The United States was founded on the doctrine of human sanctity. Each and every human life has value. Thus, in war our military and the world, in the form of the Geneva Conventions, developed certain rules of engagement that dictate fundamental battlefield actions. If warring parties uphold these rules of engagement, the preservation of human dignity is maintained, despite the bloodshed and destruction inherent in any war. What was not considered in this equation is a situation in which the enemy fails to act in accordance with these rules. In this situation, is the opposing party required to follow the rules? Can our society stomach a brutal torture and killing of an American soldier broadcast on the major news channels? Do we risk losing because we will only fight by the rules? In the minds of military planners and leaders, we must make these calculations and live with the consequences.
In 1864 and updated in 1949, the world leaders decided that there should be a minimization of the suffering and atrocities of war. The Geneva Convention, actually titled the Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded in Armies in the Field, would produce a document that provided conditions and treatment of wounded during wartime. The Articles include such items as the neutrality of hospitals, civilians that help wounded shall not be injured, wounded and POW’s shall be cared for and treated humanely by the enemy, and more.
If a group of “insurgents” feign surrender by waving white flags in order to approach the area of American military personnel, must we first wait to see if they are really the enemy before shooting? If the terrorists occupy hospitals, mosques, and schools and shoot from the windows, do we have to be concerned about innocent civilians that may be in those structures as well? Does the enemy hesitate to use and kill women and children to attack U.S. targets? Does the enemy believe crowded civilian marketplaces are reasonable places to set off bombs? We hear of these attacks almost daily in Iraq. The enemy clearly has no conscience, and they possess no concept of losing this war, display total disregard for the Geneva Conventions, and use every effort to maim and kill as many people as possible.
The more they kill the more powerful they become. It doesn’t matter to them whom they are killing—civilians or U.S. troops—only that they have killed those that have not joined their ranks. Couple this with the fact that the U.S. media is transfixed on the number of people killed in suicide bombings and IED’s in Iraq on a daily basis. Together, this concoction sends a message of their ability to fight. Thus, they are perceived to be winning. We all know that perception can become reality.
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