MORALITY GAP: RealClear Politics has an excellent commentary on the comparative treatment of POWs by Coalition and Iraqi forces.

This is not a holier than thou tirade or an indictment of all of Islam. It is, however, a recognition of the truth that our enemies – Iraqi soldiers and terrorists of all stripes – are not bound by any rules of war or by any code of moral conduct.

Our troops, in contrast, are bound by every rule of war, every convention, every treaty, and every international legal clause ever written. And while our enemies get a pass, our troops’ behavior is scrutinized every single day in microscopic detail for even the slightest breach of moral or ethical conduct.

The additional moral burden our troops bear is expected – demanded even – by the simple fact of who they are and where they come from: America. This moral burden exists for every US soldier no matter whether they are black or white, Muslim, Christian or Jewish. And the moral burden our men and women carry makes their job much more risky, and in some cases it leads to more deaths on our side then we otherwise would have. Yet it’s a moral burden they carry proudly.

Indeed. And, further evidence of my longstanding argument that it pays to follow the rules of war even if your enemy doesn’t:

Chilcote then cut to an interview of one of the 3rd Brigade soldiers tending to the prisoners who summarized the POW perspective. He said that US soldiers were now fighting harder because they didn’t want to be taken as POW’s by the Iraqis and that the US strategy was to make sure Iraqi soldiers knew they would receive ample food, water, blankets, and medicine if they surrendered in the hopes this might entice Iraqi forces to defect.

But the young US soldier said something else as well – something telling. In describing the US approach to POW’s he fell back on a a simple, rote phrase: “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” It also happens to be a Christian phrase from the book of Matthew.

Chilcote also reported that US Army medics attended to all of the men, and administered medicine to one of the Iraqis who was suffering from asthma. Read that again. Not gunshot wounds, asthma. Chilcote finished his report by saying the 3rd Brigade soldiers had erected a tent on the spot to further protect the prisoners from the harsh elements.

The reason Iraqi soldiers aren’t surrending in throngs is they fear they will be killed by their own. American soldiers would rather be killed in combat than face what awaits them in captivity by this enemy.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.