June 02, 2005

Of Gulags and DNA

The use of the word "gulag" by Amnesty International--aside from all the transparent show-boating and rank hyperbole contained therein--was just plain tactically stupid too. And that's if you actually care about the torture/abuse scandals and might have wished that some of the higher ups above Karpinski got more than the Schlesinger treatment. Sigh. Doesn't anyone at Amnesty read B.D.? (this from December 2004)

But anyone with half a brain who continues to insist that the torture (sorry, "abuse") story is about a few bad apples taking a frat hazing a tad too much to heart at Abu Ghraib alone are full of it and doing the country a disservice through their intellectual dishonesty. It's clear that, while not some God-awful American gulag archipelago--torture has manifestly occurred in detention facilities from Afghanistan to Iraq to Cuba. Likewise, it's time to say loud and clear that the fact that those tortured are Arab and South Asian detainees is noteworthy. Why? Because it's reminiscent of the different treatment afforded the Japanese enemy as compared to the German during WWII. Recall that the Japanese during WWII, above and beyond Korematsu, were more viciously dehumanized in the popular culture than their less offensive Kraut partners in crime. Put differently, race matters. Can anyone imagine the tortures that have taken place in places like Bagram, Gitmo and Abu Ghraib having been inflicted against, say, Bosnian Serbs in Brcko or Banja Luka? Highly doubtful indeed. 9/11 happened, of course. And Islam has too often been conflated in the popular imagination with the radical jihadists who would so gleefully kill thousands as they did in lower Manhattan that fateful day....Still, it's time for intellectuals who care about the moral fiber of our polity, on both the Left and Right, to start speaking more loudly about these worrisome trends. America's better angels, and our more aspirational national narratives, simply demand it. [emphasis added]

Yes, with the imagery that Solzhensitsyn's horrific gulag archipelago evokes--vast penal colonies spanning the Eurasian land mass, brutish labor camps with prisoners often worked to total exhaustion or death, Stalin's exermination of an entire economic class (the Kulaks)--the language Amnesty used smacked of grotesque relativism and was dumb indeed. Still, while Amnesty's absurdist hyperbole is unfortunate, I must say that President Bush could have said more than this:

QUESTION: Mr. President, recently Amnesty International said you have established, quote, a new gulag of prisons around the world beyond the reach of the law and decency.

I'd like your reaction to that, and also your assessment of how it came to this -- that that is a view not just held by extremists and anti-Americans, but by groups that have allied themselves with the United States government in the past, and what the strategic impact is that in many places in the world the United States these days under your leadership is no longer seen as the good guy.

BUSH: I'm aware of the Amnesty International report, and it's absurd. It's an absurd allegation.

The United States is a country that promotes freedom around the world. When there's accusations made about certain actions by our people, they're fully investigated in a transparent way.

It's just an absurd allegation.

In terms of, you know, the detainees, we've had thousands of people detained. We've investigated every single complaint against the detainees.

It seemed like to me they based some of their decisions on the word of and the allegations by people that were held in detention, people who hate America, people that have been trained in some instances to disassemble, that means not tell the truth.

BUSH: And so it was an absurd report. It just is.

Yes, good on Bush for stating the obvious. So many other nations will mistreat, abuse, torture, kill and maim detainees with nary a thought. With the U.S. the allegations are at least investigated (if belatedly and not as transparently as an independent blue ribbon panel would likely have allowed). This said, a more statesmanlike answer would have been, not only to dismiss Amnesty's report as absurd, but also to have expressed deep regret for the death by torture of detainees under U.S. custody in places like Abu Ghraib and Bagram. Bush might also have apologized for the documented and now acknowleged incidences of Koran desecration in Gitmo, even keeping in mind some of the worst desecration was by detainees themselves. Yes, I know he's said some of this here and there in the past. But it would have been a wonderful opportunity at yesterday's press conference to do so again forcefully.

Tom Friedman has recently written (also hyperbolically, to use that word yet again) that Guantanamo is becoming something of an anti-Statue of Liberty symbol around the world. So much of this is born of grotesque exaggerations about what has occured there, over-reliance on detainee accounts whose veracity is sometimes dubious, knee-jerk anti-Americanism that moves paper at the Guardian and the Independent, sheer fascination and envy of the hyperpuissance (after all, where is all the outrage at Putin's brutal Chechen campaign which has killed over 100,000 Muslim Chechens! At Karimov's mass killing last month! Partly, truth be told, because it's not the Roman Empire like behemoth of the USA that's behind those much greater human rights violations--a combustible mixture of envy, resentment and suspicion puts everything we do under a huge microscope, as does the fact, of course, that we are the world's leading democracy and so are held to higher standards). Still, however, perception is too often reality and we must better use public diplomacy as part of our arsenal to secure goals that are really strategic ones at the end of the day (stategic because communications failures, whether born of erroneous reporting or real events can, for instance, lead to riots in unstable nations critical to our national interest). Bush, if he's going to give a press conference a month now, can help on this score. He can show greater sobriety, statesmanship, even-keelness. It doesn't always have to be about the talking points of the day and the 'stay on message' preemptive damage control. So I'd say to the President: dismiss the absurdist Amnesty allegations, yes, but step up and show the world you are not always staying on macho message in some approximation of the Indomitable Rovian Imperial Presidency. Show the world you fully acknowledge and understand and condemn the serious crimes that have been committed by the forces under your command because of confusing directives and insouciance emitting from the top on the application of Geneva Conventions, because of too aggressive interrogation techniques, because of poorly trained junior officers running interrogations.

Tom Friedman, a few days back, wrote:

I believe the stories emerging from Guantánamo are having a similar toxic effect on us - inflaming sentiments against the U.S. all over the world and providing recruitment energy on the Internet for those who would do us ill.

Husain Haqqani, a thoughtful Pakistani scholar now teaching at Boston University, remarked to me: "When people like myself say American values must be emulated and America is a bastion of freedom, we get Guantánamo Bay thrown in our faces. When we talk about the America of Jefferson and Hamilton, people back home say to us: 'That is not the America we are dealing with. We are dealing with the America of imprisonment without trial.' "

Guantánamo Bay is becoming the anti-Statue of Liberty. If we have a case to be made against any of the 500 or so inmates still in Guantánamo, then it is high time we put them on trial, convict as many possible (which will not be easy because of bungled interrogations) and then simply let the rest go home or to a third country. Sure, a few may come back to haunt us. But at least they won't be able to take advantage of Guantánamo as an engine of recruitment to enlist thousands more. I would rather have a few more bad guys roaming the world than a whole new generation.

And today, in similar vein, he writes:

Then he reminded me: It was about the new post-9/11 U.S. Consulate in Istanbul, which looks exactly like a maximum-security prison, so much so that a captured Turkish terrorist said that while his pals considered bombing it, they concluded that the place was so secure that even birds couldn't fly there. Mr. Tinawi and I then swapped impressions about the corrosive impact such security restrictions were having on foreigners' perceptions of America.

In New Delhi, the Indian writer Gurcharan Das remarked to me that with each visit to the U.S. lately, he has been forced by border officials to explain why he is coming to America. They "make you feel so unwanted now," said Mr. Das. America was a country "that was always reinventing itself," he added, because it was a country that always welcomed "all kinds of oddballs" and had "this wonderful spirit of openness." American openness has always been an inspiration for the whole world, he concluded. "If you go dark, the world goes dark."

Bottom line: We urgently need a national commission to look at all the little changes we have made in response to 9/11 - from visa policies to research funding, to the way we've sealed off our federal buildings, to legal rulings around prisoners of war - and ask this question: While no single change is decisive, could it all add up in a way so that 20 years from now we will discover that some of America's cultural and legal essence - our DNA as a nation - has become badly deformed or mutated?

Friedman likes this type of op-ed. He travels to London, to Delhi, to Paris, to Cairo--and he gets an earful from middle-of-the-road to left-leaning journalists, "intellectuals," and so on. Then he comes back and tell us we need a "national commission" because people in London don't like us. Look, yes it's true that many of our Embassies look like removed fortresses these days. But why? Isn't it because of what Friedman's Turkish terrorist quoted above said? That "the place was so secure that even birds couldn't fly there". Put differently, the scourge of terrorism has forced it upon us. And the hyperpower thing. If you are going to blow up an Embassy, well, won't it be the U.S. one more often than not? No better way to get a real bang for your buck, right? Better to save the lives of 100 of our diplomats, no, than appear and 'look' more open to the passing denizens of Istanbul?

I point this out only to make the point that much of what Friedman hears is hollow criticism indeed (though I do think we have to figure out a better balance on how we handle foreigners at customs and the issuance of visas. I've stood in the wrong non-U.S. line by mistake once, and, er, it was a very different experience...). Still, however, while I don't necessarily agree with Friedman that we are facing a moment where our nation's DNA might be "deformed", even if via small almost imperceptible steps perilously agreggating--towards some fascist, militaristic future--I still think we need to come clean more often about the missteps we make to absolutely make sure such a worrisome trend doesn't take root. I'm not asking that we let legions of Libyan students in willy-nilly, or that there is pleasant bango-strumming or Jimmy Buffet playing at the customs lines at Kennedy, or that Bush prostrate himself in fulsome apologetics at every turn about every last episode of detainee abuse around the globe. But after the death of at least 20 plus detainees in U.S. custody--the President shouldn't just conveniently use Amnesty's trumped up soundbite to avoid the more difficult realities and questions. He should say, yes, the "Gulag" thing is prima facie absurd, but we've had some heinous crimes committed. And I'm not going to tolerate that anymore as President. I've instructed my Secretary of Defense to do everything in his power to ensure that all requisite POW regulations are followed to the letter. And that enemy combatants are treated largely within the rubric of the Geneva Conventions. Torture is wrong. I won't tolerate it. Incidents will still happen, it's war. But no one will be able to fairly doubt my resolve in ensuring that every effort is being taken to minimize anything like this ever happening again. But, yes, Amnesty got carried away with their language on this one. Next question?


