The only reason that war criminals aren’t effectively punished is because of this pitiful argument within movies that soldiers killing innocent people aren’t ever truly guilty of their heinous crimes.
The moral of the story in these shameful movies? A soldier isn’t responsible for killing people. The implications that nobody will focus on? The value of human life only extends as far as our country’s borders, the value of human life is of no consequence for those who don’t hold the same citizenship that we do, and the value of human life is meaningless to us who don’t have to deal with the questions. We devalue the innocents and show the true apathy of human existence in all its splendor.
But why should this ever be a surprise to us as human beings? After all, we ignore our own transgressions when we buy into corporate products that use child slavery, sweatshop workers, or facilities that force people into the most heinous of conditions.
Why should this be any different? The only thing that defending the actions of soldiers who kill civilians prove is that our moral horizons are limited and that we don’t honestly care whether civilians get killed or not. We are American, it is what we should expect from our aggressive and war-like society. We are tribal people decorated in modern nuances to sanctify our wars for our economic prosperity upon the backs of people we condemn as uncivilized barbarians. After all, we are a nation that has Iraq War 1, Iraq War 2, and Iraq War 3 under its history in such a short span of time. However, we are not fully to blame nor are we unique in this aspect.
We humans always look for an enemy to kill and justify our violent impulses as a group. It is who we are as war-worshipping peoples. We are unashamed to always throw away guilt and we harbor no shame in saying that soldiers killing civilians in war shouldn’t be held accountable for their actions . . . unless those civilians are us because we are unique among other human species by virtue of being who we are. But of course, all first world countries function in this manner.
For all the suggestions that these movies “raise serious questions”, nobody has ever found an effective solution because every single human being can offer an excuse unless the barrel of the gun is physically pointed at them. However, we, the privileged peoples, do not ever consider that option. What if the soldier pointed the gun at you during a warzone? We would all be singing a different tune then simply blabbering: “this raises serious questions!” or “it’s very hard to tell because it’s a warzone!” as we do when we have the privileged third person point of view? If the gun was pointed at us, we would consider it a human rights crime? Would it be a murder attempt? Perhaps would it instead be regarded as one of the most heinous and inhumane crimes imaginable? Would we immediately demonize the other side attacking us and regard them as a bunch of savages who need to be put in jail or be administered capital punishment because our lives are in jeopardy?
Why do we not have this attitude for non-americans in warzones? The answer is simple: We implicitly consider their lives to be inferior to our own; being a non-American is synonymous with being of lesser value as a human being. It would be the same whether we were British, French, Russian, or any other nation of peoples. It is how we as human beings function. Morality only goes as far as our own borders but beyond it is of no concern to us unless the effects harm one of our own citizens. We humans do not value love above all else; we value apathy and ignorance as our highest virtues. It is what motivates all the terrible crimes in the world, after all. Our suggestions that these issues are complex and the soldiers should be given more leeway when killing innocent people is just the revelation of our own apathy for human life.
Look at the Holocaust as a prime example, Jewish people slaughtered outside of Germany was considered a human rights crime but it took a arduous human rights campaign to convince European powers and the USA that the genocide of Jewish people within Germany should be a human rights crime too. That was how little the great powers valued the lives of Jewish people; not just because of the pervasive anti-semitism due to the belief that Jewish people were responsible for the killing of Jesus Christ but because the lives of German Jews were of no consequence to people outside of Germany since the belief that a country under the belief that nation-states had no right to interfere with each other’s laws.