American criminal law takes a nuanced view of murder by creating several punishable degrees of it. First degree murder is generally defined as premeditated murder. The murderer has a plan to kill and has taken sufficient time to map out his crime. Second degree murder involves the killer who hasn’t necessarily taken the time to plan out his crime, but nonetheless has an "evil mind" and intends to kill. Another variety of second degree murder involves the killer who engages in conduct so depraved that the law says he should’ve known that his behavior would likely result in death. There is also manslaughter, sometimes referred to as "negligent homicide", wherein the killer was behaving negligently (less egregious than depraved behavior) and killed someone in the course of his negligent conduct. These are age-old American legal traditions.
Somehow, American war culture manages to turn a blind eye to these longstanding, basic legal principles when it comes to its government’s wars. Americans have no room for nuance when it comes to war. A war with massive civilian casualties is the same as a war in which there are no civilian casualties, as long as some vague government objective is met. For anyone who doubts this lack of distinction, simply look at the body of historical work that exists surrounding "The Good War" – World War II.
War is hell, they say. War is a dirty business; sometimes, you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet. There are countless despicable metaphors used to describe war which are intended to distract people from what war really is: non-punishable mass murder.
Unfortunately, no matter how reckless, depraved, ill-informed or misconceived American war-making is, the war-makers are never held to the same standards that run-of-the-mill murderers are. George W. Bush, were he tried in a criminal court of law (loud laughter), wouldn’t stand a chance of being slapped with anything less than first degree murder. No American president would escape that fate.
But in war, all the war-making murderer needs is a place where he or she believes bad people exist. To hell with whatever other details or circumstances exist. The rest of the war-making murderer’s conduct gets blanket immunity so long as that low threshold requirement is met. Most of the time even that part can later be found to be mistaken or even lied about. The actual execution of war never matters. Its implementation always ends up being reckless, depraved, and of such a nature that even a toddler would recognize it as being guaranteed to lead to the murder of innocents. Yet presidents and congressman have always gotten away with the type of behavior that would land any ordinary person behind bars or on death row.
Many critics of the American War Machine give their opponents the benefit of the doubt by acknowledging supposedly good intentions. This is a grave mistake. It becomes a mantra that gets tossed out prior to challenging any war: "I know you mean well, but…" It’s time to drop that preface. Just as criminal law does not cut the negligent killer a break, so too should serious war critics drop the forgiving nature of their attacks on government killers.
Remember this when Barack Obama or any future president speaks to you in an effort to outline his or her war strategy. It doesn’t matter whether he or his clan of humanitarian killers are able to come up with some cockamamie excuse for dropping bombs. Their behavior is going to end innocent lives, pure and simple.