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Thursday, June 16, 2005
 
WHY THE GENEVA CONVENTIONS NEED GITMO


Jason hits the nail on the head. War is tough business. At the end of the day, though, the closure of GITMO would mark the end of the geneva conventions as a meaningful agreement. Why? Because the geneva conventions lay out rules of conduct for each side to follow in a conflict that guarantees some common-sense rules of conduct that protect soldiers and civilians alike. Among those rules -- you wear an identifiable uniform to set yourself apart from civilians. You don't target civilians. You don't force civilians to commit acts of violence on your behalf. You don't kill captured soldiers. You don't use religious buildings or hospitals for military operations.

In return for abiding by those rules of conduct, you get a) quarter on the battlefield and b) decent treatment as a prisoner of war. Also, Under the conventions, a captured soldier can be kept as a prisoner of war until the end of the conflict.

The new standard that McCain and Democrats are calling for would essentially say that enemy combatants should be tried in a court of law or released. Think about that: terrorists who violate ALL of the rules of conduct that I laid out above, are not only entitled to all the same protections as the everyday soldier, but have the added advantage of being able to challenge their detention through our criminal justice process, which as we see this week, places the onus on the prosecution, rather than the criminal. The result: terrorists get a chance to walk free, even though their allies and organizations are still actively at war with the United States, while the uniformed soldier is confined for the duration.

If we allow this self-flagellation to continue, and we hamstring ourselves into providing terrorists and murderers with more rights than soldiers who act honorably, we are giving our enemies (today and in the future) every incentive to resort to the tactics of terror. The result -- more civilian deaths.

My sense is that the most effective way to deal with this is to take no prisoners. Kill them on the battlefield. If you can't get any information from them, and you can't even turn the air conditioning up too high for fear of some monday morning quarterback in the senate comparing our soldiers to Nazis, then you may as well kill them right then and there. Oh, I don't mean murder them. Don't have to. Our soldiers throw hell at these guys, then back off a bit to let them think better of it. All we have to do is eliminate the lull in the battlefield that allows them to come out of their hiding space with their hands up.

The sad thing is, this doesn't serve us well either, since we could use the information to help stop terrorists before they strike. But if the choice is to kill them, or pamper them, release them and have to fight them later. I say kill them.

One more thing -- I was glad to finally see some members of the House and Senate standing up for our troops and fighting back against this ridiculous feeding frenzy. We have to win this war. And that is going to require us to do lots of nasty things we wouldn't ordinarily do and things we don't like to do. If we have to chain up a terrorist and put naked pictures around his neck, and turn the airconditioning off to get some information that saves the lives of AMERICAN SOLDIERS, as well as innocent civilians, I am comfortable with that.

It seems funny that people who claim to be so supportive of the American soldier value knee-jerk anti-American "international opinion" more than the lives of our soldiers on the ground. Make no mistake about it -- these hysterical outbursts that we are becoming monsters because of what we are doing at GITMO are providing aid and comfort to the enemy. This whole issue is about one thing: scoring cheap political points by running down the reputation of our nation's armed forces (in an attempt to tar the President) is as transparant as it is shameful.

On the plus side, it is good to see they are finally interrogating these prisoners the right way -- systematically and effectively breaking them down to get information. The disorganized naked pyramid approach was not very effective.



Comments:
This is an issue that Republicans (or even smart Dems) should not be quiet about either.

I would not hesitiate for a moment to stand up against one of these pontificating Dems or wobbly knee'd Republicans pitying the poor terrorists to say - where is your perspective Senator? Where is your concern for the American citizens and soldiers?

Does anyone think for even a moment that if we suffered a major terrorist attack tomorrow that this story wouldn't just disappear into the ether? The left, as usual, is actively trying to make us weaker. This is not an issue to back down on.
 
The left is, as usual, trying to save us all from the consequences of conservative ignorance.

No one disputes the need to kill, capture or otherwise disable our enemies. Not following the Geneva conventions may make you feel good, but it makes our country weaker. The rule of law, and standards of civilized behavior favor the strong and the civilized. People who are weak and barbaric benefit from chaos and the breakdown of international norms. They understand this - this is why they work to create chaos - by bombings and other methods of disrupting civil society. Anything we do to violate these norms, like the Geneva conventions only help the terrorists.