Posted by Gregory at June 2, 2005 04:34 AM | TrackBack (7)
Comments

It is within reason for Amnesty International to criticize Gitmo or Abu Ghraib. But to compare them to the gulag is utterly disrespectful to the victims of the gulag. It lessen the gravity of Stalin crime and make light of the injustice endure by the victims.

My father and uncles survived the Vietnamese re-education camp, and my grandfather was killed during land reform. Political grand standing by Amnesty International deeply offend me.

Posted by: Minh-Duc at June 2, 2005 05:37 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

minh-duc: that's a very good point. and i couldn't agree with you more.gd

Posted by: greg at June 2, 2005 05:39 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Good post, Greg.

Question for anyone who knows the answer: the riotous mob that attacked the US embassy in Karachi in 1979 and of course the Iranian hostage situation ... did those two events trigger the kind of lockdown that Friedman is talking about? Or did that only happen after Beirut ... or Nairobi/Dar Es Salaam? BTW, the embassy in Cairo is surprisingly not a total fortress.


Posted by: praktike at June 2, 2005 06:05 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Unfortunately, the fact that the President WON'T do what you're suggesting speaks volumes...

I also didn't read the Friedman column to say that we're heading toward "some fascist, militaristic future" but that we risk altering the roots of our success as a nation. Do we exclude or discourage the next Einstein from coming here? What about the grad students that come here and bring their skills to our sciences and industry here?

I don't think this is a dramatic shift happening right now, but I know enough people that are limiting their travels here or reconsidering plans to study here that I've noticed. Most of them are still coming, but a few are going elsewhere. It's worth paying attention to these trends...

Posted by: just me at June 2, 2005 07:12 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

First, I don't think Bush will ever say anything like you hope he will. Republicans and/or conservatives need to face the fact that their leader doesn't care about whether or not America is torturing people.

Second, if he does ever say anything, I don't think he will take any actions. Who leaked Valerie Plame's identity? I'm thinking maybe OJ will find the "real killer before" GWB holds people close to him accountable for things like torture.

Third, security for overseas posts is a hard problem. But the costs of American fortresses are real. As a practical matter, you have to give up so many electronics when you enter one, that there's no point in having a business meeting with anyone who works there. That means that our diplomats are doing their business outside the perimeter. So it's self-defeating in that sense.

Fingerprinting every foreigner who enters the US makes people feel like criminals. The paperwork for inviting people is starting to look Soviet. International scientific conferences are reconsidering their locations. And for countries like South Korea that are not in the visa waiver program, it's an absolute disaster. Even for countries like Germany, anyone who wants to go on an exchange program has to travel to a consulate or embassy, often more than once, to be interviewed by a consular officer. With those kinds of bureaucratic hurdles, we're losing the best advertising for America: people actually spending time in the US. And we're losing it among the people most likely to be well disposed to us. In short, we're squandering a resource that's been built up over decades.

Posted by: Doug at June 2, 2005 08:13 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Although AI clearly engaged in hyperbole in calling the US network of secret camps, extraordinary renditions, secret detentions, etc. a "gulag", one must not forget that the Soviet Gulag didn't spring full formed overnight like magic.

AI's hyperbole is no worse than those who insist that "it can't happen here." It can, and it is, happening here --- this is how it starts.

In many ways, I think that the exaggerated rhetoric of those who decry the Bush regime's deliberate use of torture and abuse is a reaction to those who deny that its happening, or that it is of any significance.

Greg, you bought into the exaggerated rhetoric of the threat represented by Iraq with unabashed enthusiasm --- and that "threat" was pure gossamer. Its rather hypocritical to insist that critics of the Bush administration maintain perfect perspective with regard to the very real and documented threat represented by the Bush regime to basic human rights, when you were going around two and a half years ago insisting that Iraq's non-existent WMDs combined with their non-existent relationship to radical fundamentalist Islamic terror demanded that the US take over Iraq.


Posted by: p.lukasiak at June 2, 2005 11:59 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Terrorists are terrorists. They are not soldiers under the uniform and colors of any nation subject to the laws of land warfare. Geneva simply does not apply to them. However, any deliberate, policy-directed use of torture has been shown in the past to be counterproductive politically. It should be noted that the Qaedists are directed by doctrine to claim torture while imprisoned. I suspect that some of their torture claims are made up out of whole cloth, while others are genuine. Bush has maintained that genuine issues of torture will be followed up. The American people will leave it at that, for they understand as I do, that the proper place for a terrorist is at the business end of a hangman's noose.

Lefties like lukasiak win no friends politically among the American electorate by attempting to win Geneva protections (such as "scientific equipment" and "Swiss Francs") for Al Qaeda prisoners. Fortunately, the Left has a monumentally tinny political ear. To wit: the election results of last year. But please, lukasiak, I'm on bended knee begging you Birkenstock Bolsheviks (hat tip: P.J. O'Rourke) to campaign for "Fair Play For Homicide Bombers". I mean, you guys are just the Gift that Keeps on Giving.

So how much does Karl Rove pay you each month, anyway?

The Bush "regime" is not a threat to human rights. It is a characteristic of left wing dhimmis such as lukasiak, who fear the Islamic Fascist movement, to blame Bush for the ills of this war. That way they do not have to provoke the anger of the Muslims against them. In point of fact, the Bush Administration has done more in a shorter period of time to liberate enslaved peoples than the Left has done in the past 100 years. In three years, fifty million people have had granted to them, by force of American arms, a chance at liberty they did not have before.

I for one am proud of that record. The fight against Islamic Fascism is a hard fought one, and it is not for the faint-hearted. It is quite obvious to me that lukasiak has checked out of this contest a long time ago.

Posted by: Section9 at June 2, 2005 01:48 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

While racism, on both sides, certainly played into the WW2 Pacific theatre conflict, certain other factors might be considered:

1. Japan attacked without a declaration of war, in a surprise (i.e., "sneak") attack;

2. Japan operated without any reference to or consideration to the customs and usages of war common to Western combatant nations;

3. Japan's barbaric treatment of prisoners and captive people's resulted in its own rough treatment at the hands of the victorious allies.

Posted by: Consul-At-Arms at June 2, 2005 02:19 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Section 9,

I think the Left/Right who liberated more contest is spurious considering so much of the story remains untold in Iraq and Afghanistan (aside from the fact that it ignores historical context and exigencies).

For example, Afghanistan is doing better for sure, and we certainly liberated Kabul, but much of the country is under the same warlord rule as it was before so it's hard to call that liberation of an entire nation. And if Iraq devolves into civil war, it would be hard to call that much of a liberation even though Saddam was brutal and repressive.

And for the Left, how many millions do we say FDR liberated? Does Truman get any credit too?

Also, the problem with saying "terrorists are terrorists" is that many of the detainees at Gitmo, Abu Ghraib, Bagram, and the myriad other facilities are not, in fact, "terrorists." Many of them are innocent civilians swept up in massive raids, innocents turned in by bounty hunters seeking monetary reward and/or the victims of score-settling neighbors who fingered them for revenge purposes. So, terrorists may be terrorists (I'll grant you that tautology), but not all detainees are.

In fact, in some cases such as Abu Ghraib, according to US Army and ICRC reports, the vast majority of detainees were innocent of ALL violations.

Also, keep in mind, many of the detainees at Gitmo are Afghani which means they are either mistaken identities or Taliban, though its very unlikely they are Qaeda. Afghanis themselves almost never join groups like Qaeda or other Salafist jihadi organizations. Most recruits come from Europe, North Africa, and core Arab countries.

Posted by: Eric Martin at June 2, 2005 03:35 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'm afraid criticizing President Bush for obsessively staying on message is a little like criticizing Yao Ming for being too tall. Presidents do not reinvent themselves in their second terms, nor do men in their fifties.

Something similar might be said of international organizations like Amnesty International. To maintain "neutrality" -- to avoid appearing as an ally of the United States in countries hostile either to the United States or to the American administration of the day -- Amnesty has long minimized the vast gap between the American approach to human rights and that of most of America's enemies. This gap does not always reflect any exalted state of high holy blessedness as far as our own regard for human rights is concerned; it suggests rather how low a priority human rights are for the nations with which America is usually at odds.

The point is that AI is responding to its institutional imperatives. It wants access in Muslim countries where public opinion is agitated by reports about Guantanamo, and needs to preserve its fundraising base in Europe. Both imperatives were served by the "new gulag" rhetoric. I agree that this rhetoric might have been answered more effectively by President Bush, but off his recent references to Yalta I'm not sure his grasp of history is firm enough for him to explain just what the real gulag was and how little it resembles anything outside of China today.

