Alright, so this entry is only vaguely firearm related, but relevant none the less.
The phrase "war crimes" has been bandied about a lot over the last day or so, with varying degrees of comprehension. It's become clear that there are some folks on here who have no idea what the hell that even means, so I've decided to set the record straight, or at least as straight as it's gonna get.
We're gonna start this off by quoting Wikipedia.
A war crime is an act that constitutes a serious violation of the law of war that gives rise to individual criminal responsibility.[1]Examples of war crimes include intentionally killing civilians or prisoners, torture, wantonly destroying property, taking hostages,perfidy, rape, using child soldiers, pillaging, declaring that no quarter will be given, and using weapons that cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering.[2]
That seems pretty clear cut, right?
Eh, yeah. Sort of.
The line between soldier and civilian gets sort of blurred when the bad guys don't have the common courtesy to wear a uniform and have a thing for hiding in civilian structures, but for the most part, it's fairly straightforward
Don't kill civilians or prisoners.
Don't torture (again, a little hazy what with the whole enhanced interrogation thing, but don't do it anyway.)
Don't blow crap up just because you like watching the boom. You have to have a real military purpose to make craters.
Don't take hostages. They smell funny anyway.
Don't be perfidious. In other words, don't try to trick the enemy into exposing themselves (stop giggling) by falsely surrendering, offering truce, wearing their uniforms, etc. When you give your word that you're not going to kill them for whatever reason, you're expected to abide by it.
No means no.
All soldiers used must be above the age of legal consent. Also, they should be consenting.
That thing you see in movies where someone cries "NO MERCY!" and orders his men to kill everyone and not accept surrender? Yeah, don't do that.
If you've got a gun named "Painmaker 1000000", you probably can't use it. You're not supposed to use weapons that cause unnecessary suffering. That might seem odd. I mean, a gunshot is a gunshot, right? Yeah, remember that whole chlorine gas thing from WWI? There's a reason weapons deemed too cruel are outlawed.
These laws apply to everyone from the lowest private to the highest general. If you give an order deemed to be a war crime, you are held responsible. Furthermore, anyone who carried out that order who might reasonably be expected to have known it was illegal can be held responsible. And be held responsible, I mean killed. Under the UCMJ, a death sentence is possible for many of those crimes, and that's assuming international courts don't get ahold of you.
All of this gets a little hazier when you take into consideration the nature of the SWRP: Chaos universe. For starters, the consensus on war crimes on Earth are the result of international treaty. The One Sith don't strike me as the type to sign treaties telling them what they can and can't do with prisoners. Also, the whole thing about weapons that cause superfluous injury gets kinda hazy when you take into account energy weapons.
That's not to say that governments can't have their own laws governing behavior in a time of war. In fact, most do. It's not just about being decent human beings. I mean, that's part of it, but decency and warfare don't necessarily go hand in hand. The actual motivation tends to be a lot more pragmatic: if you treat your prisoners well, the enemy has incentive to treat theirs well. If you take it easy on civilian populations, they're less likely to take up arms against you.
More so than treaties, soldiers understand reciprocity. If you behave yourself, they'll behave, and you can all get around to killing each other in peace.
If, on the other hand, you abuse prisoners and civilians, well, that pisses them off. That's how stuff gets out of hand. Atrocity is repaid with atrocity, and things spiral out of control. That's why, when someone commits a war crime, it's often in the best interest of their chain of command to nail them to the wall. It doesn't completely mitigate their actions in the eyes of the enemy, but it goes a long way towards calming things down, and gives the other side's chain of command an excuse to crack down on their troops to keep them from returning the favor.
That's the long and the short of it. If anyone has any questions or comments, they're more than welcome to use the comments section or my inbox.