Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Reading in Book X of Homer's Iliad last night, I came across a very interesting and detailed account of how Diomedes and Odysseus interrogated their prisoner Dolon, captured during scout missions which crossed paths, and in which the alertness and tactics of the former two succeeded against the hapless Dolon.

The M.P.s and MI at Abu Ghraib and other prisons might take note of Odysseus technique. He lulls his nervous, even panicking prisoner to calm, then to confess:

"Courage. Death is your last worry. Put your mind at rest. Come, tell me the truth now, point by point.

"Why prowling among the ships, cut off from camp,
alone in the dead of night when other men are sleeping?"

Odysseus proceeds to skillfuly manipulate their scared prisoner with brief, pointed questions, without application of undue force or humiliation.

"But the shrewd tactician kept on pressing:'Be precise.
Where are they (the Trojans' allies) sleeping? Mixed in with the Trojans?
Separate quarters? Tell me. I must know it all.'"

And Dolon spills the beans. Now, Diomedes does kill their prisoner after the confession, so as not to let him escape--

"Back you'll slink to our fast ships tomorrow,
playing the spy again or fighting face-to-face.
But if I snuff your life out in my hands,
you'll never annoy our Argives lines again."

Homer's account exposes the harsh realities of war. Now these days, our Western nations have, through our declared humanitarian and civilized philosophies and policies, come to believe that it is better to show mercy, to respect human rights, to attempt to abide by a standard accepted among certain signatories of the Declaration of Human Rights.

Yet there is something to consider in that, now that we have begun the subjugation of the Al Qaida, the Taliban, the Baathists, the Shi'ite followers of Muqtada al-Sadr, the Sunni tribesmen of central Iraq, we might remember that their tradition is of "an eye for an eye," and the vendetta. Any women and children we allow to escape, with their deep-held grudges and collective hate, will come back later to threaten our lives, our property, our happiness. Perhaps, after all, it is better to return to the American tradition of the all-out frontier war, the total war of Andrew Jackson, General Anthony Wayne, the U.S. Cavalry and Buffalo Soldiers against the indigenous nations of North America.

We were able then, against much larger numbers, to employ advanced technology to effect our will to survive, to conquer, to defend our frontier settlements, thus allowing our European ancestors to multiply and occupy what came to be the United States, Canada, and the rest of the Americas. At this point we may well consider abandoning the naive optimism of the President George W. Bush and push for a much more overwhelming use of our military assets, to leave no doubt in our enemies minds' that we shall overcome.

Note to our opponents: surrender and submit now, or forever rest in peace.

Note: the above link to the Iliad is to Samuel Butler's translation.

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