POW and Detainee Operations: Lessons Unlearned

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Caci JB 15(2). 139 - 143 (Journal Article)

Throughout the history of modern warfare, tales of atrocities have repeatedly surfaced that depict active and passive aggression toward prisoners of war (POWs). Yet, with each conflict, new tales are born and an undeniable reality of warfare inflicts fresh scars for aggressors to bear. It is understandable, based on human nature and the goals of war, that a government (or its representatives) will feel malice toward enemy prisoners captured during a conflict. It is unquestionably a challenge to overcome that human nature, despite the statutes that outline lawful treatment of POWs. While most aspects of warfare have been revolutionized throughout history, the means by which a military deals with its POWs remains somewhat mired in the reticence of leaders to acknowledge that it will factor into every conflict-that it will, in fact, become a source of controversy as long as it is handled as an afterthought. As shown in accounts dating back to the Revolutionary War, the law can only influence human nature to a point, especially when resources are limited, ignorance is a reality, and no one is watching.

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