So Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, stated in his tribunal that:
His actions, he said, were like those of other revolutionaries. Had the British arrested George Washington during the Revolutionary War, Mr. Mohammed said, “for sure they would consider him enemy combatant.”
Yes they would. More to the point, they could have classified him as a traitor subject to summary execution upon capture. Indeed, that is fate that the Founders expected when they signed the Declaration of Independence, following Benjamin Franklin’s famous admonishment that, “We must all hang together or assuredly we will all hang separately.”
As events turned out, the British never really grasped just how angry and determined the colonials felt and decided to pursue reconciliation by treating most of the rebels with kid gloves. The colonial rebels also helped matters by strictly adhering to the conventions of humane warfare of the day. Had the regular colonial army resorted to executing British soldiers or hanging every loyalist in its power, things would have gotten ugly in a hurry. However, everyone, including the Founders, recognized the right of any sovereign entity to execute those who rebelled against it. When the Founders signed their names to the Declaration of Independence, they knew they might be signing their death warrants. (Contrary to myth, the British executed none of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.)
Beyond their adherence to the rules of war, American revolutionary leaders (even the Confederates of the civil war) differed from men such as Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in that they did not simply appoint themselves warlords and initiate hostilities on their own individual moral authority. George Washington served under the orders of the Continental Congress, a body elected by the majority of the electorate in every colony. He did not raise his own banner and attack whomever he liked, whenever and however he liked. He believed himself bound by law and tradition. He believed his moral right to wage war arose from the explicit delegation of power from the people, not from some vague inferred moral authority derived from some tenuous rationalization.
Self-appointed revolutionaries such as Khalid Shaikh Mohammed like to claim similitude with revolutionary leaders such as Washington, yet they reject the very attributes that made such leaders truly great. Washington was willing to hang if he failed, because law and tradition demanded it. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed breaks every law and tradition in the book and whines when he is called to account.
The differences do not get any clearer than that.
[Note:Tribunal transcript in PDF. Quote on page 23]
26 thoughts on “Hanging George Washington”
I agree completely with your analysis.
I will split hairs in addition to it, though. In fact, I think this is quite an important hair to split.
“enemy combatant” is a term derived from the Geneva Convention, if I’m not mistaken. There were no such distinctions in Washington’s day. While terrorists love to sneer at the distinction, it is vitally important if the Geneva Convention is to be anything but a meaningless piece of paper.
You missed the key difference between the American founders and Khalid Mohammed. The American revolutionaries were trying to create an independent country from Great Britain. They did not attack Great Britain or Europe for the purposes of spreading their ideology into Europe. Khalid Mohammed, on the other hand, is not meerly trying to secure an idependent middle-east from the rest of the world. He is trying to spread his ideology (islam) to the rest of the world.
The American revolutionaries were inherently defensive. The jihadis are inherently offensive. This is the only issue that is relevant to discussion.
Of course, it goes without saying that none of the founders held up a head they had sawed off a man, merely for his ethnicity and, perhaps, his journalist’s job; that none would have boasted of such an act is obvious.
If any of the terrorists will, as George Washington did, lay down their sword after a military victory and accept the decisions of a representative body, I will see some similarity to Washington. If any of the terrorists will argue (and most importantly win) a case in which they are defending American soldiers in their own courts and with a jury of their peers, then I will see similarities with the founders. If any of the terrorists, once achieving power, retire from office rather than let the unfortunate pattern of serving until they die be formed, then I will see similarities with the founders.
The founders were not men without flaws but they exercised restraint in ways few have before or after. They honestly believed a free land & representative government was worth personal sacrifice. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed has shown in ways too numerous to mention that he has none of their values, is working toward none of their goals, and has none of their restraint. If I were him, I wouldn’t make such comparisons because they only indicate how far he strays from that model.
Actually, I think Khalid meant to say that “illegal combatant” instead of “enemy combatant.” The entire concept of “enemy combatant” is an oxymoron except when it applies to a traitorous citizen. Otherwise, there is nothing nefarious about being an “enemy combatant.” An “enemy combatant” is just a soldier on the other side.
