Skip to main content

When military helicopters of the National Guard swooped over peaceful protesters in Washington, DC, on June 1, assaulting them with gusts carrying debris while shattering storefront windows, a possible war crime was committed (indiscriminate use of unnecessary force against civilians). One even displayed Red Cross insignia, a definite war crime. When the Pentagon usurps the authority of a domestic a police force, yet another war crime would have been committed—that is, if the U.S. military were operating in a foreign country.

Geneva Convention Crimes

Earlier that day, Park Police and National Guards dispersed protesters from city property. Some used gas against peaceful demonstrators, though sanctions were imposed on Syria for something roughly similar. But the Park Police are under the authority of the Secretary of the Interior to protect national parks.

Starting July 4, persons in military fatigues descended on Portland. They were reassigned from the Mexican border and elsewhere by the Secretary of Homeland Security, supposedly to protect federal property. But some operated from unmarked cars on city streets, kidnapping “suspects.”

What has been happening is that military and paramilitary units have been playing the role of an occupying force over a civilian population, who in turn are objecting to police misconduct.

Has the president declared war? What has been happening is that military and paramilitary units have been playing the role of an occupying force over a civilian population, who in turn are objecting to police misconduct. Because of the use of military and paramilitary units on the streets of the United States, something far more extensive is needed than present police reform packages.

Scroll to Continue

Recommended Articles

Therefore, one might consider the Geneva and Hague Conventions as a model for comprehensive police reforms. Here’s what the crimes might resemble, quoting almost word-for-word from war crimes statutes:

  • Ban on use of Red Cross and other health vehicles for engaging in attacks.
  • Ban on indiscriminate attacks against peaceful members of the public
  • Ban on using excessive force.
  • Ban on using arms and projectiles to cause superfluous injury.
  • Ban on chemical attacks.
  • Ban on cruel treatment (assault, chokeholds, etc.).
  • Compensation for victims and surviving families for unwarranted attacks.
  • Ban on searching without warrants.
  • Ban on warrant searches without allowing residents to evacuate beforehand.
  • Ban on confiscation of ordinary personal property without cause.
  • Ban on diverting military property for nonmilitary (police) use.
  • Ban on ethnosectarian and sex discrimination (racial/sex profiling).
  • Ban on dishonoring women.
  • Ban no dishonoring cultural values.
  • Ban on discrimination on the basis of political party affiliation.
  • Ban on wounding treacherously.
  • Ban on attacks of persons surrendering peacefully.
  • Ban on withholding news to family members about the disposition of their kinfolk.
  • Ban on failure to attend to the wounded.
  • Ban on using force to disperse civilians without ample advance warning.
  • Ban on extrajudicial executions.
  • Ban on reprisals against innocent bystanders.
  • Prohibition of failure to protect journalists.
  • Ban on measures that fail to protect public health.
  • Ban on intimidation of citizens from living ordinary lives.
  • Prosecution of commanding officers for failure to educate police on methods of proper and improper conduct.
  • Prosecution of commanding officers for failure to report the above offenses to superiors.
  • Prosecution of commanding officers for failure to stop the above offenses.

Even more reforms might be suggested for how police treat those arrested and jailed, pending trial. For example, there could be a ban on interrogation that deprives those arrested of food and drinking water, a ban on providing insufficient medical supplies to those arrested, and a ban on mixing common criminals with peaceful protesters in jail.

The UN Charter bans threats of war by an executive or authoritative governmental body. The same should apply to any executive threat to use the military for civilian purposes.

What applies to the military in time of war and postwar occupation of another country should apply to police treatment of civilians in the United States. Otherwise, the police can engage in misconduct that even the military, bound by the Geneva and Hague Conventions, cannot allow.

michael haas

Michael Haas