– Time to prevent more use of biological warfare, autonomous weapons systems and mercenaries.


How much cynical and ruthless use of international law can really prevent? The new book The international law of war of Universitetsforlaget by Cecilie Hellestveit and Gro Nystuen at least try to answer it.

Yes, what can't people come up with when it comes to hitting others: Biological weapons have been there for a long time. Now, it wasn't exactly the land plagues God sent over the people of Egypt this. But in the Middle Ages, people who died of the plague were thrown via catapults into besieged cities to infect the population. And during World War II, Japan used bioweapons against Chinese villages – 10, for example, were killed in Changde in 000, according to The international law of war. But as with poison weapons, it is not always as easy to civilian and combatant, or to separate friend and foe. For 1700 Japanese soldiers struck at the same time – possibly because the wind turned. In the siege of Stalingrad the following year, close to 100 German soldiers died of infections outside the city. According to the book, which refers to former Soviet biological weapons researchers, this was a result of biological weapons.

The cynical fantasy behind the use of chemical and biological weapons is ruthless: For example, the United States used fire bombs as napalm against warring and civilian populations in Vietnam. And to further break down the land one sprayed agent Orange from airplanes to destroy the vegetation where the Vietnamese hid – the damage persisted for several decades thereafter. And what about weather modification, where the US with chemicals provided constant rain over the enemy? In our time, the FARC guerrilla has used so-called dirty bombs, full of infectious typhoid-infected diarrhea. And in our century, such forms of swarming, used in both Afghanistan, Iraq (against the Kurds) and Gaza ("white phosphorus" bombs, Cast Lead, 2008–09), continue – leading to a slow death and major prolonged burns.


But the evil and cynicism behind such "warfare" has met with strong opposition, and the prohibition and international "customs" of international law have been established. Most of the mentioned measures are completely banned – and wells are no longer poisoned, mustard gas is used which causes permanent nerve problems, or gases 1,1 million people in concentration camps with Zyklon B. Nor do you fight with microbes, anthrax, viruses, fungi and other deadly living organisms.

So-called ABC weapons have received a lot of attention and criticism. (A) Empty weapons are tried to be banned, but powerful states do not allow themselves to be shaken. (B) biological weapons are largely banned, but also difficult to define. Yes, how do you defend yourself against one person, where a "bio-clown with luck can kill 400 people", as Nobel Prize winner Joshua Lederberg said?

The third, (C), has solid roots in Chemical weaponsConvention. The ban came early, where rules must be adhered to neither to develop, produce, sell or use such. Yes, one would prefer to avoid being arrested for war crimes.

The only problem is that it is difficult to reveal who is the sender of biological or chemical weapons. Chemical weapons incidents in Syria (also see documentary The Cave), clearly shows its use – a cynical "False Flag" operation in which the civilian population was apparently sacrificed by the rebels to provoke an attack on Assad's Syria from outside.

In Norway, international law competence is generally non-existent.

Some even today speculate about the contagious coronaThe virus in China could possibly be a biological attack to weaken emerging China. But this is difficult to prove, as the sender is "invisible" – for who can prove that this is a planned attack rather than a natural outbreak?

Prohibitions and rules

With international law, international custom under armed conflict is binding – even for those who have not signed a convention. And condemnation works. The international law of war is therefore, as emphasized in the book of 579 pages with reference to a wealth of powers, conventions and international treaties, many sets of rules that must be observed.

If you are first in an armed conflict – unlike actions in peacetime – specific rules of play and prohibitions apply. Combatants can "legally" strike combatants. As Hellestveit mentioned at the book launch in Oslo, the US drone attack on Iran's Major General Qasem Soleimani can be considered legal.

Also in the book is the law of international law not to create “unnecessary suffering and unnecessary harm». It does not matter å hit the enemy disproportionate, doing more harm than necessary to put the opponent out of play. That is why we now have a ban on stupid bullets (expanding ammunition) – and we know the ban on anti-personnel mines and cluster bombs.

