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War and Violent Crime - War Crimes

odysseus losing regarded criminal

War was never a no-holds-barred fight between opposing states. War is somewhat like boxing, with rules of conduct extending well back into antiquity. For example, when Odysseus counseled the Greek leaders to blockade shipments of food to Troy in an effort to end what had become a protracted siege, his idea was rejected. At that time, it was widely regarded as improper to extend war to noncombatants in the general population by starving them into submission (this may have been based less on humanitarianism than on the value of the enemy's women and children as slaves). It is noteworthy, too, that Odysseus' successful strategy—celebrated "gift" of a horse that ended the Trojan siege and won the war for the Greeks—which brought victory was regarded as somewhat ignoble, since it was obtained through deceit. In fact, had the Trojans managed to win the war despite the Greeks' ploy, Odysseus might have been vilified as the first war criminal rather than celebrated as one of antiquity's heroes. The Nazi defendant Hermann Göring went further, claiming at his trial following World War II that the most important factor in being charged as a war criminal is to be on the losing side. Although there is certainly a much greater chance of this happening to someone on the losing than the winning side, there is far more to being charged with war crimes than simply losing the contest.

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