Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Has the Sun Set on Geneva?

Via Instapundit comes this provocative piece by Alan Dershowitz regarding the Geneva Conventions and their applicability in our current circumstances. Dershowitz is certainly no neocon war hawk, but he clearly feels that the Geneva Conventions are no more than shields for the wicked. In part:

The Geneva Conventions are so outdated and are written so broadly that they have become a sword used by terrorists to kill civilians, rather than a shield to protect civilians from terrorists. These international laws have become part of the problem, rather than part of the solution.

Following World War II, in which millions of civilians were killed by armed forces, the international community strengthened the laws designed to distinguish between legitimate military targets and off-limit noncombatants. The line in those days was clear: The military wore uniforms, were part of a nation's organized armed forces, and generally lived in military bases outside of population centers. Noncombatants, on the other hand, wore civilian clothing and lived mostly in areas distant from the battlefields.

The war by terrorists against democracies has changed all this. Terrorists who do not care about the laws of warfare target innocent noncombatants. Indeed, their goal is to maximize the number of deaths and injuries among the most vulnerable civilians, such as children, women and the elderly. They employ suicide bombers who cannot be deterred by the threat of death or imprisonment because they are brainwashed to believe that their reward awaits them in another world. They have no "return address."

The terrorist leaders - who do not wear military uniforms - deliberately hide among noncombatants. They have also used ambulances, women pretending to be sick or pregnant, and even children as carriers of lethal explosives.

Civilized rules of behavior will only be observed by civilized people. The Geneva Conventions were adopted by civilized countries because it provided equal protection for both sides as both sides held similar views of warfare and the definition thereof, thus the word "convention." Our current enemy does not hold "conventional" views of warfare or even life itself. By restricting our actions in defending ourselves, we simply further empower the savages and, as Dershowitz says hand them another weapon with which to kill us.

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