Tuesday, July 11, 2006

It's So Easy in the Movies

To tell who the bad guy is. Moral choices aren't hard when you have backstory, asides and all those tricky plot points to explain that this guy is good, this guy is bad, and there was a clear moral imperative for the good guy to off the bad guy. You get to see it up close, see the evil intent in the eyes of the bad guy, see the good guy realize the evil intent, and see the hero decisively take action. It lets the hero off the hook when he takes the bogus law into his own hands and goes all vigilante on people's ass.

My husband and I have been watching the Dirty Harry series. That's how it works.

And that's how Ralph Peters, who wrote an op-ed in the NY Times, would fight the war on terra. (via Xsociate Files, who raises the serious questions, unlike me who merely mocks).

Violent Islamist extremists must be killed on the battlefield. Only in the rarest cases should they be taken prisoner. Few have serious intelligence value. And, once captured, there's no way to dispose of them.

Now, who are these terrorists we've captured on the battlefield? What battlefield? Where are they being kept that we can't dispose of them? What makes enemies captured on battlefields "terrorists?"

That's right, he's talking about the Gitmo prisoners, captured on the battlefields of Afghanistan or by jerks who hand innocent bystanders over to the Americans for the reward money, apparently half of whom aren't terrorists, but who've discovered a great new form of asymmetrical warfare, suicide.

And, see, when a foreign force invades America, you'd better not pull out your gun and start fighting the invaders until you've pulled out some kind of uniform that you keep in your closet [update: might I suggest this uniform?]. Otherwise you are a spy, an assassin, a terrorist.

Those who wear civilian clothes to ambush soldiers or collect intelligence are assassins and spies - beyond the pale of law.

Traditionally, those who masquerade as civilians in order to kill legal combatants have been executed promptly, without trial. Severity, not sloppy leftist pandering, kept warfare within some decent bounds at least part of the time.

I guess he never saw The Patriot and knows nothing of the American Revolution. Some of our greatest American heroes who fought against tyranny didn't wear uniforms, and even committed questionable acts. Why? Because when you're fighting an asymmetrical war and you're the inferior power you use what you've got. When the rag tag Americans lined up on the battlefield against the highly disciplined Redcoats, they were slaughtered. When they dressed in buckskins and shot from the trees, they had half a chance. Guerrilla warfare is as American as you can get, apparently.

But, hell, the vast history of warfare shows even uniformed soldiers committing unspeakable acts without fear of war crimes trials. Every few hundred years someone makes up a new combat rule, like wearing a uniform or not sacrificing or enslaving the wounded and captured, until we got to the Geneva Conventions. Why even have those if the whole world doesn't sign on? Why should we be constrained at all in our actions when survival is on the line?

It must depend on whose side you're on. If you're the good guy, you're a freedom fighter and patriot; if you're the bad guy, you're a terrorist and assassin. And if you were just standing in the wrong place at the wrong time, you're SOL.

And I guess he never watched those WWII films I grew up watching, either. Those propaganda films are where I got my idealistic view of America and the military. No matter how awful the Nazis were to American POWs, the Americans were better than that, even though Americans did commit some of their own atrocities. I'm grown up now, and I understand that war does things to people, even the best people. But now we don't bother with that kind of propaganda or play with the notion that Americans are somehow noble and worthy. We just come out and say we're no better than the enemy. "What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" "Screw you, Mark. I want to live!"

Instead of worrying over trumped-up atrocities in Iraq (the media give credence to any claim made by terrorists),

What chance do the terrorists stand when everyone, including the Prime Minister of Iraq, is considered a terrorist. I guess Ralph Peters also doesn't read the newspaper that carried his op-ed.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki charged on Thursday that American forces had regularly attacked Iraqi civilians and said that the Iraqi government would take this conduct into account in determining how long American troops should remain in Iraq.

Maybe Maliki doesn't watch the movies, either. 'Cause he doesn't seem to realize that those who don't always side with the good guys learn the hard way who they should have trusted.

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