Saturday, July 15, 2006

Ralph Peters wants to help the terrorists

I was horrified to read this blood-thirsty editorial from Ralph Peters in the New York Post:

Violent Islamist extremists must be killed on the battlefield. Only in the rarest cases should they be taken prisoner. Few have serious intelligence value. And, once captured, there's no way to dispose of them.

Killing terrorists during a conflict isn't barbaric or immoral - or even illegal. We've imposed rules upon ourselves that have no historical or judicial precedent. We haven't been stymied by others, but by ourselves.

The oft-cited, seldom-read Geneva and Hague Conventions define legal combatants as those who visibly identify themselves by wearing uniforms or distinguishing insignia (the latter provision covers honorable partisans - but no badges or armbands, no protection). Those who wear civilian clothes to ambush soldiers or collect intelligence are assassins and spies - beyond the pale of law.

Traditionally, those who masquerade as civilians in order to kill legal combatants have been executed promptly, without trial. Severity, not sloppy leftist pandering, kept warfare within some decent bounds at least part of the time. But we have reached a point at which the rules apply only to us, while our enemies are permitted unrestricted freedom.

What Ralph Peters manifestly does not understand is that the terrorists want you to kill them. They want you to overreact. It is necessary for the giant to become angry, and try to swat the terrorists, because that is the way that they can recruit more people to their cause, by us killing and torturning innocent people. If they live, they become our enemy. If they die, their friends and family are converted.

In many ways, this mock-conservative rhetoric is only a slight variation on the whining that conservatives have engaged in for decades now concerning the mollycoddling of prisoners. Instead of welfare mothers and black criminals released on parole, they can complain about this wacky Geneva convention, preventing us from waterboarding a bloodthirsty terrorist, when in fact, this is just a random guy who was given to us by his political enemies in afghanistan.

It is sad how those darn rules are always standing between us and the utopia that awaits once we are allowed to do whatever our id requires. It's funny, the left and the right both have instinctive responses around the id, but one leftist response is basically "I should be able to fuck anyone I want" while one rightist response is "I should be able to shoot anyone I want."

In any case, this fierce rhetoric is unacceptable. It's illogical. It's ahistorical. It hurts real American values. During World War II, our opponents in the Axis were fanatics who killed and tortured in the millions, from Nanking to Dachau. After the war was ended, we could say, with justifiable pride, that we had remained true to our principles. Certainly, there were many moral failings, from unnecessary civilian bombing to years of collaboration with former Nazis during the cold war. When Dachau was first uncovered, there was a spontaneous massacre of the guards, after all. These were genuinely awful times.

In the end, however, we did the right thing, on the whole. We're not in that position now. We have invaded the wrong country, tortured the wrong people, and backed the wrong players in Iraq and in Israel. Our president is a callous boob who chortles on about eating pig while the Middle East is exploding.

We need to be a country of laws, and a country of principles. It is completely beyond me how someone can be called a conservative, and be willing to chuck all that in the wastebasket.

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