Sunday, October 31, 2010

Let's Put French Resistance Fighters on Trial. . . .

CanadianSense, one of the great thinkers and logicians of our age, or indeed any age, has deigned to comment on one of my Blog postings. Oh, with what pride I look upon my efforts now that someone of such reason and consistency has stooped to talk to me! Imagine my disappointment at the fact that I am compelled to disagree with CanadianSense, that paragon of . . . . well, sense. But I know that CanadianSense is so devoted to truth, logic, and consistency that he/she would want his/her admirers to point to the inconsistencies to which her/his mind, which usually operates like a steel-trap, has given birth. So here I go, in all humility, to point out the logical conclusion of the thoughts of this great Canadian mind.

CanadianSense, like so many, believe that it is perfectly legitimate to put Omar Khadr on trial based on the fact that he was not, in fact, as they say a "soldier." Presumably this definition of a 'soldier' is based in some sort of institutional legitimacy. In other words, a person, by this definition, is not a soldier if he or she is not a member of some nationally organized armed force with the power of a state apparatus behind it.

Now putting aside that many of the so-called non-combatants (a designation invented by the pentagon to de-legitimize their opponents) in Afghanistan would in fact qualify as soldiers under this very definition, let us look at some other people who might qualify as illegitimate soldiers.

-George Washington. Washington was appointed not by a legitimate government but by a group of self-appointed wealthy landowners to pursue their interests against England. The English, in fact, referred to Washington on more than one occasion as nothing but a terrorist. And if the English had been victorious in the war they surely would have hanged Washington as a non-combatant. (But of course the victor has written history here)

- All the so-called irregulars in the War of American Independence - including Ethan Allen. The self-appointed government of the thirteen colonies knew that they could not afford to muster a large enough regular, paid fighting force against the Crown. They therefore encouraged the use of irregular forces - that is non-paid, non-uniformed fighters who fought for the cause out of devotion rather than institutional legitimacy or money. It is interesting to keep in mind that there were quite a few French irregulars who fought for US independence because of their hatred for the British. Far from being put on trial, these French irregulars were lauded as heroes after the war.

The French Resistance - Thousands of French and non-French people fought in France against the German occupiers. These people had no uniforms, no payment, and usually no central direction. These people were responsible for the deaths of thousands of German soldiers. On the principle of consistency, CanadainSense surely believes that these individuals should be put on trial in Germany and these trials should include 'victim impact statements' from the living German relatives of the victims.

Blackwater Mercenaries - The US fought in the Iraq with the help of thousands of Mercenaries from the Blackwater corporation. They used these fighters specifically because they wanted many fighters who were not subject to US military rules.

I am sure that in the name of sense and consistency, Canadiansense and he/her compatriots would like to see all of these people brought to justice for killing individuals without military and institutional legitimacy.

It is interesting to note that Canadiansense and others attempt to legitimize the trial of Khadr by denying that he was in fact a child soldier. This is based on two claims - one, that since Khadr was not, in fact, a soldier, he could not be, therefore, ipso facto be counted as a "child-soldier." Two, they claim that Khadr was a willing participant. However, both of these claims are problematic. First, the vast majority of child-soldiers are part of irregular forces and international agreements are designed to make no distinction between 'regular' and 'irregular' child-soldiers. Second, international agreements do not distinguish between willing and unwilling participants when it comes to child-soldiers. This is because the global community recognizes that minors are not fit to make the requisite rational decisions concerning war situations.

Of course, the real difference at stake here is that the above individuals and groups represent "our" cause, the Western cause, the "good" cause. But Khadr represents what we believe is the 'wrong' cause, the evil cause, the 'bad' cause. As I said, the victor writes history, and unless we can live by our principles in war as well as in peace then we are the very enemy that we claim to despise. 
How are we to condemn others, in this case a child-soldier, for things that we are deeply guilty of on a grand scale? The US can kill hundreds of thousands of civilians and that is simply a statistic, while Khadr is guilty of killing one and is condemned to prison and torture. This is the very essence of hypocrisy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

while you're at it: there's one other bone-headed 'argument' Pennies has been advancing on, eg., Scott'sDiatribes: that (allegedly) the women & children were given the chance to flee the building when the Special Forces were advancing on them, & Omar, who was nearly 16 at the time, declined -- so, ahem, therefore he was not a child, but an adult.

(short v.: 'I'm a big boy, now')