"[Bush's] inarticulateness has become .. a national securitythreat for theUS"

Owen Byrne owen@permafrost.net
Sun, 23 Mar 2003 22:27:26 -0400

JS Kelly wrote:

>speculating about the long-term consequences is one of the things that
>strategic planning is all about. seems like we need more of that, not
>On Sun, 23 Mar 2003, Gregory Alan Bolcer wrote:
>>The point being, I can think of far worse
>>diplomatic failures that have had no lasting
>OK, i'm game. please name some of them.
>>I stand by my original comment
>>that it's too soon to draw conclusions which is
>>what I think you are saying below too (although
>>speculating much more about the long term
>it's too soon to draw conclusions about some things. not too soon to draw
>conclusions about other things. 
>interesting that we say that international law and international covenants
>are irrelevant, but are demanding that saddam abide by the geneva
>don't get me wrong: of course he should abide by the geneva convention.
>but, well -- we should also have abided by international law, don't you
More directly shouldn't the US abide by the Geneva Convention?
Rumsfield today: " We do know that the Geneva Convention makes it 
illegal for prisoners of war to be shown and pictured and humiliated."



Bush: Gitmo Bay Captives Are 'Killers'

Tuesday, January 29, 2002

*WASHINGTON  President Bush said Monday the 158 captives held by the 
United States in Cuba are killers and terrorists and not prisoners of 
war  but are being well treated. *


Bush said he was trying to decide whether the Geneva Conventions, the 
international rules governing treatment of POWs, cover the suspected 
terrorists. He heard arguments from his National Security Council on 
Monday but made no determination and offered no timetable.

"I'll listen to all the legalisms and announce my decision when I make 
it," he told reporters in a Rose Garden appearance with Afghan interim 
leader Hamid Karzai.

At issue is whether the 52-year-old conventions apply to the war in 
Afghanistan and whether its safeguards apply to those captured. The 
conventions require that POWs be humanely treated. They also say 
prisoners of war are not obliged to give captors more information than 
name, rank, date of birth and serial number. That would restrict the 
United States' ability to interrogate the prisoners about terrorism.

"We are adhering to the spirit of the Geneva Convention," Bush said. 
"They're being well treated."

Still, Bush said, those being held in Cuba are not prisoners of war. 
Ambiguity about whether a captive should be considered a prisoner of war 
requires a special three-person military tribunal to decide, the Geneva 
Conventions say. There is no ambiguity here, the administration says.

The POW designation would confer an array of rights on the terror suspects.

Under the Geneva Conventions, it would entitle them to trials under the 
same procedures as U.S. soldiers -- not through the military tribunals 
the administration has authorized. The conventions also require captors 
to pay prisoners advances on their military salaries, and make soap and 
tobacco available.

In April 1999, the United States government insisted that three U.S. 
Army soldiers captured by Yugoslavia near the Macedonian-Yugoslav border 
were prisoners of war and were covered by the Geneva Conventions. The 
three were later released unharmed.

"We are not going to call them prisoners of war," said Bush, who 
repeatedly called them "prisoners" and then caught himself to refer to 
them as "detainees."

"And the reason why is al-Qaida is not a known military," Bush said. 
"These are killers, these are terrorists, they know no countries."

The president decided earlier this month that the accusations of 
terrorism against the prisoners disqualified them from POW status. That 
prompted an outcry from German, Dutch, British and European Union 
officials, as well as the International Committee of the Red Cross and 
human rights groups.

"There's an issue as to exactly what their legal status ought to be," 
Vice President Dick Cheney said on CNN. "Whether they ought to be 
treated as unlawful combatants under the Geneva Convention, or whether 
the convention was written for other types of conflicts and doesn't 
apply here, and that's an interesting debate among the lawyers."

Bush used a similar phrase  "illegal combatants"  for the suspected 
terrorists. Neither phrase appears in the Geneva Conventions, but legal 
experts said it generally means fighters outside the Geneva Conventions 
who do not abide by the laws of war.

Monday, the National Security Council grappled with the issue. One camp 
in the White House argued that because Afghanistan was a "failed state," 
and the Taliban were not a legitimate government in the view of some 
officials, the conventions did not cover the U.S.-led war there.

"That's lame," said Gary Solis, a former professor of war law at the 
United States Military Academy. Afghanistan signed the conventions in 
1949, so the provisions apply today, he said.

But Solis said the administration was correct in not conferring POW 
status on the detainees. The fighters don't meet other requirements, he 
said -- soldiers commanded by a person responsible for subordinates; a 
fixed, distinctive sign recognizable at a distance; carrying arms 
openly; obeying the laws of war.

"I believe we are complying with the law of war, but very inartfully," 
Solis said.

He noted the sedation of the prisoners and the Defense Department's 
release of photographs of them in manacles, kneeling and wearing goggles 
and ear muffs. The images triggered protests in Europe and elsewhere 
about the conditions at Guantanamo Bay.

"We lost a certain measure of credibility when we were seen to do this," 
Solis said, adding those actions were not illegal.