by Stephen Brown
26 November 2009
It makes one wonder how the West is ever going to win the war against radical Islam.
Fox News reported yesterday that three navy SEALs have been charged for allegedly abusing a terrorist leader they had captured in Iraq last September.
The SEALs’ long-sought target, Ahmed Hashim Abed, is believed to have been the mastermind behind one of the most infamous incidents of the Iraq war: the murder and mutilation of four Blackwater security personnel in Fallujah in 2004. The four men were attacked when transporting supplies and had their bodies burned and dragged through the streets. Two of the corpses were then hung from a Euphrates River bridge.
Abed, the alleged planner of this barbarism, claims the navy’s elite commandos had punched him after his capture and that “he had the bloody lip to prove it.”
According to the Fox story the SEALs, to their credit, all refused non-judicial punishment and have requested a trial by court-martial. The Fox reporter, Rowan Scarborough, did not overlook the bitter irony of the case, pointing out that instead of being lauded for bringing a valuable terrorist suspect to justice for an unspeakable crime, the American servicemen are now facing charges themselves. The three men have also retained lawyers.
But the American servicemen’s situation is more than just ironic but rather constitutes a gross injustice. Most right-thinking people would feel that, in the middle of a war, three such brave and highly-skilled warfare specialists, whose expensive training the American taxpayer has funded, should not be facing a demoralizing criminal trial over such a relatively minor matter that may not even have happened.
As far as legality is concerned, terrorists like Abed are lucky to be left among the living after their capture. As conservative columnist Thomas Sowell rightly points out, Islamic terrorists have never followed the Geneva Convention regarding the rules of warfare, as can be easily discerned in the case of the Blackwater security guards alone. More importantly, however, the terrorists themselves are not covered by the Convention’s provisions.
“Neither the Constitution of the United states nor the Geneva Convention gives rights to terrorists who operate outside the law,” writes Sowell.
Legally, under the Convention’s terms, the American military in wartime has the right to shoot any captured enemy not in uniform. Sowell states, “There was a time when everyone understood this” and cites World War Two’s Battle of the Bulge as an example. German troops caught in American uniforms during that battle were shot almost immediately and without trial. Their executions were even filmed and shown years later on American television with no fuss ever made regarding legality.
But in the charges against the three Navy SEALs, one can detect the liberal media’s invisible hand. After the media-induced hysteria about the Abu Ghraib scandal, where American service personnel were rightly punished for subjecting detainees to abuse, some of it no worse than frat party pranks, the American military is supersensitive about the treatment of detainees. It knows the liberal media would love another prisoner mistreatment scandal that can sell papers or earn networks higher ratings as well as simultaneously be used as a stick to beat an American institution it has never liked.
And it is not as if liberals in the media have ever actually cared about Iraqi prisoners. Just the opposite. For 24 years they hypocritically ignored the real suffering of the thousands of people who were tortured and murdered under Saddam Hussein in Abu Ghraib. But that did not stop them from blowing up the scandal involving the American military into something that appeared to merit a second Nuremburg Trials.
This need for scandal that can be turned into a headline, however, has been of greater service to the Islamists in Afghanistan. There, the controversy about civilian deaths caused by American and NATO troops led to a change in their Rules of Engagement (ROE) this year. It is now much more difficult for western forces to drop smart bombs or missiles on targets where civilians may be present. One report states lawyers now have to be consulted and a casualty analysis made before every smart bomb or missile attack.
One military analyst claims the ROE change occurred due to the Taliban’s ability to manipulate the media and western journalists’ “enthusiasm for jumping on real, or imagined, civilian deaths”, since dead civilians are considered news. In other words, the Taliban successfully turned civilian deaths into a “powerful propaganda weapon” that the western media ran with.
The controversy about civilian deaths caused Defense Secretary Robert Gates to assess civilian killings as “one of our strategic vulnerabilities.” Gates probably would not have uttered such a statement if the media had correctly and constantly reported that civilian casualties in Afghanistan have been low when compared to Iraq and other wars. But that is uninteresting news.
Just as uninteresting to the media is the fact the Taliban have killed far more civilians than western forces, four times as many according to one report. But that does not make for headlines. You will also probably not often see a quote like the following from an Afghan father whose son lost his leg to a Taliban roadside bomb.
“I do not mind if I am killed, provided that the Americans get rid of the Taliban. Those tyrants have taken my son’s leg. They laid mines on the road. Don’t they see these roads are also used by civilians?”
Due to the ROE change, one military publication states the Taliban are making greater use of human shields. Taliban fighters spend time in villages or compounds where civilians are present and also bring civilians, whether willing or unwilling, with them as human shields when they go on operations. This has led to their avoiding attacks, in which they earlier would have been killed.
And with the fight becoming more difficult and dangerous for American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, this can only spell bad news.