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Rules of Disengagement

Rules of Disengagement

Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 227
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  • Book Info
    Rules of Disengagement
    Book Description:

    Rules of Disengagement examines the reasons men and women in the military have disobeyed orders and resisted the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It takes readers into the courtroom where sailors, soldiers, and Marines have argued that these wars are illegal under international law and unconstitutional under U.S. law. Through the voices of active duty service members and veterans, it explores the growing conviction among our troops that the wars are wrong. While the Obama Administration's pledge to remove all American troops from Iraq by the end of 2011 is encouraging - and in no small way likely attributable to resistance by our armed forces - it continues to fight in Afghanistan, and the military may soon have a heightened presence elsewhere in the Middle East and in Africa. As such, Rules of Disengagement provides inspiration and lessons for anyone who opposes an interventionist U.S. military policy.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-6292-9
    Subjects: Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[viii])
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    RULES OF ENGAGEMENT limit forms of combat, levels of force, and legitimate enemy targets, defining what is legal in warfare and what is not. In the modern world, the rules of engagement are defined by an established body of international law and, for American soldiers, by U.S. law as well.

    When the government at the highest levels ignores these rules, when the conduct of a war and the war itself violate the law, as happened in Vietnam and is now happening in Iraq and Afghanistan, soldiers are forced into a legal and ethical dilemma. They must decide whether to abide...

  4. ONE Resisting Illegal Wars
    (pp. 13-22)

    LEGAL SCHOLARS HAVE ANALYZED the legality of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and of Vietnam before them. But the legality of these wars is something that any soldier or civilian can consider—in plain language and with personal conclusions. Pablo Paredes, a young sailor confronted with these questions, and Howard Levy, an Army officer facing very similar issues during Vietnam, found themselves obliged to appraise the legality of these wars and their participation in them. Their analyses, and their examples of resistance, offer useful lessons for GIs today.

    As you will see, military and federal courts in this country,...

  5. TWO Modern Conscientious Objectors
    (pp. 23-44)

    SOLDIERS INVARIABLY CONSIDER the morality of the wars in which they participate and the means by which those wars are carried out. American GIs face very personal questions about the right or wrong of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, their roles in those wars, and the methods of warfare—the rules of engagement. For many, of course, the answers depend on the specifics. World War II was different in many fundamental ways from the war in Vietnam. But military law and regulations allow soldiers to disengage and seek noncombatant status or discharge only if they have religious, moral, or...

  6. THREE Winter Soldier
    (pp. 45-60)

    THE BEST WAY TO UNDERSTAND the rules of engagement, and to consider their misuse and violation, is to hear the stories told by veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Embedded journalists are shielded from the reality, and legal scholars consider the rules primarily in the abstract. But the GIs who have been there tell chilling stories of ever-shifting rules that bear little relation to the norms of international law or human rights. This chapter begins with a brief history of the first Winter Soldier Investigation, which was called by Vietnam Veterans Against the War in 1971 to tell...

  7. FOUR Dissent and Disengagement
    (pp. 61-84)

    RESISTANCE TO MILITARY POLICIES takes many forms. In addition to refusal of orders and conscientious objection, GIs have used demonstrations, picket lines, rallies, petitions to Congress, street theater, statements to the media and the public, long visits to Canada, underground newspapers, discharge requests, and other means to disengage from the current wars. Dissent has manifested in as many ways as there are soldiers with imaginations, and 21stcentury technology offers a number of new ways to voice that dissent. The current movement among GIs and veterans includes a remarkable blend of old and new methods, giving voice to a traditional message...

  8. FIVE Challenging Racism
    (pp. 85-104)

    U.S. SOLDIERS WHO FOUGHT IN VIETNAM were trained to think of the North Vietnamese people as “gooks.” The objectification of the nonwhite enemy made it more palatable to kill and abuse them. American troops and mercenaries in Iraq likewise objectified their Iraqi prisoners when they sexually abused and sadistically humiliated them at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad. One U.S. official, who told theLos Angeles Timesthat 50–100 Iraqis died in U.S. custody in 2003, said, “There was a mentality that the people we’re in charge of are not humans.”¹ Racism of this sort underlies and exacerbates a...

  9. SIX Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault in the Military
    (pp. 105-126)

    SEXISM AND SEXUAL IMAGERY are used in military training in much the same way that racism is. Young soldiers are encouraged to think of strength and discipline in combat as sexual prowess; to equate military violence and sexual violence; to see disobedience, nonconformity, or weakness as feminine. Soldiers who cannot or will not perform as expected are told they are women or “faggots.” Such training methods become necessary when soldiers are not inspired by a patriotic cause but are confronted with an illegal and immoral war they have no desire to fight.

    Sexual discrimination in the military, like racism, has...

  10. SEVEN The Medical Side of War
    (pp. 127-148)

    THE MILITARY’S HEALTH CARE SYSTEM, perhaps more than any other sector of the armed forces, has been overwhelmed by the current wars. Pressed to maintain troop strength and readiness, commands give little attention to troops’ medical problems and often actively discourage injured or ill GIs from seeking medical care. Service members returning from Iraq or Afghanistan with injuries or illnesses frequently find that getting to a doctor is difficult and obtaining treatment once there is no easier. Although military medicine has always had problems, the system has never been in such crisis. This situation is not something inherent in the...

  11. EIGHT Discharges
    (pp. 149-170)

    MANY SERVICE MEMBERS disengage from the military by seeking early discharge. A number of honorable discharges are available under military regulations, though soldiers rarely learn this from the military itself.

    Discharge is a dirty word in most commands. Soldiers hear, over and over, that they can’t quit, no matter what the circumstances or problem, no matter how they feel about the job or the wars they are being asked to fight. Many GIs request discharge when they learn that the duties and benefits recruiters promised them were lies. Others decide to get out when personal or family problems make it...

  12. NINE The Families
    (pp. 171-184)

    THE VICTIMS OF THE IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN WARS include not just the soldiers on both sides and the hundreds of thousands of civilians who have been killed and maimed. They are also the families of our troops—the spouses, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, life partners, grandparents, in-laws, cousins, nieces, nephews, aunts, and uncles—who are victimized by these wars. Almost everyone knows someone who has been directly affected. Families must cope with fear during deployments, the possibility of the knock on the door that means news of death, and all too often they must cope with injuries that result in...

  13. TEN Conclusion
    (pp. 185-194)

    LIKE SOLDIERS DURING the Vietnam War, GIs today ask themselves whether and how to disengage. They find themselves required to weigh the legality and propriety of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. They ask why they face conditions far beyond the normal problems expected in a military life—shoddy and unsafe equipment, inadequate gear, a broken medical system, commands that ignore serious family hardships, and dehumanization and bigotry in training and in the field. Both the mission and the conditions of the military increasingly cause GIs to disengage from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and often from the military altogether....

  14. Appendix: Resources
    (pp. 195-200)
  15. Notes
    (pp. 201-214)
  16. Index
    (pp. 215-226)
  17. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 227-228)
  18. About the Authors
    (pp. 229-229)