Is It Time To Stop Taking Terrorists Alive?

Ralph Peters answers the question posed in the title of this post with a resounding, “Yes, it is!”

“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.

…The oft-cited, seldom-read Geneva and Hague Conventions define legal combatants as those who visibly identify themselves by wearing uniforms or distinguishing insignia (the latter provision covers honorable partisans – but no badges or armbands, no protection). 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. But we have reached a point at which the rules apply only to us, while our enemies are permitted unrestricted freedom.

…Consider today’s norm: A terrorist in civilian clothes can explode an IED, killing and maiming American troops or innocent civilians, then demand humane treatment if captured – and the media will step in as his champion. A disguised insurgent can shoot his rockets, throw his grenades, empty his magazines, kill and wound our troops, then, out of ammo, raise his hands and demand three hots and a cot while he invents tales of abuse.

Conferring unprecedented legal status upon these murderous transnational outlaws is unnecessary, unwise and ultimately suicidal. It exalts monsters. And it provides the anti-American pack with living vermin to anoint as victims, if not heroes.

Isn’t it time we gave our critics what they’re asking for? Let’s solve the “unjust” imprisonment problem, once and for all. No more Guantanamos! Every terrorist mission should be a suicide mission. With our help.”

There are three practical reasons to take non-uniformed terrorists alive:

1) They may have intelligence we can use. Of course, Peters is probably right when he says that, “Few have serious intelligence value.” While some of the leaders may be able to impart a lot of useful information, the street soldiers may not have much to add.

2) Theoretically, the enemy could also kill our soldiers instead of taking them captive. However, given that the terrorists torture our soldiers, if they started immediately executing them, that would probably be an improvement.

3) If we refuse to take prisoners, we can always count on terrorists fighting to the death. Of course, the flip side of that is if we take no prisoners it would also have a deterrent value and we’d see fewer terrorists willing to go into a fight if they knew that either they had to win or die against the best military the world has ever seen.

Granted, if we started executing non-uniformed combatants on the spot, there would be lots of complaining, but it’s likely going to be from the exact same people who are complaining about the war anyway. Furthermore, given the Supreme Court’s ludicrous Hamdan decision and all the silly hand wringing over how Korans are treated at Gitmo and whether tactics like sleep deprivation constitute torture, just killing every non-uniformed terrorist we capture would probably save us a lot of trouble. That’s why this is an idea whose time has come…again.

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