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Geneva Conventions and Terrorists
Posted by: Dale Franks on Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Editors of both the Wall Street Journal and National Review are upset that the Defense Department has sent out out a memo declaring that captured terrorists are to be treated according to Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. Much of the anger is directed at what this means in terms of how terrorists are treated.
In practice, this means that a captured terrorist such as September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is now protected by Common Article 3. People often associate the Geneva Conventions with guarantees against torture, protection for the wounded and the sick, and other "bare minimum" humanitarian standards. But Common Article 3 goes considerably further, forbidding, for example, "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment."

What exactly constitutes personal dignity and outrages upon it? Who knows, though we bet the ACLU will be more than happy to supply some answers. Our guess is that the concept can be read so expansively as to forbid the U.S. from so much as shouting at captured al Qaeda suspects, never mind "waterboarding" them, as was reportedly done to break KSM. In a war in which actionable intelligence acquired from captives is crucial to uncovering terrorist plots and preventing future attacks, it's hard to imagine a greater self-inflicted setback to counterterror efforts.
Well, they're more or less correct, on this point, although I'd point out that the three of us here at QandO have repeatedly raised the ire of many on the Right side of the blogosphere for our stance against torturing prisoners. Not because the terrorist deserve kid-glove treatment—they don't—but because that's not how we are supposed to go about our business.

That argument is moot now, of course.

The thing is, the implications for the treatment terrorists receive is the least important issue in the case of the Conventions. The central purpose of the Conventions are not to determine how prisoners of war are treated. Their central purpose is to spare civilians as much as possible, from depredations during wars.

The way they do this is by appealing to the enlightened self-interest of military members. The Conventions are A Deal, and The Deal is this:

"So, here's what we're gonna do. If you guys with guns don't bother the non-combatants, wear uniforms, and stick the appropriate bits of spangly stuff on your high mucky-mucks, then, when you get captured, you're farting through silk. Sure, you'll be stuck in a POW camp. But while you're there, you get three squares and cot, nobody can do nasty stuff to you, you'll get to write letters home to your chick, and you'll get those cool gift baskets from the nice people at the Red Cross on a regular basis. And of course, you gotta extend the same courtesy to the guys on the other side who have guns.

"On the other hand, if you don't play by those rules, well, then the other guys with guns can get a couple of their guys with spangly bits to declare you to be 'illegal combatants', after which you might get a serious case of lead poisoning. Or rope burn. Whatever."

"Play by the rules, don't tease the civilians, and you'll be fine. Otherwise..."

Now, we're fighting people who don't play by the rules. killing civilians, then fading into obscurity among the populace is the way they play the game. Obviously, there's a hard core of terrorists who don't really care about playing the game properly. If the job calls for civilian-killing, then that's what they'll do.

But by explicitly stating that, no matter how heinous your acts, we'll treat you with Common Article 3 privileges, you remove all deterrent to the marginal guys. basically, what we've said is that terrorism is more or less of a risk-free deal if you get captured.

That creates a perverse incentive that is the exact reverse of what the Conventions intend. Rather than creating incentives to forego bothering civilians, and treating prisoners with reciprocity, a unilateral declaration that CC3 rules apply, even to terrorists, is to declare an open season on civilians.

Moreover, for private militia forces, it eliminates any leverage that might force them to organize themselves along at least paramilitary lines. Now, instead of acting like the big boys, and going after military targets, they can concentrate on civilian actions if they think that's less dangerous—which is is—or more effective—which is arguable.

What we've done in effect is to say, we have to play by the rules, even if you don't. So, go ahead. Be as bad as you can be.

That is precisely the opposite of what the Geneva Conventions intended. Not only that, it's the exact opposite of what they say.

With that in mind, I'm now inclined to the Ralph Peters solution.
Consider today's norm: A terrorist in civilian clothes can explode an IED, killing and maiming American troops or innocent civilians, then demand humane treatment if captured - and the media will step in as his champion. A disguised insurgent can shoot his rockets, throw his grenades, empty his magazines, kill and wound our troops, then, out of ammo, raise his hands and demand three hots and a cot while he invents tales of abuse.

Conferring unprecedented legal status upon these murderous transnational outlaws is unnecessary, unwise and ultimately suicidal. It exalts monsters. And it provides the anti-American pack with living vermin to anoint as victims, if not heroes.

Isn't it time we gave our critics what they're asking for? Let's solve the "unjust" imprisonment problem, once and for all. No more Guantanamos! Every terrorist mission should be a suicide mission. With our help...

Our policy toward terrorists and insurgents in civilian clothing should be straightforward and public: Surrender before firing a shot or taking hostile action toward our troops, and we'll regard you as a legal prisoner. But once you've pulled a trigger, thrown a grenade or detonated a bomb, you will be killed. On the battlefield and on the spot.

Isn't that common sense? It also happens to conform to the traditional conduct of war between civilized nations. Ignorant of history, we've talked ourselves into folly.
I don't have a problem with that.
 
