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Old 04-21-2004, 21:30
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Uniforms and Geneva Convention Question

I know that according to the Geneva convention, a soldier in wartime (upon which the rules of Geneva are applied) must be wearing a uniform recognizing them as a soldier of so-and-so army, but I have a few questions on that:

- What if you are wearing a uniform of an army/organization different from yours? I.E. Spec Ops wearing 'local' (friendly) military gear to avoid recognition, or a civilian contractor wearing US Army uniforms? Or, (this is an extreme) wearing enemy uniforms to escape capture?

- If a soldier in hostile territory is off-duty (thus wearing civilian clothing), is attacked and fights back (armed)--how does that apply? And yes, I'm talking both in self-defense and in terms of helping out active-duty troops.

- What are the rules of engagement against non-military combatants? (i.e. as in real non-combatant civilians picking up guns, not an organized militia force or merc group--which are obviously trained and have hostile intent to begin with)

- What about covert operators such as CIA SOG, NSA, or others--the ones who wear civilian gear or otherwise non-representative uniforms? If caught or caputred, are they still treated as soldiers under Geneva in a time of war? (emphasis on 'time of war'--obviously the Geneva Convention won't apply to spies caught in peacetime or Cold War situations)

- Does this apply to weapons or other equipment as well as uniforms? I mean, can a US troop -not in uniform- pick up a US-recognized standard-issue weapon (M16/M4)--or possess equipment that are known as US Army/Navy/Marine/AF-only issued gear and claim to be recognized as such?
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Old 04-21-2004, 22:15
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I say some of the GC is some what stupid. I also say do whatever you need to do to save your ..., civilians, and fellow brothers-in-arms. Some won't agree with me. But, whatever is best for you and the people on your side.
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Old 04-21-2004, 22:39
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Dang Wave, when you ask a question you ask a big one. Let me see if I can recall all of my Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC) training......

1. It happens. Operators may wear uniforms that may or may not be from their home nation. They are however, fighting in a coalition of forces that is combined under a single command. When civilian contractors wear uniforms, they are not wearing "Army" uniforms. They are wearing 3 color desert combat uniforms. Nowhere on their uniform does it say "US Army". If they are working directly for the government, then they are authorized this as their duty uniform. If they don't, then they can wear whatever they want as long as it doesn't say "US Army". This would be impersinating a soldier and is punishable by law. -----Wearing enemy uniforms to escape capture is a breach of the LOAC and is punishable. That is a textbook answer.

2. A soldier in enemy territory is never off duty. He or she may not be actively working at their job, but they are still on duty. This is where common sense kicks in. If you are in civilian clothes and you witness a hostile act, then you are obligated legally and ethically to immediately render assistance whether you are in uniform or not.

3. OK, let's define a combatant.
Go here and read ..... http://usmilitary.about.com/cs/wars/a/loac_2.htm
Now, knowing what we now know, as soon as that non-combatant picks up a weapon, they forfeit their rights as a non-combatant and can legally be shot in the face (good riddance).

4. Spooks are a grey area that I will have to research some more. Good question. I think that they must technically still follow the LOAC, but are not considered a member of the Armed Forces and therefore can still be tried as a spy. Not that I'm saying there are agencies out there that conduct military operations that are not military........I don't know what you're talking about.

5. This is a little confusing. I think you are asking if an M4 can identify a soldier as an American and therefore act as his "clearly distinctive uniform". The answer is no. Just because you carry an M4 doesn't mean you are an American soldier. You must wear a clearly distinctive emblem, recognizable from a distance. In Afghanistan, we wore DCU pants and kept a little US flag in a pouch around our necks. This was our "distinctive uniform" and was legal because we all wore it, and we followed the other LOACs.

Hope this helps. It's a long winded answer so I hope you don't get too bored. Please keep me honest on this. Anyone who has more or different info, please help me out!
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Old 04-22-2004, 11:26
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From the outside looking in it all seems rather academic. There are two radically different sets of rules. We have to know the rules to apply to opposition forces. While the opposition hasn't played by any rules since 1945, and in the Pacific not then.
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Old 04-22-2004, 13:18
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P.S.
I have given you the textbook answers. If you call the JAG and ask about this, this is what they will tell you. I'm not saying that this always applies or that all units must adhere to the strict letter of the law..............that's all I have to say about that.
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Old 04-22-2004, 16:55
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Quote:
Originally posted by ermeynator
I say some of the GC is some what stupid. I also say do whatever you need to do to save your ..., civilians, and fellow brothers-in-arms. Some won't agree with me. But, whatever is best for you and the people on your side.
Care to elaborate?
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Old 04-22-2004, 23:04
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Thanks, Havoc! Those were a couple things about the rules of engagement that usually bugged me.

