Time I weighed in on the political events of last week:
Back in 1996, a vote for the War Crimes Act, which passed both houses with overwhelming support, could have been considered a vote for the U.S. to follow the Geneva Conventions to the letter. When a House Judiciary Committee panel first considered the War Crimes Act in June 1996, John McNeil, then a senior deputy counsel at the Department of Defense, testified that the bill was "an opportunity for members of Congress to endorse the idea that the United States, as a political matter, should be seen as fully in conformity with its international obligations in this very sensitive area."
But at the time Republicans were really focused on making sure U.S. courts would be able to prosecute war crimes committed against American citizens, not by them. Inhofe took to the Senate floor that August to say the War Crimes Act would protect "our young troops" in the event "a crime is perpetrated against them."
It was unthinkable back then that it might be the United States that was systematically violating the Geneva Conventions. "There was never any hint or clue that this might be applied to us," stated Gary Solis, an expert on the law of war at Georgetown University. Elisa Massimino, Washington director of Human Rights First, explained, "No one ever questioned that the U.S. would comply with the full range of the Geneva Conventions obligations."
That is, no one doubted the U.S. would comply until early this month...
So, therefore, when being part of the international community will help protect the lives of our soldiers the Geneva Convention is our friend, but when we are busy killing our own troops through incompetence and negligence and we justify torture as being a good PR tool that will help Joe Sixpack wrongly believe that the actions of this administration (and its war on a philosophical construct) have made us safer, then it is perfectly acceptable to pull a bigger about face than Lieutenant Kerry ever perpetrated.
Torture, as so many have noted, is simply in the worst interests for our country by not only inspiring (and rightly so) hatred around the world, but by also empowering out darkest motivations:
Granted such liberty in dealing with prisoners, some officers started to enjoy themselves. They made up games, forcing prisoners to dance, smearing glue on their heads, stripping them naked, pouring frigid water over them. Sometimes guards had too much fun and a prisoner died. Then prison-appointed doctors, who often participated in the interrogations, wrote up fictive autopsy reports.
No. This passage describes Soviet Gulags.
Taken from an interview in Harper's historian Kate brown notes that
Declassified FBI and U.S. Army files detailing abuses of detainees in U.S. detention centers uncannily echo Soviet NKVD reports. They recount late-night roundups of civilians and describe prisoners held in chambers of extreme heat or cold, chained naked to the floor without food and water for days on end, defecating on themselves, beaten (some to death), forced to dance, to lick their shoes and body parts, to crawl around, and to bark like dogs. American doctors and psychiatrists helped devise methods of inflicting pain and fear to elicit confessions, and they signed false reports when detainees died in custody.
But as Paul Rieckhoff (an infantry officer who served in Iraq) explains the new stance on terror has soldiers, well, terrified:
IN 2002, I attended the Infantry Officer Basic Course at Fort Benning, Ga. At “the Schoolhouse,” every new Army infantry officer spent six months studying the basics of his craft, including the rules of war.
I remember a seasoned senior officer explaining the importance of the Geneva Conventions. He said, “When an enemy fighter knows he’ll be treated well by United States forces if he is captured, he is more likely to give up.”
A year later on the streets of Baghdad, I saw countless insurgents surrender when faced with the prospect of a hot meal, a pack of cigarettes and air-conditioning. America’s moral integrity was the single most important weapon my platoon had on the streets of Iraq. It saved innumerable lives, encouraged cooperation with our allies and deterred Iraqis from joining the growing insurgency.
But those days are over. America’s moral standing has eroded, thanks to its flawed rationale for war and scandals like Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo and Haditha. The last thing we can afford now is to leave Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions open to reinterpretation, as President Bush proposed to do and can still do under the compromise bill that emerged last week...
But the fight over Article 3 concerns not only Al Qaeda and the war in Iraq. It also affects future wars, because when we lower the bar for the treatment of our prisoners, other countries feel justified in doing the same. Four years ago in Liberia, in an attempt to preserve his corrupt authority, President Charles Taylor adopted the Bush administration’s phrase “unlawful combatants” to describe prisoners he wished to try outside of civilian courts. Today Mr. Taylor stands before The Hague accused of war crimes.
via Adam Ash
More in the LA Times
But what do I know?
I'm just a useless architecture student not an omnipotent congressman...
...and we must be safer sine we red-stamped torture last week because today liquids have been allowed back on planes