Posted by: JEB at June 2, 2005 04:17 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

To hold that Amnesty Internation was "dumb" to make the statement it made or that AI "got carried away with their language on this one" is to seriously misunderstand the nature, and the agenda, of that organization.

As for "over-reliance on detainee accounts whose veracity is sometimes dubious", I suppose one could also say that Al Capone sometimes paid income tax.

Posted by: Barry Meislin at June 2, 2005 04:31 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Wait ...

the ENTIRE REPORT is "absurd" because of the "gulag" hyperbole?

The ENTIRE REPORT?

Bush can blow off the whole thing on that basis?

Posted by: Anderson at June 2, 2005 04:47 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Terrorists are terrorists. They are not soldiers under the uniform and colors of any nation subject to the laws of land warfare.

There are really only two categories of individuals under the Geneva Conventions as it pertains to capture in a war zone....

1) Non-combatants, whom the Conventions require be treated with the utmost respect for their rights

2) Combatants, whom the Conventions allow only restricted rights because of their status as combatants

Individuals who fall under either category can have their "Geneva" rights voided upon the finding of criminal actions by a competent tribunal. These actions, of course, would include planning and/or participating in "terrorist" acts.

But what the US has done in Afghanistan is to declare that the Taliban was not actually the government of Afghanistan, and that therefore those who were captured on the battlefield fighting on behalf of the Taliban were "illegal combantants". This is simply, and completely, absurd --- and its indicative of the complete lack of intellectual honesty of the right that they actually try and support this fallacious argument.

Posted by: p.lukasiak at June 2, 2005 05:23 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I too got more of a "we're risking the intellectual and economic success of our country" vibe from the Friedman pieces than worries of becoming militaristic/fascist at home.

It does seem the heavy defense on our embassies is unavoidable at this point (and would be irresponsible to remove), but I can't help but think we could greatly improve all the visa processing and that sort of thing. I don't have much experience travelling internationally, but based on general governmental competence, say the FBI's repeated disasters at getting a new computer system for example, this seems an area ripe for improvement.

It sounds like so far we're unable to reliably make sure only "good" people get in, so we're taking the defensive posture of "default deny". I suppose that might be the way to go in a purely offense/defense way, but it does seem to have a negative effect on the good people we want to come to the US. I hope that can be improved - or as importantly, is RECOGNIZED as something we need to improve and pay attention to. Based on the overall PR job of Team W I'm a bit concerned about that.

Posted by: TG at June 2, 2005 06:12 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Eric Martin wrote - "Also, the problem with saying "terrorists are terrorists" is that many of the detainees at Gitmo, Abu Ghraib, Bagram, and the myriad other facilities are not, in fact, "terrorists." Many of them are innocent civilians swept up in massive raids, innocents turned in by bounty hunters seeking monetary reward and/or the victims of score-settling neighbors who fingered them for revenge purposes. "

MANY Eric? Upon what do you base this claim?

How do you define many?

Of the 500 in Gitmo - how many are innocent bystanders?

You are simply making up facts to bolster your opinion - saying "many" of those in Gitmo are innocent is, to paraphrase President Bush - ABSURD

You have no information to support this -

Some Gitmo detainee's have been released - only to be found again among the terrorists - go figure

( I am sure Amnesty will be there to tell us how they "became" terrorists in Gitmo )

Are there ANY innocents in Gitmo - possibly - not even probably ( why go to all that expense?? ) - but there are innocents in your local prison too

Why not work for their release

Posted by: Pouge Mahone at June 2, 2005 06:52 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

p.lukasiak is wrong.

I guess it is not surprising that those who do not know what the Geneva Conventions are about hold it up as a document the US is violating.

The Geneva Convention is about protecting *civilians*. It does this by 1) carving out non-combatents as a protected category and 2) carving out combatents as a category soldiers can put themselves by 1) wearing uniforms, 2) carrying arms openly 3) being obviously soliders in order to enjoy certain protections.

You will note how soldiers looking like a solider makes civilians safer.

So there is a *third* category defined by the Geneva Conventions, and this would be an *illegal* combattant. This is a combattant who does not do what the Geneva Convention requires legal conventions to be, and so place themselves *outside* the protections of the convention. They do this to enjoy the tactical advantage of having human shields.

Anyone who tries to extend Geneva Convention protections to people who flout the rules are eliminating the cost of terrorists using human sheilds. This is deeply deeply immoral. It will kill innocent Iraqi civilians, Iraqi soldiers, and American soliders.

A very deadly, brutal form of soft headedness.

Posted by: anon at June 2, 2005 07:22 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The "engine of recruitment" for al Queda was 9/11; not Guantanamo.

Posted by: Chuck at June 2, 2005 07:49 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I think Al Qaida may have cobbled together a member or two *before* 9/11. I think they had some success recruiting under Clinton.

Posted by: anon at June 2, 2005 07:56 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

No, the engine for recruitment was Chechnya (if Mossaoui, Al Midhar, Al Hamzi; are any indication)
Yeltsin & Putin's splendid little recreation of 18th century czarist adventurism;Kashmir; see Dhiren
Barot; the organizer of the second wave plot of
last August)Kashmir; being the second largest
location of recent terrorist attacks Isn't 2/3 of Guantanamo inmates (including the real 20th hijacker; Quahtani) Saudi's as are 4/10 of the Iraq suicide bombers) several of that clan; figure in that last report. Iraq, just happens to be next door to
Saudi Arabia. The gulag line, is a pitiful lie, considering that AI doesn't regard the country in
which the camp resides; as the real gulag. Then
again; when they were founded; they were initially
concerned about the affairs of the third rate regime
of Salazar's Portugal; as I recall; not so much with
the tropical gulag. Other publicity stunts have included LA (around 1992) and Miami; circa that
same period. Funny, they don't put that kind of attention on London. Paris, or other colonial/security
outposts

Posted by: narciso at June 2, 2005 08:17 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Pretty much any of these "International" human rights groups are just social clubs for people to gather and bash the United States

Does AI do some good - of course

Does AI recognize that the US does some good - hardly

Someone has to stand up to these folks who continue to perpetrate these lies about the US and its CoW partners in the war on terror

We cannot and should not allow AI or anyone else to make such absurd charges

Posted by: Pouge Mahone at June 2, 2005 09:10 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

What did AI say about the actual Gulag anyway?

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at June 2, 2005 09:57 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

OK Pogue,

We know that based on Army and ICRC records, 70-90% of the detainees at Abu Ghraib were innocent of all charges.

We know that there have been innocent civilians detained at Guantanamo, including young children and old men who have been released to Afghanistan and caused no future incident. We know there are still children there, though it is highly unlikely they are Al Qaeda.

We know that Afghanis generally do not join Salafist jihadist organizations such as Al Qaeda (see eg: Understanding Terror Networks by Marc Sageman), yet many detainees at Gitmo are Afghanis - either Taliban fighters caught in battle or innocents swept up in the various methods I described above.

We have testimony from interrogators like Eric Skaar who have discussed the low value of many of the detainees due to their status as Taliban or other tribal fighter. Then there are the Army reports of Bagram, and numerous other examples of innocents caught in war's crossfire. It's not really an outlandish claim though, as it is part and parcel of every armed conflict (innocent bystanderism).

Not exactly making up facts here Pogue.

Posted by: Eric Martin at June 2, 2005 11:20 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

What matters is not what Americans think on this issue. What matters increasingly is that America is losing its credibility around the world. The issue is how others perceive the US.

For instance, AI's hyperbole or Newsweek's 'discredited' report does not change the fact which is increasingly obvious: The BUSH regime aids and abets torture.

I think the US is digging its own grave in the international arena. From the perspective of those who oppose the US but cannot fight it in the open, I believe they hope that the conflict in Iraq will help cripple the juggernaut.

And everything Bush's people do - by denying everything outright - simply feeds the perception that these are men who will likely support war crimes to get their way. Whether or not the international world is correct in its perception, this is increasingly becoming the prevailing view outside the US.

Posted by: john at June 2, 2005 11:31 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

So there is a *third* category defined by the Geneva Conventions, and this would be an *illegal* combattant.

when you find the category "illegal combatant" in the Geneva Conventions, give us a call. Until then, don't expect anyone with a clue to consider you credible.

Here is the preamble....note how it talks about protecting civilians --- civilians are not a "carve out", but a default.

"The High Contracting Parties, conscious of their obligation to come to an agreement in order to protect civilian populations from the horrors of War, undertake to respect the principles of human rights which constitute the safeguard of civilization and, in particular, to apply, at any time and in all places, the rules given hereunder:

The closest thing to an "illegal combatant" category is found in places like this....

Art. 12. Prisoners of war liberated on parole and recaptured bearing arms against the Government to whom they had pledged their honour, or against the allies of that Government, forfeit their right to be treated as prisoners of war, and can be brought before the courts.

Perhaps nothing makes so explicit the bizarre idea that there is an "illegal combatant" category as this...

Art. 21. The obligations of belligerents with regard to the sick and wounded are governed by the Geneva Convention.

and to make it abundantly clear that being an Afghanis fighting on behalf of the Taliban did not make you an "illegal combantant" there is this...

