The few, the good, the Christian

A new movie is out, documenting the horrific Rape of Nanking, when Japanese troops slaughtered about 200,000 Chinese people in a matter of weeks (and probably raped at least 20,000 women). The New York Times review discusses those few Westerners who stayed to help out, and saved thousands of people, but I wonder if the reviewer really understood the thread connecting all but one of those Westerners:

Many of the dozen witnesses are heroic men and women from Europe and the United States who remained in the city and saved thousands of lives by setting up a two-square-mile safety zone for the many thousands of civilians unable to evacuate.

Woody Harrelson reads the words of Bob Wilson, who was born in China, the son of an American missionary. He was the only surgeon to remain in Nanjing after the Japanese began bombing the city.

Mariel Hemingway speaks for Minnie Vautrin, a Christian missionary and chairwoman of the education department at Ginling College, who saved countless women from rape by hiding them from the marauding soldiers.

Jürgen Prochnow is John Rabe, an imperious German businessman and Nazi Party member, who used his status to try to halt the violence; when Mr. Rabe, who harbored 650 Chinese civilians on his estate, eventually returned to Germany, he was ordered never to speak of what he had seen.

Hugo Armstrong is John Magee, an Episcopal minister and amateur filmmaker who set up a hospital for wounded solders. “Nanking” includes excerpts from grainy 16-millimeter film he shot of the grotesquely disfigured patients. His film was smuggled out of the country at considerable peril and only discovered in Germany in the 1980s.

One is also left wondering whether Rabe, the odd man out in this community of brave Christians, was a hard core Nazi, or if he was an opportunist who joined the party for its economic benefits, in the same way that Oskar Schindler did.


Acts of war and criminal acts

People die in wars. As often as not, the people who die aren’t soldiers armed with guns and engaged in battle, but civilians caught in the cross fire. (There was even a civilian death at Gettysburg.) It’s almost impossible to imagine a war without the attendant horror of civilian deaths, whether through direct military action (bombs dropped on their homes, machine guns raking across their marketplaces), or indirect military action (food shortages, disease and exposure as a result of the war).

In less politicized times, the world has not called the indirect deaths of civilians a “war crime.” Instead, war crimes occur when military forces intentionally target unarmed civilians, either to spread a reign of terror that helps the military achieve its goals or, as in the case of the Nazis, to wipe a distinct segment of the human race from the face of the earth. The Nazis carried their war crimes to such horrific extremes that they resonate even now. (To get a sense of scale, immediately after the world realized the ferocity of the Rwandan slaughter, I read somewhere that the number of dead, and the pace at which they were killed, was equal to a mere ten days worth of killings during 1944 in the Nazi death camps.)

Because the Nazi crimes seem to be inescapable, a priest in the Ukraine has engaged in a massive project to interview Ukrainian citizens, many of whom were children at the time, and all of whom were co-opted to aid in the Jewish slaughter:

Children, stomachs empty and knees quivering, saw and heard Jews massacred by the Nazis all across the killing fields of Ukraine. Teenagers were forced to bury the victims, shoveling dirt over neighbors and playmates.

Today, these now aged men and women are unburdening themselves of wartime memories, many for the first time, in testimonies to a French priest. Their words may change history as they shed light on this poorly known chapter of the Holocaust.

The project is central to a broader reassessment of the Nazi horrors in Ukraine. Last month, a team of rabbis in another project visited a newly found grave site in the Ukrainian village of Gvozdavka-1 where thousands of Jews were killed during the occupation by Adolf Hitler’s army.

That was just one site among many: Father Patrick Desbois and his mixed-faith team have been crisscrossing Ukraine for six years and have located more than 500 mass graves so far, many never before recorded.

At least 1.5 million Jews were killed on hills and in ravines across Nazi-occupied Ukraine, most slaughtered by submachine guns before gas chambers industrialized mass death. Researchers are only now peeling back layers of Soviet-era silence about what they call the “Holocaust by bullets.”


The destruction of Ukrainian Jewry is symbolized by Babi Yar, a ravine outside the capital, Kiev, where the Nazis killed about 34,000 Jews during just two days in September 1941. But there were many other killing fields.

Read the rest here.

