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]