Art. 23. In addition to the prohibitions provided by special Conventions, it is especially forbidden....(h) To declare abolished, suspended, or inadmissible in a court of law the rights and actions of the nationals of the hostile party

Posted by: p.lukasiak at June 2, 2005 11:47 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Not exactly making up facts here Pogue.

But, Eric, the report said "gulag." Gulag! Gulag! Gulag! 'Nuff said!

Which allowed someone normally intelligent like BD to write:

This said, a more statesmanlike answer would have been, not only to dismiss Amnesty's report as absurd, but also ...

So Bush could dismiss the entire report based on the use of one arguable word, and that would've been "statesmanlike," under some new definition of that word unique to the Belgravia Dispatch.

Posted by: Anderson at June 2, 2005 11:48 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Eric,

Perhap you are not aware that Guantanamo is several echelons above the combat units. That is a detainee went through several layers of screenings and interrogations before he ended up in Guantanamo. At every layer, army of lawyers (JAG) are pouring through reports, evidence, and testimonies, before sending further up the chain. Both the JAG office and the S-2/G-2/J-2 (intelligence) must approve of the decision. Only detainees of extreme important ended up in Guantanamo.

The same is true of Abu Ghraib. There are three layers before Abu Ghraib. Guantanamo is one more layer above that of Abu Ghraib. Guantanamo has a detainees population of 500 out of thousands of detainees from all over the world.

Posted by: Minh-Duc at June 3, 2005 01:29 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

At any rate we are talking about an act (torture) which the US clobbers other countries with every year when we issue our report on human rights. If, as an act, it is wrong, then it is wrong. What makes our reason for it better than anyone elses reason for it? I would guess that regardless of the excuses we make it ultimately boils down to being expediance or desperation. I believe that Uzbekistan would probably make the same argument. I believe the Wehrmacht made the same kinds of arguments against the Russsian partisans (and look what the world thought of that). Which puts us in the same boat as those people. "do as I say not as I do" doesn't sit very well as a motto for a country that claims to be morally exceptional; that claims to be on the right side of history. Oh and Sec 9: I suppose that al Queda, after they cut tales of torture from whole cloth, "forced" the US military to take pictures of the fabricated torture and deliver them to Congress, eh?

Posted by: Joe at June 3, 2005 03:40 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Recall that the Japanese during WWII, above and beyond Korematsu, were more viciously dehumanized in the popular culture than their less offensive Kraut partners in crime. Put differently, race matters. Can anyone imagine the tortures that have taken place in places like Bagram, Gitmo and Abu Ghraib having been inflicted against, say, Bosnian Serbs in Brcko or Banja Luka? Highly doubtful indeed.


Well, the Kraut partners in crime didn't launch a surprise attack and kill a few thousand Americans before declaring war. That matters. Likewise, al Qaeda killed a few thousand American civilians... while the group declared war in their own hyperbolic way, their tactics and choice of targets are atrocities.

Race may matter, but it is not the only thing that matters. Ignoring those other things creates a significant flaw in your argument.

If Bosnian Serbs had conducted an attack that killed roughly ~3,000 civilians in an American city, then yes, I can easily imagine that captured prisoners affiliated with the group that had carried out the attack would recieve brutal treatment on the slightest pretext while in custody.

Why do you think it would be otherwise?


Bush might also have apologized for the documented and now acknowleged incidences of Koran desecration in Gitmo, even keeping in mind some of the worst desecration was by detainees themselves.


Bush should apologize for muslim prisoners desecrating their own holy book, which was provided to them by the US?

Why?


But, yes, Amnesty got carried away with their language on this one. Next question?


The problem is not that AI "got carried away with their language on this one." The problem is that AI has gotten carried away with the language on this one, the one before that, the one before that, the one before that, the one before that, the one before that,....

I'm serious. Go to the AI website and read the reports until you find one about the US where they *don't* get carried away wit their language.

Posted by: rosignol at June 3, 2005 03:47 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

grotesque relativism

I wonder if relativism is in fact the best critique of the language used. To me the position that AI is taking is in fact a morally absolutist position, in which any system that has any evidence of abuse would qualify for the 'gulag' label.

Comments?

Scott Nowers

Posted by: Scott Nowers at June 3, 2005 04:27 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg -- that position is absurd. WHY should Bush apologize for "Koran desecration?" when it didn't happen, at the most a hated Kafir (non-believer) placed it on a frickin TV! I don't see Muslims apologizing for 9/11, Beslan, Lod Airport, Maalot, Munich, Bali, or any of the other atrocities Muslims regularly engage in. Saudi routinely imprisons and tortures people who possess the Bible, a practice followed by most other Muslim nations. A "kafir" touching the holy book without gloves is nothing.

There is nothing to apologize FOR, therefore Bush was entirely right not to apologize. The record of Gitmo or Bagran or Abu Graihb is better than our own prisons (where gladiator fights, prisoners being boiled alive, beaten to death, summarily shot, or arranged to be raped by predators is commonplace and unpunished). Much less the horrors of Arab and Muslim prisons which are true hell holes and excused by Amnesty. Heck Amnesty couldn't even work up much outrage over GENOCIDE in Dafur, preferring to focus on anti-American Bush hatred instead.

Friedman and Galloway (calling for Leftists and Liberals to unite in unity with Jihadis to destroy America) are two of a kind. Idiots who hate America and everything it stands for. The problem is not that we aren't a shining beacon of light (we never were and never will be perfect) but that we are thought of as weak and therefore easy victims (Hitler, Mussolini, Tojo, Stalin, and bin Laden all thought this). If people really FEAR US in a rational appreciation that we can certainly kill a lot of them and WILL if pushed by 9/11 v. 2.0 atrocity, the world will be a better place no matter what the ignorant, malevolent rabble does in Muslim lands. That's keeping the eyes on the prize (avoiding a total slaughter ala firebombing Japan in WWII).

Hypocrisy ... such as the EU allowing the Brits (adjudicated by the EU Human Rights Commission) to hood, sleep deprive, "stress position" and deny food to IRA prisoners as not being "torture" when it's defined EXACTLY that way for Al Qaeda murderers is stupid. It serves only one purpose and that's to run down the road to mass murder and killings by encouraging the idea that the US will never use it's real force in the face of great provocation.

Right now Islamists are convinced that bin Laden is right (never underestimate the capacity for denying the reality). That killing say tens of thousands to millions of Americans will cause our collapse and the rise of the Global Caliphate. That America in such a case will NEVER use the awesome nuclear and conventional forces to retaliate against any actor that engaged in that. Thought experiment: a nuke destroys much of Boston killing 3 million outright. Another kills as many in Miami and Al Qaeda demands withdrawal from Iraq, Afghanistan, the entire ME, abandonment of Israel, and the imposition of Sharia here in the US.

The only question in such a scenario is how many would die in what country? Which nation would cease to exist? Gitmo is nothing, compared to the total slaughter that awaits the inevitable American retaliation after another 9/11. Too many of us avoid thinking about this, and it gives dangerous predators the wrong idea about the costs of another 9/11. It sure as hell won't be another impotent Clinton missile attack. I fundamentally disagree with p. luksiak. THIS slaughter provoking in return a total industrial scale of destruction of societies responsible is our greatest danger. A few thugs having their feelings hurt (and once again it's nothing compared to Putin or the Brits or the French treatment of their terrorists) is nothing to get excited about.

Doug -- considering that the 9/11 attackers came through Western European nations, it would be stupid not to take precautions. Most other nations have fingerprinted ALL visitors routinely; France has done so since the fifties. Time to get real. This is not the same world as the thirties. Political reality is that we simply won't be as open as before, and the pre-9/11 world isn't coming back any more than we'll return to pre-Pearl Harbor.

Sadly, torture DOES work. Every US POW who was tortured did eventually break and tell the enemy (Japanese, Koreans, Chinese, and Vietnamese) the truth. Torture broke the OAS. Torture in Egypt broke the Muslim Brotherhood. Torture by Stalin's torturers got the truth. I'm talking about professional torture, not the garbage that went on in Abu Graib or Bagram. This is reality, sorry the truth is ugly. I don't endorse it but it does work which is why it's used.

Posted by: Jim Rockford at June 3, 2005 05:35 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The larger issue is that AI threw away it's credibility. At a time when perhaps half a MILLION people are being murdered in GENOCIDE, Amnesty cares about Al Qaeda thugs more than innocent men, women, and children in Darfur. That's stupid, and only explicable if Amnesty is understood as a fundraising vehicle for anti-American lefties. Part of Chirac's dream of La Resistance to American business, culture, values, and military strength.

P Luksiak -- the Taliban would not follow the rules of War. Yes they exist. They did not wear distinctive emblems and instead tried to blend in with civilians. They did not avoid deliberate targeting of civilians. They did not follow a recognized chain of command. Also, almost NO governments world-wide had recognized the Taliban as legitimate rulers of Afghanistan. Only Saudi and Pakistan did. The Taliban as much as Al Qaeda did not deserve Geneva Convention protection. At that they got better treatment than the SS did on the Western front after Malmedy. After that massacre US troops simply shot out of hand any SS men captured. To which I say, "good for them."

"The gift that keeps on giving?" Yep.