Drones and precision

With the development of new technology, the principle or duty of international law is also interesting. Of course, civilians should not be hit – even if they still do (collateral damage). For one does not fight today with an army on the battlefield – it is in the cities the war is waged. With powerful weapons and guerrillas – where bombs, terror and rockets hit civilians disproportionately more. The Syria war is just the latest example.

The drone kill on the aforementioned Soleimani also tells something new about precision. When Saddam Hussein sent bombs from Iraq to Saudi Arabia and Israel in 1991, they had an accuracy of about 2000 meters. When Iran recently responded with a clearly announced retaliation to US base Ain al-Asad in Iraq – the six missiles could have an accuracy of up to five meters. That is to precisely target buildings or weapons – using GPS combined with so-called Inertial navigation.

The US / Iran this time adhered to such "markings". But new and more advanced rocket sights and steering technology – which Norway also makes – are helping to increase the armor race. This fall, for example, both China and Russia presented new hypersonic "gliders", which can last long distances.


Let me get in here HARP, United States Research Institution – not mentioned in the book. After the Soviet Union launched the world's first satellite in 1957, then-US Senator Lyndon Johnson thought they would soon drop bombs on them. President Eisenhower then established the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA). With enormous funds at their disposal, they would "anticipate and achieve the unimagined weapons of the future."

It is difficult to reveal the sender of biological or chemical weapons.

ARPA (later DARPA – "Defense") has shaped our modern world, including new missile defenses and stealth technology. In 2018, Wired was able to read about ARPA's "Insect Allies" experiment, where insects are used to deliver genetically modified molecules to crops. It is now called out that this can easily be turned into a new type of biological weapon. But their research has also given civil society the PC, laser technology, the internet (from the precursor ARPANET) and the navigation system GPS. In the book The Imagineers of War: The Untold Story of DARPA (2017) by Sharon Weinberger points out how uninhibited they could research, even with high-risk projects. Well, they eventually departed, for example, from the idea of ​​an interplanetary spaceship driven by nuclear explosions – when the crew would surely die. British Boris Johnson's chief adviser Dominic Cummings has now announced that they will create a British "ARPA" – though they say it should be more about civil society than military projects. Believe it who can.

Technology and mercenaries

Back to the book: Cyber ​​warfare and digital attacks are not defined in international law as military attacks, but are called sabotage. So if someone hit Saudi Arabia's oil company Saudi Aramco in 2012 with a cyber attack (33 broken computers), this goes beyond the prohibition of international law.

But what about digital algorithmsr or advanced drones who can make decisions on attacks themselves? When no longer is a human being able to call back a drone, based on the wrong decision? Today there are actually so-called locked orders ("man out of the loop"), where a broadcast drone can not be interrupted for "security" reasons.

I The international law of war a number of relevant issues are addressed, such as a disagreement as to what the definition is terror is. For example, Utøya terror does not meet the definition of terrorism being transnational.

But let me finally mention the meaning of foreign warriors or mercenaryis. The treaty prohibiting mercenaries is "dormant" and difficult to define. In 2003, there was only one mercenary per ten military (Iraq). Already in 2013, the number had increased to fifteen (Afghanistan). Unfortunately, a distance to human dignity is created here – just like cold machine algorithms behind a killing drone. Where the mercenaries and security companies' motives are largely financial, it will be possible to brutalize and extend war operations.

State Power

Hellestveit and Nystuen point out in their epilogue that here in Norway, international law competence – knowledge of international rules for the use of force – is consistently non-existent, not even where "working with peace, conflict, foreign policy and defense studies". Nor are universities at international priority given the war's international law.

The will to armor – even with a Norwegian weapons lobbyist in NATO – and associated use of enemy images is extremely dangerous. We are many who believe that the world's somewhat cynical leaders have wielded enormous power at the expense of civil society. And as I said in the book: "Although the" destructive potential "of non-state actors increases with technological innovations, the dangers are still small compared to the corresponding potential of states." States that must be kept in check.

Anyone who sees the need for individual freedom and international solidarity is thus advised to read the book!

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