Thomas Sowell
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During the recent election campaign, it has been a liberal mantra that they "support the troops" while opposing the war in Iraq. Just what does supporting the troops mean -- other than just a throwaway line to escape the political consequences of a long history of being anti-military?

 It certainly does not mean making the slightest effort to understand the pressures and dangers of combat, so as to avoid the obscenity of sitting in peace and comfort while second-guessing at leisure some 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 incident in which an American Marine in Iraq shot and killed 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 this question is breath-taking, both logically and historically. How do you know that 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 that somehow you are certain that an enemy is unarmed, perhaps because you have already searched him or disarmed him, is it ever justified to kill him anyway? That question was answered more than half a 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 the protection of rules, you have to 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.

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Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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