Eric -- you're comments ignore the many many foreign fighters (12 Chinese citizens who cannot be sent back home because they will be immediately shot) at Gitmo. Most of the detainees were picked up with AK-47's in hand on the battlefield, and surprise surprise they immediately after being released to their home countries resumed terrorism. One Pakistani kidnapped a Chinese engineer upon release home.

Abu Graib during Grainer's tenure was filled with a lot of low level criminals and not too many terrorists. But then the whole place was run by idiots, incompetents, and sadists. Grainer was tried by the Military and given twenty years. That's more than Indonesia gave convicted murdering terrorists. Bagram was chaotic at best, with SOME allegedly innocent people picked up but they seem to be only a few out of the prisoners. MOST of the inmates there were Taliban or Al Qaeda, including one senior Al Qaeda leader allegedly beaten to death (it's like shanking cannibal murderer Dahmer, how can you charge anyone?). The Taliban are our enemies as much as Al Qaeda. Skaar has a book to sell, his contention that the detainees at Gitmo have no intelligence value is directly contradicted by both Tommy Franks and senior US military intelligence officials; their position is that methods of operation, personalities, training Al Qaeda received, and the Al Qaeda heirarchy can ONLY be figured out by careful piecing together of interrogations and info from many people. The CIA holds that relying on their partners in Pakistan and Saudi are the best ways to figure things out. I'll go with the newbies who's record of success is better and don't have 9/11 as a massive failure on their heads (in the Summer of 2001 the CIA held that bin Laden would attack overseas).

Much of this rhetoric is really driven by bureaucratic infighting over control of intelligence, the CIA preferring to outsource it to other intelligence agencies cause it's easy and risk free, the military preferring to get info that has actual value and can be vetted.

Posted by: Jim Rockford at June 3, 2005 06:05 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"The larger issue is that AI threw away it's credibility. At a time when perhaps half a MILLION people are being murdered in GENOCIDE, Amnesty cares about Al Qaeda thugs more than innocent men, women, and children in Darfur.

I will resist the urge to flame Jim Rockford, and simply quote a couple of paragraphs from the report. Here is the first paragraph of the preface:

Last September in a makeshift camp outside El Jeniena in Darfur, Sudan, I listened to a woman describe the attack on her village by government-supported militia. So many men were killed that there were none left to bury the dead, and women had to carry out that sad task. I listened to young girls who had been raped by the militia and then abandoned by their own communities. I listened to men who had lost everything except their sense of dignity. These were ordinary, rural people. They may not have understood the niceties of “human rights”, but they knew the meaning of “justice”. They could not comprehend why the world was not moved to action by their plight.

And to be fair, here is a paragraph about the United States, also from the preface:

The USA, as the unrivalled political, military and economic hyper-power, sets the tone for governmental behaviour worldwide. When the most powerful country in the world thumbs its nose at the rule of law and human rights, it grants a licence to others to commit abuse with impunity and audacity. From Israel to Uzbekistan, Egypt to Nepal, governments have openly defied human rights and international humanitarian law in the name of national security and “counter-terrorism”.
So Amnesty International admits that it thinks the actions of the United States are important. I leave it to the reader to decide whether this undermines Amnesty International's credibility.

Posted by: Kenneth Almquist at June 3, 2005 07:33 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg -- that position is absurd. WHY should Bush apologize for "Koran desecration?" when it didn't happen, at the most a hated Kafir (non-believer) placed it on a frickin TV! I don't see Muslims apologizing for 9/11, Beslan, Lod Airport, Maalot, Munich, Bali, or any of the other atrocities Muslims regularly engage in.

when it didn't happen? What planet do you live on?

And let me give you a clue. "Muslims" are not responsible for 9/11, and don't owe the world an apology. The US Government, on the other hand, IS responsible for the torture and abuse of those it has under its control, and as "president", it is Bush's job to take responsibility for the actions of the US government.

It should be noted that wingnuts who say things like "I don't see Muslims apologizing for 9-11" share their mindset with Osama bin Laden (and Ward Churchill) on the issue of collective civilian guilt/responsibility.

Posted by: p.lukasiak at June 3, 2005 11:47 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

AI has squandered its credibility for nothing. Just another pedestrian bush-bash. A dime a dozen, every asshole does it.

Dhimmis on parade.

Posted by: Bletard at June 3, 2005 12:28 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

We cannot and should not allow AI or anyone else to make such absurd charges

Posted by Pouge Mahone at June 2, 2005 09:10 PM | PERMALINK

and just where in the spread of democracy do you see freedom of speech?
cannot and should not?
I want govt and people like this out of my life!

Posted by: disgusted at June 3, 2005 12:36 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

its fascinating to see how the wingnuts have decided that AI's exaggeration of a very real problem has "destroyed their credibility" and rendered them "absurd" --- but these same people think the Bush regime remains credible despite its consistent record of not merely exaggeration, but flat out lying.

Posted by: p.lukasiak at June 3, 2005 02:27 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Minh-Duc,

I am aware of those screening measures, but despite those safeguards, many innocents slipped though the cracks. There were boys as young as 12 and 13 at Gitmo who were later released. Are you saying that because there are levels of screening, that therefore these children represented high value targets? I don't think you understand the way Al Qaeda works if you think that a 12 year old boy was a high ranking or even low ranking Al Qaeda Operative.

Again, as for Abu Ghraib, the US military has released most prisoners detained there and on their own findings about 70-90% are innocent of ALL violations, so whatever multiple levels of screening are in place, they aren't working too well.

Jim Rockford,

The abuses documented at Abu Ghraib began months before Graner's crew even arrived in theater according to Army reports, and they continued months after his departure. This makes it highly unlikely that his crew was solely responsible unless he has figured out a way to game the space time continuum.

Also, in terms of US prisons, consider this about deaths in custody from the QandO piece Greg cited:

...And, of course, that’s what we know as of now. In some cases, it appears that investigations have gotten...uh...bogged down. But, in any event, as far as we can tell, out of 108 prisoner death in US Military custody, at least 27 of them, or 25% appear to be murders committed mainly by US Military personnel, although in one case, the Justice Department is investigating since the suspects are CIA employees. Compare that, to say, 2001, when, in the US corrections system—both state and federal—homicides accounted for 57 of the 3,311 deaths that year, or 1.7%. And that, by the way, includes homicides of inmates by other inmates. The number killed by prison guards, while not broken out, is no doubt substantially smaller still.

25% v.1.7%

I’d say that’s a bit of a discrepancy, wouldn’t you? No, strike that last phrase. Some of you won’t feel it’s a discrepancy at all. Or, if you do, don’t particularly care.

Posted by: Eric Martin at June 3, 2005 03:30 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

And Jim,

If you think torture is the most effective means, what say you to Marine Major Sherwood F. Moran

http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200506/budiansky

I encourage you to read that article if you haven't already, it is illuminating.

Posted by: Eric Martin at June 3, 2005 03:33 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

We cannot and should not allow AI to make such absurd charges - without confronting them for their double standards and illogical focus on the actions of the USA in the world

Free speach - sure - I love it

Let the neo-Nazi's stand and shout on the corner - I am 100% for this freedom - just as I am 100% of the opinion that we ( good and fair people ) must stand up to such idiocy


Eric - do you now retract Gitmo from the list of places where innocent bystanders are held?
I should hope you do - and now understand why AI's comparison of Gitmo to the gulag is so absurd


Finally we have Lukasiak - spinning the classic "not all Muslims are the same" stuff - well and fine - but at the same time letting us know how the Koran abuse has offended "muslims"

As usual - ALL muslims are the same when we offend them - yet the complete absence of any decent level of opposition to the jihadist head-choppers - indeed the cheering by MANY muslims for 9/11 and Beslan - this we cannot take as any indication of how muslims feel

Seems muslims are like each other when you want them to be lukasiak - and not alike at all when you don't want them to be

People like you speak about "1B muslims feel offended...." then get angry when anyone asks "why don't muslims speak out against terrorism"

Sorry - can't have it both ways

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at June 3, 2005 03:38 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

You can call it whatever you want. But holding people indefinitely and denying them due process is Stalinistic - any way you slice it.

Posted by: M at June 3, 2005 04:03 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

So many people ready to welcome Chancellor Hitler with open arms. 1933 becomes easier & easier to understand.

But our pro-torture commenters don't surprise me; I still can't see why BD is willing to throw out the entire AI report because it used the word "gulag."

Posted by: Anderson at June 3, 2005 04:33 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Eric,

It is not the rank of the detainee that determine if he go further up, but what he knows. Let take the example of a 13 years old boy. If he is a servant or a courier for a ranking Al-Qaeda member (many actually have servants), then he will be sent up because he has a wealth of information on his employer despite his low status. He is probably a local (Afghani or Pakistani). His only crime is being poor and not knowing any better.

Everything he know is documented, the habit of his employers, what he saw his employer did, who his employer met, so on and so forth. The poor boy probably does not know the value of the information he possess. When that is done, he is then released with monetary compensation. He is released because he commited no crime and he pose no risk.

At Abu Ghraib, we share the facility with Iraqi Interior Ministry. People are being held for various reasons, not neccessary terrorists or insurgents. Most are just common criminals. If the Iraqi Police sent them there, we hold them. We have no idea if they commited any crime. The screening only applies to the detainee we captured.

