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Crimes of War: What the Public Should Know Paperback – 20 Jul 1999

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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Co.; Reprint - edition (20 July 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393319148
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393319149
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 12.7 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 558,221 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Authors

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Product Description


"Compelling both visually and textually, it deserves to make a contribution to the struggle to end the kind of crimes it documents and to provide justice and reparation for victims." -- Dr Lynn Welchman, The World Today, August/September issue

"Crimes of War is fascinating and quite probably indispensable for anyone whose job it is to cover conflicts." -- Alex Renton, Evening Standard, 28 July 1999

"These uncomfortable insights were the first of many I discovered in Crimes of War: What the Public Should Know, a brilliant handbook which is designed for anyone involved in armed conflicts, whether as journalist, aid worker, soldier, armchair commentator, or civilian. How often have we pontificated in print or lost our tempers on a public platform or in a letter to a newspaper editor without having the facts?" [ -- Jonathan Steele, Guardian, 30 July 1999

About the Author

Roy Gutman is a writer for Newsday, a Pulitzer Prize winner for international journalism and author of A Witness to Genocide. David Rieff is a contributor to The Times Literary Supplement, Harper's, The New Yorker and the Washington Post, among others and is the author of Slaughterhouse: Bosnia and the Failure of the West. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Until 1945, an act of war in the traditional and historical sense was understood to mean any act by a State that would effectively terminate the normal international law of peacetime and activate the international law of war. Read the first page
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 10 Sept. 1999
Format: Paperback
Contrary to other reviewers, I found the book to be a very healthy critique of the reality that countries always develop bigger sticks than their neighbours, it's just whether or not they use 'em that matters. The countries and cases given are based entirely on what's known. Israel gets a lot of comment, but that's because so much more is publicly known about their activities, rather than, say, China or Myanmar or Syria (now, there's a time-bomb waiting to fall over).
What's most appealing is the lengthy descriptions of how all the nastier weapons get developed, and the fact that the factories really may be in your back yard. Any medium-sized government plant closed to public entry can harbour a bio-chem weapons facility (even if it's been renamed an 'Agricultural Research Facility'!).
What's even better is the detail given of how easy industrial pollution accidents occur. A simple thing like leaving an air-scrubber turned off can lead to multiple deaths locally. The book is well-written and makes available a lot of government admitted information, which would otherwise be scattered across specialist journals, committee reports and the odd liberal newspaper. Worth keeping as a reference book, just so you can check what's going on the next time a Government says it's had a small, 'controllable incident' at a previously unknown research station.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 8 Aug. 1999
Format: Paperback
A good review of the international law concerning war crimes. However, Israel comes in for much bashing as if it was the worst violator. Other states which are far worse, like China are left out. Do the writers have an agenda?
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0 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 8 Aug. 1999
Format: Paperback
In giving the information regarding the legal aspects of international law this book has value. However, it is an Israel basher, with taht beseiged state coming in for much criticism as if it were a major violator of international law. The book leaves out Turkey and China, friends of the US for commercial and military reasons. Strange!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 15 reviews
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Best War/War Crimes Book Available 28 Sept. 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Crimes of War does what few books of its kind manage to accomplish. It is a well-researched and scholarly compendium of the various crimes of war with expert background information on the various legal instruments that prohibit these acts. At the same time, however, it a visually riveting -- and often shocking -- photographic compendium of war crimes ranging from disappearances to death squads to starvation. I had the impression that, judging from its pocket-size edition, Crimes of War was published with the intention of serving as a field guide to journalists and NGO/IO staff who wish to have ready access, written in plain English, to the legal predicates that prohibit war crimes. However, after reading Crimes of War, it seemed to be more the kind of book that should be required reading material for high school, college and law students who wish to have a basic grasp either of the history of war crimes or the legal basis for their prohibition. This book is in a class all its own.
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Read entire book before reviewing. 4 Jun. 2000
By "strdogmoon" - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
"Crimes of War" should be required reading during senior year of high school. Written by journalists, scholars and law experts, this book not only details the wrongs committed in recent wars, but who committed them and under what laws the perpetrators can be prosecuted. The photographs are often shocking and force the viewer to face the truths in the text, which is well written by men and women who either witnessed the atrocities or are working to bring war criminals to justice. "Crimes of War" clearly shows that there are binding laws of warfare, and those who break these laws must be held accountable for their actions.
Israel is not singled out for criticism in "Crimes of War". There are two chapters under the letter A (it is arranged like an encyclopedia) and if a reader only get to the letter B they may feel Israel gets the bulk of criticism. However, the reader who reads the entire book will see Israel is fairly criticised.
Also, China is not condemned for Tiananmen Square in this book because this book is about war, war crimes, genocide, and international law. Tiananmen Square - while tragic and unforgivable - was a State using lethal force against its own people in a police action. Tibet could bear mentioning, but even prior to China's invasion Tibet was a remote society, hence the lack of coverage by outsiders.
The scathing reviews of this book probably say more about the "issues" within the reviewer than the contents of the book: The truth can hurt and denial is an easy trap. Scores of countries are mentioned in this book (the US being one) and it's the facts that sting here - not "agendas". In the end, "Crimes of War" succinctly and logically reinforces the point that there are no excuses for crimes against humanity.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
An Outstanding Overview of Humanitarian Law-for the Layperson & Expert 10 Nov. 2007
By Juneko J. Robinson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
From the moment of its publication, I was a fan of this book and have referred to it often. Somehow, this book has managed to condense a complex area of international law into a brief, highly readable, and easy to understand guide.