Father Desbois’ work is being made public in a big way as part of a Holocaust exhibit in Paris right now:

Part of Desbois’ work — video interviews with Ukrainian villagers, photographs of newly discovered mass graves, archival documents, bullets and shell casings — is on display for the first time in a haunting exhibit at Paris’ Holocaust Memorial through Nov. 30.

The AP story is illustrated by this picture of an ordinary middle aged man, wearing an ordinary overcoat, and what looks to be a nice tie, sitting on the edge of a large pit. At his back is a crowd of smug Nazis, in front of him, his ultimate destination, is a pit of dead Jews. At his head is a gun. Thanks to the Nazi obsession with recording their heinous acts for posterity, we are watching this man in the last second of his life:

All things considered, he looks surprisingly resigned. He’s so emaciated (he may be younger than middle aged, with the heightened aging one sees in starvation’s victims), that this is probably only the last stage in a horrible journey of fear and abuse. By this time, death may be welcome, and his only hope is that he takes a clean hit to the brain, and isn’t one of those unlucky ones at the bottom of the pit, slowly bleeding to death, in tremendous painand fear, as more and more bodies fall.

This type of slaughter of the innocents, not in the heat of battle, but in the coldness of race hatred, is one of the most horrifying things I can imagine. What makes it worse is that it’s not the past. It’s still the present. As Michael Yon documented in his chilling post Bless the Beasts and Children, Al Qaeda fighters and their fellow travelers, on a smaller scale, are going from village to village in Iraq and doing what the Nazis did: rounding up innocents, people living ordinary lives, dragging them over to pits, and shooting them.

Incidentally, if you think I’m doing some political twisting and turning here, you’re wrong. I come by my beliefs on this subject honestly.

As I’ve mentioned before, my mother was a prisoner of war of the Japanese in Indonesia, starting a month after Pearl Harbor and ending a month after Truman dropped the bomb. (That’s almost four years for the math or history challenged.) The experience was horrific. Indeed, one of her camp commandants was the only Japanese camp commander executed for war crimes. Nevertheless, my mother never had any hostility to the Japanese, although she did hold on to an abiding and fervent hostility for the Nazis. Why the difference, I asked? Because their motives were different, she said.

The Japanese were fighting war the old way, which was trying to obtain new territories. Faced with an existing civilian population which, in an earlier age they might have killed, they opted for the “modern” technique of isolating them in camps, with an ultimate plan to relocate them (something that, fortunately, never came to fruition, since American Marines will tell you that relocation meant death). The Nazis, on the other hand, were not dealing with civilians who got in the way of the battlefield. Their objective, which they carried out as brutally as possible, was to kill the civilians, something that ran on an entirely separate and parallel track from their effort to obtain geographical territory.

War seems to be hard-wired in the human brain, at least according to Nicholas Wade’s wonderful book Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors. Over the centuries, however, as we in the Judeo-Christian West have struggled away from this genetic destiny, we’ve tried to civilize the way we fight, by acknowledging the necessity of fighting, but trying to make civilians off limits as intentional targets. What was the ultimate evil about the Nazis wasn’t their territorial greed, but the fact that they abandoned entirely, on a hitherto unprecedented scale, the modern effort to tame war.

And what makes the jihadists such frightening and formidable enemies, whether they’re in Iraqi villages; flying planes over American soil and into American buildings; driving cars through London and Glasgow; planting bombs on Spanish trains; blowing up nightclubs; etc., is that they embrace, enthusiastically, the worst and least humane side of our human propensity for war. Only people who have abandoned reason and ethics entirely would attempt to make morally equivalent, on the one hand, a situation in which civilians are killed as part of war’s byproduct and, on the other hand, a situation in which armed marauders intentionally slaughter civilians like animals.

UPDATE:  Just so you can get a better handle on the sadistic string tying today’s Al Qaeda directly to yesterday’s Nazis, I offer you a couple of paragraphs from Michael Yon’s most recent post, Baqubah Update:  05 July 2007, about the successful operation to recover Baqubah from the Al Qaeda stranglehold.  Once in, Americans got some first hand reports about Al Qaeda’s recruitment tactics:

Speaking through an American interpreter, Lieutenant David Wallach who is a native Arabic speaker, the Iraqi official related how al Qaeda united these gangs who then became absorbed into “al Qaeda.” They recruited boys born during the years 1991, 92 and 93 who were each given weapons, including pistols, a bicycle and a phone (with phone cards paid) and a salary of $100 per month, all courtesy of al Qaeda. These boys were used for kidnapping, torturing and murdering people.