Under the standard of the day, Washington and the other Founders were subjects of the British crown and as such automatically defined as traitors should they violently rebel. As such, they faced summary execution if captured. Washington et al believed they had the moral right to rebel but they did not believe themselves exempt from the traditional punishment for rebels.
I do agree that it is the erosion of the distinction between the legal and the illegal combatant that threatens the Geneva convention and other standards of humane warfare. If anyone has the right to decide to use any tactic, by what grounds would we punish anyone for any act?
The American revolutionaries were inherently defensive. The jihadis are inherently offensive. This is the only issue that is relevant to discussion.
I disagree. The jihadis would argue that we are in fact engaged in a near century long invasion and occupation of Islamic lands. Basing laws of war on who started what won’t work. We need very explicit rules and standards that will work for any circumstances regardless of who might be blamed for any particular conflict.
Shannon Love: just the fact we are not Muslims and our lands are not under sharia is enough justification for us to be warred against.
The Muslims engaged in Jihad against Europe from 7th Century up until 11 Sept 1683 when the roll back started to happen at Vienna. It was only the West’s superior military force that restrained the Jihad from 1683 through 2001.
The Jihad is back on. And they admit this. They are not fighting defensive war. Once they reestablish the Caliphate State, the call will go out via every legitimate Islamic body of jurisprudence that the time has now come for Offensive Jihad by Muslims all over the world.
The Caliphate State is a primitive delusion of jihadists largely incapable of even rendering the abstractions necessary for a modern society. The sooner we start treating jihad as a chronic condition rather than an existential threat, the sooner we can resume our role as a modern democracy. We can no more win a “War on Terrorism” than a “War on Poverty’ or a “War on Drugs” or a “War on Cancer”. “War” is the wrong meme – “response” or even “process” is a better approach – let’s get more toward “MI6” and less of “DoD”. We simply don’t have the resources to kill them all and let God sort them out, no matter how appealing that may be.
Shannon, your post on Washington vis a vis the jihadist is brilliant – maybe your best ever – and this quality of thought is what draws me back to Chicago Boyz every time I swear off. I miss Lex but I would guess he is off looking for a better cause than Bush-apologist. I gave that up in 2001. Sadly our GOP continues toward the rent-seeking bottom rather than the high road out of this mess.
This murderous terrorist is merely adopting a personna legitimized by repeated use of the term “revolutionary” by every two-bit terrorist since the 1800’s.
Especially during the Cold War, there was a never ending stream of supposed “indigenous revolutions” manned by “nationalist revolutionaries” who were always legitimately engaged in a conflict to free their downtrodden peoples from “Western imperialist capitalism”. It would be interesting if someone could go back and collect all the fawning news articles and interviews with and about these guys, inevitably written with a sort of wide-eyed amazement that anyone could ever be so brave and dedicated to “the people” as these stalwart freedom fighters.
Meanwhile, as recent archival investigation has clearly shown in case after case, the reality of the situation was that every single group was a wholly owned subsidiary of the Soviets or Chinese—funded, directed, trained, and supported (no matter what gruesome things they did), all the while the world community and media played three monkeys to maintain the pretense.
As has happened repeatedly in the messages and videos from the terrorists, sheik sawblade has merely adopted the rhetoric and convenient disguise of a stock character on the world stage.
It’s a bizzarro version of “The Importance of Being Earnest”, with the beheader diligently playing the role of Earnest, and all the critics resolutely pretending that the blood is just “stage” stuff, and all the knives collapsible.
I firmly believe that there will come a day of reckoning for these “useful idiots”, especially as the traditional media are losing their stranglehold on what is or isn’t disseminated, and the internet is often able to get the real story out regardless of the official version’s obfuscations.
Comversations like this one are an integral part of that process.
It doesn’t matter how loudly the wizard bellows about ignoring the man behind the curtain—people are looking right through all the smoke, and they can see him twirling the dials.
