West Wing Continuity Guide
path: Home / Third Season Episodes / * #305 (49) "War Crimes"
Donna Janel Maloney as Donna Moss
NBC Photo: David Rose
Teleplay: Aaron Sorkin, Story: Allison Abner, Directed by: Alex Graves
Takes Place: On a Sunday after October 5, after football season starts, "at the dawn of the millennium".
Broadcast: November 7, 2001
Query: What plane did Leo fly during Operation Rolling Thunder?
Query: Could Leo be charged with war crimes for actions during the Vietnam conflict?

This episode is more scattered in plot and theme than most. It ranges from a shooting in a church to the value of a penny, the importance of working as a team, lying, and information given to Leo about something he did in the war that could lead to him being charged with a war crime. And it starts with a lecture on the way to use words, when the President spouts to his wife and Charlie:
"Words. Words when spoken out loud for the sake of performance are music. They have rhythm and pitch and timbre and volume. These are the properties of music and music has the ability to find us and move us and lift us up in ways that literal meaning can't."

After this things go downhill and the weather which starts off the day fairly sunny, ends up raining off and on through the rest of the daylight hours. During these hours the President argues with his Texan Vice-President as he tries to persuade him to give a speech in Texas favoring gun-control, but the Vice President thinks that would be political suicide for him:
"You're a hero in Texas."
"I was a hero in Texas."
"Texans don't like that you have the courage of your convictions?"
"They're not my convictions. They're yours."
"Oh yeah, I forgot."

Leo meets with an officer who had been his superior when he was in Vietnam. The subject is a treaty about forming a permanent body to deal with war crimes. The officer is against it. Leo tells him.
"...systematic extermination of civilians, enslavement, torture, rape, forced pregnancy, terrorism, doesn't the world need a permanent standing body. . ." Leo doesn't get to finish.
"National Sovereignty is at stake. Americans are answerable to no one except their own government and their own laws."

Donna gives a deposition to a committee headed by a guy she has slept with. Without thinking she "innocently" lies in the deposition. When it turns out, this lie was recognized as a lie, she tells all to Josh, who gets a little upset. She admits:
"I screwed up."
"You think?"
"What should I do?"
"Do nothing." Josh decides to solve the problem himself.

Meanwhile, something Toby said to staffers ends up quoted back to C.J. by a reporter. Toby gathers all the junior staffers and senior assistants to tell them:
"We're a group. We're a team. From the President and Leo on through, we're a team. We win together, we lose together. We celebrate and we mourn together. And defeats are softened and victories are sweeter because we did them together. . . . You're my guys and I'm yours --- and there's nothing I wouldn't do for you."

Leo is still discussing the permanent standing body with his old commander. Finally the guy asks him:
"You remember Operation Rolling Thunder?"
"Yeah. I think I do, yeah."
"September 1966. . . . You were piloting an F-105 Fighterchief. . . . 355th Tactical Fighter Wing out of Thailand. . . . " Turns out this guy had given Leo his instructions that day. As the conversation goes on, Leo can't see what relevance this has.
"It was a military target," he states with certainty.
"It was a civilian target. . . . There were 11 civilian casualties." It takes Leo some time for this to sink in and he finally pulls himself back to the present.
"Why did you tell me that?"
"Because you could be charged and tried for a war crime. . . All wars are crimes."

For anyone interested in guest stars of this episode (as well as more information),
let us recommend the West Wing Episode Guide.

Background from Bravo: What you need to know from past episodes.

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