This page was created August 2003

What is an Illegal Combatant?


This is George. George is employed as a soldier by the government of a country, to do what they tell him.


This is Ben. Ben is employed as a soldier by the government of another country, to do what they tell him.

One day, George's employers tell him to go into the other country and point his gun at Ben, and overthrow the government there. In response, Ben is instructed to point his gun at George. This makes Ben an illegal combatant.

George Ben

I'm sorry, I don't understand

Isn't it clear? Ben is pointing his gun at George. This is illegal, because George is an American and is therefore Good. It is illegal to point a gun at a Good person.

They are both pointing their guns at each other, so what's the difference?

Isn't it clear? George is Good; Ben is Bad!

Hang on, how do we know that Ben is Bad?

We can tell that Ben is Bad because he is pointing his gun at George, who is Good. Only Bad people would do such a thing.

Aren't they both just doing their job?

Look, George's actions are legal because he was told to do them by the American government. Ben is an illegal combatant because the government he is working for is illegitimate.

How did you figure that?

Because Ben's employers, the Taliban, are Bad. They came to power by accident when the Mujahadeen (who were freedom fighters, and therefore Good) used their American training and military resources to take over Afghanistan. This wasn't part of The Plan, so it was the start of something Bad. Look, these legal details are a bit complicated, but all you need to know is what many people, I believe, increasingly feel is common sense: the Mujahadeen may once have been Good, but the Taliban (even though many of them are Mujahadeen) are Bad. The change of name makes it easy to keep track of this change in history.

So what happens to Ben?

Like all illegal combatants and Bad men, he gets what's coming to him (and seeing this, all Good Americans should shout "woo, woo, woo, USA, USA, USA" and cheer because, lo, they have won again). Anyone who expresses concern for Ben is at risk of being branded Bad, insensitive to the victims of terrorism, or Liberal.

When I went to school in America, our daily Pledge of Allegiance said ...with Liberty and Justice for All. Why is Ben not receiving normal standards of Justice?

You are quoting out of context. The idea being expressed is `Liberty and Justice for all Americans'. We can't impose our ideals on other people. Obviously, we couldn't have Liberty and Justice for all, because that would severely restrict the ability of the US government to do what it wants. For example, when we need to arrest a drug dealer in Panama (a Good thing), if we had to care about all, not just the Americans, then it would be Bad to slaughter hundreds of Panamanian civilians during the arrest operation.

Doesn't this dual standard explain the hostility that some people feel towards America?

Officer, arrest this person, he is obstructing the sidewalk, inciting civil disobedience, giving succour to terrorists, and supporting the overthrow of the government of the United States.

"The only thing I know for certain is that these are bad people," G.W.Bush, Friday July 18 2003. . . ... but after more than two years' incarceration ... 5 Guantanamo Bay detainees released without charge
Overheard by David MacKay
Last modified: Sat Jun 16 08:15:25 2007
This page was created August 2003