Killing Civilans Method, Madness and Morality in War

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9781850659143: Killing Civilans Method, Madness and Morality in War

When civilians suffer in war, it is often a deliberate act. Massacres, rape, displacement, famine, and disease are the strategic decisions of political and military leaders who make civilians their targets in order to gain the upper hand in battle. Yet there still exists the precious and fragile belief-ingrained in modern international law-that unarmed and innocent people should be protected in war, even if, in practice, the principle of civil immunity is often ignored or rejected.

Hoping to rectify this injustice, Hugo Slim uses detailed historical and contemporary examples to reveal the many ways civilians suffer in war. A leading commentator on international humanitarian action and the protection of civilians in war, Slim analyzes the anti-civilian ideologies that encourage and perpetuate suffering and exposes the exploitation of moral ambiguity that is used to sanction extreme hostility. At what point does killing civilians become part of winning a war? Why are some methods of killing used while others are avoided?

Bolstering his claims with hard fact, Slim argues that civilian casualties are not only morally reprehensible but also bad military science. His book is a clarion call for action and a passionate defense of civil immunity, a concept that is more urgent and necessary today than ever before.

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About the Author:

Hugo Slim was recently the chief scholar at the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue in Geneva, a conflict resolution organization that mediates in civil wars and advises on peace processes.


A remarkable book. It is rare to encounter such an unflinching and thorough dissection of the brutality we humans are capable of, recounted with such humanity. Hugo Slim's message is ultimately encouraging to those of us striving to protect the rights of children and their communities in today's conflicts and should be applauded.

(Jasmine Whitbread, chief executive of Save the Children, UK)

This is an essential text on the hideous but important topic of why and how soldiers kill noncombatants. Hugo Slim explores the moral reasoning behind both lethal violence against civilians and the traditions of mercy and restraint that have sustained a small but precious space for humanity in warfare.

(Alex de Waal, program director, Social Science Research Council)

An excellent book for the practitioner, whether political, humanitarian, or military, as well as for the general public in whose name they act.

(General Sir Rupert Smith, author of The Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World)

[Slim is] skillfully weaving history and psychology together with a sense of contemporary mission.

(Steven Poole The Guardian)

A clear, impartial, honest work... brought alive by a myriad of vivid historical, contemporary and personal anecdotes. In short, it is very good.

(The Economist)

Any attempt to carve out a humanitarian space in the midst of bitter conflicts faces tough challenges, but Slim's book is an important reminder of why it is vital to try.

(Lawrence D. Freedman Foreign Affairs)

Well-written and engaging.

(Colm McKeogh H-War)

Using accessible language and historical examples, Slim juxtaposes human psychology and history in a clever and engaging way.

(Dr Narelle Biedermann Australian Army Journal 1900-01-00)

The author presents human motivations for violence realistically, in detail, and without blinking.

(Thomas B. Grassey Parameters 1900-01-00)

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