Respecting the Geneva Convention


Why is it, that the impression the media leaves me with, is that Hamdan is “just a driver” and a victim of circumstances? Just another tragic pawn and casualty in the illegal and immoral war instigated by the imperialistic, oil-grubbing, human-rights/U.S. Constitution-violating Bush regime?

Well, he’s been found guilty of supporting terrorism, but acquitted on charges of conspiracy to commit acts of terror.


Jonathan Mahler writing last Sunday for the NYTimes Magazine:

The men in the dock might very well be war criminals, the argument goes, but what about the policy makers and interrogators who violated their rights under the Geneva Conventions?

The perception pushed by so many on the anti-Bush side of the argument, is that the detainees held at Guantanamo deserve protection under the provisions provided by the Geneva Convention; and that subsequently, because the Administration had long argued against classifying enemy combatants captured on the Afghanistan battlefield- al Qaeda and Taliban fighters- as having “prisoner of war” status, protected by the 1949 codification of the laws of war (until July 7, 2006, after a Supreme Court ruling), that Bush & Co somehow do not respect the Geneva Convention. The reality, however, is just the opposite. It’s for the same reason that President Reagan decided not to ratify Protocol I, declaring that it, “would undermine humanitarian law and endanger civilians in war.”

Douglas Feith, called the Geneva Conventions “a high-water mark of civilization”. He absolutely supports it, even as he denies its provisions to be extended to non-uniformed combatants who endanger civilians by blending in, and being indistinguishable from civilians, putting innocent lives at risk. To grant them the same legal rights as prisoners of war, grants terrorism legitimacy.

From Douglas Feith’s War and Decision, pg 163,

It would be “highly dangerous if countries make application of Convention hinge on subjective or moral judgments as to the quality or decency of the enemy’s government”- and it would be dangerous, therefore, to claim that the Convention does not apply because the Taliban are “the illegitimate government of a ‘failed state.’ ” Countries typically view their enemies as gangs of criminals. If officials had to certify an enemy as a “legitimate government” to apply the Convention, few countries would ever do so.

“I contended that a “pro-Convention” position, on the other hand, would reinforce U.S. moral arguments in the war on terrorism:

  • The essence of the Convention is the distinction between soldiers and civilians (i.e., between combatants and noncombatants).
  • Terrorists are reprehensible precisely because they negate that distinction, by purposefully targeting civilians.
  • The Convention aims to protect civilians by requiring soldiers to wear uniforms and otherwise distinguish themselves from civilians.
  • The Convention creates an incentive system for good behavior. The key incentive is that soldiers who play by the rules get POW status if they are captured.

From Douglas Feith’s War and Decision, pg 38:

The Convention gave maximum protection to noncombatants- innocent bystanders- and gave the next level of protection to fighters who obey the laws of war. The least protection was given to fighters who did not obey the rules. In this regard, as in many others, the Geneva Conventions were humane and sensible: The Conventions’ drafters in the late 1940s had their priorities right. The Convention created an incentive system to encourage respect for the laws of war and especially to safeguard innocent bystanders. Civilians are endangered when fighters wear civilian clothes, for example, because that makes the fighters indistinguishable from bystanders. So the Conventions provided that captured fighters were entitled to the privileged status of “prisoners of war” only if they met certain conditions, including wearing uniforms and carrying their arms openly. The national liberation groups, whose fighters did not obey those laws, protested that the Geneva Conventions should be amended to entitle their fighters to POW status even if they concealed their status as fighters.

Philippe Sands, author of Torture Team: Rumsfeld’s Memo and the Betrayal of American Values, dismisses the relevancy of whether or not terrorists be granted POW status rights:

In his introductory statement at the hearing on July 15, Mr. Feith devoted a great deal of attention to the issue of P.O.W. status under Geneva. This is not a relevant issue: The rules reflected in Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions prohibit inhumane treatment and establish a distinct, minimum standard of protection for all detainees, not just those with P.O.W. status. Specifically, these rules prohibit a number of acts for detainees “at any time and in any place whatsoever,” including “violence to life and person,” “cruel treatment and torture,” and “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment.” These protections are not dependent upon the detainee having P.O.W. status and, as the official commentary to Geneva makes clear, the scope of Common Article 3 “must be as wide as possible.” Judgments of the International Court of Justice and international criminal tribunals have long held that the rules reflected in Common Article 3 “constitute a minimum yardstick” for all armed conflicts.

Furthermore, Sands argues that Feith does not believe Common Article 3 should apply to Guantanamo detainees.

I have not been able to identify any document that reflects Mr. Feith’s “receptivity” to Common Article 3.

Well….obviously, Sands didn’t choose fit to shell out pound notes to purchase Feith’s War and Decision. Pg 163:

I recommend that our government stress “[h]umane treatment for all detainees,” and that al Qaida as well as Taliban personnel should receive the treatment they are entitled to under the Convention- or that they would be entitled to, if the Convention governed our conflict with them.

As none of the detainees qualified legally for prisoner-of-war status, I believed that humane treatment was the proper standard for all of them- whether or not they had been captured in a war governed by the Convention. Even if the President were unwilling to conclude that the Convention governed our fight against the Taliban, I recommended that he make the following declaration: Although U.S. officials have not yet resolved the question of whether we are legally required to do so, the United States would give all detainees the status that they would be entitled to under the Convention- in other words, humane treatment.

