Of course, it did Roberts no harm at all. In the age of "shock and awe" – when a Canadian general can call his Taliban opponents "scumbags" – it still doesn't seem to worry Nato officers. They should know better. Montgomery never cursed Rommel; he kept a photograph of the Afrika Korps commander in his caravan to remind him of the man he was fighting. But then again, didn't Montgomery fight in the age of the Holocaust, of industrial killing, of the Hamburg and Dresden firestorms? Indeed, the very Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 were supposed to end the mass destruction of human life. And President Bush has torn them up.
I know it's easy to ridicule the Red Cross. There's something very preachy about the post-war conventions. But apart from the precedents of international law, it's all we've got. Maybe a million Pushtu-language editions should be handed out to the Taliban and their followers as well as to the Nato combatants whom Barack Obama absurdly believes will win the Afghan war. But I doubt it would do much good. Victimhood sits easily on all our shoulders. If Osama bin Laden had a conscience, it would be quickly eased by the destruction of the last Caliphate, the colonial occupation of the Muslim world, the deaths of millions of Arabs. And if we have a conscience, what do we say? Remember 9/11. And so on we go.