May a U.S. soldier, captured by the enemy, use deadly force to escape?

Let me tell you, even the basic course is Holy Shit! I am a big guy, and it’s not every day that someone picks me up by the throat and throws me one-armed out of a building. Or that a woman half my size beats the hell out of me.

They’re talking about reinstituting the policy within the Wing of having us take the advanced classes (they used to be a requirement, now they are optional). I’m not really too taken with that idea, considering that it took me weeks to be able to sleep well again after the basic course. Some people dealt with it rather easily, but for me it was all too real, which is of course the idea.

So, he’s in the process of escaping, caught outside the confinement area, the child is about to raise the alarm, and certain death is the consequence (and we all know it is.) You would have that soldier give up his life rather than do whatever is necessary, regardless of how abhorrent, to succeed in his escape? Remember, he’s been indoctrinated that it is his DUTY to escape. That is the rule he follows here.

There has been a lot of high-falutin’ talk about the purpose of war. The purpose of war is conquest, plain and simple. The aggressor wishes to expand his power; the defender wishes to stop the aggressor. Commanders in the field must do what they believe is in the best interest of completing their missions while suffering a few casualties as possible. Common sense says that limiting civilian or non-combatant deaths will enhance their chances of success. But let’s not get carried away with the “laws” or “rules” of war. Rules work fine on the field of competition, but on the field of combat it is, truly and literally, kill or be killed.

That is absolutely correct. Following repatriation you will be judged as to whether your behavior in captivity was proper. Killing a child to abet your escape has a very good chance of earning you a court-martial. Further, escapees must be acounted for, because it is required to report the status of POWs. It is far more likely that the prisoner will simply be returned to his camp.

Oner other thing: we are NOT “indoctrinated” into anything. We are not robots. I have been taught that it is my duty to escape if possible, but I am under no legal obligation to do so if doing so will lead to my death. My survival is paramount, even if it leads me under certain circumstances to defy the Code of Conduct. There is not a person alive (Hollywood notwithstanding) that can withstand prolonged interrogation/torture giving only the Big Four (Name, Rank, Serial/Social Security Number, and Date of Birth). If the choice is me dying or giving something up I am required to take steps that will preserve my life and it is left to my discretion what I give up. I am required to resist to the best of my ability. I am not required to die while doing so.

I have no qualms with killing a child. I do, however, take issue with murdering a civilian–of any age.

There are nonviolent ways to quiet a child, or even an adult for that matter. You cannot murder civilians. Your life is no more valuable than theirs. And despite what some media would like you to believe, the US Military is not in the business of murdering civilians.

Just to add a little on civilians “sounding the alarm” as you say:
A child who stumbles on your location and starts screaming from fear is not ‘sounding an alarm’. She is freaked the fuck out and only doing what’s natural. Does she deserve to die because she’s scared? That’s your fault for being so damn sloppy that you let a child find you. Now you’re going to kill her because you fucked up? That’s the wrong answer. Your only two options are to nonviolently attempt to get her to be quiet or break contact and get the hell out of there.

Now, if a civilian (of any age) is actively pointing out your location, like “The Americans!! Over here!!! There over here!!! Here they are!!!”, he or she is acting as a forward observer. As a combatant, you can engage a forward observer. However, if you’re escaping from a prison and a noncombatant, you cannot kill even a person who is following you around and screaming “Guards! Guards! Here he is!” This is why one should avoid populated areas when escaping.

BTW, if a person has not been captured yet–like say he is behind enemy lines after surviving a plane crash, or something like–he is “evading”. A person “evading” is still a combatant until he is captured. Then he is a prisoner and a noncombatant. Once he escapes, he is now “escaping” and is a noncombatant. So while you’re evading, you can act as a one man pain in the ass and attack any oppurtunity targets, and even kill those pesky forward observers. You can sneak on sentries, guards, patrols, or what have you and kill them to help aid in your evasion.
If your status is “escaping” then you cannot take arms or attack anything, even as a preemptive measure.

“If someone tries to kill you, well, you kill 'em right back!” —Malcolm Reynolds

Just for the hell of it, I printed out your post, walked it down the hall to a fellow who served two tours in Iraq and one in Bosnia, and asked him what he thought. His response: “What’s he playing, Ghost Recon? Is this a new Command and Conquer?” Seriously, it sounds like you’re quoting rules from a computer game. I’m talking about being surrounded by people who want to kill you, and your whole thing is to survive. I’m told, by a guy who shows all kinds of evidence of having been there (y’know, the patches, the photos, the 201 file) that nobody pays much attention to the rules anymore. At least nobody shooting at Americans.