In truth, our forces work hard never to engage in these violations, and we must congratulate them for their efforts - but whenever they do miss the standard - which some soldiers do at times - it gives the enemy a propaganda victory. And any effort on the part of our government to hide or downplay these failures gives the enemy an even greater victory - because they can claim that there are even more incidents that we have covered up.

The strongest policy for the United States is to uphold the Geneva Conventions stringently. To prosecute any violations on our side in the open, and completely. And to use that to give us a propaganda victory - we can show the world that we in fact to not ever tolerate certain uncivilized behavior from our side. We can make a stark difference between us and them.

What we are doing now allows the enemy to portray us as being worse and less civilized than they are. Clearly we are not - but any slip on our part gives them fuel for that argument. And the audience they are playing to is mostly an Islamic audience which is inclined to take their point of view.

Some of you may say that we need to win the war on the ground and not some propaganda war. This war cannot be won on the ground. Like Vietnam, we can kill insurgents all day ( and we do ) but they will always find more to replace them. We can only win the war by decisively winning over the people. We are not doing that. In fact even as we engage the insurgents successfully, the overall war continues to tip away against us. Casualties this month are higher than the month before.

Any slip on these human rights issues it deeply damaging to US interests. Any reluctance on our part not to investigate and punish those incidents is even more damaging.
 
Braveheart, I must apologize for my ignorance, as I did not realize that Al Qaeda and the Taliban had signed onto the Geneva Convention. This is excellent news. What was the date of their signatures?

By the way, the Red Cross has a permanent office established at Gitmo - did you know that? The detainees are being treated in accordance with every provision of the Geneva Convention with the exception of the fact they have and will continue to be interrogated - did you know that? Should they not be interrogated? Is that your assertion?
 
Jason,

It is encouraging that you admit your ignorance, but I'm afraid you are still in its shadow.

The United States as a signitory is bound to treat everyone, signitory or not, according to the convention. The terrorists, as non signitories are of course not bound by it, and would not be violating the convention no matter what they do. This is a mark or course that we in the US are part of modern civilization and they are part of a dark cloud of ignorance and backwardness.

The Geneva convention is more like a pledge than a treaty. All civilized countries have pledged to treat anyone else on this planet with a certain minimum of dignity. This is not a reflection that our prisoners deservingness of dignity, but more a reflection on the dignity and superiority of a Geneva convention signitory.

Under the geneva conventions there are only two kinds of prisoners: combatants and non-combatants, both of them have rights. There is no category called "unlawful combatant". Bush just made that up. It is completely invented.
 
Right. Got it. Sorry about that. So these combatants, I forget, what color uniform were they wearing? Shoot me a picture of their flag, would you? And where again can we contact their government leaders? And of course, where shall we return them to at the end of the conflict?

These detainees, friend, are not "combatants" is any sense of the word ever contemplated by the signatories of the Geneva Convention. These are like mercanaries, pirates - terrorists. They would aim to kill me - and you - and so would their friends. It is the responsibility of my government to protect me - and you - and I expect them to use whatever resources that are avilable to them to do it. Frankly it doesn't sound to me like they're trying hard enough, but what do I know, they're the professionals.

Again I ask you, should we not interogate them? Are you willing to risk the lives of hundreds or thousands or more of innocent lives on the fact that they don't have information that could help us - or that even if they do we shouldn't attempt to get it out of them?

Listen man, when you're fighting a cancer you study the tumor so you can find out how best to eliminate it. Is that somehow not clear to you? Trust me, it's OK to take sides bewteen the fireman and the fire.
 
Jason,

I just went and read up on the Geneva Conventions. Basically it works like this you are either a civilian or a combatant. Combatants may attack each other, and if captured may not be punished or even interrogated by the other side. They get many other rights besides - like the right to be fed as well as your own troops and the right to medical care. Civilians must be treated according to the laws of the land in which they live.

To be considered a combatant you have to be wearing a uniform, be carrying a weapon openly and be easily distinguishable from civilians. There are other requirements as well. Military Medics and Journalists - even in uniform - are not considered combatants. In 1977, the removed the requirement of uniforms. Irregular troops who fight openly, don't target civilians, and are not foreign are to to considered combatants. Terrorists who target civilians of course are not combatants according to the convention. Foreign insurgents in Iraq are not combatants. But local iraqi's who target American soldiers are considered combatants. Soldiers of course may hide and take cover - they just can't do things like shoot from hospitals, use human shields etc.

