I’ve recently begun to play this weird, kinda disturbing game in my head when I go to the cinema to see any form of action movie – I count the violations of the Geneva Conventions and try to decide who is guilty of the most war crimes. (I abandoned this game 20 minutes into the last Hunger Games movie. Don’t get me started on that big Australian man-tree, Gale. The Hague would have a field day prosecuting that dude.) Also recently, as some of you may have noticed, the dudes who make Star Wars decided to make another one. It came out around Christmas, I don’t know if anyone saw it. Anyway, I digress. My significant other has a slight Star Wars obsession, and if I was going to accompany him to the latest installment, I needed to be introduced to the world (or rather, universe. Get it? I made a Star Wars joke.) of George Lucas. Let me give you my first unpopular opinion of this blog post, and it’s only going to become increasingly more unpopular from here on: Episode IV and Episode V are literally the only good movies of the original 6. If a franchise is only 33% good, it’s not a good franchise. JK Rowling for life. (Ok, so Episode VII was AMAZING on so many levels and Rey’s badass character totally made up for the infuriatingly sexist, unnecessary-to-the-plot-line travesty that was Princess Leia in that bikini, with Jabba the f***ing Hut, and I actually forgive JJ Abrams for Lost now because The Force Awakens was fantastic)
But again, I digress. We got to Episode II, after the complete snooze fest that was Phantom Menace where the only exciting part was Liam Neeson’s L’Oreal-worthy hair, and suddenly I was playing my sordid little war crime game again. Here, ladies and gentlemen, is where the most unpopular of unpopular opinions is about to drop, like a planet-destroying super-laser on Alderaan.
Yoda is a war criminal.
For those of you still with me, make no mistake, I am finding it as difficult to process as you are. Cute little, wrinkly Yoda, with his curious limp that miraculously disappears when someone needs an ass-kicking. If Yoda is guilty of anything, its of being the cutest character in the franchise. Cuter even than those primitive Ewoks who worship C-3PO. But facts are facts. And a war crime is a war crime. And it’s no surprise that little green whatever-he-is went into hiding after Episode III.
My specific beef with Yoda is the fact that he’s a war lord who continuously violates the laws of war and uses child soldiers in acts of war. And by literally anyone’s standards, child soldiers is a bad thing. So lets look at the facts. First of all, we need to think about Attack of the Clones. Forget all of the painfully clichéd scenes with Anakin and Padmé (forgetting that awful scene where they roll around in the grass is a difficult task – it’s seared into my consciousness forever.) Lets look at Obi-Wan’s journey to Kamino, that planet that didn’t appear on the Jedi Archives (I originally called them ‘Jedi maps’, not archives. My proofreading-Star-Wars-nerd-boyfriend insisted I change it). It is there we discover that the planet’s Prime Minister, a Mr. Lama Su is in the process of developing a massive army of cloned humans. (As an aside, this weird snake-dude Su is definitely a war criminal too. If your business is literally the mass production of disposable humans to order, for slaughter in war, you’re probably not a good person.)
So anyway, we find out on Kamino that some former Jedi fella by the name of Sifo-Dyas ordered all of these clones ten years ago on behalf of the Republic. There are some points of information here. Firstly it’s super important to note that the clones were commissioned 10 years before Obi-Wan arrives. This means that Lama Su and his bros only began the creation of the army then. He explains that their development process has been speeded-up and that’s why they all look like adults. However, they’re not adults. They are, in fact, 10-year old humans. And herein lies the important part. Just because the Jango-Gang all look like 40-year old men does not make them 40-year old men. They have been alive for a mere 10 years, at most. Therefore, regardless of how they look, how early they hit puberty or how much they look like that fully grown man with a son, Jango Fett, they remain as kids. The clones are 100% children. The golden age under International Humanitarian Law, or the Law of War, is 15-years old. We’ll get to that later, but for now, just note that the Jango-Gang are all at maximum, 10-years old.
Anyway, this Sifo-Dyas character orders himself a big ole army of cloned people. Ok, so he did the whole thing behind everyone’s back, and ended up dead before the shit hit the proverbial fan. But then it was of course Senator Palpatine, the least convincing double agent in all of cinematic history, who caught onto the notion that this army existed. He uses it as part of his plan to overthrow the Republic and because they are all terrible seeing what is literally right in front of their noses, apparently for more than 10 years, the Jedi council and the Republic itself take the bait. This would not have happened on Dumbledore’s watch. Just saying.
