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"An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last."
Sir Winston Churchill

9.04.2006

Honor vs. Dishonor

There is a raging debate over at Patterico's Pontifications regarding the actions of Fox News journalists Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig and David Warren's assertion that they displayed cowardice.

I have joined the fray in the comments, and I think Warren's got the better argument, although I wouldn't use the word "cowardice" to describe Centanni and Wiig. Spending a big chunk of your life in a war zone doesn't strike me as the act of a coward.

I do, however, believe that Centanni and Wiig acted dishonorably:

It is one thing to caution against judgmentalism; it is another to laud dishonorable acts as honorable.

Centanni and Wiig’s “conversion” is between themselves and God; their willingness to appear in enemy propaganda and then wax emotional over the “wonderful” story of the Palestinian people when no longer in danger is between them and their countrymen.

We are at war. When American journalists actively aid the enemy, that is a serious matter indeed.

I am a veteran whose training included resistance techniques. I can assure you that many Americans in a similar situation would have done what these journalists did, but would have been ashamed of doing so. It is not something to be celebrated, nor emulated, even if we tacitly agree to not ask troubling questions out of a “there but for the grace of God…” mentality.

I am glad Centanni and Wiig have been safely returned to their families, but I am similarly glad that some vestige of Western honor remains that encourages some to question whether or not what they did in order to effect their release was worthy of praise.

There is a good reason why Fabrizio Quattrochi will be remembered long after Centanni and Wiig are forgotten. Even if many of us would not trade places for a minute with the former, shouldn’t we at least aspire to his bravery and resistance down to his last breath?

Have those of you who demean Quattrocchi’s heroism by deeming it mere futility so lost your sense of honor that you would spit on sacrifice and elevate self-service in its stead?

Quattrocchi didn’t say, “This is how Quattrocchi dies”, but “This is how Italians die!”; he was thinking of his countrymen and the meaning his sacrifice would have for them.

“This is how Americans comply!” is hardly a rallying cry. One can be grateful that these men are back in one piece without throwing rocks at those who point out that their example ought not be repeated.



And:

I recommend anyone interested in what is considered to be proper conduct in these situations Google “Code of Conduct for Members of the Armed Forces”; it offers great clarity. Here’s a link.

Civilians are of course not held to it (how could they be, legally?); I mention it because it highlights what is considered acceptable conduct while a prisoner of the enemy.

Article 3:

If I am captured I will continue to resist by all means available. I will make every effort to escape and to aid others to escape. I will accept neither parole nor special favors from the enemy.

Centanni and Wiig’s release upon certain conditions being met is an example of parole; the problem with parole is that it sets up a quid pro quo with the enemy impacting other prisoners (”you do this and we’ll release you”).

Article 5:

When questioned, should I become a prisoner of war, I am required to give name, rank, service number, and date of birth. I will evade answering further questions to the utmost of my ability. I will make no oral or written statements disloyal to my country and its allies or harmful to their cause.

This disallows participation in propaganda, obviously.

I encourage anyone who thinks journalists in a war zone ought not behave in a manner consistent with the Code of Conduct because it is “unrealistic” to examine the very real experience of Winston Churchill, who was a wartime journalist and POW in the Boer War, and who behaved throughout his captivity in a manner consistent with this Code.

As an arbiter of honorable conduct in a dangerous and terrible situation, I find it to be much more reliable than charity or nonjudgmentalism.

One presumes that if it’s good enough for 18-year-olds seeing their first combat half a world away from their homes and families it ought to be good enough for the rest of us, who benefit from far more experience and can anticipate the consequences of giving in to the terrorists much more easily.

Honor is not a dispensable abstraction; it is what keeps our fighting men fighting and risking all in the process. Thank God they’ve put aside hearth and home temporarily to keep ours safe; what would happen if they decided that their own were more important than duty, honor, or country?


Make no bones about it---Centanni and Wiig's "conversion", their willingness to make propaganda statements on camera, and Centanni's post-release nattering about the "wonderful" story of the Palestinian people were dishonorable acts in wartime.

We may pardon them out of charity, out of empathy, or out of a fervent hope that this story simply goes away, but we should not claim that what they did was moral or right or honorable. It was not. Treason at gunpoint is still treason. Those who refuse to commit such acts even in the face of death are rightly lionized. Those who fall short may not be condemned, but should not be lauded.

Anyone who would like to know more as to why this is so should read James Bowman's new book, Honor: A History.

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