If a combatant kills another, they cannot be punished for it. But if a civilian kills a combatant, this is considered a murder, and must be treated under the applicable criminal codes- with a right to trial and whatever else is customary in that jurisdiction. If a soldier kills a civilian, its the same thing - its considered a crime.

So foreign terrorist who carries out an attack on American soil would under the Geneva convention be a criminal who should be tried under American law - like any other criminal - like Timothy McVeigh. Such a terrorist could be interrogated - but under American law - so they would have right to a lawyer present.

A terrorist who kills Iraqi civilians, would be a criminal under Iraqi law, and would have the rights that any other murder there does.

An Iraqi insurgent who kills an American soldier - even if they are not wearing a uniform - is a protected combatant and may be kept prisoner without a trial until the end of the war. They may not be punished or even questioned.

A non-iraqi insurgent, caught fighting Americans in Iraq would be considered a criminal under Iraqi law, and probably under the law of the country they came from. They could be interrogated, and tried and punished. At the end of their punishment in Iraq they could be extradited to their home country to face whatever the consequences there are.

So basically a combatant who follows the rules of the convention has all the legal protections that civilians have,
and then some extra one - the right not to be punished for acts of war, and the right not to be interrogated. If a combatant violates the rules - they lose those protections and may be treated like a civilian.

When in doubt as to whether a prisoner should be treated as a combatant or a civilian - they must be given the additional rights of a civilian until a competent court decides their case.

The convention is specific in saying that under not circumstances may anyone ever be tortured, and that there is no category of person, combatant or not who has no rights.

You do not have to be a signitory of the conventions to be bound by them. Signitories are simply making a public pledge to be bound by them. Non signitories can chose to abide by them if they want, and therefore give themselves whatever protections the convention says.
 
There is a procedure in place to determine whether they are unlawful combatants or civilians. The military has a tribunal that rules on that issue before they go over to GITMO. They are then reviewed more thoroughly by a second tribunal after they are there (prompting the miltiary to release them).

While I agree with you that unlawful combatants lose the protectiosn afforded to soldiers, I do not agree with your reading that they are then, de facto, considered civilians -- who have far more rights and priviliges than soldiers. They are not subject to the same rules of evidence and benefit of a doubt that is afforded to American citizens accused of crimes.

The key problem with the insurgency is that it does not follow the rules of war. Anyone taking up arms in league with them is, therefore, participating in an illigitimate action.

The key difference between the POWs and the unlawful combatants is that we can interrogate and execute unlawful combatants. We did it with the Nazi saboteurs in WWII -- they were caught on American soil, determined to be unlawful combatants and executed. Same thing is at play here. Somehow, I think we will never execute these thugs and murderers, which is too bad.
 
TJ,

Its no a matter of agreeing with me or not. Its a matter of agreeing with the Conventions.

In the field civilians get more protections. That is no combatant can deliberately target a civilian.

But afterwards, as a prisoner or under any judicial proceeding, soldiers simply get more rights than civilians - that is the right not to be prosecuted for acts of war - provided the soldier has followed the conventions. If you lose the special protection that soldiers have, then you are left with "only" the civilian protections.

The iraqi insurgents are no a single organized force. Some of them target civilians, and as such are simply criminals. Others may target exclusively American soldiers and as such - even without uniforms ( under the changes made in 1977 ), are considered combatants.

Anyway the main point is either you grant them combatant protections or you don't. Everyone remains entitled to the applicable civilian protections. Go to genevaconventions.org, you can read the rules there. If after you read the rules you don't agree with them then you can say that the US should stop following the GC. But you can't argue that they rules are different than what they are.

I think most of the people at Guantanamo probably don't fall under GC protections. They should be tried under either US or Afghan law, as criminals.
 
"I think most of the people at Guantanamo probably don't fall under GC protections. They should be tried under either US or Afghan law, as criminals."

Absolutely. I hope we can find that Osama Bin Laden so we can bring him up on RICO charges and throw the book at him. Hell, let's let Belgium try him where he can receive a MAXIMUM of fifteen years in prison.
 