Of course in Abu Ghraib, we also have people who fit the first example I provided. In Iraq, we paid people five dollars a day for being detained.

Posted by: Minh-Duc at June 3, 2005 04:56 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Poor Pogue, still stuck in the neverland where "many Muslims cheered 9-11". Here's a clue, Pogue --- just because Fox showed a clip over and over of some crazy old man and a bunch of kids "celebrating" does not mean "many".

And, like most wingnuts, you are incapable of making appropriate distinctions. Descretion of the Koran is an insult to Islam, and when it is done under the auspices of a government, all Muslims would be offended. The same goes for Jews -- were a government to deliberately desecrate the Torah, all Jews would be rightfully offended. But all Jews are not, and should not be held, responsible for the actions of small groups of Jews, nor should it be the responsibility of all Jews to apologize for crimes committed by any Jews.

The kind of people who blame "the Jews" whenever a Jewish person is involved in a misdeed is considered a bigot; specifically, an anti-Semite. Those who blame "the Muslims" whenever a Muslim person is involved in a misdeed is equally a bigot, of course.

Posted by: p.lukasiak at June 3, 2005 05:52 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Pogue,

You said:

"Eric - do you now retract Gitmo from the list of places where innocent bystanders are held?
I should hope you do - and now understand why AI's comparison of Gitmo to the gulag is so absurd"

First of all, I think that AI's choice of words was absurd, and have always maintained that. Thus, a sstatement to that effect now would be redundant.

Second, on what basis should I retract my statement about Gitmo? On what proof or argument? All evidence is to the contrary. The US govt has released many people from Gitmo, including young children and old men - some of which they have acknowledged to be mistakenly detained. Some have not been innocent, for sure, but this does not negate the fact that some were.

The opposite contention, however, is quite implausible. The assertion that no innocent civilians were caught up in Gitmo would require that the system be literally infallible (or at least infallible to date). That is, that such a murky and confusing situation as a battlefield in Afghanistan could yield 100% perfection in identifying and classifying prisoners. That the intelligence provided by Afghani warlords, fighters and others - who have their own ulterior motives - was 100% accurate. Knowing how spotty the intelligence generated by our own highly trained and presumably neutral gatherers has been about so many issues, why would intel provided by Afghani's of all stripes and motivations be the glaring, remarkable exception?

And in so arguing as to the infallibility of the system, I would have to say that the military was wrong when it cleared some detainees for release. Mistakes may also be made on that end, but not all were such.

Minh-Duc,

It is possible that 12 and 13 year old children could be some low level paiges for Al Qaeda ops, but of the children released so far that hasn't been the case. They were quite literally in the wrong place at the wrong time, and US officials have not claimed otherwise.

The Army and ICRC reports on Abu Ghraib discussed prisoners detained by coalition forces. Many of the detainees from the early reports were taken before there even was an Iraqi Inerior Ministry, or at least partially so. It's not surprising though. The military has had to conduct far-reaching sweeps of neighborhoods and regions in order to nab insurgents. In addition, they must rely on Iraqi informants who often have their own ulterior motives. Such is the nature of counterinsurgency, and such is how it has always been. This conflict is no different. That is why there end up being so many innocents (70-90% by ICRC/Army count in Abu Ghraib) caught up in the process. To suggest that no innocents would be caught up in such a massive counterinsurgency effort would be to inflict yourself with willful blindness of history, both past and present - that Iraq has been the only perfect counterinsurgency operation vis a vis detention of innocent civilians in the history of the world.

With those realities in mind, and the fact that so many innocent civilians will inevitably end up being detained, we must adjust our policies regarding how these detainees are treated. There is a very good reason why there is a presumption of innocence in the American legal system - because no matter the context, many innocent people will be arrested, so arrest should not count as proof of guilt. I'm not saying that the same standard need apply, but we must acknowledge that whatever policies are implemented, they will affect innocents as well as those more culpable.

Posted by: Eric Martin at June 3, 2005 06:09 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Eric,

I am not disputing that some innocent people got caught up in the mess. If it can happens in the US, the likelihood of it happening in a war zone is much higher. I am however dispute the fact that it constitute the majority of detainees. The fact that detainee were released without the US stating the reason for release is understandable. All information collected during interrogation or screening are classified.

I also understand that informants can be unrealiable. And it is the responsibility of the screener/interrogator to sort out the informant veracity. I have personally recommend the release of many Iraqis because in the past they had a dispute with their neighbors, and the neigbors lied. I spent an average of eight hours on each detanee hearing them tell their cases. Half of them, I recommend to be released.

The multiple layers of screening suppose to screen out those innocent detainees - but of course there is no perfect system, absent of mind-readers. But we did try to compesate them if they were found to be wrongfully detained.

In short, I am not opposing a review of process and procedure. But my concern is that people do not understand the complexity of our jobs, and recommend unrealistic regulations that make us ineffective.

Posted by: Minh-Duc at June 3, 2005 06:54 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

And tossing around the phrase "many are innocent" referring to a list of places that includes Gitmo would lead one to conclude that many in Gitmo are innocent

This defies logic

Many in prison may be innocent - more in an unstable situation like Iraq in 2005 - or Germany and Japan in 1945 - may indeed be innocent

What I can't understand is this pre-occupation with AG or Gitmo on our part

These places are paradise resorts compared to any prison run by Saddam
panties, leashes and Koran flushing included

The worst accusations about the US run detention facilities were never even worthy of serious investigation by AI when Saddam ran AG

And no - of course we are better than Saddam - but that does not mean we have to avoid the truth that we are by any measure more fair than any arab country on earth to ALL detainee's

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at June 3, 2005 07:10 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Minh-Duc and Pogue,

I suppose we could get into semantic hair splitting about what constitutes "many" in each different setting, but I think we understand each other at this point.

I'm not sure what means the US Army and ICRC were using to come up with their numbers of between 70-90% innocent at Abu Ghraib (although that was for an insular period of time and the procedures might be better now), but you would both have to take that up with those organizations. I can't defend their methodology, but neither organization has shown a penchant for massive exaggeration - at least not along these lines - especially the US Army which would seem to have the incentive to push the numbers in the other direction.

Pogue,

As for your preoccupation with AI, do you know that AI has been extensively covering the abuses of Saddam (including, but not limited to, Abu Ghraib) over the past 25-plus years? In fact, they were vocally condemning Saddam even back when the US considered him a tacit ally and was sharing intel with his regime, providing money and loan guarantees, and some dual use heavy machinery and weapons (I know, many European countries provided him with more weapons, but this doesn't change the fact that during the time of Saddam's most brutal massacres, the Reagan administration decided to play ball with him too). They didn't let up throughout the 1990s either.

Ironically, when both Bush the elder and Bush the younger were making their respective cases for war with Iraq, they cited extensively from reports compiled by.....none other than Amnesty International!!!!

Take these excerpts from a White House background paper prepared for Bush entitled A Decade of Deception and Defiance, courtesy of Obsidian Wings (links below):

-Amnesty International reported that, in October 2000, the Iraqi Government executed dozens of women accused of prostitution.

-Iraqi security agents reportedly decapitated numerous women and men in front of their family members. According to Amnesty International, the victims' heads were displayed in front of their homes for several days.

-In August 2001 Amnesty International released a report entitled Iraq -- Systematic Torture of Political Prisoners, which detailed the systematic and routine use of torture against suspected political opponents and, occasionally, other prisoners.

-Amnesty International also reports "Detainees have also been threatened with bringing in a female relative, especially the wife or the mother, and raping her in front of the detainee. Some of these threats have been carried out."

-Amnesty International reported that Iraq has the world's worst record for numbers of persons who have disappeared or remain unaccounted for.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/infocus/iraq/decade/book.html

http://obsidianwings.blogs.com/obsidian_wings/2005/06/dick_and_ai.html

That's a White House background paper repeatedly citing Amnesty International. What gives?

But that is only the recent Amnesty reporting on Saddam. For a closer look at the coverage they were giving him in the 1980s and 1990s, I encourage you to read this impressive profile of the woman on the beat, Hania Mufti, which appeared in the Atlantic a few months back:

http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200503/langewiesche

Which I discussed here:

http://tianews.blogspot.com/2005/02/my-football-team.html

Her dedication and hard work have brought the horrific atrocities of Saddam Hussein to the world's attention. Without her, and Amnesty International, we would all be more ignorant of such barbarity.

Posted by: Eric Martin at June 3, 2005 07:39 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Please excuse if this comment gets reposted but there was a problem with the comments box on the initial try:

Minh-Duc and Pogue,

I suppose we could get into semantic hair splitting about what constitutes "many" in each different setting, but I think we understand each other at this point.

I'm not sure what means the US Army and ICRC were using to come up with their numbers of between 70-90% innocent at Abu Ghraib (although that was for an insular period of time and the procedures might be better now), but you would both have to take that up with those organizations. I can't defend their methodology, but neither organization has shown a penchant for massive exaggeration - at least not along these lines - especially the US Army which would seem to have the incentive to push the numbers in the other direction.

