United States War Crimes
Centre for Research on Globalisation (CRG), globalresearch.ca, 26 January 2002
The issue of War Crimes emerged after World War I at the Versailles Conference, but it was not until the end of World War II that a more comprehensive definition of what constitutes war crimes was developed. First among new international conventions addressing war crimes was the 1950 Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal. Its fundamental premise was that the conduct of war in violation of international treaties was a crime against peace. Ill treatment of prisoners of war, killing hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages was a war crime. Crimes against humanity include murder, extermination, deportation, and prosecution based on political, racial or religious grounds.
The 1949 Geneva Convention gave recognition to the development of new technologies which exposed civilian life to greater threats of destruction. A 1977 addendum further emphasized the right of civilians to be protected against military operations. This included the protection of civilians against starvation as a method of warfare. Article II of the Geneva Convention addressed the issue of genocide, defined as killing or causing serious bodily harm to individuals based on their nationality, ethnic, racial or religious group and with the intent to destroy that group.
Since the Geneva Convention, a number of other significant international treaties addressing war and human rights have been drafted, but the United States has rejected almost all of them. Among the treaties that the United States has refused to sign are the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (1966); the Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966); the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (1966), and the American Convention on Human Rights (1965).
The United States has been particularly reluctant to sign treaties addressing the "laws of war". It has refused to sign The Declaration on the Prohibition of the Use of Thermo-Nuclear Weapons (1961); The Resolution on the Non-Use of Force in International Relations and Permanent Ban on the Use of Nuclear Weapons (1972); The Resolution on the Definition of Aggression (1974); Protocols Additional to the 1949 Geneva Convention (1977); and the Declaration on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons(1989).1
Equally disturbing was the U.S. refusal to sign the Convention on Rights of the Child, introduced into the United Nations General assembly on November 20, 1989 and subsequently ratified by 191 countries.
The first use of atomic weapons against human beings occurred on August 6-9 1945, when the United States incinerated the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II, killing an estimated 110,000 Japanese citizens and injuring another 130,000. By 1950 another 230,000 died from injuries and radiation. Earlier in 1945 two fire bombing raids on Tokyo killed 140,000 citizens and injured a million more.
Since World War II the US has bombed twenty-three nations. Author William Blum notes: "It is sobering to reflect that in our era of instant world wide communications, the United States has, on many occasions, been able to mount a large or small scale military operation or undertake other equally blatant forms of intervention without the American public being aware of it until years later if ever."2
The growing primacy or aerial bombardment in the conduct of war has inevitably defined non-combatants as the preferred target of war. Indeed, the combination of American air power and occupation ground forces has resulted in massive civilian casualties around the world.