Here we get to the second most important part of our story thus far. Back to the clones. Yoda is made aware of this clone army. He’s currently top-dog in the Jedi Crew at this point and he’s faced with a decision. Obi-Wan and the two most infuriatingly incapable characters, Anakin and Padmé (aside from Jar Jar Binks in literally every second he’s on screen and R2-D2 in the latest installment. How could he not wake the hell up sooner? They could have made a 30 minute movie if R2-D2 had just woken up when they needed him) somehow get themselves into a crazy, harebrained, darned tootin’ scenario and need to be rescued. Cue Yoda with his decision – Do I send the army of child soldiers that have materialised at my disposal just now, or do I want to not be a war criminal? You’d think that it’s a right old head-scratcher. Mmmm, for Yoda, it is not. Nope. Yoda is right in there with the Jango Kids. Off to war with you all! And in that moment, little grammatically challenged Yoda becomes more that a criminal against the English language, he becomes a criminal against humanity.
Now, lets follow the foolproof legal-answer-format of ILAC (issue, law, application, conclusion) and back up what I’m saying with some law. Specifically, some Geneva and Hague Law. I’m pretty sure everyone’s heard of the Geneva Conventions, because they get a mention every now and then in some Hollywood rendition of diplomacy whereby the middle-aged white male in charge seems versed in international relations by saying something like “Forget about Geneva, dammit!!”. But nevertheless, they are a set of internationally binding conventions that govern the rule of law. The important thing about the conventions for this pointless, hypothetical, intergalactic discussion on war crimes is, however, that even if a country (or in our scenario, a planet or galaxy) has not signed up to Geneva, they are still bound by them. Geneva applies to all war (with lots of exceptions that I wont go into now), whether you want it to or not. It’s customary law. Next.
Furthermore, Geneva applies for the most part to what is known as international armed conflict. Essentially, this means country-on-country war. So I’m interpreting this to mean planet-on-planet war. Deal with it.
Now, lets look at the conventions themselves. Article 50 of Geneva Convention IV tells us that there may be no enlistment of children, specifically that the Occupying Power may not “enlist them in formations or organizations subordinate to it”. Ok, but that’s just an occupying army, what about any army, who isn’t actually occupying any country, region, planet or galaxy? It seems, however, the people in Geneva thought of this too. Albeit not until 1977, but nonetheless, it’s there. Article 77(2) of Additional Protocol 1 to the Geneva Conventions reads that:
“The Parties to the conflict shall take all feasible measures in order that children who have not attained the age of fifteen years do not take a direct part in hostilities and, in particular, they shall refrain from recruiting them into their armed forces. In recruiting among those persons who have attained the age of fifteen years but who have not attained the age of eighteen years, the Parties to the conflict shall endeavour to give priority to those who are oldest.”
And the Additional Protocols don’t stop there. It is literally never ok to use child soldiers. You hearing that, George Lucas? Your little green hero is a monster. Its not even ok if you need to fetch Anakin the Incompetent from a gladiator ring (that he is fully responsible for finding himself in, I might add). Additional Protocol II says at Article 4(3)(c ) that
“Children who have not attained the age of fifteen years shall neither be recruited in the armed forces or groups nor allowed to take part in hostilities”
Finally, lets have a look at the International Criminal Court. That’s the place you go if you’re literally the worst person on the planet (and not an English-speaking white diplomat, apparently) and get tried for war crimes. The ICC has a statute, setting out its mandate, and inter alia (I’m using a legal term here because I want my parents to know that studying law was totally worth it, as I sit here, writing a blog post about Star Wars, loosely tied to the law on a Thursday afternoon) it tells us in Articles Article 8(2)(b)(xxvi) and (e)(vii) that is is a war crime when a party to conflict engages in:
“Conscripting or enlisting children under the age of fifteen years into the national armed forces or using them to participate actively in hostilities.”
It’s currently not looking all that good for our friend Master Yoda. That lightsaber is a lightsaber of lies. It needs to be red and you know it.
