What Would Jarema Wisniowiecki Do?

Jarema Wisniowiecki

“Kill them so that they know they are dying.”

Numerous blog postings on terrorism now end with the signature line, “WWJBD” (What Would Jack Bauer Do?) Jack Baeur of “24” is too much of a Kumbaya-singer for our taste, especially in light of the most recent terrorist atrocity in Israel. We propose instead, “What Would Jarema Wisniowiecki Do?”

Jarema Wisniowiecki (pronounced “Yarema Vishnyovyetski,” J=Y, W=V, and cki=ski in Polish) was a Ukranian Catholic voyevode or provincial governor in the 17th century Polish Commonwealth. An argument between Bogdan Chmielnicki (“Khmyelnitski”) and another nobleman resulted in a civil war in which Chmielnicki led armies of Cossacks against the Poles. The Eastern Orthodox Cossacks gave full rein to their hatred of Jews and Catholics by perpetrating murderous anti-Semitic pogroms, massacres of Catholic clergy, and enslavement of Polish prisoners. At one point, however, the Cossacks’ Tartar allies returned to the Crimea to sell their prisoners as slaves, thus weakening Chmielnicki’s army. Chmielnicki accordingly sent envoys to negotiate peace, but he meant the peace to last only until the Tartars returned: that is, he proposed a hudna. Unfortunately for Chmielnicki, or more precisely for his envoys, Wisniowiecki was not Ehud Olmert or Condoleeza Rice.

    It was clear to them [the Cossack messengers] that Khmyelnitski did not wish to risk a battle at present with such a celebrated leader [Wisniowiecki] and that instead of marching against him with his whole strength, he was trying to create delay, and pretending humility, evidently in the expectation that the forces of the prince [Wisniowiecki] would be worn out by long marches and by battles and encounters with various Cossack detachments; in a word he was evidently very much afraid of the prince.
    …[Wisniowiecki concluded] “The cunning of this enemy is great! He either thinks that he will lull me to sleep with this letter in order to attack a sleeping man, or he is trying to entice me into the heart of the Commonwealth, finish up the business there, and receive pardon from the King and from the Diet [Sejm]…”
    …[After consulting his officers, Wisniowiecki] …then turned to the Colonel of the Tartar bodyguard. “Colonel Vyershul, order your Tartars to behead these Cossacks; but to cut a stake for their leader and impale him at once.”
    “This must be done in return for the cruelty which they practiced on the other side of the Dnieper; and to maintain our dignity and for the welfare of the whole Commonwealth. It must be shown by such an example that there is someone who is not afraid of this bandit leader [Khmyelnitski], and who will treat him as a highwayman…”Henryk Sienkiewicz, With Fire and Sword

In the motion picture version, Wisniowiecki orders simply, “Kill them so that they know they are dying.” While messengers and envoys were actually sacrosanct, their protection apparently ended if they engaged in treachery such as negotiation in bad faith. As described above, the peace offer was apparently nothing more than a hudna to buy the Cossacks time to gather their strength for more violence. Wisniowiecki accordingly put the treacherous envoys to death, and then resumed military operations instead of allowing his enemies their desired respite.

Collective punishment was not off the table either, at least not in the movie adaptation of the story. A village took advantage of the Cossacks’ presence to loot the home of a noblewoman under Wisniowiecki’s protection. Upon finding the stolen items in the villagers’ homes, Wisniowiecki ordered, “Drive out the women and children, burn the village, and thank the peasants.” The latter meant that all the adult male villagers were hanged. We can only imagine what would have happened to the village had Wisniowiecki found Polish body parts (noting the Palestinian habit of chopping up the bodies of Israelis they murder) as opposed to just stolen propertly.

If Wisniowiecki sounds like a horrible person by modern standards, it is to be remembered that cruelty of this nature was quite normal during his time, and it was the only thing that many bandits, robbers, and terrorists understood. For comparison, the Spanish Inquisition was still burning people alive for being of the wrong religion while the Polish Commonwealth had almost total religious freedom. During the contemporary sack of Magdeburg, rampaging soldiers killed eighty percent of the city’s inhabitants while raping, smashing babies against walls, and of course stealing everything in sight. Furthermore,

    [Wisniowiecki] also took considerable efforts to protect his Jewish subjects. His military prowess earned him the nickname “Uzhas Kozachij” (Cossack’s Fear)

As recorded by Sienkiewicz, Wisniowiecki did not enjoy the Cossack’s impalement even though he had ordered it himself. One of his hussars shot the Cossack dead to end his torture, a violation of orders that could have resulted in his own execution. Wisniowiecki instead rewarded the man (in private, to avoid giving the public impression that his orders could be disobeyed with impunity) and promoted him to his own bodyguard. The bottom line is that Wisniowiecki did things that he found highly distasteful to protect the people whom he was obliged to defend. The same goes for all civilized people and civilized nations.

The Peace Process: What Would Jarema Do?
As recorded by Sienkiewicz,

    The lord of Bratslav told the prince [Wisniowiecki] that the negotiations had begun… he hoped to soothe and pacify Khmyelnitski. In conclusion, he begged the prince not to deal too severely with the Cossacks, and to give up as much as possible all warlike undertakings until the close of the negotiations.
    Had one announced to the prince that his whole Dnieper country was devastated; that all the cities had been razed to the ground, it would not have wounded him so deeply as did this letter.
    “I would not live in this Commonwealth, for I should be ashamed. The Cossack ‘blacks,’ the peasantry, have flooded the country with blood; united with the Heathen [Crimean Tartars] against their own mother. The hetmans are beaten, the armies destroyed, the glory of the nation trampled underfoot. Authority is overcome, the churches burned down, the priests, the nobles slain, the women ravished; and upon these ruins, this dishonor, at the sight of which our ancestors would have died— what does the Commonwealth answer? With the traitor, with her despoilers, with the allies of the Heathen she enters into negotiations and promises them satisfaction. O God, let me die, I repeat, for we can no longer live in the world who feel the dishonor of the mother country and bring our lives to her as a sacrifice.”

The Polish word that Wisniowiecki uses is “haniebny,” which means roughly “shameful,” but more precisely a condition of dishonor to which death would be preferable. From what we have seen of the Olmert government, perhaps “Kadima Party” should be replaced by “Haniebny Party.”

Breeding Suicide Bombers: What Would Jarema Do?

Wisniowiecki never had to address this problem, as even the murderous Cossacks whom he was fighting tried to avoid blowing themselves up while using gunpowder. As reported in Worshippers of Death, by Alan Dershowitz,

    [..] Zahra Maladan is an educated woman who edits a women’s magazine in Lebanon. She is also a mother, who undoubtedly loves her son. She has ambitions for him, but they are different from those of most mothers in the West. She wants her son to become a suicide bomber.At the recent funeral for the assassinated Hezbollah terrorist Imad Moughnaya — the mass murderer responsible for killing 241 marines in 1983 and more than 100 women, children and men in Buenos Aires in 1992 and 1994 — Ms. Maladan was quoted in the New York Times giving the following warning to her son: “if you’re not going to follow the steps of the Islamic resistance martyrs, then I don’t want you.”

We suspect that Wisniowiecki would have taken all of Zahra Maladan’s children away from her to be raised as Christians, and then sterilized her so she could not breed any more. Israel should similarly seize the children of Palestinian women who are raising them as suicide bombers, and place them with Jewish or Christian families who are on long adoption waiting lists. Before our usual detractors at A Jewish Voice for Hamas or elsewhere lay into us for suggesting that Israel take Palestinian children away, we suggest that they consider the following. If parents in any American jurisdiction told their children, “if you are not willing to blow yourself up to kill So-and-So, then I don’t want you,” how long do you think it would take for child protective services to show up at their house with a court order for termination of their parental rights?

In summary, it is past time for all countries that are engaged in the war on terror to let the following question guide their decisions:

WWJWD (What Would Jarema Wisniowiecki Do?)


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