Shannon said: “Washington and the other Founders were subjects of the British crown and as such automatically defined as traitors should they violently rebel. As such, they faced summary execution if captured. Washington et al believed they had the moral right to rebel but they did not believe themselves exempt from the traditional punishment for rebels. ”
This perception, of both the rebels and the English, was especially held at the beginning. As time went on I believe a gradual legitimization – again in the minds on both sides – happened and of course at the end, at Yorktown, the world was turned upside down. God help us if legitimization of people like K.S.Mohammed grows in the minds of the general populations of the world. Timely action, timely defense, it seems to me is key to the justification of US presence in wooly parts of the world, and in Iraq, specifically.
It occurs to me that this same reasoning will not, or should not, logically allow room in this world for the creation of states founded by tyrannical-minded terrorists.
Your opinion matters very little. The fact is THEY believe it. And it’s clear they are working toward it all over the world. Don’t believe me? Read what they say themselves. Their religion calls for it in their foundational texts. Any Muslims who wants to engage in this project will find all the justification they need within Islam.
What an odd statement. Terrorism (Jihadism rather) as a nusuance was the US policy pre-2001. The role you think we left was ‘ended’ by the attacks that were the result of underplaying the threat. You want a repeat of it. amazing.
You’re sorta right.. as long as we call this “The War on Terrorism” we are not really fighting it. When we call it the “War against Islam Jihad” , then we will be.
James A Pacella,
My point is that the nature or validity of a conflict should not dictate the rules by which it is fought.
Washington understood this distinction. The Founders pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to their cause. The pledged to sacrifice all they had. They didn’t claim a moral right to kill as many people by whatever means in order to accomplish their goal.
The Jihardist and their Leftist enablers advance the idea that if a cause is just, then any individuals has the right to use any means of violence without censure or penalty. When you argue with a Leftist about war crimes, they immediately shift the debate to a question of whether the war is just or not. They lack the concept of a rule of law that applies to all or none.
It is that concept of the rule of law that the Founders understood and which we must preserve. Today we face Jirhadist but yesterday we faced communist and who knows what we will face tomorrow. We shouldn’t get bogged down in debating the specifics of each particular conflict of each particular era.
The historical record suggests that Washington and the other Founders probably would not have been hung. After Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660, only those directly responsible for the execution of his father (a questionable action, legally) were executed. Many of the Jacobites from the 1745 rebellion were pardoned; Flora MacDonald, who helped Bonnie Prince Charlie escape, was pardoned, and she ended up leading loyalist forces in battle in North Carolina during the American War of Independence.
Washington probably would have become a hero to British Romantics in the early 1800s, and young guys in the American country areas would probably paint the Stars and Stripes on the hoods of their cars (although they might be called the “bonnets”.) The Anglosphere is big on sentimentalizing Lost Causes.
Well ok… but who’s recommend we “kill as many people” now? I dont know anyone (other than the Jihadis) who said or want that. I don’t want that.
I’m really missing your point , or your point is so self-evident that I dont see. Invoking the rule of law… i’m not sure anyone has called for lawlessness.
“Your opinion matters very little. The fact is THEY believe it. And it’s clear they are working toward it all over the world. Don’t believe me? Read what they say themselves. Their religion calls for it in their foundational texts. Any Muslims who wants to engage in this project will find all the justification they need within Islam.”
“THEY” are a lunatic fringe, not a coherent target for military action. We need a concerted effort to identify and eliminate as many as possible, but the objective risk does not justify clanking about with the full weight of the USA military at a cost of $billions PER DAY to root out, say, 50,000 lunatics among a billion civilians. Do the math: We soon will have spent a TRILLION dollars (not to mention the blood) to pursue 50,000 madmen: $20 Million per madman. No matter how deranged and dangerous they are, they are simply not worth it, and we have no assurance our $trillion has discouraged them at all. Not to even mention the toothless incompetent honeypot that is “Homeland Security”.
“Terrorism (Jihadism rather) as a nusuance was the US policy pre-2001. The role you think we left was ‘ended’ by the attacks that were the result of underplaying the threat. You want a repeat of it. amazing.”
I didn’t say it was a nuisance, but I did say it is not an existential threat to the modern world. We need to focus an appropriate (certainly not cheap or superficial as pre 9/11) surveillance/response/proaction on the cockroaches, not a ponderous B-2/DoD/NuclearCarrier/US_MarineCorps invasion of freakin Iraq/Iran/Syria/WhereDoYouStop. We will avert 99.9 percent of the attacks, and we may very well endure some homicide bombings, but we cannot let this conflict become the defining issue of our nation.
