Since time immemorial, man has debated on whether warfare is a moral thing to do. Although it is common sense that peace is better than warfare, man has continually engaged himself in war with fellow men. Research has revealed the fact that the improvement of technology and the general progression of a nation does not improve the chances of that nation in the doing away with war (Arkin 1).
St. Augustine is acknowledged for bringing in Christianity values against war that convinced people to avoid unnecessary murders. He strongly condemned the cruelty that is experienced in the need to revenge due to having the power to do so (Arkin 2).
From the 19th century, many countries have strived to formulate laws based on the guidelines presented earlier by St. Augustine. The laws that were formulated had two characteristics in general: they offered restrictions to the act of war and restrictions to the conditions that were needed before going into war. These laws ensured that the countries adopted the Just War tradition. This tradition adopted measures that ensured that any act of war did not end up causing damage beyond that which had been anticipate.
The only condition which is acceptable when it comes to cases of harming a civilian in wartime is when it is done unintentionally or happened indirectly. Even those people who are actually directly involved in combat during war (enemies) have their own rights. When the lay down their weapons in surrender they are to be considered as non-combatants don’t stand a risk of attack (Arkin 2).
The Laws of War (LOW) also stipulate that the agents of war must be held accountable for the results of their action during war. The Laws of War indicate what is acceptable and that which is not during war. The Rules of Engagement, which contain the Laws of War, are the orders which the military authority gives to the United States Forces indicating the conditions to which they are expected to engage in war or persist in combat. Over the centuries the laws of war have experienced significant developments which include the following:
To consider the plea of combatants during surrender and the treatment of prisoners captured during war in a humane manner
Protection of both the civilians and the non-civilians from unnecessary harm.
Avoid causing damage to civilians and their property when it can actually be avoided.
Not allow the attacking of persons or vehicles that has the Red Cross emblem or the Red Crescent or even those that bear a white flag.
Agents of war to avoid using torture at all costs regardless of the situation or person.
The law against use of weapons such as the blinding lasers or other weapons of mass destruction.
The right to life-which is a fundamental human right-has respects for and values the human person both in war and in time of peace. This right is however challenged due to the need to have order in the society either within the country or outside. This can be evidenced when extensive force which can cause death or injuries is used during such occasions (Watkin 10).
So as to demonstrate these acts of cruelty during war by nations of the world especially the super powers, some producers have created documentaries and movies based on actual events. This paper will look into the details of three such films so as to help come up with the necessary findings and conclusions as to what are the necessary and the morally-right things to do in times of war.
Rules of Engagement
Rule of Engagement is an American film that was written by James Webb and directed by William Friedkin. It stars two actors, Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel L. Jackson. Jackson who plays a part as a Marine Colonel called Terry Childers is brought to court with charges of not obeying the rules of engagement in a certain military operation in Sana’a, Yemen which results in the slaughter of many civilians.
The writer of this film is currently the United States Senator but is a former Marine combat officer and Secretary of the Navy. This explains the relevance of the film in finding the solutions to the question, what military behaviour is moral in war?
The film begins on a high note where there was an advance in the Vietnam War which turns disastrous. One of the commandants, Terry Childers kills a prisoner who was not armed and this intimidates an NVA official who then calls off an attack on the American marines whereby Lt. Hays Hodges is rescued.
Afterwards, there are riots and demonstrations that ensue at the embassy grounds against the American influence in the Gulf of Persia. It turns violent and demonstrators start throwing stones and starting fires. Childers then escorts the Ambassador to an awaiting helicopter and heads back to the embassy to retrieve the flag. Meanwhile, many marines are killed by snipers positioned at the top of the roofs.
When Childers looked down at the crowd and notices something, he quickly orders his fellow marines to open fire and kill them. This led to the death of as many as eighty three civilians who were engaging in protests. This leads to the taking of Childers to the court-martial in the United States by the National Security Adviser. Childers is accused for causing the death of the many civilians so as to secure the international relations between them and the Persian Gulf.
Childers then chooses Hodges-the person he saved during the war-to represents him as his attorney. Hodges became reluctant to take the position since he was aware that his record was not that impressive either and claimed that Childers needed a better lawyer (Webb 3). Childers however did not mind having Hodges represent him since he needed someone who had been involved in combat before since he would be in a better position to understand the pressure that comes with it.
Most of the evidence point him out as guilty and a certain Bill Sokal did all he could to get him convicted. On a certain occasion, he burns a tape had recorded the crowd showing there weapons so as to make all the accusations appear to be true.
He also blackmails an Ambassador into lying in front of the court that the crowd had been peaceful and that Childers had shown violence towards his family when the time for evacuation came. Hodges however presents to the court a proof that a tape in the camera which had recorded the crowd during the riot had been burned and yet the camera itself was intact.
