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Kill 'Em All. No Sorting, Please.

In yesterday's New York Post, Ralph Peters opined about the best way to deal with prisoners in the war on terror: don't take any. He says that violent extremists should be killed on the spot and only very rarely captured. No doubt there are others who ascribe to this "take no prisoners" philosophy. But it raises a great deal of uneasy questions.

For starters, just who is this fate to be bestowed upon? One of Mr. Peters' qualifiers for why terrorists are so deserving of death is because of their employment of a civilian disguise in which to hide. Yet this is one of the problems that have plagued our troops since the insurgency took root. How do you know who the enemy is when you have no means of differentiating them from the general public? Was that man standing at the street corner up ahead the one who triggered the IED or was he just an innocent bystander on his way to the market? No doubt in Mr. Peters eyes, his simple presence would be enough justification for him to be mowed down.

And another troubling question is: What about "homegrown" terrorism, an issue with which we have become intimately familiar with over the last couple of months? In his column, Peters refers to "the battlefield" and was clearly limiting his no holds bar attitude to the conflict in Iraq. But the Bush administration has already argued that the US is part of that "battlefield". Surely Peters would be remised if this doctrine were not also applied to the "home front" in the global war on terror?

What about if they are only suspected of being involved in terrorism? Another qualifier that Peters stipulated should forfeit a terrorist's claim to continue to exist was an overt act. Pull a trigger, throw a grenade, denote a bomb, all of these should result in imminent death. How do you handle someone who is merely suspected of plotting such an act? Should they be awarded the same fate? Should the only thing to come out of the raid in Miami last month have been seven corpses?

And how far should this philosophy extend? Should we include on the list those who support terrorism but do not actually carry out the act? What about those who are against our involvment in Iraq? Since they are often labeled as "aiding and abetting" the terrorists, would attending an anti-war rally warrant a death sentence for the participants? Where does it end?

As Sen. John McCain put it when he was defending his amendment banning the cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment of prisoners captured by the US:
But it's not about them; it's about us. This battle we're in is about the things we stand for and believe in and pratice.

If we lower ourselves to their level, whose to say who the true winner will be in the end?

Update: Julie O. has her take on this and brings up some excellent points.

Much of the world harbors similar feelings toward the Bush junta over Iraq.

How ironic that neocon blabbermouths like this writer, Ralph Peters, can't see it.

He says that violent extremists should be killed on the spot and only very rarely captured.

Another wonderful example of someone refusing to think that matter through. Haven't we had enough of this type of nonsense?

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