“You’re sorta right.. as long as we call this “The War on Terrorism” we are not really fighting it. When we call it the “War against Islam Jihad” , then we will be. ”
We may not be as far apart as you think – I wish these guys no comfort, no sanctuary, no legitimacy, no survival. But they are not organized in a way that we can have a “war” as we have heretofore known it; it has to be a largely invisible knife-fight in the shadows, where hopefully they will have knives and we will have double-tapping Sig-Sauers they never see coming, augmented by WMD-component and funding tracking, strict border control, and no meddling in the fight by Islamic governments or institutions – at peril of THEIR personal existence, not occupation of their miserable territory.
Kurt, your first post is an EXCELLENT point.
The fact is that the Muslims have struggled for some kind of Caliphite state since inception. The problems with a Caliphite are largely the same problems as those with the Soviet state. Too much control is held at the top and people will always fight against that. it’s human nature. That’s why the original Caliphite fell apart almost immediately. The global Caliphite is a Utopian illusion rivaling Marxian Communism. Not only have Muslims been slaughtering Westerners in the name of the Caliphite delusions, but they are also into their second century of slaughtering each other for it. Seems there’s such a thing as “not Muslim enough”.
Don Hodge: the people who are willing to actually blow themselves up are probably the fringe. But they have the support of the wider Muslim world. In Egypt, which is considered to be a “moderate” country, I was lectured on the evils of capitalism and the “oppression” suffered by Muslims as a direct result of the very existence of Israel – which accounts for “90% of our problems”. In addition to Israel, there’s a long list of inane complaints. As it turns out, the Arabs had nothing to do with any of their failings but were 100% responsible for every scientific discovery (made mostly by scientists whom Muslims declared “heretics” in their lifetime) and war victory. Incidentally, they call conquests “Openings”. I guess you could call the conquest of Constantinople an “opening” as Constantinople was sacked and eviscerated – but I’m certain that’s not what they mean by “opening”. Finally, I was reminded during the sermon portion of Friday prayers in an ordinary mosque in Cairo recently of the “spotless history of Islam”. In a country where illiteracy exceeds 50% and where almost all academic literature is not translated into Arabic besides, the populace believes whatever is fed to them by the pulpit. As much as I would love to believe we’re dealing with a lunatic fringe here, experience teaches me otherwise.
This information was collaborated by the UN. In the early 2000s, a UN agency released an index of human development and the Islamic Middle Eastern countries have worse indexes than all of Africa.
yes, James. I believe you’re referring to the UNDP report. Here are some more pathetic stats that I happen to remember from that report:
1.) The GDP of all Arab speaking countries combined equaled the GDP of Spain. At the time, Spain was only the 9th largest economy and, obviously, there were a lot more Arabs than Spaniards.
2.) roughly 10,000 volumes are translated into Spanish annually. That is the same number of volumes that have been translated into Arabic over the past 50 years.
3.) The number of volumes in the Saudi Arabia National Library (their closest equivalent to the Library of Congress) is roughly equal to a branch library in a small Ohio town (I don’t remember the name of the town).
4.) Illiteracy among women in Egypt (one of the better educated countries in the “Arab” world) is around 60%
Some large percentage of Arabs believe in magic (don’t remember the exact amount).
This is just what I remember. The rest of the report was similarly depressing and available online.
The idea that the West is engaged in a century-long invasion is refuted several ways:
1) The West pays for oil to the amount of Hundreds of Billions of dollars per year. Invaders pay for nothing.
2) The Turkish Caliphate entered WWI of its own free will, however foolish the Turks were. The Caliphate entered the war on the side of the Central Powers which ended up losing the war. As a sample result, France got reparations and Alsace-Lorraine from Germany, and Syria from the Turks. France has long given up Syria. The British have given up Iraq. The takedown of Saddam Hussein is not directed to reestablishing that colonialism.