Pogue,

As for your preoccupation with AI, do you know that AI has been extensively covering the abuses of Saddam (including, but not limited to, Abu Ghraib) over the past 25-plus years? In fact, they were vocally condemning Saddam even back when the US considered him a tacit ally and was sharing intel with his regime, providing money and loan guarantees, and some dual use heavy machinery and weapons (I know, many European countries provided him with more weapons, but this doesn't change the fact that during the time of Saddam's most brutal massacres, the Reagan administration decided to play ball with him too). They didn't let up throughout the 1990s either.

Ironically, when both Bush the elder and Bush the younger were making their respective cases for war with Iraq, they cited extensively from reports compiled by.....none other than Amnesty International!!!!

Take these excerpts from a White House background paper prepared for Bush entitled A Decade of Deception and Defiance, courtesy of Obsidian Wings (links below):

-Amnesty International reported that, in October 2000, the Iraqi Government executed dozens of women accused of prostitution.

-Iraqi security agents reportedly decapitated numerous women and men in front of their family members. According to Amnesty International, the victims' heads were displayed in front of their homes for several days.

-In August 2001 Amnesty International released a report entitled Iraq -- Systematic Torture of Political Prisoners, which detailed the systematic and routine use of torture against suspected political opponents and, occasionally, other prisoners.

-Amnesty International also reports "Detainees have also been threatened with bringing in a female relative, especially the wife or the mother, and raping her in front of the detainee. Some of these threats have been carried out."

-Amnesty International reported that Iraq has the world's worst record for numbers of persons who have disappeared or remain unaccounted for.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/infocus/iraq/decade/book.html

http://obsidianwings.blogs.com/obsidian_wings/2005/06/dick_and_ai.html

That's a White House background paper repeatedly citing Amnesty International. What gives?

But that is only the recent Amnesty reporting on Saddam. For a closer look at the coverage they were giving him in the 1980s and 1990s, I encourage you to read this impressive profile of the woman on the beat, Hania Mufti, which appeared in the Atlantic a few months back:

http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200503/langewiesche

Which I discussed here:

http://tianews.blogspot.com/2005/02/my-football-team.html

Her dedication and hard work have brought the horrific atrocities of Saddam Hussein to the world's attention. Without her, and Amnesty International, we would all be more ignorant of such barbarity.

Posted by: Eric Martin at June 3, 2005 08:40 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Well, the Saudi's and Bush agree on at least one thing, that Amnesty International are liars. But, perhaps the context is important. Try this:


http://www.arabnews.com/?page=7§ion=0&article=64806&d=3&m=6&y=2005

Posted by: spaceman at June 3, 2005 11:23 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mr. Lukasiak is, as always, superficially credible but mistaken. The quotations he uses to make his point are in fact not from the Geneva Conventions (to be precise, the Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, adopted on 12 August 1949 by the Diplomatic Conference for the Establishment of International Conventions for the Protection of Victims of War, held in Geneva from 21 April to 12 August 1949, which is known as the Third Geneva Convention), but rather from the Hague Convention of 1899. The modern Geneva Conventions do not refer to or incorporate the older Hague Conventions.

While the Conventions are thematically similar, the Third Geneva Convention defines prisoners of war as parties falling into one of several categories, including the obvious one of serving as a member of an organized military force of a nation.

The provision most relevant to the discussion of Guantanamo and Afghani combatants is Article 4, paragraph 2, which defines prisoners of war to include:

2. Members of other militias and members of other volunteer corps, including those of organized resistance movements, belonging to a Party to the conflict and operating in or outside their own territory, even if this territory is occupied, provided that such militias or volunteer corps, including such organized resistance movements, fulfil the following conditions:

( a ) That of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates;

( b ) That of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance;

( c ) That of carrying arms openly;

( d ) That of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.

It is this provision, I suspect, that the US Government relies on in denying POW status to combatants who did not wear uniforms or other "fixed distinctive signs" on the battlefield.

Perfect argument? Lawyers can argue, but it is a reasonable interpretation of Article 4.

If you're not a POW and you're not a non-combatant, you are simply not protected by the Geneva Conventions. On a Venn diagram, you're outside the protected circles; ergo in a third category, if not an express one.

Mr. Lukasiak's best argument is actually found in the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts, http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/93.htm.

Articles 43 and 44 refer to combatants and POWs, but set out rules that combatants must follow to be treated as such, principally carrying arms openly, in order to be protected. However, Article 45 says:

1. A person who takes part in hostilities and falls into the power of an adverse Party shall be presumed to be a prisoner of war, and therefore shall be protected by the Third Convention, if he claims the status of prisoner of war, or if he appears to be entitled to such status, or if the Party on which he depends claims such status on his behalf by notification to the detaining Power or to the Protecting Power. Should any doubt arise as to whether any such person is entitled to the status of prisoner of war, he shall continue to have such status and, therefore, to be protected by the Third Convention and this Protocol until such time as his status has been determined by a competent tribunal.

Article 45 uses the term "person", not combatant, and so appears to be broader in scope. It's hard to see how a Guantanamo detainee who claims to be a POW could be denied POW treatment under the Protocol Additional pending a tribunal. Maybe someone out there can shed some light.

Jeff



Posted by: Jeff at June 4, 2005 04:07 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Lively debate here.
I just wanted to say that the stupidest position I have seen re Gitmo is that the detainees fouled the Koran themselves. That is totally unbelieve---and now we don't have to believe it, because our own government finally admits to having soiled the Koran.
Really guys, some of you on the right make good points, but use a little bit of judgment.
It was clear from the beginning that the Koran was abused as a matter of policy---that is totally consistent with the pattern of degrading acts perpetrated on the prisoners at Gitmo.

Posted by: marky at June 4, 2005 08:03 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Anderson: AI's head, by calling the prison at Guantanamo a "gulag", said in effect that the American government was putting people there on false or trivial charges, and forcing them into hard labor under primitive conditions, amounting in some cases to endangering their lives, for the commercial profit of government officials. _That_ is what "gulag" means; that is what the Gulag was for, in the Soviet Union; that is what the laogai is for, in the People's Republic of China. The absurdity of the charge, its total inconsistency with the available evidence, should be obvious to anyone.

Why does the charge's appearance in the report's preamble discredit the rest of the report? Take a parallel case: if you read, in a purported scholarly journal, an article that recommended jumping out of third-story windows to subvert the oppressive paradigm of general relativity, you would be forced to doubt the judgement, not just of the article's author, but of the journal's editors -- and, therefore, would place no faith in any other article in that journal. (I allude, of course, to Alan Sokol's hoax on _Social Text_.) So here; if the head of AI can allege that the USA has turned its military bases into a system of slave labor, I cannot trust AI's judgement of the evidence in the other cases cataloged in its report. If the editor's judgement is that far off, everything she touched is suspect.

Thatnks to the head of AI, in short, the _real_ crimes against prisoners at Gitmo have become harder to prove and redress. I wish President Bush had said that, by the way -- whereas our host's "more statesmanlike" option, of regretting that such crimes were committed, would infallibly have been warped by the Western press corps into a confession of personal guilt and a confirmation of the wildest accusations anyone had ever made. "It's an absurd allegation", though incomplete, at least cannot be misunderstood or distorted ...

Posted by: Michael Brazier at June 4, 2005 10:07 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The modern Geneva Conventions do not refer to or incorporate the older Hague Conventions.

"The great bulk of the Convention (Part III - Articles 27-141) puts forth the regulations governing the status and treatment of protected persons; these provisions distinguish between the situation of foreigners on the territory of one of the parties to the conflict and that of civilians in occupied territory. The Convention does not invalidate the provisions of the Hague Regulations of 1907 on the same subjects but is supplementary to them (see Article 154 of the Convention)."

http://www.icrc.org/ihl.nsf/ff3d1abd6ef26cca41256739003e636c/ae2d398352c5b028c12563cd002d6b5c?OpenDocument

****************

Prior to the adoption of the "new" conventions in 1947, treatment of civilians was given relatively short shrift in international martial law. The inadequacy of these provisions became obvious as a result of WWII, and the 1949 Geneva Conventions were the result --- and required occupiers and invaders to respect the absolute rights of civilians, while "carving out" specific albeit restrictive rights for those designated as "prisoners of war."

The question of whether the detainees captured in the War on Terror are subject to the Geneva Conventions is answered in Article 4 of the IV Convention, which states

"Persons protected by the Convention are 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."

http://www.icrc.org/ihl.nsf/c525816bde96b7fd41256739003e636a/78eb50ead6ee7aa1c12563cd0051b9d4?OpenDocument

The third convention deals specifically with "prisoners of war", and represents a specific carve out of limited rights for "POWs" separate and distinct from the protections afforded to civilians. Either you are a "civilian", or you are a "POW".

The "not wearing a uniform" stuff is complete nonsense, insofar as "POW status" is granted to a variety of people who don't wear uniforms, etc. The "carve out" is about whose rights can be restricted by their status as "POWs", rather than afforded the far greater rights provided to civilians. NOWHERE does the Geneva Conventions recognize the completely bogus category of "unlawful combatants" or "illegal combatants" captured in a war zone. ("Spies and saboteurs" are a special class of POWs caught in "occupied territory" --- which means that those captured in battle are not eligible for such status. The only right they lose is the right of "communication".) (see article 5).

