The Geneva Convention stipulates what have been called, “the rules of war.” Several articles of the Geneva Convention describe the protection of civilians (i.e. children, women and non-combatant men, including medical personnel).
The protection of civilians from injury and death does not have exceptions in the Geneva convention. Civilian human beings cannot be referred to as “collateral damage” or some similar, dehumanizing term.
And it is common humanity and common sense that even if a military target is surrounded by children and women, you don’t kill the women and children. This applies to all sides in a conflict and does not call for a preliminary judgement of who is right and who is wrong.
The wounded of war are to be treated equally by all parties to the conflict and ambulances cannot be attacked.
The deliberate use of “human shields” by a warring party is prohibited and is considered a war crime in the Geneva convention – but the existence of a human shield does not give any side the right to kill civilians in the shield. The protection of women, children and civilians in war is thus an absolute moral imperative.
These rules of war are manifestly meant for the protection of the weak, the vulnerable and the defenceless. But they are equally meant for the protection of the soldier.
The vast majority of soldiers who serve do not wish to kill women and children. In spite of massive propaganda to make us believe otherwise, this applies equally to most sides in a conflict – Allied and German (in both the World Wars), Russian and Ukrainian, Indian and Pakistani, American and Japanese etc.
If the soldier (or pilot or naval seaman) is placed in circumstances where he knows that he has been responsible for the death, maiming, burning or orphaning of women and children, it is highly possible that he will develop the terrible illness previously known as “shell shock,” but now universally called “post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).”
43% of American soldiers returning from the Gulf wars for example, were found to be suffering from a mental health problem. And 23% were screened to be suffering from PTSD.
Before going into the thick of battle, the soldier is trained to kill “the enemy.” But the enemy is largely a work of fiction at this stage. The usual soldier has never yet seen the enemy and only imagines him from a composite picture of his training, war hysteria whipped up by the propaganda media and false and demagogic calls to “patriotism” by “leaders” and “think tanks” (who will never themselves go to battle or send their children to battle).
Once this soldier has reached the frontlines and in war after war, the actual experience of battle is vastly different from what he was told/taught in training school. And for this soldier, killing another soldier and seeing the “enemy” dead or maimed from wounds he has inflicted on someone who might have been his brother, his father or his son, can be almost as traumatic as killing a woman or a child. Tragically, the realization that he is killing another human being, just like himself or someone he loves, usually comes only after the act itself is committed. And again, the risk of PTSD for this soldier, is significant.
The experience of his military comrades and friends dying and lying injured around him is also another common cause of PTSD.