International Law Aspects of the Iraq War

By the spring of 1968, the patriotic ‘rally-round-the-flag effect was wearing thin and recognition of the war’s mounting costs was sinking in. On April 27, the Mobe sponsored another major demonstration, this one relatively peaceful. About 100,000 people congregated in New York to hear Coretta Scott King, Mayor John Lindsay, and other speakers. Another 20,000 gathered in San Francisco. A group of forty active-duty GIs were given the honored place at the head of the demonstration in San Francisco.

U.S. and ARVN treatment of prisoners of war contravened U.S. and international laws

South Vietnam suffered in more ways. Some 1,200,000 people were forcibly relocated through “pacification” programs and five million became refugees between 1964 to 1975. The urban population swelled from 15 percent in 1964 to 40 percent in 1968, to 65 percent in 1974, undermining the social fabric of the country. Normally a rice exporter, South Vietnam had to import 725,000 tons of rice in 1967. Hunger and starvation were side effects of the war. The U.S. also conducted its chemical war in the south, spraying nineteen million gallons of toxins on five million acres, with some parts of North Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia sprayed as well. The debilitating effects of this chemical war still linger.


Fighting the Laws of War | Foreign Affairs

“Columbia 1968 History,” ; and Jeffrey Kimball, Nixon’s Vietnam War (Lawrence: Univ. Press of Kansas, 1996), p. 220.

Michael Uhl, Vietnam Awakening: My Journey from Combat to the Citizens’ Commission of Inquiry on U.S. War Crimes in Vietnam (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 2007), pp. 204-208; and “5 Vietnamese Women Support Former G.I.’s Report of Slayings,” New York Times, May 10, 1971, p. 12.


IIEL - The Institute of International Economic Law | Innovate

The war and the pressures of patriotism tested the effectiveness of black political leaders. A number of prominent African Americans worked closely with the government both to rally black support for the war and to address issues such as lynching, segregation, and discrimination against soldiers that exacerbated black dissent. Emmett Scott, the former secretary to Booker T. Washington at the Tuskegee Institute, served as a special assistant to the Secretary of War in charge of matters related to African Americans and the war. His efforts yielded limited results. He did, however, organize a major conference of black newspaper editors and political leaders in Washington, D.C., in June 1918, which produced a statement by the attendees professing their loyalty to the government. The following month, W. E. B. Du Bois wrote the editorial "Close Ranks," in which he stated, "Let us, while this war lasts, forget our special grievances and close our ranks shoulder to shoulder with our own white fellow citizens and the allied nations that are fighting for democracy."

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Du Bois's words generated considerable controversy within the NAACP and in the pages of black newspapers across the country, due in part to the fact he was simultaneously advocating for an army captaincy in military intelligence. The controversy reflected the tension between patriotism and race loyalty many African Americans grappled with throughout the war and leaders such as Du Bois struggled to navigate effectively.