Revenge and Responsibility in Contemporary War Crimes and Courts-Martial
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This project seeks to address the recurring theme of revenge within war as exhibited in the recent upsurge of war crimes within the past ten years. To begin, I present an overview of Emile Durkheim’s perspective on punishment from The Division of Labor in Society. I argue that contemporary punishment is still primitive in nature and maintains a retributive form. This synopsis opens the discussion of two key factors within punishment: revenge and responsibility. To analyze these key elements, I conduct a content analysis utilizing courts-martial transcripts not readily available to the public for the recent cases of Operation Iron Triangle, the Baghdad Canal Killings and the Afghan Kill Team murders. As a historical comparative to the latest war crimes, I also analyze the My Lai case from Vietnam, using documentary transcripts with veterans involved in that operation. Throughout the analyses of all four cases, I employ the work of Paul Fauconnet’s Responsibility which further develops Durkheim’s ideology of revenge and augments our own understanding of collective and individual responsibility in society. I close this project with a discussion on Fauconnet’s “law of war” and its implications for soldiers enlisted in war time.
Garcia, April (2011). Revenge and Responsibility in Contemporary War Crimes and Courts-Martial. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from