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Law of Armed Conflict, War in Iraq, Atrocities in War, Collateral Murder


This article discusses the impact of neoliberal ideologies of security governance on the laws of armed conflict, and describes how neoliberal practices of privatisation, outsourcing, and risk management within the security sector have facilitated the legalisation of atrocities. Neoliberal mentalities of governance have significantly impacted military administration in combat operations by decentralising control, by promoting discretion and freedom of action down the chain-of-command, and by institutionalising intent-based orders and standing Rules of Engagement. In so doing, the military has shifted the criteria for attack from one based upon an individual's status as a combatant to one of defining and containing risky populations. Whether used to justify counter-insurgent strikes in Iraq and Afghanistan, military intervention in Libya, or protest policing of the Arab Spring, neoliberalised security governance is designed to be waged not against activities, often political, that authorities perceive as threatening. This article provides a theoretical and historical discussion of what is at stake in such a logic, and illustrates its operation through reference to the intentional killing of civilians in Iraq depicted in the 12 July 2007 video made public by WikiLeaks. It argues that the ideologies and mentalities of neoliberalism in the security sector are not only facilitating such killings, but are in fact facilitating their justification as lawful, thereby normalising civilian atrocities within the laws of armed conflict in ways that can be described as distinctly imperial.

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