There’s more in the book. Anyone, left or right, interested in serious historical scholarship, should pick up Feith’s book; even if it’s for nothing more than to argue against the policies of the Bush Administration, at least you’ll be better informed in sharpening your criticism.

Previous related posts of interest:

Osama bin-Laden’s Driver Complains He Wasn’t Read Miranda Rights

Terrorist Crying During Interrogation At Gitmo Makes Liberals Sad

Rendition The Only Sane Choice Now

Terrorist Who Trained With AQ To Be Released

Sunday Funnies- “Can it Git Mo’ Crazy than This?”

Andy McCarthy – Congress Must Act To Fix Boumediene

SCOTUS opinion: The aftermath commences

The End Result Of The SCOTUS Gitmo Decision?

Fred On The GITMO Ruling

Walid Phares On The Coming GITMO Trials

McCain – “One of the Worst Decisions in the History of this Country.”

UPDATED – The Supremes: The road to today’s decision

“The Nation Will Live To Regret What The Court Has Done Today.”

Scalia Fumes on Gitmo Case: Today’s Opinion “Will Almost Certainly Cause More Americans To Be Killed.” [Reader Post]

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments


I frankly don’t think even you know what your point was in that last post.

The fact that you are unable to figure out what I mean doesn’t trouble me in the least.

UPDATE – to Hiroshima/Nagasaki

The argument for ending the war ASAP is easily supported by the continuing and profound violations of human rights committed by the Japanese during the war. Their army was comparable to Saddam’s in cruelty. Being “nice” to them would be like being nice to a pack of ravenous wolves.

Just as the suffering of Iraqis was brought on by Saddam and his henchmen, so the suffering of the Japanese was the product of the ruling military class. Like the Islamofascists, they also cynically used their people as human shields. Any compromise to the Japanese rulers would have only extended the suffering of the ordinary citizen. Only someone bereft of any morality could blame America for the course it took to expiditiously end the war.

This link does a good job of painting the larger picture in which the sufferings of so many Japanese is largly taken by America’s detractors to be the only element. It was not, nor was it the most significant.

We know the looney Left doesn’t value life. If it did, then “Che” would NOT be one of their heroes, and live-birth abortion would NOT be a cause they support. The only reason they beat us up with the horror of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is that they know that we have a conscience and are bothered by the fact that it was the only way. Yet, while they try to use our conscience against us, they really couldn’t care less.


“Funny, Dave, I don’t seem to see your references on that detail, or any other for that matter. As you said to Scott recently, …. ‘Substantiate that please.'”

If you’d stop desperately trying to be cute and actually read the other person’s post, you’d see that I discussed the mission differentiation between us and the Brits at Dresden #25.

I only brought out the distinction in mission between the Brits and the Americans at Dresden because I wanted to give the Americans the benefit of the doubt. If you want to quibble with that, fine. You make my point for me – we committed an act of terrorism jointly with the British at Dresden and unilaterally at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The only argument you have is that it was justified terrorism. and we feel bad about it.

I am not even remotely suggesting a moral equivalence between the US and AQ. But what I do want to do is force the application of the definition of terrorism across the board based on historical facts.

The behavior of the Japanese does not justify our behavior. It’s not about being “nice,” it’s about being moral.

Dave Gnoebles accuses me of not reading his silly post, and says if I did I would “…see that I discussed the mission differentiation between us and the Brits at Dresden #25.”

And if he had read mine, he would see I refuted his, …if he were capable of understanding what I wrote, that is, which I fear he’s not (or he’s deliberately feigning ignorance to keep dragging this out so he can keep unloading his quano here.)

“we committed an act of terrorism “ — D.G.

Yep, when a malicious moron calls it terrorism, it must be so. And, yeah, better we should have had lots more allies die, and maybe even risk losing the war, than hurt or psychologically disturb anyone. He is such a total waste of time, and he knows it, too.

Dave Gnoebles says “Surgical attacks on Hiroshima’s industrial areas and military installations, as well as Nagasaki’s shipbuilding and marine repair facilities would have achieved the directly[sic] military objective.

The closest thing to a “surgical strike” back then would have required many planes at low enough altitudes to make it a suicide mission, something that would make Gnoebles quite happy – to see Americans die.

But, the “MILITARY OBJECTIVE” in dropping the atom bomb was not only to attack military targets. It was primarily TO BRING A SWIFT END TO THE WAR, and IT SUCCEEDED AND SAVED HUDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF LIVES ON BOTH SIDES. But, even if it saved no lives on the other side, it was worth it if it saved American lives, which IT DID!

Propagandists like DN want us to feel so guilty about killing an enemy that we opt instead to lose hundreds of thousands of our own people, rather than harm the enemy. Only a perverse conscienceless ghoul would advocate such a horrible thing. It is the Dave Gnoebles of the world who are the real terrorists, as we see from the evil they advocate.

If Double Standard Dave (carpet guano) Gnoebles wants to know what “terror” is, he should ask the American POW’s how “humane” the Japanese Army was, or maybe he should listen to the Asian women who “knew” the Japanese soldier first hand, as he raped his way across Asia.


Philippe Sands will be in conversation with Olenka Frenkiel, an investigative journalist with the BBC, at the Frontline Club in London tonight. We start at 7.30pm UK time Tues 23 Sept and we’ll be streaming it live:

Thought you might be interested in watching/embedding/joining in the chat. Hope so 🙂