At first, he said, they would only target Shia, but over time the new al Qaeda directed attacks against Sunni, and then anyone who thought differently. The official reported that on a couple of occasions in Baqubah, al Qaeda invited to lunch families they wanted to convert to their way of thinking. In each instance, the family had a boy, he said, who was about 11-years-old. As LT David Wallach interpreted the man’s words, I saw Wallach go blank and silent.  He stopped interpreting for a moment. I asked Wallach, “What did he say?” Wallach said that at these luncheons, the families were sat down to eat.  And then their boy was brought in with his mouth stuffed. The boy had been baked.  Al Qaeda served the boy to his family.

Ann at her best

Ann Coulter can be too mean sometimes, and I think she undermines her points when she is. Sometimes, though, she’s right on the money, as she is in this article, some of which I quote here:

The “bipartisan” Iraq panel has recommended that Iran and Syria can help stabilize Iraq. You know, the way Germany and Russia helped stabilize Poland in ’39.


In a broadcast on the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, NBC’s Matt Lauer tried to nail down the Manhattan portion of his audience by aggressively questioning President Bush about the possible use of “waterboarding” against terrorists like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Lauer said ominously, “It’s been reported that with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, he was what they call ‘waterboarded.'”


There are few better examples of how out of touch leftists are. They go right to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and expect Americans to be outraged that he may have been waterboarded.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was the principal architect of the 9/11 attacks and is believed to have played a role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the Bali nightclub bombings, the filmed beheading of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, a thwarted 2002 attack on a bank tower in Los Angeles, and Operation Bojinka, a plot to blow up 11 commercial airliners simultaneously. Oh, and he took home the coveted “world’s craziest terrorist” prize at al-Qaeda’s end-of-season office party last year.

Sadly, the Democrats’ misplaced compassion (and I think it is seriously misplaced) didn’t prevent the Republicans from getting kicked out of office. It’s sad that Americans believe that Republicans are so inept and have failed so much to live up to conservative standards, that they (average Americans, that is) are willing to take just about anything in the Republicans place. Please, please, please, Republicans, get your priorities in order and your backbone in place before 2008. | digg it

Why the fratricide may still have been unexpected

Patrick O’Hannigan, my friend the Paragraph Farmer, used as the jumping off point for a wonderful article in The American Spectator a post of mine that had, in turn, commented favorably on a Dennis Prager article. Dennis Prager’s point, which was one I applauded, was that no one could have foreseen that the war in Iraq, which started as a military victory, would be derailed by a new tactic — Iraqis slaughtering their own citizens as part of their resistance. Prager pointed out that no Western war has ever seen that type of thing before. Patrick’s point is that Prager and I are both looking at this issue through that same Western perspective and that, if he, I, President Bush or the War’s architects had taken into account the nature of our enemy — fanatic Islamists — we wouldn’t have been so surprised.

As is always the case when Patrick is the one writing, I think he has a very good point — I’m just not sure that I agree with it. I agree that fanatic Islamists have no problems with fratricide. The Sudan is a good example, where the northern light-skinned Muslims practicing genocide against the Southern dark-skinned Muslims. Patrick is also correct that the war between Iran and Iraq — a Muslim on Muslim conflict, although not an Arab on Arab conflict — was exceptionally ferocious. Muslims don’t have a problem killing Muslims. Of course, as the wars that waged through the West have shown, whites don’t have a problem killing whites (an example is the Germans versus everyone else in two world wars) and Christians haven’t historically had a problem killing Christians (the Thirty Years War is a good example of that fact). Indeed, Americans haven’t even baulked at killing Americans, as we can see from both our Revolutionary War and the Civil War.

What’s different here, and where I’m willing to stick to my guns despite Patrick’s lucid and intelligent argument, is that this is a war where the losing side has determined that the slaughter of its own citizens is a legitimate and potentially successful tactic in the war against the enemy (the enemy being America). Thus, the “insurgents” (I prefer to think of them as “murderous terrorists”) have decided that they can best win the War as its being played out in the Western media, by slaughter their own citizens en masse. In other words, unlike ordinary wars where the slaughter of ones own kind (Christian v. Christian, American v. American, Iranian Muslim v. Iraqi Muslim) occurred because the two sides, while sharing common denominators, had significant geographic, religious or economic differences, the slaughter here is for headlines.

