From a reader:
Once upon a time a fellow who was probably wearing black pajamas fired a wire guided missile at the Destroyer I was on. Unfortunately for him he missed and we were able to immediately respond with such great vigor that he probably ended as little more than a stain in the shell hole pocked hillside. We [were] a bit annoyed by his impudence, but I can’t imagine any of us thought his attack as anything other than a legitimate act of war. After cooling down we actually admired the gutsy SOB and I at least hope he survived to tell of his exploit.
In the same way, if we capture Iraqis who are battling our troops they should be taken to Guantanamo so as to render them out of commission for the duration of hostilities, but I can’t see why anyone would object to the Iraqi government supported by us giving amnesty to such people on condition that they not engage in warfare against the established order in the future.
Attacks against our troops, even sneaky attacks, are not the same thing as wanton attacks against noncombatant civilians.
This thing touches on another distinction not often made. The attack on the Pentagon was not the same thing as the attack on the World Trade Center, just as an attack by us on Saddam’s command and control headquarters would not be the same thing as a purposeful attack on civilians.
The Democrats are cynical, but even Republicans are misguided in this matter. I was a pretty trifling warrior back in the day, but I think considerable warriors would agree with me on this.
Me: I agree with much but not all of this. Chiefly, I think it is a mistake — one made by ABC’s David Westin, recall – to suggest that the attack on the Pentagon wasn’t a terrorist attack because the Pentagon is a military target. Among other things, the attack was conducted via terroristic means. Slitting the throats of civilians with box-cutters on a civilian plane in order to make it into a missile is a grotesque act of terrorism no matter where the plane crashes.