Explaining Away Evil

Mark Steyn usually sums up my take on an issue better than I could do it myself.

So, even though I focus on my own writing on this site, and to save myself the 90+ minutes of aggravation it would take me to hack away at this topic, I can just link to columns like this one: Court Finds a Right to Jihad in the Constitution.

Mr. Steyn opens with this:

There are several ways to fight a war. On the one hand, you can put on a uniform, climb into a tank, rumble across a field and fire on the other fellows’ tank. On the other, you can find a 12-year-old girl, persuade her to try on your new suicide-bomber belt and send her waddling off into the nearest pizza parlor.

The Geneva Conventions were designed to encourage the former and discourage the latter. The thinking behind them was that, if one had to have wars, it’s best if they’re fought by soldiers and armies. In return for having a rank and serial number and dressing the part, you’ll be treated as a lawful combatant should you fall into the hands of the other side. There’ll always be a bit of skulking around in street garb among civilian populations, but the idea was to ensure that it would not be rewarded –that there would, in fact, be a downside for going that route.

The U.S. Supreme Court has now blown a hole in the animating principle behind the Geneva Conventions by choosing to elevate an enemy that disdains the laws of war in order to facilitate the bombing of civilian targets and the beheading of individuals. The argument made by Justice John Paul Stevens is an Alice-In-Jihadland ruling that stands the Conventions on their head in order to give words the precise opposite of their plain meaning and intent. The same kind of inspired jurisprudence conjuring trick that detected in the emanations of the penumbra how the Framers of the U..S Constitution cannily anticipated a need for partial-birth abortion and gay marriage has now effectively found a right to jihad — or, if you’re a female suicide bomber about to board an Israeli bus, a woman’s right to Jews.

Then he moves in for the kill:

The old-school wars were Britain vs. Germany, Japan vs. Russia, that sort of thing. But we don’t hold those as often as we once did, so, for the new school of warfare, Justice Stevens and his chums took refuge in Geneva’s Common Article Three, which begins as follows:

In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties . . .

The “High Contracting Parties” are nation states that are signatories to the treaties: America, Belgium, Fiji, Peru and so on. So what might an “armed conflict not of an international character” mean? Well, it refers mostly to civil wars and internal conflicts — say, when the Northern Wackistani Liberation Army takes on the Southern Wackistani Patriotic Front. As a cursory glance at Rwanda, Sudan or the Balkans shows, these are some of the most depraved slaughterfests. But the aim of the article is the same as that for your full-scale France vs. Prussia fixture: to persuade the parties to wage war in a ”civilized” manner.

And what did the Supreme Court do? They decided first that Afghanistan was a signatory to the Conventions and thus the various ructions were ”occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties.” They then decided that it was an ”armed conflict” and not only that — here it comes, folks — but it was an ”armed conflict not of an international character.”

Hang on a minute. At the time most of the Gitmo detainees were picked up, Afghanistan had more teams than the World Cup: There were Americans, Brits, Aussies, Saudis, Pakistanis, Yemenis, Iranians, Chechens, Uzbeks and all kinds of other fellows running around. Few ”armed conflicts” have had so many ”international characters.” The country was in the process of being bombed by the U.S. Air Force from bases on the British colony of Diego Garcia. It was being invaded by two permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.

Ah, but you’re not a Supreme Court justice. The reason why this was an ”armed conflict not of an international character” is that al-Qaida is not a nation. So an article designed to cover internal local conflicts in signatory states within a convention designed to exclude unlawful combatants has been extended to cover non-signatory unlawful combatants in a global jihad taking place on every continent — and, in effect, read into U.S. law. Congratulations! Why not throw in a complimentary gay marriage for Osama and Mullah Omar while you’re at it? Justice Stevens and his pals have now upgraded every terrorist to the rank of field marshal. Wherever you’re picked up by the United States anywhere on the planet, chances are it’s the ”territory of one of the High Contracting Parties” — Afghanistan, Brazil, Singapore, the world’s your oyster — and therefore, as you’re a member of al-Qaida, by definition it’s an “armed conflict not of an international character.”

