Trading insults

This week, American and Russian diplomats have been trading insults, accusing each other of barbaric behaviour. Referring to the fighting in Aleppo, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Powers, said that, ‘what Russia is sponsoring and doing is not counter-terrorism, it is barbarism.’ In reply, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mariia Zakharova stated that, ‘the world has seen nothing more barbaric in modern history than Iraq and Libya done the Washington way.’

The two diplomats were speaking past each other. Powers was commenting on alleged breaches of the laws dictating what people can do during a war – jus in bello. Zakharova was complaining about alleged breaches of the laws dictating when people can wage war – jus ad bellum.

The moral posturing concerning the war in Syria is entirely unwarranted. Neither side is in the clear, although for different reasons.

When it comes to jus in bello, the Americans on the whole behave fairly well. They make mistakes – intelligence is wrong and they strike the wrong target, or missiles go astray and kill civilians. But a lot of effort is put into avoiding civilian casualties, and military lawyers are normally consulted before any major targeting decision is made.  By contrast, judging by its behaviour during the battle for Grozny in the second Chechen war and during the current fighting in Aleppo, the Russian military seems somewhat less restrained in the use of force in bello. This may be a matter of culture and ethics, or it may simply be a question of potential (Russian military technology and the particular nature of the battles Russia fights may not allow for as much restraint). Nevertheless, from an American perspective, the Russian way of war seems relatively indiscriminate.

On the other hand, there can be little doubt that the Americans have consistently broken the rules of jus ad bellum. The bombings of Yugoslavia and Libya, the invasion of Iraq, and the support given to Syrian rebels, as well as other examples, indicate an unhealthy willingness to start wars. And in recent years, the Americans have definitely started far more wars than have the Russians. Regardless of how well its troops have obeyed the rules of jus in bello, the United States has thus ended up causing far more destruction than Russia.

The words of Justice Robert Jackson at the Nuremburg Tribunal come to mind:To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.’

11 thoughts on “Trading insults”

  1. “They make mistakes – intelligence is wrong and they strike the wrong target, or missiles go astray and kill civilians.”

    And they apologise – sometimes. Other time they only “express regret”. Surely, people (and entire countries) become less dead or screwed up because the US apoligizes and admit their mistakes. Hey, should Russia nuke Pentagon tomorrow and then “apologize”, ’cause, you know, we are primitive barbaric Russians and our military technology is so primitive compared to yours – would everyone just shrug as they do when the US did this kind of shit and “let it go”?

    This also raises the question are they capable to learn from their mistakes. How many times did their drones killed people at weddings or funerals? And how just a day after the US planes killed 62 SAA soldiers their planes also made a mistake in Afghanitan killing 8 policemen. Are these genuine mistakes and inability to learn from them or, maybe, they are not mistakes at all.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The Chechen terrorists were enabled by the US, trained in Turkey and used as a re-run of the AFghanistan affair.

    Regarding the colluison between the US and ISIS, the Syrians claim to have recordings of conversations between the US and ISIS around the time. They also note, that just like the attack on the aid convoy in Aleppo, US drones were in the area at the time and lef shortly aftwards.

    Means, Motive, Opportunity.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. «By contrast, judging by its behaviour during the battle for Grozny in the second Chechen war and during the current fighting in Aleppo, the Russian military seems somewhat less restrained in the use of force in bello.»

    Battle for Grozny in the second Chechen war was different from the assault of Fallujah by US troops in 2004?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a bunch of nonsense Paul. US if infamous for its cowardly cult of force protection. You may want to read up on “rules of engagement” used in Iraq, the checkpoint killings, the machinegunning of vehicles coming “too close” to their patrols, the targeting of anyone carrying a shovel or a phone. Then the many attacks on journalists such as Al Jazeera reporters. The practice of collective punishment against cities and towns, ie by cutting off their water and electricity. Also it went very much Grozny on Falluja. In all US forces directly killed over 150,000 people in Iraq and were the single biggest cause of death for Iraqi women.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Americans make a show of sparing civilians so they can wage more war and more easily. The end result is that they kill more civilians.

    But killing civilians isn’t the only issue. The issue is whether the war is being waged on civilians or on the opposing forces. Eg in Yugoslavia the US killed 2,000 civilians but only some 300 soldiers and police (there were a combined 700 Yugoslav police and military deaths but most of these were inflicted by the KLA). The reality of that war was that after the first three days the US largely abandoned its war vs the Yugoslav forces and instead rolled out its war against civilian quality of life.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Yeah, what others said, but also: was the Vietnam war executed by some different country, with a different political system and culture? The napalm, the chemicals, and all the rest of it? But yeah, the culture was different indeed: no worshipping of the military (‘gold star parents’ – what the hell is that), no assumption of their ‘good intentions’. That’s, again, the success of the media, propaganda, brainwashing. Skepticism and distrust used to be the basic assumption; now it’s ‘conspiracy theory’…


    1. …or the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, for that matter. All civilian casualties. Korea. I don’t think there are any rules really. To be fair, it’s probably universal, not specifically American…

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Paul, the Russia that fought a war in Chechnya nearly 20 years ago is not the same Russia that is fighting a war in Syria today. Russia in the 1990s under President Yeltsin was a different country from what it is now. Don’t assume that the Russian armed forces have not changed in the past 20 years and judge current Russian military standards by what they were in the past.

    Also as a regular reader of Mark Chapman’s Kremlin Stooge blog, you should know that Qatar has been buying Russian or Soviet-made high-explosive OFAB-250-270 bombs from Ukraine through a Polish firm. Mark has been hammering this point quite a lot lately in his comments. It’s very likely that any evidence of such bombs present in the Aleppo incident in which the humanitarian aid convoy was attacked and set on fire was planted there.

    You need to find better and less suspect examples to demonstrate your contention that Russia is more likely to resort to force and aggression than the US during war.

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s