As many others have pointed out, including Captain Ed and Wretchard, the Geneva Convention — that quaint little set of rules on how civilized nations wage war — has become a “living document” and evolved into “a set of rules that constrain how the West wages war, regardless of the actions of the other side.”
The original idea behind the Geneva Conventions was a sound one — it outlined restrictions on weapons, tactics, and policies to be held to in times of war. But for all its civilized language, it was backed up by the basest of threats — “we’ll abide by them if you do. If you don’t, then neither will we.” It clearly spelled out obligations for all parties, and were considered moot for all if one side set them aside.
That evolved, changed, into a set of obligations for parties to abide to regardless of circumstances, because they were seen as the “civilized,” “right” thing to do. That was all right, though, because the Western powers, since the end of World War II, never really faced an open war that threatened their survival. We could restrain ourselves, hold ourselves to a higher moral standard, because we could afford to.
Nowadays, though, the Geneva Convention has become a laughingstock. We are engaged with militant Islamists who look at the prohibitions of the Convention as a “to-do” list. As noted, Iran has decided to redefine “insurgents” and “spies” as uniformed British sailors and marines in a boat flying their nation’s flag, and put them on trial as such.
As I said before, the new conference should be held in a place where terrorism has been a stark reality, as a reminder of what needs to be addressed. Geneva’s a resort city, a business city. It’s far too civilized a place to deal with such brutal matters. Likewise London, Madrid, New York, or Washington, despite their own recent bouts with terrorist attacks.
Some place like Beslan, the site of the school massacre. Or Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where Flight 93 came to earth. Or perhaps a city in Iraq, such as Baghdad or Fallujah.
At that place, the attending nations could work up a definition of “terrorist” (something like “a person or group, not tied to any nation-state or other similar governmental body, that uses violence against strictly non-military targets for political gain”), and a set of rules to cover their treatment.
My own suggestion would be to turn them over to a military tribunal of either the capturing nation or the aggrieved nation, with no access to the civilian legal system or protections (they having forfeited their right to civil procedure). The tribunal would be empowered to inflict punishments from imprisonment to execution.
Further, the bodies of the enemies will no longer be sacrosanct. There will be no restrictions on desecrating the remains of those killed — either in battle or executed — in a manner in full accordance with the proclaimed tenets of the deceased. Muslims will be buried with pig products present. Jews will be cremated. I will leave it to others more knowledgeable of the various faiths to determine the most offensive manner of desecration. The point will be simple: your deeds will follow you into the afterlife, and we will do whatever we can to deny you the celestial reward you seek.
Finally, tolerating or supporting terrorists will be considered a casus belli — and not strictly one for just the aggrieved nation. Terrorism is an enemy of all states, and all states have an obligation to fight it. An attack against one will be seen as an attack against all.
Naturally, I don’t expect this to garner a great deal of support from around the world. But as I read on another forum recently, when they did some house-cleaning, “those who stay will make this a better place. Likewise those who leave.” This new Convention would be open to democracies, to those nations who have demonstrated their commitment to freedom, individual rights, and civilization in general. The likely candidates I have in mind would consist of most of the Americas, most of Europe, the Anglosphere in general, Japan, Israel, Iraq, and other select nations of Asia and Africa.
The War On Terror — or, by its more accurate but less tactful name, The War With Militant Islam, is not a clash of civilizations. It is a clash of civilization against theologically-inspired tyranny, a free world or a world of conversion by the sword to a brutal, repressive, inhuman system that tolerates no dissent, no diversity, no freedom, no tolerance, no liberty. It preaches of being “the religion of peace,” but offers only the peace of the grave.
Peace is, indeed, a lofty goal, a noble purpose, a lofty ideal. Unfortunately, though, peace is not the natural state of man. “Only the dead have seen the end of war.”