In his closing he notes this point, which was rarely if ever made in all the so-called “expert analysis” of the Hamdan v. Rumsfeld Supreme Court decision last week:

The immediate consequence of this is that America’s friends in India, Australia, Singapore, Denmark and elsewhere will conclude that this country is simply not serious and its descent into moral narcissism too advanced. The long-term consequence will be the opposite of what the justices intended — the sidelining and eventual discarding of Geneva, at least by nations that wish to survive the depredations of the jihad.

I’d amend that slightly to say that certain powerful segments of this country are simply not serious, and their descent into moral narcissism too advanced. Unfortunately, some of them sit on the Supreme Court, or toil in Federal bureaucracies like CIA, State, and Justice. Others call themselves journalists, wrapping themselves in the First Amendment when it suits their bitter and non-freedom-promoting political aims.

Meanwhile, honest and forthright young men and women — thousands and thousands of them — still volunteer to serve in our armed forces. They still see enough virtue in what we have here, and the battles we choose to fight, fully aware that their lives may be at risk. Thank God for them.

As we pause to note the 230th anniversary of the birth of our freedom-loving country, let me again say, thank God for them.

Steyn also points out: “It wasn’t all bad news this week. In Kuwait, women voted in parliamentary elections.”

Let us ponder on this for a moment. Do Justice Stevens and his comrades in arms believe that such advances in social justice happen without ugly wars being fought to change an ugly status quo?

Freedom does not just fall out of trees like overripe fruit.

People fight for it. They die for it. And the least we can do is support them in their fight against evil scumbags that saw off people’s heads.

But granting Geneva Convention protections to such evil — by insisting on its protections for them, while they not only ignore the entire thing with impunity, and in fact use it as a shield against the forces of freedom — just encourages more of the same.

And they plainly aren’t entitled to the protections in the first place:

First, what does it take to qualify as a prisoner of war? Article IV of the Geneva Convention states that members of irregular militias like al Qaeda qualify for prisoner-of-war status if their military organization satisfies four criteria.

The criteria are: “(a) that of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates; (b) that of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance; (c) that of carrying arms openly; [and] (d) that of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.”

Al Qaeda does not satisfy these conditions. Perhaps Osama bin Laden could be considered “a person responsible for his subordinates,” although the cell structure of al Qaeda belies the notion of a chain of command. But in any event, al Qaeda members openly flout the remaining three conditions.

Al Qaeda members deliberately attempt to blend into the civilian population – violating the requirement of having a “fixed distinctive sign” and “carrying arms openly.” Moreover, they target civilians, which violates the “laws and customs of war.”

If Justice Stevens thinks there aren’t thousands of terrorists around the world now laughing at his soft, post-modern, pseudo-intellectual defense of their nihilistic world view, he is sorely out of touch with what is going on in the world today. Which explains rather a lot, actually. He and others who think like him pat themselves on the back for protecting people who have wanton disregard for Western concepts of freedom and individual rights. Wrap your brain around that for a while.

Just because you can use mental gymnastics to reach some type of conclusion does not mean it is a smart one. Usually, quite the opposite.

So back to the larger question: if everybody deserves protections, no matter how depraved, why should anybody follow the rules meant to promote the protections?

Step back again, to an even larger question: do treaty conditions have actual meaning, or not?

And another: How serious does the West want to be in fighting the terrorism threat?

As a practical matter, it would appear that we now have some choices to make, in formulating policy for what to do when we capture terrorists on the field of battle. We can continue to step lightly, and worry about what certain people think of us. Or, here’s an idea: shoot them in the head. Twice. Which is more than they deserve, given the methods they use.

Terrorists aren’t entitled to any protection whatsoever, under any known system of Western law. They stand in direct contradiction to the idea that liberty is a God-given right; the United States was founded on that platform, and it is not a stretch to say that freedom as the world understands it today is an entirely American invention. And we betray our own ideals when we give in to the forces of evil.

If we want to live in fear, we can acquiesce to their depravity and nihilism, by granting them rights they don’t deserve and that we are under no obligation to yield.

If we, on the other hand, want to defeat them, then they need to become dead, and we have to help them get there.

Place your bets.

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