a certain defensiveness. Sniper methods and deployment are not considered topics for discussion. According to the Washington Post:. Officials said the short-lived covert operation In the world of covert action and preemptive counterterrorism, careful deliberation and specific decisions may well be required before taking action. But ambiguity over what is forbidden can combine with the political signals of tough-talking rhetoric to encourage actions outside the law on a more generalized basis.
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The unclassified version of the U. Keeping detentions a secret until interrogation has been completed is hardly a convention exclusive to the U.
Judicial safeguards should be in place to ensure that police are accountable before the law in such situations, yet in a military operation this accountability is absent. Counterinsurgency programs built upon the U. In doing so, they tend to sidestep the safeguards of the domestic legal system within which they nominally operate. Paragraph b 5 The names and locations of families, relatives, and friends of known guerrillas are obtained. These persons are valuable sources of information and may be used as a lure for trapping guerrillas Establishment and maintenance of records concerning black and gray lists should be restricted to those units having the capability to administer them.
More direct references to supposedly illegal tactics also appear in unclassified Special Forces manuals of the s, which recommend guerrilla tactics to be used in the multiple scenarios of unconventional warfare. Direct involvement in terror operations by U. The evidence from U. Special Forces Master Sgt. Luke Thompson later told interviewers that his posting to Tripoli was unusual only in that he did not quite understand why the United States was working with the Libyans.
Underlying the counterterrorist doctrine is the premise that terrorism is overwhelmingly effective. It has been taken for granted in all U. Army field manuals and training curricula for foreign armies. Insurgents are continually characterized as terrorists, and terrorism is vaunted as their best shot at power. Theorists of revolutionary warfare from Mao to Guevara were notably absent from the curriculum, as were the views of more sensible opponents of terrorism like Yoram Dinstein, who states flatly:.
Guerrillas who comply with the rules of warfare have nothing in common with terrorists: they are simply irregular troops.
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Conversely, terrorists The closer they are to the terrorists the better The popular position has not, however, gone unchallenged. Because terrorism is assumed to be overwhelmingly effective, it is seen as an unfair advantage over law-abiding governments. The resolution of a kidnaping in Beirut of three Soviet diplomats in a fourth was killed would be attributed by the American press to prompt counterterror by the KGB. According to the accepted account, a relative of a Shia Muslim leader was kidnaped, castrated, and shot.
The severed organs were sent. This, in the American view, led to the release of the kidnap victims and effectively stopped anti-Soviet actions in Lebanon. It would seem that the CIA, then seeking more rope for overseas counterterror operations, might have had more to gain from the story than the KGB. Whatever happened to win the release of the Soviet diplomats, the American counterterror advocates took the story and ran with it.
Brutal, you say?
Ali Has-San, it seems, may have been a double agent working with if not necessarily for the United States. The Sunday Times of London recounts the affair:. A bureaucratic fumble led the Americans to deny Salameh and ensure his death.
Amateur Soldiers, Global Wars: Insurgency and Modern Conflict
Secretary of State Shultz alluded to the matter in his speech on terrorism on 29 October , a month after the U. In the event, the United States did not fully implement unilateral counterterror on the Israeli model during the Reagan years. The concept of counterterror, however, was reinvigorated and put into practice through American training and organizational initiatives. Although it was too dangerous for Americans to be fielded as hit men, U. Yet, American secret warfare professionals remained reluctant to engage openly in counterterror, at the risk of bumping off the wrong targets and being exposed thereby; and there was added concern at a higher level over the potential of terror to provoke terror, irrevocably and unpredictably altering the uneasy scheme of international relations.