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Comments
Just one more example of the idiocy of liberalism. If only those liberal judges who ruled on this were the only ones to suffer the consequences. Oh, guess I cannot say that without incurring the wrath heaped upon the poor fellow who recently used Greenwald Rhetoric to complain about the Supremes. Of course, I didn’t really mean that I wanted them to suffer any real consequences, I just meant that they should feel bad. Can I still say that? I want captured terrorists to feel bad. Am I over the line? Can we give them a time out?
 
Written By: Robert Fulton
URL: http://
"because that’s not how we are supposed to go about our business."

That attitude among the British Army was a large part of the reason the Colonists where able to challenge the British troops at all.

Basically we attack them via their self-imposed weaknesses.

This situation is somewhat different. I’m not looking to deliberately torture PoWs/detainees. But the removal of the possible of dispensing of the GC when our enemies don’t observe it will be exploited. This current enemy essential does alread, but it may have made a difference in some future conflict.
 
Written By: jpm100
URL: http://
Guantanamo has done more for the terrorist cause worldwide than any Taliban with a rifle or Iraqi with a bomb. Guantanamo and secret jails are not only morally repulsive but counterproductive.
 
Written By: sarahk
URL: http://
Guantanamo has done more for the terrorist cause worldwide than any Taliban with a rifle or Iraqi with a bomb. Guantanamo and secret jails are not only morally repulsive but counterproductive.
Your opinion is garbage, you are quite stupid. I guess it would have been better to summarily execute them right? How about we let them all go live with you then?
 
Written By: kyle N
URL: http://impudent.blognation.us/blog
Your opinion is garbage, you are quite stupid. I guess it would have been better to summarily execute them right? How about we let them all go live with you then?

Thank you Kyle. Does your mother know you are at the computer?
 
Written By: sarahk
URL: http://
Sarahk wrote:
"Guantanamo has done more for the terrorist cause worldwide than any Taliban with a rifle or Iraqi with a bomb. Guantanamo and secret jails are not only morally repulsive but counterproductive."
Actually yours are debatable points in each case. I doubt sincerely if you have the information required to say anything dispositive on either topic.

That’s me using bigger words to say you’ve posted stupidly, whether you are in fact of subnormal intelligence or not.

You have a vague impression, can you support it?

I think it is morally obtuse to say we can kill them out of hand but not preserve their lives and coerce with uninjurious means during interrogation.

"Not because the terrorist deserve kid-glove treatment—they don’t—but because that’s not how we are supposed to go about our business."

How we are supposed to go about our business is to be effective and efficient.

Dale,

You have not made the case that killing them on the spot is morally better than keeping them and when they know something, interrogating them in an useful manner.


Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
You have not made the case that killing them on the spot is morally better than keeping them...
No. I haven’t. If you’re too obtuse to know the moral case on that issue as its existed for the last 200 years or so, then it’s pointless to try to explain it to you now.
 
Written By: Dale Franks
URL: http://www.qando.net
Our policy toward terrorists and insurgents in civilian clothing should be straightforward and public: Surrender before firing a shot or taking hostile action toward our troops, and we’ll regard you as a legal prisoner. But once you’ve pulled a trigger, thrown a grenade or detonated a bomb, you will be killed. On the battlefield and on the spot.
Unfortunately, terrorists are rarely apprehended "on the spot" and "on the battlefield" is just about anywhere you can imagine. Remember the whole thing above about terrorists fading into obscurity among the populace?

The terrorists sneak around, lie, dissemble, and pretend to be innocent civilians. And we catch them based on information of varying reliability that we either: a) get from 3rd parties with their own agendas or b) get from the few terrorists that we do capture "on the battlefield."

Peter’s "solution" requires perfect information and a total lack of ambiguity and, without those, would ultimately be worse than Guantanamo in nearly every way.
 
Written By: Terry
URL: http://
Dale Franks opined:
"If you’re too obtuse to know the moral case on that issue as its existed for the last 200 years or so, then it’s pointless to try to explain it to you now."
No really, we’d all like to hear how, if its ok to kill someone, it’s not ok to ask them questions while giving them three hots and a cot.

There are a few minors at Guantanamo. They are receiving high school equivalent educations.

You just said that instead we should have shot them.

Someone’s being obtuse.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
"Basically we attack them via their self-imposed weaknesses."

So if our weakness is treating prisoners decently, how do they exploit it? Surrender by the millions in hopes of overloading our ability to feed them, house them etc., and thereby bankrupting us?
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
I have to echo Tom Perkins; summary battlefield executions do not seem obviously morally superior to detention and interrogation of the character reported w/r/t Gitmo.

Am I misunderstanding something here?
 
Written By: CNH
URL: http://
CNH -
I have to echo Tom Perkins; summary battlefield executions do not seem obviously morally superior to detention and interrogation of the character reported w/r/t Gitmo.

Am I misunderstanding something here?


