And you think this is enough, do you?
Monday 9 June 2014, 5.02am HKT
10.18pm local time, 33°C (91°F), hot and bothered
AFTER the D-Day commemorations, try this for size.
Asking the actual ‘questions’ now…
Might’ve said this:— Many nations have this rule, but Germany is the cause for it.
That’s untrue too — consider the military record of all countries.
All countries have this rule, worded in one form or another. This is a clear requirement in the international humanitarian laws. Technically every serviceman and servicewoman needs to follow this rule — they are ‘obligated’ to not follow orders that break the Geneva Convention.
Too few actually do.
The problem, of course, is ‘technically’
There are several Geneva Conventions that regulate different aspects of peacetime and wartime life. There IS a ‘Geneva convention’ that regulates completion of international contracts. so clearly that one is irrelevant here.
The Geneva Convention in this context is the one (actually, four) that provides guidelines for (not ‘govern’) military conduct in combat operations.
We see two assumptions here:—
That the Bundeswehr enforces the rule.
That the other armies don’t enforce the rule.
Both assumptions are … well … right and wrong.
This specific rule is connected to Article 1(1) of the Grundgesetz für die Bundesrepublik Deutschland (the German federal constitution), which states, “Die Würde des Menschen ist unantastbar” — “Human dignity is inviolable.”
The Finnish Criminal Code (Chapter 11 Section 14, Ch. 40 s.13, Ch. 45 s.14(2), etc) also gives effect to this rule (PDF file link via Finnish legal database Finlex).
The French Army has the same rule, called “Devoir de Désobéissance“ (‘Duty of Disobedience’) (per Le Bulletin officiel des Armées, décembre 2005, numéro 45). The Toulon branch of LDH (La Ligue des Droits de l’Homme: ‘The League of Human Rights’) explains the situation (unfortunately, all in French). LDH Toulon also has an explanation of the French law of armed conflict (again, in French). Francophones can fish around the French Ministry of Defence website. (I can’t honestly translate all the French here.)
The U.S. Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC) sets rules that drive those directives (PDF file link, 1.9 MB).
Every armed forces in the world have this rule — no exceptions.
But this rule is not international law — a widespread misconception. It’s just a clause (or several clauses) in the Geneva Conventions. Each Geneva convention has multiple parts and protocols (amendments, if you like) and some are optional. Each country doctrinally enforces the parts they have agreed to. Technically, only the United Nations enforces all parts of the conventions.
The power of the UN to enforce is limited by the sovereign right of the nations to let it enforce the parts they’ve agreed to be enforced.
Still with me?
“It’s a complete lie. Soldiers everywhere are obligated to disobey orders that break the Geneva Convention.”
Take some clarity from an ex-infantry combat officer here.
I ought to know. I used to carry out and maintain this stuff. I realised straight away then it was bullshit. I’m saying the ineffable now, that it’s still bullshit. Some people need to unstick their arses out of their heads (or the other way round, whichever pleases).
All armed forces have regulations for personnel not to follow an unlawful order.
Notice the words “not to follow” and “unlawful” — not ‘disobeying’ and not ‘illegal.’
This is a doctrinally necessary backdoor to prevent some madman from spinning completely out of control and running the whole show (like Colonel Kurtz in “Apocalypse Now”).
It’s like answering back at Mum — we’re not supposed to, but it’s allowable sometimes because Mum can’t always be right (or sane).
Military Law is a highly specialised subset of general Criminal Law. In Military Law, it is doctrinally necessary that orders could not be illegal but at worst only ‘unlawful.’
That’s like Mum too — a highly specialised subset of Family — and her word is always necessarily ‘not wrong’ even if it’s not ‘right.’
Is there a difference in terminology? Yes, but let’s not go into it now. Read this for the meaning differences.
All servicemen in any armed forces anywhere are obligated to refuse unlawful orders, such as deliberately killing exotic foreign people in exotic foreign lands who don’t threaten us using British-, American-, French-, German-, Chinese-, Korean- or Russian-made weapon systems that cost lots of hard-earned dollars, euros, etc, and support thousands of jobs back home.
Following or not following isn’t as easy as it sounds. What is unlawful can quickly become grey-zoned in combat. Having it and doing it are two separate things, as any veteran will be pleased to explain to us.
The law can be fiddled with to give any order the required legality ex post facto.
If you’ve ever studied law and read up a little about Military Law, we quickly realise that lots of service personnel get punished, officially and unofficially — sometimes summarily executed — for disobeying orders regardless of lawfulness.
All service personnel and civilians are legally responsible for obeying military orders.
