Re: What about us?
You glossed over the legality of bombing hospitals though. What, specifically, makes it a war crime? Russia's done it, we've done it, not much in the way of successful prosecutions though.
No, I didn't gloss over the legality. I mentioned it. I'll now clarify. International law is broadly based on English common law. In order for something to be a crime, you usually have to prove mens rea (latin for guilty mind / guilty thoughts). Something not done deliberately is not usually a crime. Although you have to take negligence into account here. So bombing a hospital need not be a warcrime.
After all, if killing a civilian was a war crime, war would become illegal. Which would be no bad thing, except that banning war is very unlikely to stop war. This invasion of Ukraine is unarguably illegal after all, and yet has still happened. What is a war crime, is the deliberate targetting of civilians.
So bomb one hospital it's impossible to know if you meant it. Bomb every hospital, as Russia and Syria did in Aleppo, and it's bloody obvious.
Equally if you drop a well targetted bomb in a city at a legitimate military target, not a war crime even if you miss. Say in the Belgrade bombing over Kosovo when NATO hit the Chinese embassy (ooops!). So long as you made a serious effort to be accurate and employed a method that had a reasonably good chance of succeeding. Use unguided rocket artillery on a city centre - definite war crime.
Russia have only so far bombed a few hospitals in Ukraine. But it's a tactic they used consistently in Syria and Russia aren't getting the benefit of the doubt due to their illegal war of aggression. So we're all leaping to the conclusion that this is a war crime too. But there's currently doubt.
However the use of unguided rocket artillery in cities, which has been shown by various journalists on the ground in Ukraine in Mariupol and Kharkiv is undoubtedly and definitively a war crime.
The US and UK both have rocket artillery. It was deployed to Iraq in 1991, I don't know about 2003. It wasn't used on cities - I don't even know if was used on the Iraqi army - though I doubt they'd have taken it and not used it. But when they plan airstrikes the UK have a staff officer on the planning group whose job is minimizing civilian casualties. And US and US airmen are trained to employ the best weapon for the job in relation to what collaterol damage it will cause. In fact a lot of modern NATO weapons have smaller warheads and are more accurate for this very reason.
Russia on the other hand deliberately target civilians. Terror is part of their military objectives. They've realised they've not got the manpower for taking cities and so have decided that heavy bombardment and terror tactics are their best way to achieve the objective. Hence the trick of opening civilian evacuation corridors and then shelling them as soon as civilians start to evacuated down them - now done at least 3 times in Mariupol and again straight out of the Syria playbook.
So criticise Iraq and Afghanistan if you like. Although in both cases the governments were told what they could do to avoid war, and chose not to. In the case of Sadam of course the tragedy was that he seems to have destroyed a bunch of his chemical weapons on his own, after throwing out the UN weaspons inspectors in the 90s, and so was unable to prove that he'd already complied in 2003. I'm not quite sure why you're blaming the West for the huge death toll in Syria. That's down to the Syrian, Russian and Iranian governments. The western powers were only peripherally involved in the main action, they were fighting ISIS in Iraq and in the bits of Syria where the government had already pulled out - the massive death toll in Syria was around Damscus, in Homs, Idlib and Aleppo. Where Russia were fighting to protect a government that would rather shoot (and or use chemical weapons on) its own people in order to stay in power.
But this is the first post where I can remember you deploying the "the West are as bad as Putin" argument, rather than justifying Putin's actions. Which are different arguments. But the difference between our governments and Putin is night and day. If you look at the political aims of conflict, or the methods of achieving them - you can see that Putin is a vicious tyrant, employing the most brutal methods in order to achieve basically fuck all of any use. He's either fighting a war of aggression to conquer and annex Ukraine to Russia or a pointless war of aggression in order stop Ukraine being a relatively free and successful democracy which is a threat to his personal rule. And using barbaric methods to achieve that. It should be an obvious difference.
One thing we might agree on though. International law is a bit of a fiction. Given that large chunks of it require the cooperation of the UN Security Council that has 5, often self-interested, permanent members with vetoes. And there's often no court to decide. The US/UK justification for invading Iraq in 2003 was basically that it was in violation of the ceasefire agreement from 1991 - where it promised to disarm it's chemical, biological, nuclear and missile programs. Which we had proof that it hadn't done as of 1998, when the UN weapons inspectors were thrown out. But of course you can say that's a legal justification for war, but without a court to test it you can also claim its an illegal war using different legal opinions.