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Crimes Of War: What The Public Should Know
by Roy Gutman
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From Library Journal
This unique reference offers a compendium of more than 150 entries that broadly define "international humanitarian law," a subject that involves most of the legal and political aspects of modern conflict. The contributors include scholars, journalists, and international civil servants qualified by practical experience. Entries for Bosnia, Cambodia, and Rwanda help explain why the lexicon of recent warfare includes terms like "siege," "child soldiers," and "belligerent status." Although some of the accounts are more anecdotal than substantive, the style achieves the stated goal of the editors, both journalists: combining "technical accuracy and readability." In addition to cross references, most entries are enhanced by dramatic photographs. Overall, the effect of the book is to convey how modern warfare has obliterated the distinction between the military and the civilian. Highly recommended for reference collections at academic and larger public libraries.
-AZachary T. Irwin, Pennsylvania State Univ., Erie
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
...a riveting mixture of reporters' accounts of war crimes in every continent, coupled with essays by lawyers on international humanitarian law.
The Boston Book Review
...this book is based on the optimistic premise that the first step towards achieving justice and accountability is the public's understanding of the 'moral and legal benchmarks' contained in the laws governing war.
From Kirkus Reviews
paper 0-393-31914-8 Pulitzer-winning Newsday journalist Gutman (Banana Diplomacy: The Making of American Policy in Nicaragua 19811987, 1988) and Rieff (Slaughterhouse: Bosnia and the Failure of the West, 1995) present an encyclopedia on the laws of war and on the willful violation of these laws in so many recent acts of barbarism. War happens. Over time, however, international covenants, in particular the series of Geneva Conventions from the mid-19th century to 1977, have made reasonably clear (there is always some ambiguity in law) what is allowable in war and what is not. Paradoxically, while the laws of war have never been more developed, war crimes, especially against civilians in such places as Bosnia and Rwanda, continue on an epidemic scale. In this A-to-Z guidebook, the editors have gathered together contributions by experts in international law as well as journalists who have experienced war firsthand to try to make sense of both the laws of war and where and how they are violated. They succeed admirably. The book is loosely constructed around three major themes. Short pieces define particular terms and concepts within the international laws of war: aggression, genocide, just and unjust wars, etc. Longer essays explore particular violations of these laws: biological experimentation, children as soldiers, the use of chemical weapons, and others. Finally, ten detailed case studiesamong them Chechnya, Cambodia, the Iran-Iraq warare presented. While the A-to-Z format is often confusing (a definition will be followed by a totally unrelated case study simply because it comes next alphabetically), sufficient cross-referencing does allow following a particular idea or episode across sections. Adding to the richness of this work is the inclusion of an abundant number of photographs of the atrocities and horrors of war crimes. These serve to counteract any tendency toward dispassionate analysis that prose alone might allow. The book both informs and appalls, and it is meant to. As war-crime tribunals on Rwanda and Bosnia proceed, and as public consciousness of the atrocities that have occurred in such places increases, this is a work of singular importance. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
The Evening Standard
Crimes of War is fascinating and quite probably indispensable for anyone whose job it is to cover conflicts.
We see and read about brutal and seemingly senseless warfare in the news every day --Rwanda, Bosnia, Chechnya, to name a few. This A-to-Z guidebook reveals --through case studies, definitions of key terms, and explanations of what's legal and what's not --what the public needs to know about war and the law. Laws of war exist. They define and categorize those acts of signal cruelty and murder that are universally known as war crimes. The laws of war have never been more developed, yet never before have so many innocent civilians been the victims of war crimes. It is clear that the laws are not being adhered to, nor have these laws been brought to light for the public or the journalists reporting on conflicts. Crimes of War is a timely and important book, especially in light of the recent creation of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal to try war criminals in Rwanda and Bosnia and the development of a permanent International Criminal Court. Authors Sidney Schanberg and Peter Maass, reporters Tom Gjelton from NPR and Roger Cohen from the New York Times, and photojournalists Gilles Peress and Susan Meiselas, along with many other award-winning writers and photographers, have contributed to this powerful book. The 145 entries define terms from Armistice to Wanton Destruction as well as give case studies of recent and ongoing conflicts.
About the Author
Roy Gutman is a writer for New York Newsday, a Pulitzer Prize winner for international journalism, and author of A Witness to Genocide. David Rieff is a contributor to Harper's, The New Republic, The New Yorker, and the Washington Post, among many others, and is the author of Slaughterhouse: Bosnia and the Failure of the West.
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