On May 12, near the Sunni stronghold of Yusufiya, Iraq (about 15 miles south of Baghdad), al Qaeda fighters ambushed a coalition patrol, killing four soldiers and abducting three, all from the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment of the 10th Mountain Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team (based at Fort Drum, New York).
Despite warnings from al Qaeda “not to look for the soldiers if [they] wanted them back alive,” American and Iraqi forces mobilized almost 4,000 troops to conduct a search for the missing men. The force spent much of the next weeks searching the area around Mahmoudiya, in the much-publicized “Triangle of Death.” Though they questioned over 450 people and detained 11 as a part of the probe, the soldiers were, unfortunately, not successfully recovered.
On the morning of Wednesday, May 23, Hassan al-Jibouri, an Iraqi boater, saw a body floating in the Euphrates River. It had “head wounds and whip marks on its back,” said al-Jibouri, who alerted police about the discovery. Before the day was over, the body had been identified as being one of the three missing soldiers, PFC Joe Anzack, a 20-year-old from California.
Two weeks later, on Monday, June 4, the so-called “Islamic State of Iraq” (ISI), an al Qaeda front group within that nation, released a video in which they said that the other two American captives, SPC Alex Jimenez, 25, of Massachusetts, and PVT Byron Fouty, 19, of Michigan, had been killed in captivity. Repeatedly mocking the “American military’s inability to find the soldiers,” the video showed what appeared to be the two soldiers’ identification cards, as well as other personal items, as evidence.
THIS TREATMENT OF CAPTIVE military combatants is, of course, squarely against the 1949 Geneva Conventions — the same rules of war which America is often accused, both by our foreign enemies and by domestic representatives of the “anti-war” movement, of violating. While the question of whether plainclothed foreign terrorists with no state or military affiliation, who are captured targeting civilians and purposely fighting amongst noncombatants, are entitled to the Conventions’ protections is, perhaps, still open for debate, there is no question that America’s soldiers, fighting in uniform, representing their country, and strictly adhering to the laws of armed conflict are officially protected by these agreements.
Interestingly and predictably silent in the week since the ISI announced that it had murdered the remaining captives have been the human rights groups who seem to spend every day accusing the United States of phantom “torture,” war crimes, and various human rights violations, while largely ignoring the real crimes carried out by our enemies. Rather than even mention the killing of these American troops, or any other atrocities carried out on a daily basis by al Qaeda in Iraq (AQIZ), Amnesty International dedicated the front page of their website this last week to headlines decrying “secret CIA detention” facilities, and mourning “another death at Guantanamo after [an] apparent suicide.” The United Nations, always quick to condemn the acts of the U.S. and Israel, had nothing whatsoever to say about this latest atrocity on the part of the Islamic terrorists against whom we are fighting in this war that former Secretary General Kofi Annan has repeatedly called “illegal.” Instead, according to its website, the UN was busy “marking 40 years of occupation by Israel of the Palestinian Territory” and “asking students to join the fight against climate change.”
One notable exception to this trend was Human Rights Watch, which has in the past accused the U.S. of “brutalizing Muslim suspects in the name of the war on terror.” Though its website (predictably) featured such articles and statements as “The Guantanamo experiment has failed” and “The end of Bush’s kangaroo courts,” the “human rights” organization did, commendably, condemn the murder of the captive American troops. In an article entitled “Execution of Captive Soldiers Violates the Laws of War,” HRW’s Middle East director wrote that “Those claiming to hold the U.S. soldiers captive must treat the men humanely,” and added that “if they have done otherwise, they have committed war crimes.”
Of course, it wouldn’t be HRW if it didn’t include an apparently unavoidable dig at the U.S. The article concludes with the statement, “Human Rights Watch has documented violations of the laws of war of all parties to the conflict, including insurgent groups, U.S. forces and the Iraqi government forces.”
This treatment of captive American young men is not surprising to any who have been paying attention to the actions of these Islamic terrorists in recent years. Though many have blamed the U.S., and have gone so far as to call this type of behavior “blowback” earned by American actions, such atrocities really are a way of life for al Qaeda and others who have given their lives to brutality and terror. As LTC James Crider, the commander of the 1st Cavalry Squadron in Baghdad, recently told me, these terrorists cannot be appeased or negotiated with. Along with all of the westerners they can get their hands on, “they’ll kill all the Shi’a they can, and then they’ll kill all of the less-radical Sunni. And then, when there is nobody else left to kill, they’ll start killing each other.”
Nonetheless, many opponents of American foreign policy claim that the reason for this brutal treatment of our forces abroad is that we have not properly afforded Geneva Convention protections to captured terrorists. Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Arlen Specter (R-PA) have said that America’s treatment of detainees and “disastrous Iraq policy” have served as “a giant recruiting poster for terrorists,” and myriad liberal commentators and pundits have repeatedly made statements to the effect that, “as a reaction to [the U.S.] policy of [supposedly torturing detainees,] there is now a good possibility that our soldiers will be tortured.”
