You are all aware that I am a military chaplain. I will be one forever. Upon retiring from the Navy, the letters 'CHC' (Chaplain Corps) will remain as part of my official identification for the rest of my life.
According to the Geneva Conventions, chaplains are non-combatants. In the US, this means that we do not carry weapons. We have a bodyguard in the field at all times. It means that the enemy is not allowed to target us deliberately. It means that we cannot be POW's. We are detainees.
The question of being a detainee is not one of mere semantics. The Conventions continue in Article III, Convention 33, stating that if we are held as detainees, the detaining power is required to let us continue to perform our functions. The same holds true for medical personnel.
I was with a Marine battalion on September 11th, 2001. We were in the air, headed up to Bridgeport, California for mountain warfare training and an exercise with the Royal Marines. This was up in the Sierra Nevadas. It was late September, and it was gorgeous. On the last night of the exercise, seven or eight Royal Marines 'killed' our perimeter guard and overran our camp. I woke up with a Royal Marine in my face yelling "whar's yer weapon?" I showed him my hands and said 'chaplain.' He left me alone, and 'shot' my bodyguard instead.
It is of small comfort that if the US ever goes toe to toe with the British, my status will be respected.
Protocol I, Article 41 states that POW's (and detainees) are not to be targets of attack. They are to be protected, and all feasible precautions shall be taken to ensure their safety.
My friends, we have seen the treachery that the kind folks in Northern Syria and Iraq have had to offer us lately. Most recently, they have burned a captured Jordanian pilot alive. This is beyond negotiation. This is a war on the norms of humanity. It must be treated as such.
King Abdullah of Jordan has stated that Jordan's wrath will be visited on the perpetrators until Jordan "runs out of fuel and bullets."
This is the right approach. One does not go to war to lose. One does not play war to a draw. One goes to war with the approach of utterly destroying an enemy. Anything short of that goal will render a war that does not end.
I commend the Jordanians for having such clarity of goal. It is a shame that such clarity is lacking in other national leaders.
We should all send our deepest sympathies to the family and to the nation of the murdered pilot. His name was LT Muath al Kaseasbeh. He had a family. He had friends. May his memory be for a blessing, and may we maintain the resolve to make absolutely certain that the perpetrators of this horrendous crime never sleep soundly again.
For the record, I will not, under any circumstances, maintain my status as a non-combatant if I am mobilized to go there.
Have a good evening everyone.