The Islamists have figured out that, if America is to lose this war, it will be lost, not on the battlefields, but in the headlines. They’ve also figured out that Americans have no stomach for a war with high fatalities, whether those fatalities occur amongst coalition troops or the enemy. This concept goes far beyond using ones own soldiers as cannon fodder (something Stalin did to good effect in World War II when he had to fight off the better equipped and trained Germany Army). What we’re seeing here is an enemy that, unable to kill Americans troops in significant numbers, has ratcheted up the War’s mortality figures by turning on their own — and that, I think is an unprecedented tactical maneuver that no war has ever seen before.

UPDATE: Comments here haved educated me to the fact that the Vietnamese did try the tactic of internal slaughter, although although not on the heroic scale we’re seeing in Vietnam. I also thought that the Tet offensive really was a last ditch effort to win, with Walter Cronkite being the unexpected bonus when there was no battlelfield victory. I freely admit my ignorance here. The military, however, should not have been ignorant. Knowing that these tactics were out there, I’d tend now to sidle back over to Patrick’s viewpoint, which is that the military should have been anticipated this outcome and should have (maybe it did?) advised the President accordingly.

I still question, though, whether this tactic should have been anticipated simply because the combatants are Muslims. Regular readers of this blog know that I believe jihadists, who have been sucked dry of the milk of human kindness and infused with a black bile of hatred, are our most dangerous enemies, and that the media and “progressive” thinking aid and abet them by trying to blind us to the threat and tie our hands when it comes to defending ourselves. Nevertheless, I think it’s distinctly possible that the tactic’s appearance in this War has little to do with Islam, and everything to do with asymmetrical war in a media age.

More on the virtues of a little perspective

Mr. Bookworm still finds troubling my political transformation, which is actually something I understand.  After all, when we stood under the chuppah so many years ago, he knew what he was getting — a stalwart Democratic life partner.  It was bad enough when his siblings, after 9/11, betrayed him by going conservative, but his wife!  I ask you!?  He’s fighting a rearguard action by bringing DVDs into the house that he presents to me without comment, in the hopes that I will rethink my new ideas and return to the fold.  I’m stubborn as an old pig, though, so I don’t think he’d better hold his breath.

In any event, as part of his effort, we watched two DVDs this weekend.  The first had no effect on me at all; the second, I think, was a disappointment to him, as tending to prove my case more than his.

The first DVD was Outfoxed : Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism, a movie made right before the 2004 election.  The movie’s basic premise was that Fox News, despite it’s “Fair and Balanced” logo actually has a conservative slant.  Were you ever more shocked?  I think the guys and gals who made the movie really think that members of the American public watch people like Bill O’Reilly, Neil Cavuto, and the other regulars, and are hornswoggled into thinking that these commentators aren’t biased.  In fact, O’Reilly, Cavuto, et al are a blessed breath of fresh air in the media in that they’re so absolutely up front about their biases.  The Fox News audience, unless it’s really as dumb as the liberal establishment thinks it is, knows precisely what it’s getting and, judging by the numbers, that’s precisely what it wants:  commentary that doesn’t pretend to be balanced, all the while hiding a profound agenda.

In any event, the main “horror” and “scandal” shaming Fox (that it supports the President) could just as easily be applied in mirror image to the other 90% of the broadcast media (they all hate the President).  The shame, though, is greater for the latter, because they don’t have the decency to admit that bias.  I’d read the NY Times with much more interest and pleasure if it would stop hiding in the closet about its biases.

The second DVD, which also dates from 2004, was much more impressive than the above piece of hysterical polemic.  Mr. Bookworm and I just finished watching Voices of Iraq, a movie by and about the Iraqi people.  The gimmick is that the producers shipped 150 digital video cameras into Iraq in 2004, and let the Iraqi people film themselves.  The movie is about 95% footage by and about Iraqis, but it does include, at rare intervals, (i) American newspaper headlines that seem to be at odds which or exaggerations of the story on the ground; and (ii) videos of staged riots and Hussein era torture.

What was fascinating was how different the story the Iraqis tell about themselves is from the American media talking head version.   Once the handheld videocams found their way out of Fallujah, where they were hostile to Americans, and Baghdad, where they were understandably resentful of the great hardships imposed on their previously urban lives, you heard from people who were grateful to have Hussein gone, regardless of the hardships.

