Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chair/Advisor

Rod Andrew

Committee Member

Edwin Moise

Committee Member

Alan Grubb


Utilizing torture during the Battle of Algiers, the My Lai Massacre, and torture at Abu Ghraib as specific case studies, this thesis contends that negligence or dereliction of duty by the brigade, battalion, and company commanders were the primary factors. Additional factors included commanders stressing rapid results, and external stressors in the soldiers’ immediate environment. War crimes are defined as violations of the 1907 Hague Convention which was supported by the 1949 Geneva Protocols, and negligence is defined in the legal sense.

Contrary to the existing narrative, this thesis contends that lower-level commanders did more to create the conditions required for war crimes than higher level policies. The final main factor was a series of external stressors and trauma that created a sense of hatred or revenge toward the people on whom the war crimes were later committed which was encouraged by the commanders. The central difference between this paper and existing scholarship is the focus on leaders directly above the soldiers committing the crimes rather than larger policies.



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