So, if the OP’s question is, is it legal according to a theoretical set of rules governing a theoretical war situation, then you have to go to the rulebook. And you’ll want to pause the game while you read the rules. But if your’e talking about surviving in Iraq or Afghanistan or Bosnia, well, there just aren’t any rules anymore. If you get captured near Tikrit and you get a chance to escape and get back to your unit, you kill anyone who poses any threat to your life, intentional or not. At least that’s what the combat veteran told me.

Except an escaping prisoner is not “on the field of combat”. He is a non-combatant. He has no more right to kill a civilian (or a soldier!) to keep his freedom than you do. AND the enemy soldiers have no more legal right to shoot him for trying to escape than you would. Now, there is a risk that soldiers capturing an escaped POW will summarily execute him. But they have no more right to do that than they do to summarily execute a surrendering enemy soldier.

Suppose there’s a warrant out for your arrest. Nevermind whether you’re guilty or not, you have reason to belive that if the cops arrest you you’ll go to prison. Do you now have the right to kill cops to prevent arrest? Do you have the right to kill a kid who might “raise the alarm”? Of course not. If you killed a cop, or a kid, or a grandmother, or ANYONE while escaping from the cops, then you’ve commited murder, in both a legal sense and a moral sense. And an escaped POW is in the same position. He has no more legal or moral right to kill any person than you do.

Now, will some people commit murder to remain free? Sure they will. But the enemy country can also try them for murder…and carry out whatever punishment is legally appropriate for murder in their country. And our country would have no cause to complain. POWs cannot be tried for crimes, may be exchanged for enemy POWs, and must be repatriated at the end of hositilities. But enemy nationals who wander around your country murdering people don’t have to be repatriated, they are not POWs, they can be tried as common criminals.

But the “rules” only apply if you’re captured by enemy soldiers, if you’re a POW. If you’re captured by “insurgents” you’re not a POW, they’re not going to treat you as a POW, and they don’t consider themselves bound by the Geneva Conventions. Since you aren’t a POW you never become a non-combatant, and the above distinction doesn’t apply.

But if you escape from group of terrorists, you STILL don’t have the moral or legal right to kill a child. Any more than a US soldier has a right to wander around Baghdad shooting random Iraqis who piss him off.

Of all the posts I’ve made to this thread, you use that to try and represent me??? That was hypothetical shit to explain the differences between “escaping”, “evading”, “combatant” and “noncombatant”. It wasn’t a play book for what to do when stranded behind enemy lines.

No, I’m quoting rules from the 6 Articles of the Code of Conduct.

Yea. So am I.

Yea? How many EPWs has he ever captured. What was his role overseas? Simply being there doesn’t make someone an expert in combat skills and rules of war. There isn’t much difference between a mechanic fixing an engine in Iraq, and one working in Los Angeles. I wouldn’t expect either to know what the fuck he was talking about when it came to combat. Oh… and patches are only a dollar at the PX, they mean shit to me. And since there is no “Code of Conduct” expert badge, all your buddy’s badges and 201 file have zero bearing in this thread.

The OP was not, “What do immature, idiotic soldiers do in this situation”… the question is “What can and cannot a soldier legally do. When can he and when can he not kill the enemy” So tell me again how your buddy is the subject matter expert? So he claims nobody follows rules anymore? Well, that attitude has put dozens of soldiers in PRISON, and several more will soon face the death penalty for such a childish, bullshit mentality.
And you know what, I bet if your friend had acted as he says, and was facing trial for his murder, he would say “Ohhh, I didn’t know! OMG, my chain of command never told me this was wrong. I had no idea I couldn’t kill that person…”
What the fuck ever. He’s been told. He just didn’t fucking pay attention.

I’ve had to teach the Code of Conduct to an entire battalion. A Combat Arms battalion, composed of infantry and armor! I had to dispell the same mentality in hundreds of soldiers. I know they way assholes like him think, and they’re all wrong. Hopefully their noncommissioned officers take the responsibility and initiative to ensure these fucktards dont recklessly commit warcrimes that will not only put him in prison, but degrade the already plumitting world opinion of the United States.
“Kill 'em all, my life is more important, they’re just Muslims, they’re all terrorists” attitudes make me fucking sick!! If he was in my squad, I would smoke the ever-loving fuck out of him.

There is no Army shooting at Americans anymore. There are insurgents and terrorists. I’ve already brought up the differences between restrained and unrestrained captors.

