Crimes of War: A Legal, Political-Documentary, and Psychological Inquiry into the Responsibility of Leaders, Citizens, and Soldiers for Criminal Acts in Wars

By Richard A. Falk; Gabriel Kolko et al. | Go to book overview

2. THE EXPERIENCE OF WORLD WAR II

The whole conception of war crimes gained prominence after World War II when the victorious Allied powers together prosecuted and judged the principal surviving German war leaders at Nuremberg. There has been a revival of interest in the Nuremberg idea since the Vietnam War. North Vietnam threatened at one time to prosecute captured American pilots as war criminals; Bertrand Russell organized a tribunal of inquiry which passed judgment on the American leadership responsible for executing war policies in Vietnam; and draft resisters and other opponents of the war in the United States have generally based their positions, in part at least, on the Nuremberg idea of complicity in a criminal war and in crimes of war.

In this section we offer some central materials arising out of the efforts after World War II to hold leaders of Germany and Japan responsible for war crimes. The questions raised after World War II in relation to war crimes are a very relevant part of the present discussion. The position of the United States Government has changed. After World War II the United States took the lead in urging that the action against the German and Japanese leaders and wrongdoers would create a precedent for the future. What opinions are held today about the wisdom of such a precedent? Who are the criminals? What means are available for their apprehension and punishment?

The first three short selections are all part of the buildup to Nuremberg after World War II. Of particular interest is President Roosevelt's appeal to the German people to collect evidence of war crimes that might be of use in postwar prosecutions.


THE MOSCOW DECLARATION ON GERMAN ATROCITIES, 1943

The United Kingdom, the United States and the Soviet Union have received from many quarters evidence of atrocities, massacres and cold-blooded mass executions which are being perpetrated by the Hitlerite forces in the many countries they have overrun and from which they are now being steadily expelled. The brutalities of Hitlerite domination are no new thing and all the peoples or territories in their grip have suf-

-73-

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Crimes of War: A Legal, Political-Documentary, and Psychological Inquiry into the Responsibility of Leaders, Citizens, and Soldiers for Criminal Acts in Wars
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page vii
  • Editors' Statement xi
  • Contents xiii
  • The Question of War Crimes: A Statement of Perspective 3
  • On the Avoidance of Reality 11
  • Beyond Atrocity 17
  • A Legal Framework 29
  • 1 - Standards and Norms 31
  • 2 - The Experience of World War II 73
  • 3 - Focus on Vietnam 177
  • The Political Setting: Documents 263
  • American Atrocities in Vietnam 265
  • Chemical Warfare in Vietnam 285
  • Pacification in Vietnam 291
  • A Doctor Reports from South Vietnam 309
  • Testimony of Don Luce 338
  • Testimony of Roger Hilsman, Former U.S. Official 344
  • Over Vietnam: An Eyewitness Report 345
  • Terror for Helicopters 357
  • Son My Mothers Call for Vengeance 360
  • The Tombs of Ben Suc 363
  • Repression in South Vietnam 371
  • Anti-Vietcong Cordon Disrupts Life of a Village 386
  • The Balang an Massacre 389
  • The Face of War, December, 1969 393
  • Letters to His Parents - Captain William H. Miller 395
  • Precision Bombing Not Very Precise 397
  • Saigon "Falsifying" Casualty Figures 401
  • War Crimes and the Nature of the Vietnam War 403
  • Contributors 415
  • The Psychological and Ethical Context 417
  • Victims and Executioners 419
  • Healing in Vietnam 430
  • It Didn't Happen and Besides, They Deserved It 441
  • Cover Your Ass 445
  • The Changing Climate of Atrocity 459
  • From Boot Camp to My Lai 462
  • The Gift 469
  • The Age of Abdication 473
  • German Guilt 476
  • On Responsibility for Evil 486
  • Gandhi versus the Policing Mind 502
  • On Killing 513
  • On Dying 528
  • On Genocede 534
  • A Victory 550
  • Deadly Paradoxes 555
  • Absurd Technological Death 559
  • Contributors 576
  • Recommendations for Further Reading 577
  • Index 579
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