Thursday, September 14, 2017

War and Criminality

The idea of a legal war or, indeed, a just war, relies on the controllability of the instruments of destruction.  But because uncontrollability is part of that very destructiveness, there is no war that fails to commit a crime against humanity, a destruction of civilian life.  In other words, the international law that prohibits crimes against civilians presupposes that there can be a war without such crimes, reproduced the idea of a “clean” war whose destruction has perfect aim.  Only on such a condition can we distinguish between war and crimes of war.  But if there is no stable way to distinguish permissible collateral damage from the destruction of civilian life, then such crimes are inevitable, and there is no non-criminal war.  In other words, wars become permissible forms of criminality, but they are never non-criminal.
 - Judith Butler, Frames of War

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