Tuesday, September 21, 2004

The Crimes of War Project

The Los Angeles Times article (concerning allegations of torture by American Special Forces in Afghanistan) noted in my previous post was based in large part on reporting done by Craig Pyes for the Crimes of War Project. The article by Pyes posted on the Crimes of War Project web site includes a few details omitted in the Times article.

The Crimes of War Project deserves some comment. In 1991, Roy Gutman began reporting for Newsday from Bosnia. His dispatches over the next two years, collected in a book entitled Witness to Genocide, documented the Serbs' campaign of ethnic cleansing and earned him a Pulitzer Prize. Based on his experiences covering the war in Bosnia, Gutman decided that journalists were generally ill-equipped to report modern wars because of their inadequate understanding of the laws of war and international humanitarian law. With the assistance of other journalists, lawyers, and academic experts, Gutman established the Crimes of War Project to promote greater awareness of the law of armed conflict.

One of the first products of this effort was the publication of a book, Crimes of War: What the Public Should Know, edited by Gutman and another veteran of the Bosnian conflict, journalist David Rieff. The book (well worth purchasing but also available in its entirety online) is a collection of brief articles on topics ranging from "Collateral Damage" to "Free Fire Zones" and "Occupation of Territory." Each article is written in non-technical language by an academic expert or an experienced journalist. Taken together, Crimes of War offers an excellent education on a subject that is, sadly, all too relevant today.

(Thanks to Anne Harringer for making me aware of the Crimes of War Project when it was still in its infancy.)