Sunday, September 17, 2006

What part of "no torture" doesn't Dubya get?

George W Bush is setting up for a showdown with Senate Republicans, not the least of which include John McCain of Arizona, for wanting to clarify that Common Article III of the Geneva Conventions will apply to persons suspected of committing or plotting to commit terrorist acts against the United States. The White House argument is that military officers could themselves face charges of war crimes if they "misbehave" during interrogations.

I honestly don't understand how they can just presume Geneva doesn't apply to the United States. As McCain and others have correctly pointed out, if the United States refuses to play by commonly accepted rules of war, that endangers the lives of US personnel should they be captured or kidnapped by enemy forces overseas. After all, if the US can play hard and fast by the rules, so can they.

Here is Common Article III -- so called because it appears in all four of the Geneva Conventions. I don't know how much plainer this could be:

In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each Party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions:

1. Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of the armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all cases be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, color, religion or faith, sex, birth of wealth, or any other similar criteria.
To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:
(a) violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;
(b) taking of hostages;
(c) outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment;
(d) the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgement pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.

2. The wounded and sick shall be collected and cared for.
An impartial humanitarian body, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, may offer its services to the Parties to the conflict.
The Parties to the conflict should further endeavor to bring into force, by means of special agreements, all or part of the other provisions of the present Convention.
The application of the preceding provisions shall not affect the legal status of the Parties to the conflict.

If Karl Rove, the real President of the United States, believes the United States should no longer be subject to the Geneva Conventions, he should send a letter to the United Nations saying precisely that; namely, that the US withdraws from the treaties and their later protocols. Otherwise, the US -- indeed all countries engaged in the so-called "War Against Terrorism," including Canada -- should play by the rules that were agreed to decades ago.

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