“Few, if any other armies[,] have this rule”
That last sentence in the meme isn’t an accurate statement.
The undertakings (oaths) of EVERY armed forces in the world require personnel to obey orders. The requirement (oathed or not) extends to civilians (a nation’s own or others) in areas under military oversight — the obvious being combat zones.
Take the USA for instance — most of us are quite familiar with U.S. military regulations, even if only from the movies.
The entire U.S. military has a law (I forget which statute exactly — commenters please advise) that personnel are responsible for obeying any order from a superior officer even if they feel it shouldn’t be obeyed.
Simultaneously, however, that law (or some other auxiliary clause) permits personnel the right to ‘not follow’ an ‘unlawful’ order without repercussion. The reason for that (working in reverse, legally speaking) is a general principle in Criminal Law — any person(s) party to an illegal or unlawful act or wrongdoing is responsible for any negative liability from such an act. The term ‘accessory after the fact’ is also part of this equation.
Doctrinally, all orders are necessarily also validly, legally, lawfully issued and conveyed.
At the end of the day, you’re an idiot to disobey any order. Whatever your rank may be, you’re nearly always in NO POSITION to see, to consider, to interpret, to judge, to question, to [choose the words you like best] whether an order is lawful or not — it IS beyond your pay level and security clearance.
You can be demoted, administratively penalised, ‘awarded’ custodial punishment, or even summarily executed for any number of reasons for disobeying an order.
Right to a trial is suspended when the area you’re in is under military jurisdiction.
The right of the military authorities to ‘award’ summary sentences (of any kind) is doctrinally necessary to maintain physical security and control of the area of operations.
As an ex-infantry officer, I will tell you as a moral fact that all disobedient personnel (and uncooperative civilians) are punished first and afterwards go through due process (conditions permitting) to remove the legal repercussions.
That’s dynamite on paper, especially when you’ve already been punished (or executed) first.
But we all must be tolerant and understanding as a ‘Reasonable Person.’ A Reasonable Person doesn’t break the law, military or otherwise. A Reasonable Person accepts a validly issued directive. A Reasonable Person understands and accepts that due process is paramount, more than your life, because the ‘rule of law’ is what we’re fighting and killing for. In times of armed conflict, each and every one of us must make sacrifices for the greater good of all. We sacrifice so that those who come after us have a better life than we’ve had. Capisci?
So why does crap happen, like in Abu Ghraib, etc?
My blog readers/followers here are awesome and highly intelligent people.
They can all see something like THIS is more sensible and entirely doable:—
Personnel jointly and severally have a moral and legal duty to safeguard the physical security and humane treatment of civilians and other non-combatants (military and civilian alike) in all areas of operations as far as possible as circumstances permit or enable to be permissible, and to disregard or countermand an order that may subject the personnel jointly and severally to detract from this moral and legal duty.
(Rough 10-second legal drafting from me — commenters please submit alternatives)
But what kind of ‘human dignity’ — what kind of lawfulness, ethicalness, etc — are we looking for in bullet-strafing, grenade-lobbing, missile-spewing conditions when everybody is getting killed or shredded to ribbons in the crossfire?
We’re not playing games now, Emily … shit happens in war. Why?
1. A serious lack of training.
2. The thrill of the kill.
Bad shit happens everywhere. People hurt other people — but few take joy in recording and sharing it.
Yes, we’re supposed to confirm the order for comprehension, then climb up the echelon (chain of command) to determine if it’s lawful or ethical (hah!).
But if you do that, I guarantee you, you’d be punished for questioning orders — that’s a form of insubordination (for doubting a superior’s authority) and wilful disobedience (for actively seeking potential avenues of not following an order).
Both of which can get a person into hot water — or cold six feet under.
The fact that you are climbing up the echelon to determine something about the order is prima facie evidence that you are questioning it. Let’s not pretend about this, because there’s no point otherwise.
We might’ve been more welcomed and congratulated had we tried to confirm if the order was “ethnical” — geddit?
“Soldiers! Don’t give yourselves to brutes, men who despise you — enslave you — who regiment your lives — tell you what to do — what to think and what to feel! Who drill you, treat you like cattle, use you as cannon fodder. Don’t give yourselves t those unnatural men — machine men with machine minds and machine hearts! You are not machines! You are not cattle! You are men! You have the love of humanity in your hearts! You don’t hate! Only the unloved hate — the unloved and the unnatural! Soldiers! Don’t fight for slavery! Fight for liberty!”
— Charlie Chaplin, final speech in “The Great Dictator” (1940)
I love it when someone (including servicemen) posts something stupid and literally everyone else points out that fact of stupidness.