American presidential candidates are now openly promising to commit war crimes to “win” the war on Terror. It seems like they need an education in what a war crime is, why these crimes are illegal and why trading in their conscience for power makes these candidates the most serious threat to U.S. peace and security that we face today.
In an article published by The Nation on January 7th, Rebecca Gordon reports that leading GOP presidential candidates are making these promises:
Ted Cruz will “carpet bomb them [ISIS] into oblivion.” And, in a clear reference to the use of nuclear weapons, stated “I don’t know if sand can glow in the dark, but we’re going to find out.”
Ben Carson said that “thousands” of children might die in a tough love campaign against ISIS. When asked if he was “tough” enough to be “okay” with the deaths of thousands of innocent children and civilians, Carson replied, “you got it. You got it.”
Jeb Bush believes “We need to get the lawyers off the back of the warfighters. Right now under President Obama, we’ve created… this standard that is so high that it is impossible to be successful in fighting ISIS.”
Donald Trump is “winning” alright… he’s winning the campaign for most deplorable future war criminal (but it’s a close contest). He actually seems excited to harm people. He would bring back torture (despite a CIA report that it doesn’t work). Even if it doesn’t work, said Trump, “they deserve it anyway.” He also told Fox news, “the other thing with terrorists is you have to take out their families…When they say they don’t care about their lives, you have to take out their families.”
I’m not going to put this into beautiful language: what is being condoned here is disgusting. It would turn the U.S. military into something akin to Nazis. The total extermination of an “enemy”, which the GOP is defining by their religious affiliation and/or the region in which they live? Yeah, that’s not war. That’s genocide.
Literally, here’s the definition of genocide:
Any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
Killing members of the group;
Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, this one is for you: if we engage in carpet bombing or nuclear warfare in the Middle East, if we start indiscriminately killing not just combatants, but their families, you will have orchestrated not only a genocide, but probably have started a rebel group more radical, more hell bent on revenge than ISIS.
If you do not make the time to identify combatants, then you are providing an example where innocent civilians are publicly boasted about being fair game in war. Do you really want the U.S. to set that as the new standard for warfare?
Ben Carson: the killing of children is murder – not war. Enemy combatants are defined, traditionally, as military aged young men wearing usually some kind of identifiable gear and visibly carrying a weapon. Understandably, enemy combatants are not always wearing a kind of uniform. But enemy combatants are NEVER children.
ISIS has been known to use child soldiers, but these child soldiers will be among the people most victimized by ISIS. They are brutally tortured when they are conscripted, taken out of school, develop a skill set and mentality of war that they will carry with them for years, and are often deeply troubled at the end of the conflict, unable to repatriate into a peaceful society.
Take, for example, these stories of Mohammed and Ahmed.
Ahmed and Mohammed are from the same part of Syria. They had worked with rebels to fight Assad’s regime, but went into hiding when ISIS took over eastern Syria. Mohammed, 13, was kidnapped from his home by ISIS and locked in a jail with 75 other boys and men for two months. He says they were all tortured savagely. After two months of torture, Mohammed was sent to an ISIS indoctrination school. He tried to run away, but was captured, and as his punishment, his leg and arm were cut off.
When ISIS captured Ahmed, they guaranteed his safety if he went to indoctrination school. And then they kept adding demands: be an ISIS fighter, go to the front lines. He was able to escape from Iraq to Turkey. He says that ISIS repeatedly tried to convince him and other boys to become suicide bombers. According to Mohammed, ISIS focuses on children, because “children are unaware of anything in this life” – in effect, they are easier to brainwash into being soldiers.
So, even when children are combatants, they are not our enemy. And importantly, no adult – in military or police gear – should have to kill a child in order to disarm him/her.
Ben Carson: No adult should ever say they are OK with the killing of children for the benefit of a greater good – that’s something literally out of a Jonathan Swift satirical short story. And, Jesus, these kids have been through enough.
Now, for Jeb Bush. You can tell he is a career politician because isn’t already planning his war crimes and talking about them specifically. He’s just saying, it could happen and he would be OK if it needed to happen.
Here’s why that’s terrifying: there are a lot of different war crimes, and I want to know what exactly Jeb Bush would like to put to our national conscience.
Would he like U.S. soldiers to cut off water supply to areas with ISIS soldiers and their families, like what the Serbian Army did in Bosnia?
Would he like to torture terror suspects, despite reports from the CIA that U.S. torture does not work and did not work following the 9/11 terror attacks?
Would he agree with Ted Cruz, and carpet bomb wide areas in the wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages?
Would he agree with Donald Trump and Ben Carson, and ask U.S. soldiers to murder families of terror victims? And would these family deaths include just spouses, parents and children, or would it extend to grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews and grandchildren?
Can we see these questions in the next GOP debate? Then it will be clear, that this election will determine what code of morals we expect in how we treat one another, and how we treat the rest of the world.