Methinks: Yes, that was the report I read. I have to admit to not having high expectations of the folks in the Middle East but that report shocked the hell out of me… the extent of thier depravity is so profound. This is another reason we’re in Iraq.
Arab Society has failed the Arabs.. the only thing they have left is thier faith (the actual root cause of the problem, but that’s another story).
Amongst all the other reasons we’re there, we are there to offer a way out of Arab Failed Nationalism and Islamic Jihad.
Like Bernard Lewis recently said “We give them freedom or they destory us”
Indeed, James. I completely agree.
Fred wrote: “The Turkish Caliphate entered WWI of its own free will, however foolish the Turks were. The Caliphate entered the war on the side of the Central Powers which ended up losing the war. As a sample result, France got reparations and Alsace-Lorraine from Germany, and Syria from the Turks. France has long given up Syria. The British have given up Iraq. The takedown of Saddam Hussein is not directed to reestablishing that colonialism.”
Too true. This is not the way it is viewed in the Middle East, though. This period in history is viewed as “oppression” of the Arabs because (and I kid you not) they are the “keepers of Islam”. The people holding this opinion are HIGHLY educated and well traveled. The view that somehow the West is still somehow oppressing the Arabs and that is the reason for their wretched state is also widely held. The place is rife with conspiracy theories from US world domination to the US growing “special radio-active corn” to kill Muslims with cancer because they are “the keepers of Islam”. The oil we buy is viewed as “raping Arabia of its resources”. They actually believe that the real price of oil is much higher than we are paying. There is zero understanding of the oil cartel’s effect on price in most of the Middle East.
The most scary thing of all is that logic has no place in discussions. Aggressive assertion is the only underlying argument for theories presented by them, while alternative arguments are subjected to an impossible standard of proof. Even with mountains of empirical evidence, the alternative argument will be simply dismissed. It’s truly chilling.
It seems you first-hand observers are confirming the total irrelevance of Islam to modern thought and endeavor. How is the presence of 140,000 American military volunteers in Iraq going to effect any significant change, much less achieve our still-to-be-explained objectives? What you describe is a chronic if not intractable state of affairs that cannot be reformed from this side of the Atlantic. When this war option came up I suggested we could not do much there unless we were prepared to stay 300 years like the Romans and be just as ruthless. As Shannon pointed out in the post, our society long ago got beyond that option.
Nothing much has changed except we have run up a tab the drunkest sailor could not dream of and we are casting about desperately to find a way out but only after the dream team that got us in has gone on to the World Bank, major league baseball, or whatever dalliance such poseurs do after they leave the stage.
The plainest infantryman knows that a field army (air force/navy) is for killing people and blowing things up, but only if the enemy can be identified and aggregated where massed force is efficient. That is simply not our present problem, so we need to develop a force more appropriate to the task. Iraq will rapidly regain its own perverse equilibrium after we leave whether it is sooner or later. Just last week no less a warrior than Dick Cheney said the departure of the British was a good thing and in line with our objectives – what would he have said if the British sent in 20,000 more troops? “Oh no, don’t do that, it is not in line with our objectives (which include adding 20,000 more American troops.)” No wonder the Jon Stewarts of the world are wildly popular – the US govt is writing their script.
Over and out – still one of the best blogs in all salon-dom.
Don, While some of what you say is true, part of the reason it is this way is the repressive regimes in the region. Without another alternative and with the Saudis using their wealth to fund Wahhabi madrassas, countries which were once more liberal have become more Islamist. Egypt is an excellent example of that. The revolution of 1952 brought Nasser to power. Nasser chose to inflict Stalinist totalitarianism and socialism on the country instead of Democracy and free markets. As the country deterioriorated with every passing year, people became desperate and began to seek solace in the only limited places they could. It is widely agreed that democracy would have worked (and the economy was already free market) in 1952 as the population was very liberal. Almost Nobody wore 7th century Arab clothing and nobody said stuff like “Islam is the answer”. So, instead of continuing to progress, Egypt has been in a steady retrogression for the past 50 years. When speaking to older Egyptians, they all agree that the country is nothing like what it was half a century ago and can point to concrete changes that are considered regressive by any measure (except the Islamists’). This retrogression breeds extremism but those things are not necessarily the natural state of Arabs or people who self-identify as “Muslims”.
