Killing Civilians: Method, Madness and Morality in War

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9781850659143: Killing Civilians: Method, Madness and Morality in War

"This is a clear, impartial, honest work. It is scholarly yet free of jargon, compassionate yet not over-emotional, moral without being preachy, stuffed with facts and figures, yet brought alive by a myriad of vivid historical, contemporary and personal anecdotes. In short, it is very good." - The Economist '"Subjective violence", a la Zizek, is too flimsy a name for what Hugo Slim documents in this study, skilfully weaving history and psychology together with a sense of contemporary mission. Slim cites shocking eyewitness reports of murder and torture of civilians from wars around the world, tallying the way in which killers come to kill, and the excuses that governments make for them. The question is: can we do anything about it? Slim sees that mere appeals to international law carry little persuasive power where it counts, and suggests that we recast the argument as one about unfairness and cowardice, with a positive appeal to mercy. As an attempt to unravel one corner of the tapestry of symbolic violence hung over the reality of war, it might be a start.' --The Guardian 26 Feb. 2008 It would have been good if the treaties passed in the aftermath of the horrors of the Second World War had been upheld. But as Slim's very readable and instructive book makes clear, the conflicts of the last century have been marked by a spirit of complete indifference to the sufferings of civilians. Increasingly, they have been not protected, but targeted. Starvation and rape are used more and more as weapons of war. From Rwanda to Darfur, wars have been conducted not between combatants but through murder and scorched earth policies, and not because the participants are disorganised or undisciplined but because they have decided that terror and barbarity work best for them. Suicide bombers, child soldiers, marauding bands of killers, displacement caused by climate change, and the destruction of civil society in countries repeatedly at war have all played havoc with the orderly rules of conflict. What is left, as Hugo Slim persuasively argues, is morality. In every war, the historian Geoffrey Best wrote, there will always be people who are indelibly innocent ... unrecognisable as enemies except through the distorting lenses of barbarous and fanaticized mentalities , and morality demands that such people be protected. For Slim, whose book brings a refreshing and original eye to a difficult theme, the solution can come only from hard and courageous moral choices . The safety of civilians lies not in debates over weapons, but in political will, the express decision not to target and kill civilians. Whether anyone will actually choose to rise to this challenge is one of the fundamental questions of modern war.' --Caroline Moorhead, The Literary Review An excellent book. ... I recommend it to the practitioner, political, humanitarian and military, and in equal measure to the general public in whose name they act. --General Sir Rupert Smith, KCB, DSO, OBE, QGM, author, The Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World

Reseña del editor:

This is a book about how civilians suffer in war and why people decide that they should. Most civilian suffering in war is deliberate and always has been. Massacres, rape, displacement, famine and disease are usually designed. They are policies in war. In meetings or on mobile phones, political and military leaders decide that civilians are appropriate or inevitable targets. The principle that unarmed and innocent people should be protected in war is an ancient, precious but fragile idea. Today, the principle of civilian immunity is enshrined in modern international law and cherished by many. But, in practice, leaders in most wars reject the principle. Using detailed historical and contemporary examples, "Killing Civilians" looks at the many ways in which civilians suffer in wars and analyses the main anti-civilian ideologies which insist upon such suffering.It also exposes the very real ambiguity in much civilian identity which is used to justify extreme hostility. But this is also, above all, a book about why civilians should be protected. Throughout its pages, "Killing Civilians" argues for a morality of limited warfare in which tolerance, mercy and restraint are used to draw boundaries to violence. At the heart of the book are important new frameworks for understanding patterns of civilian suffering, ideologies of violence and strategies for promoting the protection of civilians. This is the first major treatment of the hard questions of civilian identity and protection in war for many years. Written by one of the humanitarian world's leading thinkers and former aid worker, it provides a unique and accessible text on the subject for professional and public readerships alike.

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