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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Supreme Court, Enemy Combatants, and Confusion

I have problems with the idea that enemy combatants—people captured in the act of trying to kill Americans or suspected of being involved with people trying to kill Americans—are supposed to be treated the same as uniformed soldiers from nations that are signatories to the Geneva Conventions. That means that participating nations agree to a standard set of rules for the treatment of captured enemy military personnel. If the U.S. and, say, Great Britain are at war with each other, and both nations have signed the Geneva Conventions, both nations have pledged and are bound to follow the provisions of the agreement with regard to the treatment of captured enemy military personnel. That makes sense.

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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4 comments:

Abu Sahajj said...

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?

The answer is simple. Two wrongs don't make a right as the saying goes.

Besides, if the US claims that it does not negotiate with terrorist we are clearly making a distinction between us and them which has to be supported in practice despite its inconveniences.

“We hold ourselves to a higher standard, and that is what separates us from, raises us above, the rest of the world.”

Who said this?

One last point... it would be nice if you identified your citations. Most credible Journalists; Writers and yes even Bloggers do.

Wasalaam

James Howard Shott said...

The answer is simple. Two wrongs don't make a right as the saying goes.

Defending ones self is not wrong. Treating a violent, barbaric enemy "nice" is dumb, unnecessary and counter-productive.

“We hold ourselves to a higher standard, and that is what separates us from, raises us above, the rest of the world.”

Who said this?


I said that. I offered it as a general statement of a sentiment held by many individuals. What I said, and what you missed, was: "This concept [my emphasis] 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." Seems pretty clear to me. Sorry if it is over your head.

And if you are going to lecture me on the fine points of journalism--your citation criticism, of course, doesn't apply in this instance--you'd best brush up on your rules of punctuation and become a better speller and proof reader. Even bloggers ought to spell and punctuate correctly.

Buffalo said...

You're correct. There isn't such a thing as civilized war - unless you call boxing a war. It doesn't make a lot of sense to bring fists to a knife fight or a knife to a gun fight.

That said, it is very easy to call those that oppose the military action in Iraq terrorists. I will grant you that some, even many, of them are exactly that - terrorists.

I'm wondering how many of them could be called patriots, provided we were on there side?

I'm thinking a whole lot of folks are being detained unnecessarily, for little good cause - and branded terrorists by the administration to provide justification for this example of American aggression.

If they are terrorists - shoot the son of a bitches. Behead them if you wish. But be right with the definition. One of these days it might be you and I that are branded terrorists by aggressors invading our country.

James Howard Shott said...

That said, it is very easy to call those that oppose the military action in Iraq terrorists. I will grant you that some, even many, of them are exactly that - terrorists.

I'm wondering how many of them could be called patriots, provided we were on there side?


You know, Buff, I’ve thought along those same lines. My opinion is—and it is not just an opinion without a basis in fact—that those fighting against the coalition in Iraq are not patriots. Many or perhaps most of them are foreigners who have come to fight not only the coalition, but to fight against opposing Islamic sects; they are al Quaeda in Iraq “combatants” who violently oppose the loss of Islamic control of Iraq. They greatly fear Iraqis gaining the freedoms that come with a democratic form of government.

Those that call the Iraq conflict a civil war are correct; it is a war primarily between Sunnis and Shiites, and many/most of the fighters have come from Iran or Syria or other Islamic countries. You may notice that most of the victims over the last several months are Iraqis, not Americans or Coalition forces, not that we aren’t still taking casualties, but we are not the target nearly as often as are “fellow Muslims.” The targets changed after the Iraqi elections.

Is it possible that some innocents get caught up in the dragnet? Of course. But if you think about the process, the Coalition (read “U.S.”) doesn’t have a lot of extra time to go out a grab people that they do not suspect of aiding the enemy. What would be the point of wasting time and resources on those that you do not have reason to suspect are involved with the enemy? Having carried a gun in Vietnam you are better aware than I of the potential for “normal looking” people to be booby trapped, or be armed.

One of these days it might be you and I that are branded terrorists by aggressors invading our country.

If that were to happen, you and I would both be patriots, and I would be proud to be branded along side you.