These grateful ones were the people who had survived Hussein era torture, and who laughed at the idea that being stripped naked and having your genitals fondled could be considered torture.* They were the Kurds who have living memories of Hussein’s slaughter of almost 200,000 Kurds, as well as his poison gas attacks on their villages.  They were the Marsh People, who live at the heart of the ancient Fertile Crescent (Ur), who were displaced and almost destroyed when Saddam deliberately drained their swamps.  The list of people grateful for Saddam’s downfall, and willing to put up with almost any hardship as long as he was gone, was phenomenal.

It was also amazing to see the liberality of thought so many Iraqis displayed — a fact daily obscured by the evening news.  Somehow it seems timely to point out in this regard that one of the biggest attacks the Outfoxed movie makers had against Fox News was that it had the temerity to show good news coming out of Iraq.  Lies, lies, lies, the movie makers implied.

I’m not so naive that I think things are wonderful in Iraq.  God knows that, if my home were reduced to intermittent moments of electricity and water, I’d be disconsolate.  I’d be even more unhappy if IEDs plagued my City.  But, on balance, I might still be happy to see the last of a man who led my country in an eight year war that saw 400,000 of my fellow citizens dead;** a man who committed genocide against hundreds of thousands of Kurds (including using chemical weapons against them); a man (and his sons) who routinely used unimaginable torture against those who merely disagreed with him; and a man who thought it was good public policy to behead people on street corners.  The film says that the low estimates for the Iraqi deaths under Saddam’s watch are one million people, with the highs coming in at about six million.  Freedom with limited electricity has to be preferable to life in that kind of nationwide torture chamber.

In the same way, I’d be deathly afraid of the Islamic death squads trying to impose their reign of terror throughout Iraq.  I’d recognize that, until matters stabilize somewhat, America is the only bulwark against Iraq falling to the Iraqi equivalent of the Taliban.  And I’d be damned resentful of American politicians and citizens who now want to cut and run — even if I wished that the Americans hadn’t come in the first place.

One last thought, which I’ll throw in here because I don’t have another place to put it — while most of use remember only a Germany resurgent in the late 1950s and onwards, thanks to the fact that the Americans got rid of the Nazis and instituted the Marshall plan, few of us like to dwell on the appalling period immediately after WWII ended.  Much of Germany was in ruins; the continent was crawling with war refugees, who were augmented with those escaping the Iron Curtain; and the Americans were unpopular with unregenerate Nazis (just as they are now unpopular with the Baathists).  It never occurred to the Americans, though, to walk away.  Instead, they stuck it out until Germany was back on her feet.  I’m pleased to say that, in another war sixty years later, with Bush at the helm, Americans are following the same pattern and staying the course.


*You don’t need to be reminded, do you, of the despair that current Abu Ghraib residents felt when the Americans turn the prison back over to the Iraqis?  Our polls and papers may still feel a squirmy masturbatory excitement when they think about America’s humiliation over the Abu Ghraib scandal, but those Arabs at the receiving end of real torture, as opposed to degradation (which I don’t countenance or support) know the difference.
**No one needs to remind me that the U.S. at this time sided with Iraq, on the principle that the enemy of my enemy was my friend.  The war started in 1980, while Iran still held the hostages, so I really don’t think you can blame the U.S. too much for sending words of encouragement when Saddam’s itchy megalomania had him facing off with the Iranians.

Mark Steyn puts Gitmo and Leahy’s rants in perspective

Mark Steyn just got back from a Gitmo visit.  In his most recent column, he describes what he saw there (better living than my “neighbors” in San Quentin, that’s for sure), and contrasts it with Leahy’s unhinged rant over trials for military terrorists:

[I]t surely requires a perverse genius to have made the first terrorist detention camp to offer homemade Ramadan pastries a byword for horror and brutality. If I had to summon up Gitmo in a single image, it would be the brand-new Qurans in each unoccupied cell. To reassure incoming inmates that the filthy infidels haven’t touched the sacred book with their unclean hands, the Qurans are hung from the walls in pristine surgical masks. It’s one thing for Muslims to regard infidels as unclean, but it’s hard to see why it’s in the interests of the United States government to string along with it and thereby validate their bigotry.

