Wednesday, November 4, 2009

CRIMINALISING WAR


As posted by Dr. Mahathir Mohamad at Che Det on November 2, 2009 5:06 PM

1. The conference on criminalizing war (making war a crime) was held for two days (28 - 29 Oct) at the PWTC and was followed by a sitting of the Kuala Lumpur Commission on War Crimes and the Tribunal's sitting on 31st October to decide on whether it was competent to hear the complaints of the victims of Guantanamo and other places of detention as well as to decide on whether Heads of State and Heads of Government are liable for war crimes committed under their rule.

2. Many have asked what can this conference and the hearings by the commission and tribunal do.

3. If I may be allowed to explain there are many things which were common, normal and accepted in the past which the whole world rejects now. The rejection was achieved actually by the people gradually realizing that these practices were wrong and unacceptable.

4. Thus slavery was common and proper in the past but is totally rejected now. Black people were regarded as subhuman almost but today blacks may even become president of the most powerful white nation. Women too were regarded as inferior and not as capable as men but now they have equal status with men.

5. Torture was acceptable in the past but is now considered illegal and criminal. Human rights were unknown before but now the world accepts that every man or woman has a right to be treated well. And many more.

6. All those changes in human perceptions and values have been brought about mostly by people agitating against these practices, forcing their Governments to pass laws to abolish them.

7. But war is still accepted today although certain acts are regarded as criminal even in war. If war itself is made a crime than automatically war crimes cannot be committed.

8. To make war a crime, the people must condemn it as unacceptable, just like they did with slavery etc. Why should war be condemned now when it has always been a common means of settling disputes between nations?

9. War is basically about killing people. Everyone regards killing people a crime. How can we consider killing a person a crime but killing thousands of people not to be criminal. In the past the capacity to kill and damage was limited because of the weapons being less lethal.

10. But today the weapons can actually wipe out the population of the world and destroy it physically. Even the use of depleted uranium has been shown to cause cancer and diabetes. The nano-particles carried by dust storms, wind and stratospheric air currents can affect lives and carry the diseases hundreds of miles away. Therefore wars also endanger neighbouring and distant countries not involved in the war.

11. Now the big powers have developed nuclear bombs and missiles many times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb. Even if they explode deep in the ground the dust blown up would still be carried far and wide. The inclusion of small amounts of nuclear material in conventional bombs would also spread the effect to distant places.

12. Conventional weapons have also increased in power. The 15 megaton bombs can cause the same damage and deaths as the Hiroshima bomb. Guided missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles have also increased the range and effectiveness of aerial weapons.

13. Where before wars were fought by soldiers on battlefield, today's wars kill more non-combatants than combatants. The whole country would become the battlefield. Casualties would number in their hundreds of thousands and the whole country would be devastated. Neighbouring countries and even distant countries which are not involved would also be affected by radiation fallouts and people would be attacked by diseases which are fatal.

14. War today is massive, widespread and lethal to whole populations. No one would be spared, belligerent or non-belligerent.

15. War is now no longer limited to the adversaries. Nor are they controllable.

16. That is why war must be of concern to everyone. The 1st and 2nd World Wars were supposed to end all wars. Obviously they haven't. The only way to stop wars is to make them a crime - to make those who resort to war guilty of a serious crime, to punish them.

17. Only Governments can put a stop to wars. But Governments will not stop wars until the people pressure the Governments to do so. If they do and they sustain the pressure, it is likely that war can be made a crime just as slavery has been made a crime.

18. That is why we have initiated a campaign to make war a crime. We are doing this on a worldwide scale.