June 4, 2007

On the Geneva Convention

Rand Simberg says something I've said before, and says it better. Of course all you regular readers already understand this stuff, but I like to blog good arguments to have them available in the future...

...There seems to be a single-minded focus on the Geneva Conventions as protectors of prisoners' rights, even for prisoners who behave in utter violation of those Conventions. To do so is to display a profound ignorance of the primary intent of the Conventions, which were an attempt to reduce the impact of war on innocent civilians, a concept that our enemy holds in utter contempt.

This subject has been discussed multiple times in the blogosphere over the last few years, but apparently many of the commenters either haven't read, or have read and forgotten, or lacked the reading comprehension to understand it.

The Conventions require that combatants fight in recognizable uniforms. Why? So that it makes it easier to distinguish between combatants and non-combatants, and to reduce the incidents of collateral casualties.

The Conventions require that combatants not wage war from designated sanctuaries such as churches, mosques, hospitals, or ambulances. Why? I'd like to think that the answer is obvious.

The Conventions require that those waging war accept the Conventions. Why? Because if not, then there is no point in having them, since people who violate them would still be granted the benefit of them....
...Since 911, in the face of the most ruthless enemy imaginable, who would wipe us off the face of the earth with the flick of a finger had they our power, we have fought the most humane war in the history of humankind. We have spent untold billions of dollars to develop precision weaponry that can destroy a building while leaving another one right next to it intact, that can destroy a tank while leaving a car sitting next to it unscratched. We (and the Israelis) will send in troops and risk their lives to take out specific terrorists, when we could instead simply wipe out a neighborhood, safely from the air. Why? Simply to avoid civilian casualties. We have rules of engagement that put our troops at further risk, so that we don't accidentally hit a civilian.

But we have an enemy that not only hides in mosques and ambulances, and behind women's skirts, but one that rejoices in deliberately murdering civilians, even of their own religion.

When people unthinkingly demand that we grant the rights of standard POWs stipulated by the Conventions to illegal combatants, they are in effect demanding that we violate the Conventions, and they are in fact undermining the purpose of the Conventions. This isn't about having "moral authority" in the eyes of the world (a dubious premise, anyway, given how little moral authority most of the world has). That's like worrying about what gangsters think about our occasional speeding tickets. No, it's about trying to enforce the rules of war that were an (admittedly paradoxical) attempt to civilize it...

Actually, the absurd situation we are in, where it's demanded we apply a treaty to people who are not only not signatories but, not being nations, could not become signatories, reinforces my contention that what we are in is not a war, in any traditional sense of the word.

The Geneva Convention issue is, of course an entirely different issue from whether we should treat prisoners humanely. And the fact that it is almost impossible to discuss these things rationally with the "anti-war" crowd is evidence of profound self-induced brain damage among those who lean to the Left.

And the commonly held idea that terrorists should not be punished for gross violations of norms that are applied stringently to the US and her allies, is not only racist, but is a profound failure of morality and moral reasoning.

Posted by John Weidner at June 4, 2007 6:48 AM
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