15 September 2006

Oh, I get it: The Geneva Conventions are a suicide pact

Given the behavior of some of our lawmakers, one has to wonder if they have even read the Geneva Conventions. I have, and somehow missed the apparently obvious fact that they constitute a suicide pact.

It is true enough, as various lawmakers assert, that the Conventions govern among other things, prisoners of war. But they also define who are properly to be considered prisoners of war (i.e., Art IV). And given those definitions, it’s difficult to understand just what these lawmakers don’t understand. Terrorists just don’t qualify. The fact that we are in a war, and taking these people prisoner doesn’t necessarily make them prisoners of war in the Genevan sense, any more than drug dealers are prisoners of war just because we have a ‘war’ on drugs. (I still place most of the blame for all this confusion on our ill advised use of the term war.) As I have said previously, terrorists are sui generis:

I believe that terrorists belong to a class all their own. And just as we have separate rules governing criminals and prisoners of war, I believe that we are justified in formulating separate rules for terrorists.

If anything we may need a separate set of conventions to deal with them, or a subsequent amendment to the present convention specifically stipulating that terrorists are to be accorded the same privileges as soldiers—the very thought of which makes me want to vomit. Calling a terrorist a soldier and according to him the same privileges is almost as repugnant to me as if someone were to assert that my beloved wife is a prostitute on the simplistic grounds that she agrees to have sexual intercourse with me. Now there is some moral equivalence for you!


One justification for this garbage is the protection of our soldiers. Disregarding the Conventions could motivate other countries to do the same. We want to make sure that our soldiers are afforded these protections, so we have to make sure that we apply them faithfully. The only problem is that the present war isn’t fought against a nation. Al-qaida and other groups (Hezbollah?) are not nations. The Geneva Conventions apply to warfare between nations. Not only that, but al-Qaida have not signed on to the Geneva Conventions. Our adherence to Geneva, however scrupulous, will not protect our soldiers. The enemy will not put these shackles on themselves. Why should we?

One consistent answer has been that, well, we don’t want to stoop to their level. We have to be better than they. We have to stand by our principles because if we don’t they enemy have already won.

Even at my scholarly best, I can think of no better response than this:


The enemy will use our own systems against us. Five years ago they successfully used our own airline system against us. Now, with a little help from various elements in our government, they will be able to use our legal system against us. I'm certain they are using our dysfunctional border protection system against us. How nice.

It’s time for a parable.

The Parable of the Dying Do-Gooder

In a certain city there lived a man who always treated others better than himself. One day this man found himself in a conflict with another man, a bad man, in a dark alley. In the conflict, the bad man pulled a knife and was threatening to kill the good man and violate his wife. The good man, wanting to demonstrate his goodness, ran away home. When he arrived at home he was very pleased with himself and celebrated his goodness by saying, “O, how happy I am with myself for not being like that bad man. For I have never pulled a knife on anyone. I have never threatened a man’s life or willed to violate his wife for I am too good for such things. Why I am even too good to respond with violence to such threats, for I was armed with a gun when the bad man threatened with his knife. O what a good man am I.” That night the good man and his wife were awakened by a sound. When the good man went downstairs to see what the sound was he discovered that the bad man was there.

“I told you I would kill you and rape your wife you foolish man,” said the bad man. “You should have believe me and killed me when you had that gun with you.” The good man smiled and said, “Friend, I could not have killed you, for that would be to stoop down to your level and then you would have won. Far be it from me to allow that to happen. I cannot deny myself by compromising my principles.”

“Well that pleases me to no end,” said the bad man, as he stabbed the good man fifteen times. And as the good man lay dying, listening to his wife’s screams for help while the bad man made good his threats upon her body, the good man smiled, thinking to himself, “O what a good man I am for not surrendering my principles and stooping to his level.”

The dead man’s widow lived to have a different opinion of her husband.

The bad man lived happily ever after, life preying upon the goodness of fools like our dead—dumb ass—hero.


About Me

James Frank Solís
Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
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