May 19, 2004
Bush's Reasons for Ignoring the Geneva Convention Are Not Worth the Paper They Are Printed On
BUZZFLASH READER CONTRIBUTION
There are moments when the mind truly boggles, when all the rules of logic and common sense have been laid on their respective ends and claimed not to apply.
In a series of documents obtained by Newsweek and placed on their Web site this week, we have undeniable evidence that the White House was in fear that the way they were fighting the Afghanistan war, particularly how they were treating the prisoners taken in that war, might be in violation of a 1996 law, the War Crimes Act. Under the law, anyone, including high level "U.S. officials," was subject to the law’s conditions, and hence, punishable. Among those conditions were "grave breaches" of the Geneva Convention, which were at that time being systematically executed by the Bush White House and top-level officials directing the war. The law itself contains words to the affect that punishments for violators "include the death penalty."
While no one seems to have been overly worried about capital punishment, an internal memo, written January 25 by White House counsel Antonio Gonzalez brings up the prospect that in the future, Justice Department prosecutors might charge the very officials then directing the war with war crimes. Reading the memo leaves the indelible impression that, at least as the White House counsel saw it, sometime in the future, Bush officials might very well be prosecuted as war criminals.
Gonzalez’ solution to this potential problem truly defies logic and seems so rife with legal casuistry as to be bereft of the basic requirements of what most people consider lawful behavior. His solution: declare that Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters do not have the protections afforded by the Geneva Convention. In other words, simply by fiat, by making a formal or official authorization, stipulate that you are not bound by the dictates of the law.
All that appears to be necessary is for Bush officials to declare that all facets of the war in Afghanistan -- including the incarceration of both Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters -- are exempt from the strictures of the Geneva Convention.
They need only declare this struggle against terrorism a "new kind of war" (as the memo suggests) and then defend their ethically dubious actions this way: "The nature of the new war places a high premium on other factors, such as the ability to quickly obtain information from captured terrorists and their sponsors in order to avoid further atrocities against American civilians, and the need to try terrorists for war crimes such as wantonly killing civilians."
This would be legally tantamount to declaring in a document that your next store neighbor constitutes a menace to the surrounding area by dint of the fact that your lawnmower’s missing, your child’s cat is nowhere to be found, you are aware he collects guns and occasionally fires them, and his friends may have been peeking in your windows -- most likely as a prelude to robbing your house. Make sure that you stipulate in your document that he is a new kind of threat, one who is capable of both unpredictable and substantial acts of harm, leaving you with no other recourse than to take quick and decisive action so as to properly protect yourself from danger.
Then, go over to his house, kidnap him at gunpoint, put him in some form of restraint, thrust his bound and tied body into your basement, deny him any recourse to a lawyer or even explain why you are holding him, and have whomever you can find -- your family members, perhaps -- guard him around the clock. You then keep him there for as long as you like, while, if it suits your purposes, you subject him to "inhuman treatment." Best of all, what frees you any from worry that you will someday be prosecuted for this grievous set of actions is the presence of the document you wrote in which you declared him to be a new kind of threat.
Most would consider this kind of behavior unforgivable and unlawful. For someone to do this and expect to be exempt from future legal punishment would be inexcusable and any arguments to the contrary would be considered laughable. After all, there are laws and these laws cannot be legitimately abridged by virtue of the fact that you wrote out a declaration.
Keep in mind that Colin Powell objected strongly to Gonzalez’ memo. Also keep in mind that your neighbors, the police, and the courts would also object strongly to your unlawful imprisonment of your next door neighbor. As would he.
A BUZZFLASH READER CONTRIBUTION
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