Thursday, April 17, 2008

War Criminal

In a time-honored tradition of dumping bad news late on Friday afternoons, when news outlets can't or don't give it much play, President Bush admitted last Friday that he knew about and approved a clandestine 2003 meeting of the White House national security team, including VP Cheney, to detail and support the practices of waterboarding and other "enhanced" interrogation techniques, applied to terror suspects, incarcerated without trial or habeas corpus.

Article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention defines war crimes as "willful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, including ... causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, unlawful deportation or transfer or unlawful confinement of a protected person, ... or willfully depriving a protected person of the rights of fair and regular trial, ... taking of hostages and extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly."

The Convention defines "protected persons" as those "who, at a given moment and in any manner whatsoever, find themselves, in case of a conflict or occupation, in the hands of a Party to the conflict or Occupying Power of which they are not nationals."

Persons not protected by the Convention are citizens of a nation not bound by the Convention and citizens of a nation that has normal diplomatic relations with the nation into whose hands the citizens have fallen.

Article 147 also legally defines "torture" as "the infliction of suffering on a person to obtain from that person, or from another person, confessions or information. ... It is more than a mere assault on the physical or moral integrity of a person. What is important is not so much the pain itself as the purpose behind its infliction."

The article states further that "by 'inhuman treatment' [specific to the treatment of nonmilitary captives--which the White House has claimed the detainees are--i.e., they are not POWs] the Convention does not mean only physical injury or injury to health."

In March 23, 2003, when five US soldiers were captured and videotaped by Iraqi troops, President Bush warned that "the people who mistreat the prisoners will be treated as war criminals." Iraq, in response, promised to respect the Geneva Conventions in its treatment of the prisoners.

Three years later Bush called the Geneva Conventions "vague"--yet called on Congress to back even looser, more permissive definitions of "torture" and "inhuman treatment."

And, now, in 2008, he admits oversight in 2003 to the willful dismantling of the humane protections of the Geneva Conventions, as they apply to captured military and civilian citizens of an antagonist nation.

Dear International Court of Justice: You may draw up the paperwork now. Thanks!

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