When I put this point to Adm. Harris, he replied, “That’s an interesting question,” and said the decision had been made long before he arrived. He explained that they had a good working system whereby whenever it became necessary to handle a Quran — because a weapon or illicit communication had been concealed in it — a Muslim translator would be called to the cell to perform the task. But I wasn’t thinking of it in operational so much as psychological terms: What does that degree of abasement before their prejudices tell them about us? Mulling it over since I got back, I’d go further: It seems to me that one sign this war is over is when Muslims are grown-up enough not to go to full-blown baklava nuts over other folks touching their Qurans.

How to treat our current crop of enemies

I’ve often opined that the Left is stuck in Gandhi mode. This is the believe that the only possible form of resistance is the non-violent type. To that, I always point out that this worked for Gandhi because the other side was England which, in those days, didn’t have the stomach for bloody massacres (something that, presumably, will be different once the Muslims take the helm). Ann Coulter, who often walks a thin line between brilliance and savage vulgarity, gets it:

The belief that we can impress the enemy with our magnanimity is an idea that just won’t die. It’s worse than the idea that paying welfare recipients benefits won’t discourage them from working. (Some tiny minority might still seek work.) It’s worse than the idea that taxes can be raised endlessly without reducing tax receipts. (As the Laffer Curve illustrates, at some point – a point this country will never reach – taxes could theoretically be cut so much that tax revenues would decline.)

But being nice to enemies is an idea that has never worked, no matter how many times liberals make us do it. It didn’t work with the Soviet Union, Imperial Japan, Hitler or the North Vietnamese – enemies notable for being more civilized than the Islamic savages we are at war with today.

By the way, how did the Geneva Conventions work out for McCain at the Hanoi Hilton?

It doesn’t even work with the Democrats, whom Bush kept sucking up to his first year in office. No more movie nights at the White House with Teddy Kennedy these days, I’m guessing.

It was this idea (Be nice!) that fueled leftists’ rage at Reagan when he vanquished the Soviet Union with his macho “cowboy diplomacy” that was going to get us all blown up. As the Times editorial page hysterically described Reagan’s first year in office: “Mr. Reagan looked at the world through gun sights.” Yes, he did! And now the Evil Empire is no more.

It was this idiotic idea of being nice to predators that drove left-wing crime policies in the ’60s and ’70s – leading like night into day to unprecedented crime rates. Now these same leftist ninnies want to extend their tender mercies not just to rapists and murderers, but to Islamic terrorists.

Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Ronald Reagan, and Winston Churchill had a different idea: Instead of rewarding bad behavior, punish bad behavior. How many times does punishment have to work and coddling have to fail before we never have to hear again that if we treat terrorists well, the terrorists will treat our prisoners well?

Fortunately, history always begins this morning for leftists, so they can keep flogging the same idiotic idea that has never, ever worked: Be nice to our enemies and they will reward us with good behavior.

And before someone runs away with the idea that I’m advocating torture of the type that springs to mind when one thinks of Torquemada or the Gestapo, I’m not. I am entirely comfortable, however, with the idea that known enemy combatants — that is, people who have already embraced the idea of physical risk to achieve their goals in the first instance — can be subject to coercive tactics if those tactics might yield information that will prevent attacks against Americans.

Coercive tactics, in my book, do not include savage beatings, electrocutions, burning, racking, pressing, bone breaking, “scientific” experiments, rape, flaying, etc. They do, however, include sleep deprivation, cold, hunger or loneliness at levels, and for lengths of time, that, while not causing permanent damage or bringing a person anywhere near death, nevertheless make someone willing to spill some beans in order to be returned to a more acceptable level of physical comfort.

And just to clarify further, when I mention coercive techniques in the context of the current war, I’m talking about using them against combatants who do not fight under the banner of nations that have signed the Geneva convention. This isn’t just a pure legalism. It’s practical. If a nation has entered the Geneva convention, it is a defined entity that has a physical location (such as, say, France) and that has representatives (say, Chirac). You can find it and you can speak to it. If you’ve got Joe Shmo (or, should I say, Mohammed Al-Shmo) from Turkey, via Britain and Germany, who owes his allegiance to a small branch of terrorists that’s loosely affiliated with Al Qaeda, with whom are you going to negotiate?

UPDATE: Deroy Murdock has another excellent article on the Western fallacy that “being nice” to zealots, fanatics and sadists will change their behavior.