Only that the other side does not take prisoners except to stage gruesome executions later. And that traditionally, if one side in a War does not take prisoners, what is the "moral obligation" on the other side to "be better"? [see Pacific Island Jap battles with US, Japs vs. Chinese, N Korean troops, Mongols, Islamic Horde, Vietcong, Hutus]

Helpful hint: The US was not "ACLU-compliant" against "no quarter" Jap and NORK forces. We had this silly idea of victory, fair play being more important than a merciless enemy’s right to a cozy captivity.

 
Written By: C. Ford
URL: http://
C. Ford, the difference is that the people we are fighting frequently are willing to be taken captive where the Japanese almost always fought to the last. If we take the tack of killing them all without regard to attempts to surrender, then our enemy in this war will also fight to the last. This would probably cost us more than the accepting the surrender of even these.

With different foes, different approaches to surrender are approriate.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
OK, Stupid Sarah, let’s forget that you have no military experience and no experience studying these issues except for reading the Liberal Narrative, and let’s give you a hearing. Guantanamo and unproven secret prisons are a bad way to fight the war on terror. What do you suggest as a better way?

Of course you haven’t a clue. You are simply a dupe of the Liberal Narrative, which appeals to your child-like desire to be a "good person". The politicians who tell you that your desire to always be a "good person" is a viable way to run a country in today’s world (in order to get your vote)are the real culprits.

So cut and paste something from your Narrative about a better way. Oh yeah, they haven’t yet found one to add to their Narrative. Well, OK then. Simply continue decrying all efforts of the current administration. That will make you feel morally superior. And that’s important.
 
Written By: Robert Fulton
URL: http://
Guantanamo has done more for the terrorist cause worldwide than any Taliban with a rifle or Iraqi with a bomb. Guantanamo and secret jails are not only morally repulsive but counterproductive.
Well, I suppose you are correct, in that Guantanamo has given the left talking points. If Guantanamo leads to a Democratic victory, it would certainly be counterproductive in the war on Islamic terror.
 
Written By: Don
URL: http://
I will ignore the silly and vituperative personal attacks and focus on the issue of what I said.

"Guantanamo has done more for the terrorist cause worldwide than any Taliban with a rifle or Iraqi with a bomb. Guantanamo and secret jails are not only morally repulsive but counterproductive."

Like it or not, Guantanamo has become a symbol of American hypocrisy around the world. I travel a lot and this is a truth evident from statements from the British Attorney General to ordinary folk in the street. In particular, Guantanamo is widely seen as grossly offensive because the legal chicanery involved was stunningly dishonest.

Many Americans care nothing for what the world community thinks of us and that’s their right. But even if you choose to ignore it, Guantanamo (and Abu Graib) are global propaganda gifts from heaven. And thus more damaging - far more damaging - than any single terrorist bomb or bullet.

That’s all I said. And whether or not I have an answer has nothing to do with the truth of my assertion. And whether you think Guantanamo and secret prisons are repulsive or not also has nothing to do with the truth of that statement.














 
Written By: sarahk
URL: http://

Many Americans care nothing for what the world community thinks of us and that’s their right. But even if you choose to ignore it, Guantanamo (and Abu Graib) are global propaganda gifts from heaven. And thus more damaging - far more damaging - than any single terrorist bomb or bullet.

That’s all I said. And whether or not I have an answer has nothing to do with the truth of my assertion. And whether you think Guantanamo and secret prisons are repulsive or not also has nothing to do with the truth of that statement.
I have to agree with Sarah on that. It is gross hypocrisy on the part of the rest of the world, including places such as France who treat prisoners far worse. It nevertheless is true.

Of course the rest of her argument is less defensible. I’ll leave it at that.
 
Written By: Lance
URL: http://
"And whether or not I have an answer ..."
I will leave it to others as to whether or not [a stupid cow like] sarah has anything to add. At least she has the ovaries to respond. What bothers me is that she obviously thinks that bitching adds something to dealing with the problem. In her ignorance she belives that responsible people are happy about what the world requires of us in order for us to maintain our way of life. The cost of Liberty is high, but we have always paid it. What the hell does she think the cost is....money?
 
Written By: Robert Fulton
URL: http://
Apart from infantile abuse, Mr Fulton’s arguments (arguments?) reveal nothing beyond the inadequacies of our education system.

Here are some useful pointers for intelligent debate:
1. Distinguish between the message and the messenger
2. Analyze what the argument actually is and don’t use it as a vehicle for your prejudices
3. Try to to be civil
4. Try especially hard to write grammatically.

I came to this forum because I was interested in discussing ideas. The level of discourse here is frankly so appalling that I won’t be back.
 
Written By: sarahk
URL: http://
"Mr Fulton’s arguments (arguments?) reveal nothing beyond the inadequacies of our education system. "
Sarah, let me offer you some advice on discourse: If you are going to take the higher road, responding in kind is not the appropriate way to do it. Also, your put-down is trite. Why don’t you try "Unclaimed Territory" which readily and unquestioningly accepts the Liberal Narrative?
 
Written By: Robert Fulton
URL: http://

 
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