The law [the Geneva Convention], however, is not an end in itself. It is a means to other ends. In the case of the Geneva Conventions, that end is the civilized conduct of warfare. The privilege of honorable treatment is the reward for conducting oneself with honor.
If the whole point of the rules is to promote human dignity, those who find themselves outside the protection of the rules belong in a black hole. The problem is not that the rules are wanting. It is that they don’t countenance barbarians.
It is that they understand repaying torture and slaughter with privilege guarantees only more torture and slaughter. More unspeakable inhumanity.
UPDATE: The Wall Street Journal chimes in:
June 22, 2006; Page A16
The Pentagon yesterday announced the names of seven Marines and a Navy corpsman charged with the April 26 kidnapping and murder of a 52-year-old Iraqi man in the town of Hamdania. The accusations are grave and, if proved, will almost certainly lead to severe sentences. We suspect no parallel process is taking place among Iraqi insurgents for the weekend murders near Yusufiya of U.S. soldiers Thomas L. Tucker and Kristian Menchaca.
That's a distinction worth pondering the next time you hear Iraq war critics carp at the U.S. refusal to apply Geneva Convention privileges to enemy combatants. The Convention extends those privileges to combatants who abide by the laws it sets for war, including the treatment of prisoners.
Combatants who fail to obey those laws -- by not wearing distinctive military insignia or targeting civilians -- are not entitled to its privileges. If they were, the very purpose of the Convention would be rendered a nonsense. And this is why the U.S. has refused Geneva privileges to the enemy combatants at Guantanamo, which we hope is an argument heeded by the Supreme Court as it decides the Hamdan case.
Especially so given the kinds of combatants the U.S. and the rest of the civilized world now face in Iraq. Privates Tucker and Menchaca were not simply ambushed, taken prisoner and killed. "The torture was something unnatural," said Major General Abdul Azziz Mohammed Jassim of Iraq's Defense Ministry, hinting at the state of the soldiers' remains. The corpses were so mutilated that they could only be positively identified through DNA testing.
Here, then, is the enemy we face in Iraq: Not nationalists or extremists or even fanatics, but something like a band of real-life Hannibal Lecters for whom human slaughter is both business and religious fulfillment. Following the killing, an Internet statement said to be from the Mujahadeen Shura Council praised Abu Hamza al-Muhajir -- who is Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's successor as head of Al Qaeda in Iraq -- with "the implementation of the sentence." Note the legalistic pretensions: This is the kind of "justice" Iraqis could expect should the insurgents come to power. And it is the enemy that might well come to power if the U.S. left Iraq prematurely, as many Senate Democrats urged yesterday.