- The Washington Times - Friday, November 26, 2004

During the recent election campaign, it has been a liberal mantra they “support the troops” while opposing the war in Iraq. Just what does supporting the troops mean — other than a throwaway line to escape the political consequences of a long history of being antimilitary?

It certainly does not mean making the least effort to understand the pressures and dangers of combat, so as to avoid the obscenity of sitting in peace and comfort while leisurely second-guessing life-and-death decisions that had to be made in a split second by men 10,000 miles away.

The latest example is the now widely publicized shooting and killing by an American Marine in Iraq of a wounded terrorist in Fallujah. Chris Matthews on “Hardball” spoke of “what may be the illegal killing of a wounded, unarmed insurgent” — the politically correct media term for a terrorist — and asked: “Is there ever a justification for shooting an unarmed enemy?”

The unreality of the question is breathtaking, both logically and historically. How can you know someone is unarmed, when finding out can cost you your life? A hand grenade is easily concealed and can kill you just as dead as if you were shot by a machine gun or hit by a nuclear missile.

American troops in Iraq have already been killed by booby-trapped bodies. During World War II, wounded Japanese soldiers sometimes waited for an American medical corpsman to come over to help them and then exploded a hand grenade, killing them both.

Assuming you are somehow certain an enemy is unarmed, perhaps because you already searched or disarmed him, is it ever justified to kill him anyway? That question was answered more than a half-century ago, when German troops wearing American uniforms and speaking English infiltrated American lines during the Battle of the Bulge. Those German troops, when captured, were lined up against a wall and shot dead. And nobody wrung his hands about it.

The rules of war, the Geneva Convention, do not protect soldiers who are not wearing their own country’s uniforms. To get be protected by the rules, you must play by the rules.

Terrorists are not enemy soldiers covered by the rules of war. Nor should they be. They observe no rules.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the United Nations can all talk about “the Geneva Convention.” But that agreement on the rules of war has never applied to combatants not wearing the uniform of any country that is a party to the Geneva Convention.

Terrorists wear no uniform and show no mercy, as they have repeatedly demonstrated by beheading innocent civilians, including women.

Why any such terrorists should be captured alive in the first place is a real question. Maybe they have information that could be useful. But every terrorist our troops try to capture alive increases the risk of death for American combat troops. Their information better be damned important for that.

It is more than enough to ask a man to put his life on the line for his country, without needlessly increasing those risks by trying to be nobler than thou or playing to the international gallery. The very fact this Marine in Fallujah has been taken out of combat and being investigated can only inhibit other troops.

The inhibitions under which American troops have already had to fight have needlessly jeopardized their safety while we tiptoe around the delicate sensibilities of the media, European critics and “the Arab street.”

The Times of London refers to a Marine “killing an unarmed man in cold blood.” If that was his purpose, he could have opened fire when he entered the room, instead of waiting until he saw an Iraqi terrorist pretending to be dead — for what purpose the Marine had no way of knowing.

We cannot fight wars to please the Times of London or the other naysayers and nitpickers arrayed against us from the beginning. There is no point trying to appease people who will not be appeased. And to do so at an increased risk to American lives would be criminal.

Thomas Sowell is a nationally syndicated columnist.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide