September 16, 2006

Why all the fuss??

There's been a lot of furor in the MSM lately about President Bush wanting to clearly define the relevant portions of the Geneva Conventions relating to terror detainees. Specifically, certain GOP bigwigs like Colin Powell and John McCain are against allowing coreced interrogations of terrorists because they'd violate the Conventions, and the US Supreme Court has recently ruled (wrongly, in my view, and against the specific wording of the treaty) that Article 3 applies to terrorists -- not just POWs (prisoners of war).

The president’s measure would go further than the Senate package in allowing classified evidence to be withheld from defendants in terrorist trials, using coerced testimony and protecting U.S. interrogators against prosecution for using methods that violate the Geneva Conventions.

And that's just it -- they wouldn't violate the GC if the SCOTUS had actually examined the specific wording of the Convention. (This, not to mention that Article 4 of the GC specifically denotes who is not covered by the Convention -- like TERRORISTS.) So, the president is seeking specific, legalized wording to distinguish "torture," "coerced interrogations," etc.

People like Powell and McCain are worried. They're worried about US troops being tortured and abused because they feel other countries would do what the US [may] do by "redefining" what the Conventions mean:

Powell, Bush's previous secretary of state, said in a letter to McCain that Bush’s proposal to redefine the Geneva Conventions would encourage the world to “doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism” and “put our own troops at risk.”

But would such a "redefinition" put our troops at risk? Rich Lowry of National Review shares an email he received which notes ... US enemies have never followed the Geneva Convention in over 80 years!! (My emphasis.)

An argument of administration critics is that we are putting American soldiers at risk by treating al Qaeda as outside the Convention. A reader asks: "Why doesn't anyone mention the obvious? NO American adversary in war has followed the Geneva Convention in 84 years! Last night I watched Jonathan Turley portentously tell Jeff Greenfield that we dare not be legalistic in our interpretation of the Convention—after all, we needed it, our soldiers depended on it, so we should not really be too assertive or argumentative about our rights.

“But can Jonathan Turley or anyone else name one enemy of the United States in a war since 1918 (declared or not) that has followed the Geneva convention? The answer is no, because there aren't any—not Nazi Germany (see the Battle of the Bulge for starters), not Japan (which didn't even sign it), not North Korea or Red China (real undiluted torture), not the Vietcong or North Vietnam (the same), not Iran in the hostage crisis, and certainly not Iraq. Everyone of these countries egregiously violated the Convention in dealing with our soldiers and diplomats. OUR ENEMIES HAVE NOT FOLLOWED THE GENEVA CONVENTION SINCE THE KAISER. How is it possible to overlook this while piously genuflecting in the direction of Switzerland?"

I, like many other Americans, greatly respect Colin Powell and John McCain. But as Ryan over at Jokers to the Right once [correctly] stated in a debate about McCain, his Vietnam POW experiences do not make his opinions above reproach. McCain is wrong in this case. Further, the MSM is clearly all too gleeful to inform how these two (and other) military "experts" are dissenting from the administration. It is a "big deal" and "we should listen" to them. Well, yes, we should listen to what they have to say. But that doesn't mean they're right. And, as someone wrote recently (I can't remember where I saw it), when was the last time you read or viewed in the MSM where they referred to Bush and Cheney as "energy experts" and that their experience in this field should be highly regarded? Answer: You haven't.

Ultimately, this is what happens when judges substitute their opinions above clearly written law, international or national. The SCOTUS did so recently in their "reading" of Geneva, just as they have numerous times in "reading" our own Constitution. As a result, the president is seeking the approval he is required to get so as to clearly define "torture" and necessary-for-the war on terror "coerced interrogation."

UPDATE (9/17 at 5:13pm): See what I mean?

Posted by Hube at September 16, 2006 01:43 PM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)


Why are you so upset about the other countries of the world not following the Geneva Convention? Didn't you know that it applies only to us?

Posted by: Anna Venger at September 16, 2006 05:39 PM

Hube, I don't think the supremes said that the Geneva Convention applies to terrorist, I think they said that some rule of law must apply. That either you:
A) apply the Geneva Convention
B) apply the UCMJ
C) apply exisitng federal law and use US courts
D) get legislative aproval for the military tribunals that the administration has proposed.

The Bush administration chose D.

Posted by: steamboat willy at September 17, 2006 02:57 PM

SW: the Court has mandated use Geneva Article 3 for terror suspects, despite the explicit wording of that section which states this applies to a conflict not of an international character. Further, they've used Geneva as a basis -- when Article 4 describes exactly who is covered by the treaty. And our current [Islamo-terrorist] clearly does not fall into that description!

But you're correct that they allowed Bush to get Congressional approval for the mili. tribunals. But using Geneva as "choice" really ain't one of them.

Posted by: Hube at September 17, 2006 03:21 PM

should read "current [Islamo-terrorist] enemy ..."

Posted by: Hube at September 17, 2006 03:22 PM

60+ years without a need to "clarify" something. All of a sudden we need clarity? pluuheeeassee.

Posted by: donviti at September 19, 2006 10:19 AM

I don't think we should use other countries behavior in warfare (or even peacetime) as a guide for what we do. We do adhere to the conventions b/c with conventional armies, they give up more readily. (Pacific theater nothwithstanding) They know they will be fed and receive medical treatment.

Fanatically suicide prone terrorists do not. To them, such behavior is indicative of weakness.

If al-Qaeda is entitled to Geneva protections, then any organized group of non-state actors would similarly be entitled. That means, Triple Canopy, Blackwater, PMRI, Sandline et al. are all in the same group. If they were to invade some banana republic they'd be entitled to the same protections as well. That make proxy warfare not just likely, but inevitable.

Posted by: Duffy at September 20, 2006 08:39 AM