Democracy is possible. But there are too many strongmen for Arabs to accomplish this on their own. The Iraqis with whom I am in contact in Iraq right now want it, understand it and are willing to make sacrifices to get it – including sacrificing their dogma. I obviously don’t know all Iraqis but they tell me that this is the general attitude. This view has been confirmed by several people who have visited Iraq recently and were surprised to discover this as they expected the opposite. The fighting there right now has nothing to do with a disdain for a free society and much more to do with the interference of Iran, Syria, Al Qaida and infighting between strongmen. All of these totalitarian regimes are threatened by the success of democracy. If Iraq thrives under democracy – and it surely will – there is a higher probability that other Arab countries will overthrow their dictators. incidentally, the free market is completely within the Arab mindset as they have traditionally been traders. There will be no adjustment there.
In addition, the war was as much about taking Saddam out of power before he got nukes as anything else, in my opinion. He openly boasted that he will take over the entire Arabian peninsula (and all of its oil) once he got nuclear weapons. Because we’re talking about a critical commodity completely under the control of a meglomaniac here, he would have been in a position to deal a massive blow to the world economy. And I’m certain he would have. Because of his nuclear arms, we would not have been able to stop him. The world would literally be at his mercy in this scenario. Thus, for me, the war was about preventing someone who could have been more destructive than Hitler and Stalin combined (and was proud of that!). Given this, in my opinion, the cost of the war is far smaller than the cost of leaving him in power. You may argue that the cost of the war is greater than the cost of containing Saddam. Because the scenarios are mutually exclusive, we will never know for sure. However, I should say that containment of the soviet union was a lot easier than Saddam would have been.
Regardless of what we should have done, we know that we must win now that we’re in the war. Contrary to popular belief, the terrorists don’t use the war to recruit. They use retreat as a recruiting tool. The belief is that we won’t stand and fight. The fact that Israel didn’t bomb Lebanon into oblivion in the last war was taken as a sign of weakness and the talk is now very bold indeed about driving Isreel into the sea, as it were. Similarly, our retreat from Mogadishu and lack of response to the embassy bombings were all powerful recruiting tools.
So, that’s why I, at least, support the war and don’t support leaving. Of course, the best course of action in prosecuting the war is beyond my capability to figure out. Perhaps I’m speaking only out of ignorance of modern war tactics but I think we need more troops and they need to be far more aggressive. Each attack will cost more human lives but there would be fewer attacks and fewer total lives will be lost by the end of the war. But, then, I’m largely ingorant in specifics of war strategy.
YES YES YES. Oh you’re like sweet sweet music to my ears. Finally another person says the truth.
Failure only validates thier creed. If they think they beat us with the undeniable assistance of Allah that only makes them grow more vile and stronger.
That’s why I react with such contempt to thoose who think we need to surrender in Iraq.
If the problem were confined to 50,000 active terrorists they would have been removed from society long ago by the other billion Muslims who outnumber them. The larger problem is the support these guys get from many segments of the general population. There are 50,000 willing to put their lives on the line, but there are millions supporting and encouraging them.
Elliot: isn’t it strange how people can think the Islamic Radicals are totally removed from any legitimacy within Islam..
Are we to beleive that Muslims… who burn down embassies at the slightest provacations would tolerate the Radicals if the Radicals were Unislamic? Would Christians be tolerating it? Of course not. There is no way any Christian church could be “taken over” by radicals who wnated to preach a program of hate.
Why does the Left think so little of Muslims as to believe that the Muslims tolerate the Radicals even though alledgely the Radicals are illegitimate. Why would it be absurd to say Christians would allow the radicalization of thier religion yet the Left believes Muslims are apparently too weak, too lazy, too dumb to root out fraudulant preachers?
The answer is of course that anyone who wants to support Radical Islam finds plenty of ideological justification in the basic tenets of the faith.
THat is why there are HUGE numbers of Radicals and that is why the so-called Moderates seem to be invisible.
Islam is radical. Muslim’s adherance to Islam varies as widely as all individuals do in any group.
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