America, the 1949 Geneva Conventions, and war crime court-martial in the Vietnam conflict
Gary D. Solis
Do the Geneva Conventions matter ?
Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2017
p. 105-136 : tabl.
Throughout the US-Vietnam conflict (1965–1973), American forces labored to comply with the Geneva Conventions and customary laws of war, though US war crimes largely overshadowed those efforts. This chapter relates the training US forces received on the law of war and describes how military lawyers practiced law “in country.” US combatants were constantly directed to report war crimes, known or suspected. Too often those directives were not obeyed. My Lai is fully examined, including its badly failed military prosecutions. Disturbing post-trial clemency by civilian authorities, in many cases, is also detailed. On the whole, however, the sentences of US personnel convicted by courts-martial of war crimes were sincere efforts to appropriately punish battlefield criminality. This chapter argues that, under difficult conditions, US military efforts in Vietnam to comply with the Geneva Conventions, and to punish known US war crimes, were more genuine and effective than have been generally recognized.
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