Reason I was asking about the weapons is--some remember this thread on 1/6 awhile back)--there have been a couple of figures with a flag poasted on their weapons (Like the Union Jack pasted on SAS Sniper Evan's rifle). I wasn't sure if that was for vanity/ptariotism's sake or if it coudl actually be used as 'identification' of a soldier in the battlefield.

Ermey-The key with the GC, as with lots of other rules and laws, is that someone usually finds a way around them. I think the best thing to do is take all advantages you can, while at the same time try to keep to GC standards--terrorists don't worry since they don't give a crap about it, but US and other troops are sure to get a busload of complaints from civilian or other NGOs if one period or comma of the GC is violated.
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Old 04-22-2004, 23:33
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Good point Wave. The Geneva Conventions were created to protect combatants from unneccessary suffering. The LOAC is the laws that enforce what the GC says. The LOAC and the GC are definately a good thing. It's what separates us from the animals. It includes the ideas of honor and chivalry which are severely lacking these days. If there were no laws to guide us, there would be anarchy and chaos. I'm not saying it always works. War is a horrible thing and it is never neat and clean. The LOAC does however give us the rules so we can fight and return with honor.
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Old 04-24-2004, 01:54
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I'm no expert, but my area of study is political science, and with my interest in the military sciences and/or military history, I've looked at some of these things before. Unfortunately, its been awhile so I'm not going to comment on that.

However, on the point of Geneva Convention and other internationally held laws/documents (that is among the signatories) not being worth much- The documents can also now be used as a basis for the establishment of international law and the definition of what a war crime is. While rape and murder of civilians are horrible things and understood to be such by many people- documents like the GC and the UN Declaration of Human Rights allows for the establishment of courts and the establishment of a legal precedent to try such things as crimes and punish those responsible. Fog of war aside, if its understood someone's done something particularly heinous, it can be handled in a "civilized" manner thanks to these docs. I site several of the cases before the ICC from a few yrs ago from Kosovo on that regard.

This is all terribly interesting to me, and thanks for your input Havoc.

Cheers,
Allen.
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Old 04-24-2004, 17:15
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This is definitely a very interesting subject. As for your answer Havoc, like wavehawk's question, I think the subject requires some lengthy wording, to get any understanding.

That said, as you guys have covered it better than most would have, I'll toss in a couple of comments, hopefully not too redundant, about the nature of conflict and war -
_All's fair in love and war - That long-lived statement isn't just glibness, by whoever penned it. Our societies are tenuous constructs, held together by our actions or inactions, the laws are only reminders, justifications, and excuses, without our common consent. Wars being the failure of common or unilateral reasoning, it's hardly suprising that "illegalities" are rampant in them. Getting the job done is the prime objective. The levels of brutality are determined by the demands of the situation, and the decisions made by the groups and individuals carrying out the actions. What can you justify, what can you get away with, what must be done?

_Laws - They apply to the lawful. If you are an unarmed soldier who has lawfully surrendered, you are not truely protected from brutality and death inflicted by your captors. Laws of War, of nations, of religion, none will not help you, if the bastard wants to kill you. He is outside the immediate reach of the law. He may be served justice at a later date, if not by random occurence. But if he chooses to regard whatever laws or moral safeguards which should stay him, the laws can only be punitive in their function.
In the execution of irregular or unconventional warfare, the very nature of these preclude the following of all all laws. Again, choices must be made, but inevitably laws will be broken.
Keep in mind, that the victor makes the rules. Law, Justice, and Right are not necessarily the same. Had the Axis won WW2, Harry Truman, our generals, and many of our representatives would have been tried and executed. History would have shown us wrong, in words, in print. What was the truth, would not have mattered.

_The choices - All through history, men of courage, desperation, determination, and combinations of all, have gone into dark places to carry out missions against their foes. Often they have assumed the garb of the local population or enemy soldiers. With or without laws, their capture often meant death. Records of uniformed prisoners slaughtered in droves and singly, accompany every tale of conflict in history. The attempt to improve the lot of soldier and civilian, by laws of conduct and rules of engagement, is an admirable pursuit. Given the nature of man, the true effectiveness of these prohibitions must be faced honestly. What comes of them lies in the hands of men, good and bad.
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Old 04-29-2004, 18:07
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In reply to Wavehawk's query. The notion of a small flag on a weapon being used as identification, it could be used, but I believe only at very close range. i.e. conducting a marry up/moving into a patrol RV point. There are other ways of ID'ing people on the battlefield ( I'm not sure whether I'm able to go into them on this forum)

--there have been a couple of figures with a flag poasted on their weapons (Like the Union Jack pasted on SAS Sniper Evan's rifle). I wasn't sure if that was for vanity/ptariotism's sake or if it coudl actually be used as 'identification' of a soldier in the battlefield.--

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