A project of The Crimes of War Project, this book was designed to serve as a handbook for journalists and other foreign correspondents in the field who routinely cover wars and humanitarian emergencies. Relief and aid workers are usually the first "outsiders" on the scene of such upheavals. However, as the editors point out, "their training usually does not encompass trying to stop or even report on war crimes." NGOs and watch groups have expert staff, but often have limited access to "hotbed" areas and can be slow to respond. Journalists often cannot make necessary distinctions between legal and illegal acts and may not fully understand the international or legalistic import of what they are witnessing. Finally, the general public is often unable to make such distinctions as well.

This book and accompanying website are an attempt to better educate journalists, consumers of news media, and other on the ground workers by providing an easy to use overview in the form of brief entries, arranged by topic of international humanitarian and human rights law, so that we can all better serve as watchdogs and advocates for human dignity and the rule of law.

Both laymen and more informed readers will appreciate the quality of the entries, written by nearly 150 experts from human rights law, journalism, history, the military, and NGOs as well as the strong, graphic quality of the photographic layout by award-winning photojournalists and graphic artists that poignantly--and sometimes shockingly--illustrate human rights violations from a number of recent conflicts around the globe.

Covering topics such as the distinction between internal and external conflicts in international law, the rights of refugees and soldiers, collateral damage, use of biological weapons, incitement to genocide, terrorism, treatment of the wounded, enforced prostitution, guerilla fighters, the rights of victims, and destruction of cultural property, among countless others, Crimes of War manages to cover an astonishingly wide range of topics within humanitarian law, yet remains highly readable and highly accessible to laypersons.

Well worth the price, it's an excellent, easy to understand guide to the internationals treaties and covenants that govern crimes of war and should be a mainstay for anyone who needs a quick and basic overview of topics in humanitarian law and the law of war.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
An Extraordinary Guide 4 Oct. 2000
By J. Michael Cole - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This A-to-Z guidebook is absolutely amazing. Without falling into the trap of legalese (which is beyond most lay people), this book manages to teach us numerous things about the conduct of war and how difficult it is to apply the numerous chapters and laws in modern conflicts, be they international or internal.
The photographs that accompany most articles are striking; some of them are rather gruesome, but this is war, and the more suffering we see, the more likely we are to commit ourselves to not seeing this kind of inhumanity ever again. To do so, we have to put action behind political rhetoric, to give substance to our words (Vaclav Havel's motto).
I recommend this book to anyone who is interested about the law, war, man's inhumanity to man, and the legal architecture which, over decades, has been taking form to protect us from ourselves.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
The best introduction for the general reader. 20 Sept. 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book is the best introduction for the general reader on the important (and currently "hot") subject of war crimes -- that is, actions that violate the Geneva Conventions and the other rules of war. The book is laid out in alphabetical order, with short, punchy chapters describing different kinds of war crimes and setting forth the basic background information needed to comprehend this challenging subject. Highly useful for the general reader and as an introduction to the subject for undergraduates and law school students. Well-written and edited, handsomely presented, it deserves a place with "Saving Private Ryan" and "The Red Badge of Courage" as an introduction to these difficult issues.
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