Thursday, November 11, 2004

Lawyers, guns, and money

The Geneva Conventions were held after World War II, to specify exactly how prisoners would be treated during war . The US was especially interested in these proceedings, because we hoped that we could avoid the gross maltreatments that American GIs endured in prison camps during that war.

Recently, however, the far right, esp. the hawks who pursued the war in Iraq have been much more short-sighted in their views. Forgetting that American soldiers can and will be captured during the current conflict, they have championed severe methods of interrogation of "detainees."

Sounds sensible, we might say. If the bastards have any information that may be helpful, we should pound it out of them, to save American lives.

Actually, no. Torture really doesn't work, it provides a lot of inaccurate data, and often is a waste of time in terms of gathered intelligence. But many warhawks seem to really get excited, in a manly way, about "prisoner abuse." The Abu Ghraib debacle clearly showed this; anyone with more than a few brain cells will realize that this wasn't just a few "bad apples," but a course of activity promoted and directed by superiors. How superior? Consider this from The Washington Monthly:

War has always had its own codes and rules, but the modern laws governing armed conflict were developed during the 20th century, when industrialized nations fought large, mechanized, bloody wars of attrition. World Wars I and II—featuring aerial combat, bombing campaigns, chemical and trench warfare, and the slaughter of soldiers and civilians on an unprecedented scale—spurred the four Geneva Conventions of 1949, which laid out basic principles of conduct for civilized nations. These treaties aimed to distinguish between combatants and civilians, and to the extent possible, to minimize the suffering inherent in wa
But the lawyers—including White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, Defense Department general counsel William Haynes II, Vice President Cheney's counsel David Addington, and Jay Bybee of the Justice Department (who now sits on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals)—went further. They advised the president to sign a blanket statement of policy that the men captured in Afghanistan would not be subject to the Geneva Conventions, and that by executive fiat, they would all be declared “unlawful enemy combatants,” a category that does not exist in international law.

Gonzales' characterization of the Geneva Conventions as "quaint" further demonstrates how idealistic and short-sighted the right-wing view of current combat is. Because if we do it to them, then it's OK for them to do it to us!

Apart from this minor flaw, Mr. Gonzales's nomination has a few other small problems:

So Uncle Albert has a few problems, but that shouldn't matter to GWBush. After all, he's been a loyal consigliere for many years, and that counts more that the law.

Ashcroft, a fairly lousy lawyer but a stalwart idealogue, will now be replcaed by an idealogue who happens to be a smart lawyer as well.

From the frying pan...

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