David Isenberg: How Responsible is the Chain of Command? IS THERE a “Chain of Command?” Does Yamashita Standard Apply to Commander in Chief?

07 Other Atrocities, 09 Justice, 11 Society, Ethics, Government, Military
David Isenberg
David Isenberg

Military Justice

Lawbreakers at War: How Responsible Are They?

By David Isenberg   Jan. 18, 2013

Anybody around here remember Tomoyuki Yamashita?

He was an Imperial Japanese Army general during World War II. In terms of battles he was most famous for conquering the British colonies of Malaya and Singapore.

But his historical legacy comes from being tried in late 1945 by an American military tribunal in Manila for war crimes relating to the massacre of civilians in Manila, and atrocities in Singapore against civilians and prisoners of war, such as the Sook Ching massacre.

Even though the massacre in the Philippines was carried out by a subordinate commander, Imperial Japanese Navy Rear Admiral Sanji Iwabuchi, against Yamashita’s specific order – and without his knowledge or approval – a U.S. military tribunal held Yamashita responsible for the conduct of his troops. He was executed on February 23, 1946.

Nowadays most legal scholars acknowledge that Yamashita’s execution was a case of victor’s, not legal, justice. Nevertheless his case become a precedent regarding the command responsibility for war crimes and is known as the Yamashita Standard.

An interesting tidbit of history, you’re thinking, but what’s its relevance to today’s U.S. military?

Read full article.

Phi Beta Iota: Morality is even more important in war than in peace. Extreme violations will have a lasting negative effect.  The USS Liberty, 34 KIA, 171 WIA, is a classic modern example.  No one is Israel has been held accountable for this atrocity, and for over 30 years no one in Washington has been held accountable for covering it up and abusing the surviving crew and families.  We continue to recommend Truth & Reconciliation — educating the public on what has actually happened, why, and its consequences — rather than individual punitive measures that do nothing for the greater good of society.