War Crimes

Think back to the last time something happened that made people afraid. Maybe it was the acts of terrorism in Paris or the mass shooting in San Bernardino. When these things happened, many public figures immediately proposed reacting in ways that threaten human rights from re-starting waterboarding and other forms of torture to carpet-bombing or indiscriminately targeting civilians in the Middle East. Here’s a reality check: these are proposals to commit war crimes and other violations of international law.

We grieve for the victims and survivors of heinous attacks, and seek justice for these crimes. But our grief must not be distorted. Dehumanizing Muslims and people all over the world—claiming that American lives are worth more, that only some people deserve dignity and rights is unacceptable.


Here are key facts and arguments for you to know when encountering someone advocating for war crimes and other violations of international law.

  • Proposals for carpet bombing are proposals for war crimes and other violations of international law. Intentionally targeting children and other non-combatants are war crimes.
  • Torture is a crime under U.S. and international law, no exceptions. International treaties signed and ratified by the U.S., including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions, firmly prohibit torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, and allow for no exceptions.
  • Proposals to inflict torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment make a mockery of these international treaties the U.S. helped write and urges other nations to obey.
  • The fact that armed groups have committed atrocities doesn’t justify the U.S. committing war crimes. The answer to human rights abuses isn’t to commit more human rights abuses.
  • The standard we should hold this country to is human rights – not the actions of abusive armed groups we rightly condemn for torture and extrajudicial executions.
  • It’s not right to ask U.S. service members to commit atrocities so decision-makers in Washington, D.C. can bluster that they’re “tough on terrorism.”
  • When the United States engages in torture and war crimes, it only promotes lawlessness, and ultimately it makes everyone less safe. It causes the United States to lose its credibility to urge other countries to follow international obligations and respect human rights. It undermines a system of global legal protections that over the long haul is our best hope for human rights.
  • I don’t want torture and other abuses committed in my name. The America that I believe in leads with human rights.


For more information about countering fear-mongering and calls for war crimes, contact us at [email protected].