The term "unlawful combatant" was not 'made up.' That's a really simplistic understanding of international law. We are dealing with a new type of enemy. There is no classification for enemies not in uniform and not in their own country. The traditional civilian vs. combatant category is obsolete - like squishy minded liberalism.

International law - as a field - is open to new interpretation and revision, unlike American law. Treatment of these terrorists is simply not forseen in the Convention and it would be silly to apply them in this case.

It would be wise for the UN to consider amending the Convention to include these detainees but - until that happens the United States is fully within its rights to interpret international law within the context of its own traditions.

This interpretation of international law is consistent with the UN's decisions on not sanctioning nations for engaging in 'local custom' for committing human rights abuses in countries like China and Iran.

Now - I know that may sound a little unfair - but - the law is the law.

And here is what happens when it is applies:
- from Human Rights watch - "China has cracked down on religious practitioners and activists and subjected them to abuse in prisons and “re-education through labor” camps—some have also been executed. Detainees have reported beatings with shackles, electric shocks, and being kicked to the point of unconsciousness."

This is from China's campaign against Tibet - an activity that falls under the Convention.

The UN chose not to consider these actions a violation of the Geneva Convention. I would apply that standard to the US - and argue that we too should be afforded the same protections as the Chinese Government. To hold the United States to a higher standard is a violation of both the spirit and the letter of the UN charter which resolves to treat all nations equally.
 
So sad. And so sickening. There was a time where we criticized governments like China for their human rights abuses. Today, we have "patriots" like you looking up to China's worst abuses in Tibet as a role model. Sad.
 
I'm just telling you what the law says. If you don't like it - well - I'm sorry that your slavish devotion to the UN and the Geneva Convention wasn't rewarded.

Feel free to twist my words into an incomprehensible point of view if you like - that I am "looking up" to China.

But my point was - as I said - the law is the law. For all your whiny moaning about the Convention...and how important and sacred and reverential this document you don't seem to agree with the Convention at all.

Its obvious that this is just a pretext. Using the document to attack an administration with what is actually a stellar record on punishing human rights abuses.

You don't like the President, you don't like the war. Just say it. It's OK - that's fine. But when you twist the facts to tar the President as a war criminal (which he would be if he violated the Convention) it's a real slander and it shows how low the politics of personal destruction have gone within the Democratic Party.
 
Go read the Geneva conventions retard. There is no mention of "unlawful combatants". All the communist dictators in the world are free to re-interpret the GCs into whatever fantasy they want - it still doesn't make it true. Why don't you go read some old Nazi press releases with their justifications about how they are not violating the laws of war. I look forward to the personal destruction of you and all your fascist friends. I hope Bush's new bankruptcy law is used to auction off your home.
 
Now we know it takes approximately 13 posts for braveheart to lose his cool.

We also know that Braveheart is not, in any way, a pacifist. Nope. He just would prefer the violence be directed at Republicans rather than jihadists.

Nice. The Nazi reference was great too. I'm sure that Chris, in particular, enjoyed the irony. Too bad for you that Durbin thinks the same way you do -- and was foolish enough to get caught expressing his actual views. When you guys reveal yourselves to be what you really are, that is what gets your side in trouble.

Kerry had the right idea -- pretend to be what you aren't. But he couldn't pull it off -- thanks Michael Moore! Thanks Howard Dean! Thanks Janine Garafalo! Thanks Senator Durbin! Keep up the good work. Were it not for you, we'd all be enjoying Kerry's first term right now (at least we would know what his "plan" actually was.)

As for bankruptcy, I plan on paying my debts. If, for some reason, I can't... well, I can't see what justification I have for keeping my home and letting the people who lent me money hang out to dry. But that's me. Where I come from, borrowing money and not paying it back is a form of stealing. In your world, it seems to be something that earns you a protected status.

Side note: Did the Nazis really have press releases? I'd love to read some of those. I imagine it like this:

"We are very pleased at the progress made on the Eastern Front," said Hitler. "We are making a lot of progress and continued sacrifice on the part of the civilian population should pay off any day now."
 
Wow.

"Go read the Geneva conventions retard."

"I look forward to the personal destruction of you and all your fascist friends. I hope Bush's new bankruptcy law is used to auction off your home."

Well that's not very nice is it? I didn't think we were even allowed to say "retard" anymore.
 
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