In modern U.S. warfare, what exactly are enemy "innocent" civilians

We have all heard a great deal about how carefully the US tried to only hit military targets in Afganistan and not to hit the innocent civilians of Afganistan. That got me to wondering what the qualifications of enemy “innocent” civilians were. Are only countries where a voting majority would want us there as apposed to thier current government apply? They support us and therefore are worthy of the title of “innocent”. Is it simply all targets that arnt strictly military? If we hypothetically had to invade a WWII Japan type enemy would there be such thing as innocent civilians? Should you nuke a country, and wipe it off the face of the map because the government did something bad or are you just hurting “innocent” civilians. Should that be a consideration?Should the enemy civilians be guilty by supporting thier government and therefore forefit its “innocence” protections? A bit of a ramble but take what you will of whatever part you like.

Civilians are termed “noncombatants”. As long as they never pick up a weapon, they cannot be harmed intentionally. If they picked up a weapon, they would be termed combatants and would likely be killed. Also, if they are killed while performing acts that assist their country’s war effort, they may be killed incidentally. All others are “innocent”, with no exceptions that I am aware of.

The US scrupulously obeys the Geneva Convention, barring aberrations like Lt. Calley at My Lai. In addition, the US has what is called the Law of Armed Conflict, much like the Geneva Convention, but if anything, more restrictive.

I have no doubt that many legitimate civilians just going about their own business are killed accidentally, which is truly tragic, but those people are not to be killed intentionally. Just being a citizen of a country is not enough to warrant intentional targeting.

What does" performing acts that assists thier countries war effort" really mean? Can you bomb a paper factory because hey armies need lots of paper? Or are those just innocent people going to work and not a target?

Bomb factories, for instance. Ball bearing factories. Rubber factories. Anything that can reasonably help the war effort.

The strategic targets are all well known ahead of time, well researched to minimize casualties, both military and civilian. The tactical ones are the ones we really have to pay attention to, since they pop up or change at any given moment.


Sounds to me like civilian / industrial infrastructure is off limits. IMO, a good plan. We need to topple the regime, not cripple the nation.

Even better, Beagle. All we want is Saddam. We have no interest in hurting civilians.

For more exact defintions read: Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (from unhchr)

other relevant treaties here:

Still unclear to me how this affects “grey” targets. If hypothetically, you know that address of the enemy generals dry cleaners, can you kill “innocent” people in a bombing run? Im sure the dry cleaner knows the guy is the leader and is activly helping him in his own small way. Besides the obvious targets such as rubber and munitions factories what about other “quasi military” targets? In most any countries economies there are millions of sets of business relationships between the private sector and the government/military. Some have very direct and most have very indirect effects on the counties military. So its it “ok” to kill workers in a clothing factory if they make army uniforms as well as the latest knock off of Tommy Hilfingers? Is it ok to bomb a barber shop that cuts a soliders hair? The list is endless. What makes certian civilians “innocent” and others guilty in helping to aid the enemy?

When did this come into effect?
I guess the citizens of Dresden or Hiroshima wiil be so pleased.

That’s why it is easier to bomb the crap out of Belgrade (f.i.) three times over, than to bomb the actual troops on the ground.
Wonder how many American casualties it will take before it becomes necassary to ‘break the enemy’s morale’ again.

jonpluc: One thing you may not have considered is when a factory is bombed. Unless it is operating 24/7 it can be bombed when it is not in operation.

Latro, Care to defend Dutch actions in the various colonies you brutalized? I will be happy to provide cite after cite, if requested. I guess the Dutch killing for money is better than the US killing to free the Dutch? I’ll keep that standard in mind.

Dresden was more or less a retaliation for the London Blitz. There were legitimate military targets there, but that didn’t really call for the Allies (read Britain and the US) to burn the whole city down. Then again, I understand where the desire to firebomb the city came from. Also, that was Total War. Different times, different circumstances.

Whether you want to believe this or not, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki actually saved lives. It was estimated that one million people would have died in an invasion of the Home Islands. That people have had physiological problems for the last half century (including descendents) is a bad thing, but nobody really understood the reult of an atomic bomb back then. Also, again, that was Total War. Times have changed.

Your criticism of 50 years ago is really rather absurd.

It must be easy to comment from the cheap seats, eh? I wouldn’t know. At least my country tries to fix things instead of just criticizing everything. Admittedly, we do some stuff wrong, but we’re genuinely trying to right wrongs. What about you? How hard did you guys fight when the Germans overran your country? Thought so.

Anyone else want to rip America? I mean, since we’re all pure evil and we have no ethics, morals, or leadership. That’s why we get waves of immigrants coming over here to live and work, because we’re such a bankrupt society, eh?

I want to spit in all of your faces when you say things like that. I’m doing what I can, within the rules of civilized society, to do the right thing. I’m WORKING at it, to better myself and the world. How about you?

That’s about the standard response to the response, innit?

You say: ‘Oooh we are such good guys!’
I say:‘Not at all, you have dirty hands, see.
You say:"Hah, your hands are dirty too, snicker.’
I say:‘My hands being dirty doesn’t make you hands clean.’

Airman, for your information, we didn’t roll over and die just like that. We did fight hard against the Germans. Our lines held and we inflicted heavy losses on the Falschirmjaeger.
We capitulated when they bombed Rotterdam, there wasn’t much we could do about that.
After that we fought hard against the Russians :wink:

trhat is a non argument. Latro said the USA’s hands are not as clean as some are saying (with which I agree). What the Dutch have done is 100% irrelevant. Especially since I amnot aware they have done anything really bad in the last few decades. Or have they been throwing clogs at the Belgians again?

Latro: can you ever make an argument that does not involve Hiroshima? Ever?

Your churlish reaction to my pointing out what ruthless bastards the Dutch can be should be illustrative to you of why I am sick of hearing about historical events out of context from you on every debate topic.

When did Dutch atrocities in The “Dutch East Indies” cease?

Hmmm, officially in 1949 - four years after Hiroshima.

You’re welcome, for winning your colony back from the Japanese for you.

out of context?

I can still use Dresden, can I, please?

Beagle, you just don’t get it, do you?

All I (as an ungrateful anti-amerikkkan slurist) am saying is:
‘Get of your high moral white horse and see that it is up to it’s knees in blood.’ ‘Just like my pony.’

I am not in denial about anything the Dutch have done, a lot of American posters do seem to be in denial about their country though.

Dresden and Hiroshima? In denial?

Even public school victims in this country that could not find the Netherlands on a map with a magnifying glass know about Hiroshima. The new PC party line is to question the need for dropping the bomb.

Hasty generalize much?