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With Justice for All, Including Terrorists
by J. F. Kelly, Jr. [writer] 10/2/06

An agreement on rules for interrogation and trial of terrorist suspects was finally reached between the Bush administration and dissident Republicans. As of this writing, it had not yet been enacted into law but hopefully it will be before this underachieving Congress adjourns for the midterm elections which most of them deserve to lose. The contentious debate over the application of Geneva Conventions rules to captured terrorists has been little understood by the public, most of which, mistakenly believe that the argument is all about torture, a term that the liberal left has extended to include the infliction of severe discomfort or embarrassment, something less than what our soldiers and marines endure in basic training.

J.F. Kelly, Jr.

J.F. Kelly, Jr. is a retired Navy Captain and bank executive who writes on current events and military subjects. He is a resident of Coronado, California. [go to Kelly index]

This is no way to win a war. Perhaps we’ve forgotten how. Most historians would agree that the last one we won decisively was WWII. The United States and its allies demanded and received of the Axis powers unconditional surrender. Major conflicts since, including the Korean, Vietnam and first Iraqi wars have resulted in something less than total victory for the U.S.

Should we, therefore, apply lessons derived from our successful prosecution of WWII to the war on terrorism? Perhaps, but first consider the world we lived in then. The American people and those of its allies were united in purpose and stood squarely behind their wartime leaders regardless of political differences. The common purpose was to defeat the enemy by whatever means it took.

Some of the means were harsh indeed. We rounded up loyal Japanese American citizens and confined them in detention camps. We firebombed European and Japanese cities killing millions of civilians. We dropped two atomic bombs, killing and maiming hundreds of thousands more. We stereotyped and profiled our enemies by nationality, political correctness having not yet been invented. Caricatures of the Japanese emperor, considered by his subjects to be a deity, were common as were depictions of the Japanese as monkeys in political cartoons

Fast forward now to the present and the war on terrorism that is evolving into a war between cultures. Ethnic and religious profiling is now taboo. Political cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed cause bloody riots and attacks on embassies and result in dozens of civilian deaths. An ancient quotation used by the Pope which associated early Muslims with violence results in more violence and riots, even after a papal apology and assurance that the Pope did not share such views. This reaction comes from a people who show little tolerance for other religions. Amazingly, a common reaction in the liberal and Arab press is to urge restraint on the part of westerners to avoid provoking Muslims, as if they were just immature, over-emotional juveniles with an anger management problem.

No one is advocating a return to the practices of the WWII era. To be sure, there was a lot about our culture that was good and wholesome but a lot also that was bad, notably racial and religious discrimination and segregation. We have largely overcome such cultural defects. Our enemy has not, however, and remains steeped in ancient hatreds and religious fanaticism. Our culture has matured mostly for the better but at the same time we may have forgotten how wars are won. That does not bode well for our future as we struggle to secure ourselves against a fanatical enemy bent on our destruction or conversion and who believes that any means are justified in pursuit of these goals.

We cannot deal with this enemy by applying Marquis of Queensbury rules. His objective is to destroy us and our way of life. Ours is simply a defensive one: to stop him from doing so. He will not play by the rules of war and we will err gravely if we, nevertheless, magnanimously apply them to him. In a war with such consequences hanging in the balance, it will matter far less to future generations how we played the game than whether or not we won or at least denied the enemy victory.

The Geneva Conventions do not afford protections to terrorists who wear no uniform, carry no nation’s flag, hide in mosques and homes and employ children to blow themselves up in the act of killing innocent civilians in the name of Allah. To apply these rules to terrorists is to insult to the uniformed soldiers they were designed to protect. The argument that to deny captured terrorists these protections would endanger captured Americans is bogus. We have had abundant examples, including televised, ritual beheadings, of how these savages treat captured westerners, uniformed or otherwise.

The American military does not now, nor has it ever, in all its distinguished history condoned torture. Applying this term to rigorous--even harsh--interrogation tactics that yield information which saves lives weakens our efforts in this war and costs lives. Politicians who do so for political purposes do not deserve reelection and the practice should be loudly condemned by all Americans who support our troops. CRO

copyright 2006 J. F. Kelly, Jr.



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