The rules are not “theoretical”! The situations in this thread are but only to drive home the point and help people learn the rules.
And as I’ve said, rule number one is the most important “You always have the right to self defense”.
And I dont have to stop to read anything. As a disciplined soldier, and a leader of actual combat infantrymen, I’ve taken the time to study and memorize the rules. With a GT of 144, I dont have much of a problem forgetting things.

Yes there are rules. Some may or may not apply to a situation, but the rules are still there.
If the rule says “As a POW, you should do such and such”, that rule has not been thrown out. The fact that there are no organized enemy militaries in Iraq, and the fact that we are not fighting a foreign country-- we are not at war against Iraq, but merely IN Iraq, we have zero chance of being a POW as defined in the Code of Conduct. So the rules are unlikely to apply. But the rules still fucking exist! And the rules that apply better be complied with or people WILL be charged and prosecuted for war crimes.

Yea it sounds all macho to say “There are no rules anymore”. But I’d say that with media attention and information sharing and live satelite feeds and internet and the whole world’s eyes focused on the soldiers… I’d say the rules apply more today than they EVER have!!

If I get captured near Tikrit, I will return home with honor or not return at all. Period!

He’s wrong. And worse than that, he’s spreading his ignorance.

As a practical matter, children tend to have parents who get upset when they go missing. If you happen to kill one during your escape, it is very likely to bring an intense search by the locals. The results would be the same except that instead of a being an enemy POW again, you are now an enemy POW who killed a local child which carries a much larger chance of getting torn limb from limb by an angry mob.

The purpose of war is to impose your political will. As wars do not last forever, fighting with rules of conduct allows a greater ability for the normalization of relations once the war ends. While atrocities do happen, wanton cruelty can be counterproductive in the long term. For example, China is still a little sore with Japan over their treatment during World War II.

There is simply no way to address this item by item, so I will simply say the man I interviewed was a decorated veteran of many combat missions in two conflicts, and he said what he said. He never said anything about Muslims being worthless, he simply relayed to me the realities of the battlefield as he knew them when he was in combat.

I think it’s wonderful for you that you would choose honor over life. I have a son in the military, and if he were captured by an enemy intent on killing him at some point, I wouldn’t give a tinker’s dam about what he did to return to us alive and safe.

I am not talking about killing indiscriminately. I am talking about choosing to survive, regardless of the consequence to others. It is one thing to die with honor for one’s country in the middle of a firefight. It is quite another to have a choice, and choosing honor over life. I would never disrespect a man who chose to live.

Fair Enough.

Let me ask you this, a true story my Grandpa (a WWII vet) used to tell me. He was a bomber pilot, and was downed behing enemy lines. He was knocked unconscious in the crash, and when he woke up he was in the back of a german military truck driven by German military personnel. Said personnel had seen him unconcscious at the crash site and “captured” him, so to speak. Said fools did not bother to disarm him, so he shot both of them, commandeered the truck, and drove back into friendly territory. Did he commit a war crime?

Nope. I’m assuming the people in the military truck were not wearing medical insignia like a big red cross…
Even if the Code of Conduct had been in place at the time (and I dont think it was) his actions would not have been illegal.
He never surrendered, therefore he was never a prisoner. A person surrenders when he voluntarily ceases offensive action. So like if some people are surrounded by superior enemy forces, so they raise their hands up and cease action then this is a surrender.
If people never voluntarily stop fighting, they never become noncombatants.
What a great and honorable personal victory for your grandfather that was.

Now if he was found concious at the wreckage and was approached by a dozen Germans, so he waived a white flag so they would not kill him. Then he goes with them and and just sits in the jeep waiting to exploit the fact that they never checked him for weapons, that’s a whole different animal there.
Damn good question. The whole “soldier was never disarmed, therefore was never a noncombatant but soldier was in custody and in transit” idea has so much gray area it’s making my head spin.

So does a surrender have to be accepted?

Yes. One cannot kill a surrending enemy. Further, wounded enemy who are no longer in the fight must be given medical attention. Friendly medics are required to treat enemy soldiers in this situation.

It is actually covered specifically in the conventions, and while not specifically called honourable, it’s made clear that it’s a minor manner.

World’s best GC link:

Notice the “no violence against life and limb” caveat, which seems to have some bearing on the OP’s question.

Thanks for your answer, Spiny Norman, this is similar to what I remembered.

I think the reason why the guard towers had machine guns is to prevent escapees re-joining their own forces and once again becoming armed active soldiers with a purpose of killing the enemy.

The answer in post #13 is also correct