Republican frontrunner Donald Trump recently put a little more meat on the proverbial bone when discussing his strategy for fighting ISIS. During a Wednesday morning appearance via telephone on Fox and Friends, the billionaire candidate said that he would not stop at targeting ISIS fighters as a means of combating the terrorist organization.
“[W]ith the terrorists, you have to take out their families,” Trump said in comments transcribed by International Business Times. “They care about their lives; don’t kid yourself. But they say they don’t care about their lives. You have to take out their families.”
Trump also said he would do his “absolute best” to avoid collateral damage if he assumed the role of commander-in-chief. The term “collateral damage” was coined in the 1960s to describe accidental civilian casualties that occur in the course of war.
Collateral damage is not necessarily unexpected under the tenets of international law, and certain standards must be met in order for civilian casualties to be regarded as war crimes. As noted by the International Committee of the Red Cross, a number of United States military handbooks and field guides offer cautionary advice regarding collateral damage, urging those in the field to consider a proportional use of force that is not likely to result in excessive civilian injuries and deaths.
It is worth noting that the Geneva Conventions, which serve as the fundamental international laws regarding the treatment of civilians, prisoners of war, and non-combatants, include specific prohibitions against the intentional harm, killing, or hostage-taking of civilians, ostensibly including the non-combatant families of fighters. Protocols I and II, which were added in 1977, contain specific language regarding the treatment of civilian non-combatants, including children. The United States did not ratify the aforementioned Protocols.
Some experts have expressed alarm that Donald Trump’s comments openly endorse the violation of international law with regard to the Geneva Conventions. Speaking to the website Mic, Michael Walzer, a professional emeritus at the Institute for Advanced Study, said that Trump’s strategy to target the families of combatants is assuredly criminal.
“The crucial moral and… legal requirement… is to distinguish between combatants and civilians, and non-combatants and to attack only the combatants… To target the innocent is the worst crime of war.”
The Fox and Friends panel was decidedly less concerned with the implications of Donald Trump’s words, as co-hosts Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade nodded in agreement upon hearing the candidate’s statements.
Trump’s call to capture or kill families of ISIS fighters is part of an ongoing narrative in which he bluntly advocates for an unorthodox approach to the war on terror. He has previously advocated bombing “the s**t” out of the terrorist “state” and indicated that he would destroy oil fields held by the group regardless of the environmental consequences of such actions.
Donald Trump’s appearance on Fox appears to indicate that things are relatively copacetic between the outspoken businessman and the conservative news outlet. After Fox hosted a Republican debate over the summer, Trump publicly and repeatedly harangued the network and its hosts, including Megyn Kelly for what he regarded as their “unfair” treatment of him. He has typically enjoyed a congenial relationship with the hosts of Fox and Friends, though, and Steve Doocy recently supported Donald Trump regarding the candidate’s spurious assertions that American Muslims celebrated the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
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