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Don't Catch-Kill By: Ralph Peters
New York Post | Thursday, June 26, 2008


The first beneficiary of Barack Obama's promise to expand health-care access could be Osama bin Laden.

The senator would rather see Osama captured, not killed, then put into our federal system for trial. That means the terror master would get better medical treatment - for free - than many Post readers can afford.

Is that really what Americans want? To spend millions of dollars protecting a captive bin Laden and millions more treating his kidney problems?

Is that an effective reply to 9/11? Does it pass any common-sense test?

Recent events should have made it clear - again - that captive terrorists are overwhelmingly a liability. The meager intelligence we get interrogating them is rarely commensurate with the array of financial, moral and legal costs involved in keeping them locked up.

Worst of all (as I've repeatedly argued), a jailed terrorist, not a dead one, is the true "martyr." Incarcerated terrorists become celebrated causes for our domestic left and rallying points for foreign fanatics. The dead just rot.

A few weeks ago, a well-planned terrorist assault on a prison in Kandahar, Afghanistan, freed dozens of Taliban midlevel managers and perhaps 200 terrorist foot soldiers.

What benefit had we gained by taking these butchers prisoner instead of killing them on the battlefield? They merely lived to fight another day.

Almost simultaneously, our Supreme Court ruled that terrorists who slaughter Americans should enjoy legal protections meant for US citizens. I respect and admire the Supremes, but this decision drives home the truism that "Only God is perfect."

A dead terrorist is a good terrorist. Keeps costs down, too.

To be clear: I do not advocate executing prisoners. We should treat any terrorist we capture rigorously, but with basic decency. I would only condone forceful interrogation methods in the most exceptional cases (there are always exceptions in real life, once you leave the rarefied air of the law library or the campus).

But it is my belief that our conventional military and special-operations efforts should emphasize killing terrorists on the battlefield or in their lairs - conditions where it is entirely legal to do so. Taking these murderers prisoner should be an accident, not a goal.

Once a terrorist raises his hands in surrender, we must honor the pertinent conventions. But effective military and intelligence operations shouldn't give him the chance to wave a white rag.

Certainly, we should do all we sensibly can to avoid harming the innocent. Effective targeting demands sound intelligence work (ours has gotten much better). And, once in a great while, we'll decide that a senior terrorist should be taken alive for interrogation.

But the left-wing arguments against killing those who do all they can to kill us are simply wrong. You can kill your way out of terrorist challenges - it's been done countless times through the centuries. (That's what's happening to Al Qaeda in Iraq today.)

And killing terrorists doesn't put us on a "slippery slope." Killing Osama or Ayman al-Zawahiri wouldn't inevitably mean that our Special Forces would then turn to assassinating Iowa aldermen or Alabama church deacons.

The greatest left-wing fallacy in the War on Terror is the conviction that protecting the rights of terrorists is more important than protecting the rights of the innocent. It is utterly wrong to imagine that, by according exaggerated legal protections to terrorists, we strengthen the legal basis of our society.

Our government's basic justification for existing is the protection of its own citizens.

There is nothing heroic or noble about defending a fanatical mass murderer's "rights." The nobility lies in protecting the masses of innocent human beings who obey the law. When anyone chooses the path of terror, he or she leaps beyond all constitutional guarantees.

Over and over again, our military has found that escaped or released terrorist prisoners kill again. And hard-core terrorists can't be rehabilitated: The redemption of human monsters is a myth.

No terrorist captured abroad should ever set foot on American soil. No terrorist taken overseas should ever enter a US courtroom. And no terrorist of any kind should ever receive free health care that working Americans can't afford for their families.

No special diets, either. Let 'em eat corn dogs.

The greatest weapon we could apply to fighting terrorists is common sense.

Ralph Peters' new book, "Looking for Trouble," hits stores next week.


Ralph Peters is a New York Post Opinion columnist and the author of "Looking For Trouble: Adventures in a Broken World."


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