At the end of the film, Childers is only charged of minor charges of that of disrupting peace but was not found guilty of anything serious such as those to do with conduct and murder. Sokal is however charged and found guilty of concealing evidence and is caused to resign and Mourain is also fired after being found guilty of some charges. Childers then retires honourably from the marine (Webb 6).
Valley of Wolves Iraq
The film Valley of wolves is set in northern Iraq and starts off as the United States forces take in to captivity thirteen civilians and eleven Turkish soldiers. This event is supported by other actual events for example, the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and the incident that had to do with the container where people who had been taken in to captivity were suffocated and killed.
At first, the Turkish soldiers thought that it was a usual visit by the NATO friends. The soldiers were shown out of the headquarters with guns pointed to their heads and later detained for 60 hours before being set free. This was rather unusual since it was the first time such an incident occurred between the two states. The United States later apologised for what had occurred and made statements of regret through Donald Rumsfeld. This was not appreciated by many Turks as took offense of the situation.
One of the Turkish soldiers who had been captured was so humiliated by the event especially when they were hooded and this led him into committing suicide. Almedar, who is a friend of the deceased and a former Turkish intelligence, is determined to avenge for his dead friend. At some point he and his men kill three Iraqi troops.
They later put explosives under the hotel where the commander, Sam Marshall was residing and ordered him out. When he was out he wanted him to be hooded just as his friend had been hooded so that it could be caught on camera but Marshall declines and uses some children to act as human shields which causes Almedar to give up but is later involved in a shooting at a wedding pretending to be hunting down terrorists (Croix and Doepke 1).
The groom and other children are killed in the process and the rest were rounded up into a container truck that was airtight. In an act of vengeance, the father of the child who had died in the wedding becomes a suicide bomber and blows up at a meeting where Marshal had attended but Marshal survives. At the end Marshall is killed in a gun fire (Sasmaz 1).
I am an American soldier
This is a documentary film produced by John Laurence and is about the war in Iraq. A total of 92 American soldiers had been sent to Iraq to fight. They suffered and struggled to survive for a whole year. After the assignment in the Iraq, they are deployed and they return home to their families. Due to the experiences that they had, their lives were changed and began a task of trying to bring change to Iraq and in the process they were accompanied be filmmakers so as to examine the Iraq war critically and without any bias (Donohue and Wong 188).
This documentary tries to show the struggles that the United States soldiers go through in their day to day activities in bringing peace in Iraq (Clark 570). It demonstrates how the environment there is becoming more deceptive and dangerous for missions to be carried out. The soldiers are faced with difficulties in their duties as drastic changes normally take place in those places (Pojman and Vaughn 4).
The scenes in the documentary are filled with pictures that capture the emotions of people. There are scenes showing a soldier blowing up a vehicle full of people jus to realise later that it was actually full of innocent civilians. It also shows a case where soldiers trying to fight for their lives been blown into pieces in their armoured vehicles. Many scenes of mothers and family members gathering at a funeral and mourning the loss of the soldiers from Iraq are also seen (Laurence 6).
So as to avoid the conflicts such as the situation in Iraq, it empirical that they should abide by the Laws of War such as respecting the laws in the occupied territory and therefore making as few changes as possible (Roberts 1). There are three factors in the laws relating to the occupied territories that are highlighted: rules that limit the power and authority of the occupants, the prohibition against taking over new territories and the rules concerning respecting the structure of legislation in that country (Roberts 3).
It has also been agreed that occupancy in a certain country is not always the solution prior to engaging in war. The Laws of War are regarded as the main laws that apply to occupations. Research also includes the human rights law as fundamental and applicable. When all these considerations are taken into account then the inhumane nature of wars will be done away with.
Arkin, Ronald. Governing Lethal Behaviour: Embedding Ethics in a Hybrid Deliberative/Reactive Robot Architecture. Georgia: College of Computing, 2007. Print.
Clark, Burton. The Invasion. American Journal of Combat. 2009, 65(6), 569-576.
Croix, David and Doepke, Matthias. Internal Affairs. New York: Sage, 2008
Donohue, Tambra and Wong, Eugene. Modern Warfare. Journal Article Excerpt. 2009, p.188-200
Laurence, John. I Am an American Soldier: One Year in Iraq with the 101st Airborne. 2007. 28 June 2011.
Pojman, Louis and Vaughn, Lewis. The Moral Life An Introductory Reader in Ethics and Literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010. Print.
Roberts, Adam. Transformative military occupation: Applying the laws of war and human rights. Oxford: Oxford University, 2006. Print.
Sasmaz, Raci. Valley of the Wolves: Iraq. 2006. 28 June 2011.
Watkin, Kenneth. Controlling the use of power: A role for human rights Norms in contemporary Armed Conflict. America: American Society of International Law, 2004. Print.
Webb, James. Rules of engagement. 2000. 28 June 2011.