The Geneva Conventions is a set of rules for fighting wars in a civilized fashion, to the extent that war can be civilized. Signatory nations read the Conventions and agreed to them. The United States signed the Conventions, and is bound by the standards set forth in conflicts with other signatories. Al Qaeda is not a signatory to the Conventions. Al Qaeda is not a nation with a uniformed military. Al Qaeda does not follow the Conventions. The sixty-four dollar question is, then: In conflicts with al Qaeda and other non-signatory barbaric terrorist combatants, if they aren’t bound by the Conventions, why should we be?
“We hold ourselves to a higher standard, and that is what separates us from, raises us above, the rest of the world.” This concept is put forth as the principle upon which we base our need to treat our enemy better than he treats us, and is sometimes advanced by people whom I hold in high regard. And it is an honorable principle, to a point.
However, if you are in a fistfight and your opponent pulls a knife, are you going to stand on principle and try to defeat your enemy with only your fists and feet, and not pick up an available knife? Is that a principled position? Is it a smart decision?
Would you rather be dead, but have stuck by your principles while your enemy, not burdened with your principles, cuts you to shreds? Or would you rather be alive and maybe wounded, with your principles lying nearby to be reclaimed when they are appropriate, and your enemy lying bloody and dead?
I choose the latter.
The U.S. Supreme Court erred in finding that terrorists who do not wear the uniform of a nation, and who do not represent the government of a nation that has signed the Geneva Conventions are subject to the protections of the Geneva Conventions.
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