Vietnam War Bibliography:

International Law

[Note: International Law is not my field, so while I have decided to have a page for it in my bibliography, I have not made any serious effort to make this page comprehensive.]

"Contemporary Practice of the United States Relating to International Law" or, occasionally, "Contemporary Practice of the United States Relating to Contemporary Law." A collection of material presenting U.S. opinions on issues involving international law appeared in each issue of The American Journal of International Law. It was compiled by someone (usually the Assistant Legal Adviser) in the Office of the Legal Adviser, Department of State. If you browse the Internet through an institution that has subscribed to JSTOR, you can access the full text of this journal through the JSTOR American Journal of International Law browse page. Some of the more interesting Vietnam-related material that can be found in these compilations:

Sahr Richard Conway-Lanz, "Collateral Damage: The American Struggle with the International Norm of Noncombatant Immunity since World War II." Ph.D. dissertation, History, Harvard, 2002. 420 pp. AAT 3067375. I believe the direct focus of this is more on World War II than on Vietnam, but it is still highly relevant to Vietnam.

P. E. Corbett, "The Vietnam Struggle and International Law," in Richard Falk, ed., The International Law of Civil War (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press/American Society of International Law, 1971), pp. 348-404.

Richard A. Falk, ed., The Vietnam War and International Law, 4 vols. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1968-1976.

The Geneva Conventions of 1949. When people talk about international law in connection with the Vietnam War, what they mainly mean (or should mean) is the Geneva Conventions of 1949. There were four of these:

Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare. Geneva, 17 June 1925. The Geneva Protocol of 1925 was widely accepted as valid international law at the time of the Vietnam war, but was not ratified by the United States until after the end of the war. There was considerable dispute about exactly which chemicals it banned. The United Nations General Assembly passed on December 16, 1969, by a vote of 80 to 3, a resolution (see General Assembly, Twenty-fourth Session, Resolution 2603), declaring that the protocol should be interpreted as prohibiting "Any chemical agents of warfare--chemical substances, whether gaseous, liquid or solid--which might be employed because of their direct toxic effects on man, animals, or plants." This would have forbidden both the herbicides and the CS currently in large-scale use in Vietnam. The United States rejected the validity of the resolution.

Hague Convention IV: Convention (IV) respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land and its annex: Regulations concerning the Laws and Customs of War on Land. The Hague, 18 October 1907. This convention had to some extent been superseded by the Genva Conventions of 1949, but the U.S. Army still regarded the Hague Convention as valid international law at the time of the Vietnam War.

International Law, volume II. Department of the Army Pamphlet 27-161-2. Headquarters, Department of the Army, October 1962. xiii, 306 pp. The text has been placed online in the Virtual Vietnam Archive at Texas Tech University. Front matter and pp. 1-38,   pp. 39-89,   pp. 90-140,   pp. 141-192,   pp. 193-242,   pp. 243-294,   pp. 295-306.

The Law of Land Warfare. Department of the Army Field Manual 27-10. The full text of the July 1956 version, with an appendix dated July 1976, making certain changes, is online at an Army web site. ix, 172 pp. There apparently were no changes made between 1956 and 1976. The changes made in 1976 included Paragraphs 5, 37, and 38 in regard to chemical and bacteriological warfare, herbicides, and riot control agents; and Paragraphs 39, 40, and 41 in regard to permissible targets of attack and bombardment, and unnecessary killing and devastation.

Military Law Review. Published by the Judge Advocate General's School, Charlottesville, Virginia, beginning in September 1958. All issues are available online through the Library of Congress. Articles relating to international law include:

John Norton Moore, "The Lawfulness of Military Assistance to the Republic of Viet-Nam." The American Journal of International Law 61:1 (January 1967), pp. 1-34. If you browse the Internet through an institution that has subscribed to JSTOR, you can access the text directly or go through the JSTOR American Journal of International Law browse page.

Stephen C. Neff, War and the Law of Nations: A General History. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005. xii, 443 pp. A history from ancient times to the present.

W. Michael Reisman and Chris T. Antoniou, eds., The Laws of War: A Comprehensive Collection of Primary Documents on International Laws Governing Armed Conflict. New York: Vintage, 1994. xxxii, 448 pp.

Telford Taylor, Nuremberg and Vietnam: An American Tragedy. Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1970. 224 pp. General Taylor, who had been a prosecutor at Nuremberg, was very critical of American behavior in Vietnam. But he specifically stated (p. 142) that he did not see a good basis for charges of war crimes in connection with U.S. bombing of North Vietnam. This has become particularly relevant since the emergence of a story, which I do not believe, that Taylor said in 1966 that he did favor trying U.S. pilots who had been bombing North Vietnam as war criminals. (See Robert Richter, McCain and Rolling Thunder: War Hero or War Criminal? CounterPunch, October 14, 2008.

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Copyright © 2006, 2008, 2009, Edwin E. Moise. This document may be reproduced only by permission. Revised September 10, 2009.