"When a man is lying in a shell hole, if he just stays there all day, a German will get to him eventually. The hell with that idea... My men don't dig foxholes. I don't want them to. Foxholes only slow up an offensive. Keep moving. And don't give the enemy time to dig one either. We'll win this war, but we'll win it only by fighting and by showing the Germans that we've got more guts than they have; or ever will have. We're not going to just shoot the sons-of-bitches, we're going to rip out their living Goddamned guts and use them to grease the treads of our tanks. We're going to murder those lousy Hun cocksuckers by the bushel-fucking-basket. War is a bloody, killing business. You've got to spill their blood, or they will spill yours. Rip them up the belly. Shoot them in the guts... I believe in the old and sound rule that an ounce of sweat will save a gallon of blood. The harder WE push, the more Germans we will kill. The more Germans we kill, the fewer of our men will be killed. Pushing means fewer casualties. I want you all to remember that."
One by one the major figures who had helped win the war, McArthur, Curtis LeMay, Patton, Sir Arthur Harris, were dismissed as terrible men with no concern for human life. In the modern moral lexicon, Hiroshima and Dresden came to seem as awful as Auschwitz, the Adreatine caves, Bromberg, Nanking, Iwo Jima, Katyn Forest and the Blitz. In the moral weakness that came after, the atrocities of the perpetrators of WW2 faded, while the measures used to force them to surrender were highlighted in stark colors. History, which is normally written by the winners, was instead written by the losers, and the men who understood how the war had to be fought and won became its villains. WW2 itself was celebrated but the men who commanded the operations that won it were viewed as butchers. And all too few stopped themselves to ask how a moral war could be won immorally.
And where has that gotten us now?
Almost exactly 60 years after Patton made his speech to the Third Army, the British Army found itself faced with militia attacks by the Mahdi Army in the Iraqi city of Basra. The army withdrew, dug itself into virtual foxholes and when asked about the requests of the Basra residents for help, a Major Ian Clooney replied with words almost as deathless as Patton's. "I can understand what the Iraqis are saying, but confronting violence with violence is not going to work."
Major Clooney's remarks are as important as Patton's, perhaps even more so, because they signify where the Western idea of arms is at now, as opposed to where it was some sixty years ago. We have gone from greasing the wheels of our tanks with their guts, to believing that confronting violence with violence is not going to work. And if violence is bad and never solves anything, then why bother having an army at all? A great many people are confused about that same subject as well. And that confusion is what has cost more lives than anything else.
The fundamental truth of war is that to win it, you must kill the enemy. You must crush them and break them in order to destroy their morale, shatter their ranks and end any threat that they pose. And if you are not willing to do that, then even if you possess greater strength and numbers, sooner or later you will lose the war, as yesterday's soldiers become tomorrow's insurgents, and the wars you thought you won are reborn as tomorrow's conflicts.
Can we do that today? What a silly question. There is not one single country fighting Islamic terrorism that can even define the problem as being Islam. Certainly not England or America, both of which insist that Islam is the Religion of Peace. Not Russia, which still believes it can use Muslim terrorists as pet cobras, or China, which is a good deal more nervous about its own violent Muslim Uyghurs, than about the non-violent Tibetans. Not Israel, not Australia, not Canada. No one.
Instead of pushing forward, we pull back. And when some of our men presume to push forward, we drag them out for trials, we wail about the inhumanity of being inhuman to terrorists and get down on our hands and knees to look around for the moral high ground we are so sure that we have lost. And just to be certain that we are being noble enough, we can drag out the CIA interrogators who helped break captured Al Queda terrorists into the spotlight and put them on trial, because they pushed them too hard. And while we can forgive downed airlines, burning towers and thousands of dead Americans-- putting bugs on a captured terrorist, that my friends is one thing we cannot forgive.
The CIA interrogators mind you did not behead captured terrorists, the way the terrorists beheaded their Western captives. They did not insert rubber balloons inside them and inflate them, as Hizbollah terrorists did to a CIA station chief in Beirut. They did not replicate Saddam Hussein's rape rooms, which he neglected to show off to Sean Penn or Dan Rather, when they paid their supportive visits to him. All they really did was extract that extra "ounce of sweat" which saved gallons of blood in the field.
But we don't believe that violence solves anything anymore. Not even threatened violence. That is why Osama bin Laden survived long enough to plan and executive the attacks of September the 11th. That is why he may still be alive today. Just as during WW2, German POW's received better treatment than African-American enlisted men-- so too today, Al Queda terrorists receive better treatment than the murdered Americans whose ashes are left to the landfills and to annual commemorations by a government unwilling to do everything possible to find and execute their killers.
There are volumes written on our inhumanity to the terrorists, few of those same people writing those volumes want to hear about the inhumanity of the terrorists toward us. And there is good reason for that. In order to fight for the rights of terrorists, one must also believe that their lives have the same worth as ours.
A leading animal rights activist was once famously asked if she was driving and saw a boy and an animal on the road, leaving her with the choice of swerving to hit one, in order to miss the other. She replied that she was unable to make the choice. They were both equal in her eyes. In the eyes of those who worry over being inhumane to terrorists, the boy and the terrorists are equal. They could not make the choice between one or the other. And this universalization lifts them beyond any allegiance to a country or a citizenry, only to a definition of common humanity that has no meaning in war.
A pig is not a dog and a boy. A terrorist is not a criminal or an American. To equate them all is to render all national allegiances null and void. And on those grounds to reject violence as a force that cannot solve anything, for in the eyes of the universalists, a terrorist has just as much right to live as we do. And for as long as and wherever such a view prevails, the war on Terror cannot be won, it can only be prolonged, as we dig into our foxholes and wait for the next attack against an enemy we dare not push, for fear of losing that shiny medal we pin to our chests, the highest civilian honor, the gleaming fool's gold, of the moral high ground. Until we can say that the life of a single one of our children is worth all the guns to the head and bugs on and bullets in the bodies of terrorists, we will go on losing this war.
Is it more inhumane to be inhumane or humane to terrorists? It is a question that too few enjoy asking because it sets out a clear choice. We can coddle the terrorists, or we can push them. We coddled them for years until 9/11 happened. Now we have gone back to coddling them again. But there will be more than only a moral price to pay for that, but a bill presented written in the blood of Americans. Because those who focus on the inhumanity of being inhumane to terrorists, choose instead to be inhumane to their country and their fellow citizens.