Governments accessory to murder before the fact

Given that, under U.S. law, anyone who “counsels, commands, or encourages another
to commit a crime” is himself guilty of the resultant crime as an “accessory before the
fact,” it makes one wonder why it isn’t illegal for leaders of nations to command soldiers
to kill innocent men, women, and children in war. To illustrate this point with an
admittedly unbelievable scenario, let us assume that a great Western nation has been
attacked by individuals not under the control of any government, and that the attackers
were themselves all killed in the attack. Let us further assume that the leader of the
attacked nation seizes upon the attack as an opportunity to improve his popularity, and to
push forward his own personal agendas now that none will dare oppose him, out of fear
of being called “unpatriotic.” Frustrated by the lack of anyone to punish for the attack,
(remember, the attackers are already dead) and afraid of appearing effete and un-macho,
the Western leader (not noted for his brilliance) declares war on not a nation (for no
nation has attacked his), but on a concept: “Terror” (not Terrorism, mind you, but
“terror,” meaning extreme fear). Of course, it is difficult to destroy such an intangible
enemy (fear) using guns and bombs, so this modern-day Caesar spends many billions of
dollars his nation no longer has (thanks to retro-active tax breaks he has given to the
wealthiest corporations since his assumption of office) and sends his Nation’s military to
attack many scapegoat nations around the world, even threatening to use thermonuclear
weapons on the most demonized of these former allies if any freelance attack on the
Western nation should recur. Yes, I know that this scenario sounds extremely far-
fetched, and could only be expected to occur if a pious simpleton raised on cowboy
movies were to somehow get into power against the wishes of sagacious voters, but my
point is this: If a man — even if he be the leader of a great nation — orders his soldiers to
commit a crime against humanity (namely dropping many tons of bombs upon inhabited
areas, thus killing thousands of innocent men, women, and children), is he not, by law,
himself guilty of mass murder as an “accessory before the fact?” And in what way is this
leader any better than those who attacked his nation (for they, too, felt that the point they
were making was more important than the thousands of lives which making that point
would cost)? It would seem that the law is merely a tool by which the rich and powerful
control the poor and weak. The powerful are apparently above the law, at least until
someone more powerful comes along. I’m hoping that someone better versed than I, in
the philosophy of law, will be able resolve this apparent inconsistency. Is killing those
who do not yet wish to die wrong, or is it not? If it is not wrong, then, when our people
have been attacked and killed, we have no cause to become violent, for under this
assumption we have not been wronged. On the other hand, if killing those who wish to
live is wrong, then it is wrong for us to do this, too. If we blithely kill innocent people in
retribution for wrongs that we have suffered, then we only prove that we are deserving of
what we got when we were attacked, and deserving of what we will continue to get in the
endless retaliations of the international feud which we have embarked upon. If we
believe that violence and killing are justifiable so long as they serve our interests, then
how do we differ from those who attacked us? We are then just as bad as our attackers,
and deserve no better.
–by Khan Amore 2002, Permission to reproduce is granted, provided that acknowledgement of authorship is given.