Here is a bit of truth for you: in any conflict, the aggressor sets the rules. Let me explain. If two men are fighting under Marquess of Queensberry rules, then their match will continue under those rules unless and until one of them decides to break the rules and pull out a knife. At that point, the idea of a “fair fight” goes right out the window. By pulling out a blade, the aggressor has upped the ante to include knives, so all the self-imposed rules about boxing gloves and no hitting below the belt vanish.
If a friendly karate sparring match becomes a full-contact fight, the opponent is fully justified to use full force to put down the aggressor and end the fight. This is true for nations as well. The Geneva Convention bans the use of poisonous gas in a conflict, and in a hypothetical conflict between the U.S. and France, both sides would be bound by that agreement as signatories. But if France were to fire off some mustard gas at U.S. troops, the U.S. would no longer be bound by the Geneva Convention.
The aggressor sets the rules, but the position of “aggressor” is not limited to just one side or the other, and it may flip back and forth during a conflict. One boxer may start hitting below the belt. The other may start biting and head-butting. The first could escalate to using a folding chair, and the second could respond by pulling out a knife. In each instance, the one who escalates the fight is the aggressor and has set the new level of acceptable violence.
And war is violence, pure and simple. But we don’t fight wars purely and simply. If we did, we wouldn’t bother with things like guided bombs or calling off strikes because civilians are around. We’d just carpet-bomb a city to rubble if it meant getting the one person we want, or using a wave of nuclear explosions to turn a country into a sea of glass. The U.S. military (and, by extension, the civilian leaders over the military) have shown an amazing amount of self-control. Our forces have been very careful to avoid unnecessary casualties. I saw a video of a helicopter pilot guiding a missile to a truck containing known terrorists brandishing weapons. As the missile streaked toward the truck, a car filled with innocent people pulled alongside the terrorists as both vehicles waited to pass over a bridge. The pilot could have taken out the terrorists, but he would have almost certainly killed or hurt the passengers in the other car, so he ditched the missile into the river. That is the level of professionalism under which our military men and women are expected to work.
While al-Zarqawi was alive, he was responsible for a wave of beheadings, including the gruesome death of Nick Berg–who died screaming while al-Zarqawi sawed at his neck. Clearly al-Zarqawi was the aggressor, but the U.S. has not changed its strategy to include beheadings. Our military has decided not to stoop to the level of these terrorist thugs. But I think there is one place where our response should change, based on the acts of the aggressors who are fighting us. These thugs have no problem using their religion as a tool to fight the U.S. and the West, so I think we ought to change our tactics to include using their religion as a weapon against them. Normally religion would be hands off, but as the aggressors, they changed the rules.
Now imagine this scene: several camera crews are brought to the morgue where al-Zarqawi’s body is housed. They take close-up pictures of his face and known identifying marks to establish his identity. Then al-Zarqawi’s naked body is rubbed down with pig fat, and liquid lard is pumped into his stomach. His head is cut off with a knife, his body is chopped up, and the remains are fed to pigs and wild dogs. When the animals have eaten all they can stand of him, they are slaughtered and their corpses, their filth, and any leftover thug-bits are gathered up and dumped far out at sea. Under Muslim belief, these actions would be sufficient to deny al-Zarqawi his 72 virgins in paradise, deny anyone access to a gruesome relic, and serve as a deterrent to thug-wannabes who don’t want to miss out on their paradisiacal pleasures.
Would that ever happen? No. Would we be justified in doing that to his corpse? I say yes. These thugs have changed the rules by bringing beheadings, mutilations, and religion into this conflict. The actions described above would be playing by their rules. I think that, at the very least, we should announce that we will bury the corpses of known terrorists with pig parts. And that includes any and all bits we can scrape up of the remains of a homicide bomber.
Call me evil and vindictive if you like, but I don’t care. The nutjobs have chosen to change the rules by bringing their religion into the fight.