Alright. Application time. Although I hardly feel the need. As I mentioned before, the Geneva Conventions are customary. And as they therefore have a universal applicability, it would make sense to consider that they apply to, well, universes. So you’re screwed on that one Yoda. The clones are at most, 10 years old. They are also living beings. The Droid Army don’t exactly fit this criteria (maybe they do, because I’m pretty sure BB8 has feelings. He’s also adorable. Does that mean he’s alive? Hell if I know, I’m in the business of law, not ethics.) So essentially, they are kids, below the cut-off age of 15-years old. And Yoda knows this. If he doesn’t, he ought to have known, and in the legal world, this is mostly identical to actual knowledge. Yoda was in charge and he ought to have known better. He ought to have behaved better and, you know, not sent a load of kids into armed conflict to save what the dude who would eventually turn out to be the patriarch of the most troublesome family the galaxy has ever seen. In the movie itself, Yoda comes flying in, like a little green hero with all of the Jango Kids and “saves the day”. He’s all like “around the survivors, a perimeter, create”. As in literally use yourselves as human shields for the Jedi, because I like those guys more. YODA COME ON. You are now in the same box as Donald Rumsfeld, AKA, Satan Himself, a man who deliberately danced around Geneva and actively sought a way to violate the most un-violatable of all laws, ever.
I just wanna point out that not even Kylo Ren, the creator of a massive WMD (that’s a weapon of mass destruction, if you’re not down with the lingo) that ticks all sorts of No-No boxes as far as the Geneva Conventions are concerned (ability to kill indiscriminately, kills civilians, destroys cultural heritage and civilian objects, obliterates entire races of people, etc), used child soldiers. And this guy is evil to the core. Evil and a moody teen, to the core, obviously. I mean he had no other reason for being evil than thinking it was super cool, hating his dad and being annoyingly emo. He doesn’t even need the mask! He literally lives on a WMD, his postal address is “Star Killer Base”. Not even this dude would stoop to Yoda’s level. He apparently just prefers mandatory conscription, I guess.
There are no two ways of looking at this. Yoda is full-on guilty of war crimes. He’s getting done. Although considering all of the lousy characters in the movie, he wouldn’t have been alone in a cell. He would have had the accompaniment of Anakin (straight up murdering kids and you know, all of that genocide and stuff with the Death Star after he changed his name and got really into walk-on music and black capes), our old friend Lama Su, probably Sifo-Dyas because placing an order for the mass production of killing-children crossing all sorts of ethical lines is definitely not a good idea and he essential got this old Jango-Child soldiers ball rolling. Oh, Kylo Ren is also in there, again, he lives on a weapon of mass destruction and stuff and I guess Domhnall Gleeson might get a seat in the cell too. We’re going to need another cell. Because George Lucas directed three terrible movies and couldn’t leave well enough alone. I CANNOT UNSEE ANAKIN AND PADMÉ ROLLING AROUND IN THE GRASS DAMMIT. No amount of flowy, peak 90’s, L’Oreal for Men, Liam Neeson hair can make up for that tragedy.
In true, ILAC fashion, I gotta conclude this. And in conclusion, everyone, including myself, who consider Yoda to be the adorable, wise and reliable hero of the Star Wars universe, has been grossly mistaken. Call it victors justice, call it excellent marketing or call it an unwillingness to see the green, wrinkly Dobby-of-Star Wars as a bad guy. Whatever it is, we’ve been lied to. Yoda sucks and he’s got quite a nerve to talk shit about the Sith being evil. Little green hypocrite.
Now, before anyone gets on their high horse about the legitimacy of my argument and accuses me of having no idea about Star Wars, although I may not be a die-hard fan, I am sure the site administrators of Wookieepedia are. (Incidentally, this is the greatest name for a website, ever. I laughed for a good 10 minutes when my google search of “Star Wars Wikipedia” coughed this up.) If you haven’t been on this site, it’s phenomenally well researched. So much so that on the first article I clicked on (A synopsis of Episode II, because there was no way I was sitting through that cinematic disaster again, not even for vague, pointless research) every 4th word or so was a blue hyperlink to another article. Like, that dude, Sifo-Dyas is mentioned maybe 5 times in the movies. And yet there’s an entire page on him including a picture. These guys know their Star Wars. And I know how to read, copy and paste, so if my facts are out, take it up with Wookieepedia.
I also want to make it clear that I am not making light of war crimes, war itself or the atrocities it brings. I am annoyed by most movies that romanticise and celebrate war because almost exclusively, the terrors of war are overlooked and human suffering ignored. This blog post is meant in jest and I hope people can see it that way.