That people can utter such statements shows a startling ignorance of the enemy America is facing. The idea that al Qaeda and other terrorist groups would respond to more humane treatment of captives by American soldiers by treating those they capture more humanely is profoundly mistaken. Lest we forget, these are the same inhuman fanatics who — on camera — cut off the heads of Daniel Pearl and Nick Berg, among many others; who routinely detonate themselves and their vehicles within crowds of civilians; and who hijacked American airliners full of fuel and passengers and flew them into skyscrapers. Likewise, these are the same sadistic inhuman fanatics who published manuals on real torture, including such methods as eyeball removal and using a power drill in strategic locations on the body, as well as other indescribably brutal acts.
SIMPLY SHOWING TERRORISTS such as these more goodwill is a means of emboldening them, not of pacifying them; restricting our actions and operations will not cause them to reciprocate, but to increase theirs even more.
Lest we also forget, in January 2006, the United States Congress passed — and President Bush signed — Sen. John McCain’s “torture ban,” which was said to prohibit the “cruel, inhuman, or degrading” treatment of any detainee in U.S. custody anywhere in the world. Said McCain, “We’ve sent a message to the world that the United States is not like the terrorists.” This “message to the world” was clearly rejected by the terrorists we are facing in Iraq. Just six months after the “torture ban” was signed, two Army soldiers — Privates Kristian Menchaca and Tom Tucker — were abducted by AQIZ, and were brutally tortured and slaughtered. “Human rights” groups were equally silent at that time, as well, choosing to decry the mythically inhumane acts of the Bush administration, rather than to call attention to the actually inhumane acts of the al Qaeda terrorists.
The position that al Qaeda’s brutally inhuman treatment of civilians and captive soldiers alike is the result of anything whatsoever that the U.S. has done, or that any action on America’s part — be it legislatively, or by withdrawing forces from areas populated by hardline Islamists — will result in a positive change in terrorist behavior is one which is borne out of ignorance and denial.
Likewise, the position that the United States commits any acts whatsoever which could be construed to remotely resemble real “torture” in any way whatsoever is one borne out of ignorance and willful refusal to face reality. The fact that the word “torture” itself has been dumbed down so much that it is being used day in and day out to describe acts by the U.S. which simply make those who would slaughter us slightly uncomfortable has, as Don Surber of the Belmont Club wrote recently, left us utterly impotent to describe the acts of al Qaeda and others, which until the word lost its meaning and power were known as torture themselves. Surber writes:
The problem with the word “torture” is that it has been so artfully corrupted by some commentators that we now find ourselves at a loss to describe the kinds of activities that the al-Qaeda interrogation manual graphically recommends. Now that the term “torture” has been put in one-to-one correspondence with such admittedly unpleasant activities as punching, sleep deprivation, a handkerchief pulled over one’s face and loaded with water, searches by women upon sensitive Islamic men or the disrespectful handling of Korans — what on earth do we call gouging people’s eyes out?
There are two answers to that question. The first is that we call that “torture,” as well, and equate such acts as gouging out a person’s eye, or drilling a hole in their arm with a power drill, with such “torture techniques” as those complained of by Mahjid Khan, a Gitmo detainee who had been charged by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed with the mission of blowing up several gas stations in the Washington, D.C. area. Facing his Combatant Status Tribunal late last month, Mr. Khan complained of the “mental torture” he was suffering at the hands of his captors. This mental torture, according to his testimony, came as a result of being forced to endure “cheap unscented soap,” “noisy fans,” and half-inflated balls in the recreation yard that “hardly bounce.”
The second answer is that which Mr. Surber posits. He says:
Answer: we call it nothing. My fearless prediction is that not a single human rights organization will seriously take the matter up. There will be no demonstrations against these barbaric practices, often inflicted upon Muslims by other Muslims, in any of the capitals of the world. Not a single committee in the United Nations will be convened nor will any functionary in the European Union lose so much as a night’s sleep over it. The word for these activities — whatever we choose to call it — will not be spoken.
The second part of Mr. Surber’s answer, though, which must be supplied here, is this: regardless of what we decide to call such practices, the U.S. will be blamed for their being carried out. No matter what America does, and despite our holding ourselves to a higher standard of behavior than any other nation in existence, there will be those who see the U.S. as the greatest evil in the world, and as the source of all the world’s malcontents, criminals, and problems.
We need to understand that it does not matter how much we change our ways of doing business, or how much the hands of our military and other terrorist-fighting organizations are tied in the name of not provoking our enemies further. Those we are fighting in the Global War on Terror are not cut from the same cloth as the militaries against whom we have done battle in the past. They follow no rules but their own, and, rather than being reciprocated, no good deed we perform — and no concession we make — will go unpunished.
The United States formally banned “torture” last year in the foolishly naive hope that doing so would cause our enemies to be less brutal when our own citizens were captured. If last year’s case of Kristian Menchaca and Tom Tucker, and this year’s case of Joe Anzack, Alex Jimenez, and Byron Fouty, do not cause us to open our eyes to the fallacy inherent in such belief, then we really are in such great denial about the enemy that we are facing in the global war on terror that we have little, if any, hope of prevailing.