Most people don't realize it, but the US claim of "illegal combatants" caught in Afghanistan rests COMPLETELY on the contention that the Taliban was not the government of Afghanistan, and that therefore the US could ignore the provisions of the convention as it concerned the Taliban. This, of course, is absolute bullshit --- Afghanistan signed the conventions in 1956, and as such any person caught up in a war in Afghanistan was covered by the Conventions.

Posted by: p.lukasiak at June 4, 2005 10:43 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I've tried to post this comment twice with no success, so if they all appear at once, forgive the repetition:

Minh-Duc and Pogue,

I suppose we could get into semantic hair splitting about what constitutes "many" in each different setting, but I think we understand each other at this point.

I'm not sure what means the US Army and ICRC were using to come up with their numbers of between 70-90% innocent at Abu Ghraib (although that was for an insular period of time and the procedures might be better now), but you would both have to take that up with those organizations. I can't defend their methodology, but neither organization has shown a penchant for massive exaggeration - at least not along these lines - especially the US Army which would seem to have the incentive to push the numbers in the other direction.

Pogue,

As for your preoccupation with AI, do you know that AI has been extensively covering the abuses of Saddam (including, but not limited to, Abu Ghraib) over the past 25-plus years? In fact, they were vocally condemning Saddam even back when the US considered him a tacit ally and was sharing intel with his regime, providing money and loan guarantees, and some dual use heavy machinery and weapons (I know, many European countries provided him with more weapons, but this doesn't change the fact that during the time of Saddam's most brutal massacres, the Reagan administration decided to play ball with him too). They didn't let up throughout the 1990s either.

Ironically, when both Bush the elder and Bush the younger were making their respective cases for war with Iraq, they cited extensively from reports compiled by.....none other than Amnesty International!!!!

Take these excerpts from a White House background paper prepared for Bush entitled A Decade of Deception and Defiance, courtesy of Obsidian Wings (links below):

-Amnesty International reported that, in October 2000, the Iraqi Government executed dozens of women accused of prostitution.

-Iraqi security agents reportedly decapitated numerous women and men in front of their family members. According to Amnesty International, the victims' heads were displayed in front of their homes for several days.

-In August 2001 Amnesty International released a report entitled Iraq -- Systematic Torture of Political Prisoners, which detailed the systematic and routine use of torture against suspected political opponents and, occasionally, other prisoners.

-Amnesty International also reports "Detainees have also been threatened with bringing in a female relative, especially the wife or the mother, and raping her in front of the detainee. Some of these threats have been carried out."

-Amnesty International reported that Iraq has the world's worst record for numbers of persons who have disappeared or remain unaccounted for.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/infocus/iraq/decade/book.html

http://obsidianwings.blogs.com/obsidian_wings/2005/06/dick_and_ai.html

That's a White House background paper repeatedly citing Amnesty International. What gives?

But that is only the recent Amnesty reporting on Saddam. For a closer look at the coverage they were giving him in the 1980s and 1990s, I encourage you to read this impressive profile of the woman on the beat, Hania Mufti, which appeared in the Atlantic a few months back:

http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200503/langewiesche

Which I discussed here:

http://tianews.blogspot.com/2005/02/my-football-team.html

Her dedication and hard work have brought the horrific atrocities of Saddam Hussein to the world's attention. Without her, and Amnesty International, we would all be more ignorant of such barbarity.

Posted by: Eric Martin at June 4, 2005 04:21 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Arab oil embargo, Munich Olympics, numerous plane hijackings, Iranian embassy hostage crisis, Cole attack, African embassies, 9/11, Bali, Madrid, Beslan, etc, etc.

When the same race attacks your people over and over and over again is it racist to finally decide to kill them first?

How should we treat people who have and will slit the throat of a child? With kid gloves? Why? In our prisons in the US a child killer has to be protected from the other inmates so they are not killed by the other inmates. I'm sure in Gitmo the child killers are the heros.

p.lucasiak, No "illegal combatants" is defined as being armed and not in uniform in a war zone. The only right an illegal combatant has under the Geneva Convention is the right to a summary execution.

The Geneva Convention cover armies who fight with honor. The uniform is to identify the combatant and in doing so protect the general populus.


Posted by: tracelan at June 4, 2005 04:35 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

A couple of thoughts I'd like to throw out on these issues:

What is the unemployment rate in Afgahanistan. Didn't we pick up the Gitmo prisoners there? Why not a crash program building them a prison there to take these slugs off our hands. If they feel they are safe to release, then we should accept that judgment.

Similar situation with our fortress-like embassies. Why not subcontract screening and search functions to locals. It would provide jobs and help increase interaction that is the embassy's prime purpose. I understand no safety program is foolproof, but technology can be applied to this task to make the risk/benefits managable.

Sen Chuck Hegal has proposed the most progressive response to our turning away graduate students and high skilled workers. I think rRepublicans could do a lot worse than running him against Hillary.

Posted by: wayne at June 4, 2005 04:43 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

p.lucasiak, No "illegal combatants" is defined as being armed and not in uniform in a war zone.

no its not. please find the words "illegal combatant" in the Geneva Conventions --- or anything which states that there is a specific prohibition with regard to "being armed and not in uniform." (in fact, there are specific provisions allowing for it, but of course someone as ignorant as you wouldn't know that.)

Posted by: p.lukasiak at June 4, 2005 06:32 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Lesson 1 before quoting from a legal document: determine its scope. The Fourth Geneva Convention applies to:

Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.

Mr. Lukasiak's claim that the Fourth Convention applies to captured illegal combatants (illegal or otherwise) is just not right. The term "members of armed forces" above just refers back to the Third Convention, where that concept is discussed in detail. Mr. Lukasiak is right, as near as I can tell, that "illegal combatant" is not a defined term in the Third Convention; however, it is clear that under the Third Convention combatants must meet certain conditions to be afforded its protections. If they don't, they're not covered; not protected. Let's remember what the default position of combatants on a battlefield is--they are targets for one another.

Frankly, I have some concerns about the way our policies are received worldwide, just as I am aware of how an overly-legalistic interpretation of a contract can offend the other party even if the interpretation is legally correct.

There are a lot of bright people posting here, including Lukasiak. Just wish he'd make his points without name-calling and arrogance.

J

Posted by: Jeff at June 4, 2005 09:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mr. Lukasiak's claim that the Fourth Convention applies to captured illegal combatants (illegal or otherwise) is just not right.

my claim is not that those who are captured on the field of battle are civilians, its that there is no such thing as an "illegal combatant" --- you are either a civilian, or a POW.

Please find the term "illegal combatant" in the Geneva Conventions.

Or better yet, don't argue with me, argue with the International Red Cross --- they don't recognize the category, and they are in charge of making sure that the Conventions are abided by.....

Posted by: p.lukasiak at June 5, 2005 02:40 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Heinous crimes my ass. Those 20 or so dead detainees were no young innocents who got pulled in because they were driving around with a broken tail light. They were all non-uniformed combatents who, by the customary practice of war, deserved summary execution. Whenever one of those bastards falls into our hands, I hope we extract every piece of information we can from him so that we can go get his buddies before they get us.

Posted by: Ken Gabraith at June 5, 2005 05:48 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Stop the torture. Execute terrorists summarily.
Close Guantanamo. Execute terrorists summarily. Free up prison space in Abu Ghraib. Execute terrorists summarily. Stop the torture.

Posted by: Jorge Kruger Seros at June 5, 2005 05:55 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

You hate the word gulag. I say it worked beautifully. Would the Bushies have responded and brought all that publicity to the report if not for that word?

Amnesty is using Rove's technique---using an outrageous accusation to get attention---and Rove and company were caught by it.

Posted by: James of Dc at June 6, 2005 07:57 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Amnesty was caught in its own trap, unfortunately. They are amateurs trying to play the big boys' game. Amnesty set back the cause with their faux pas at least five years. That's five years free get out of jail cards for Rove and the neo cons.

Posted by: Arcangel at June 6, 2005 12:28 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Most people don't realize it, but the US claim of "illegal combatants" caught in Afghanistan rests COMPLETELY on the contention that the Taliban was not the government of Afghanistan, and that therefore the US could ignore the provisions of the convention as it concerned the Taliban. This, of course, is absolute bullshit --- Afghanistan signed the conventions in 1956, and as such any person caught up in a war in Afghanistan was covered by the Conventions.

So? The Government of Afghanistan is what the Taliban rebelled against after the Soviets withdrew- what was left of it is what became the 'Northern Alliance', which provided most of the troops on the ground when the US went looking for allies in Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks.

The only governments to recognize the Taliban as the government of Afghanistan are Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, and in any case, I am unaware of the Taliban ever claiming to accept all treaty obligations of the former government of Afghanistan, or claiming to be bound by the Geneva Conventions specifically.

Claiming that the Taliban is party to the Geneva Conventions is simply ludicrous.

Posted by: rosignol at June 7, 2005 11:17 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Neither the Taliban nor the "unsurgents" in Iraq are party to any conventions of war - Geneva, Hague or any other city you care to name

The US led CoW in Afghanistan and Iraq can classify these folks as whatever they want

Illegal combatents seems good to me - but I would opn the floor to other suggestions

Just understand - these people have no rights under any conventions - no rights beyond what we choose to grant to them

As for AI - they seem to only get press when they are trashing the US - and they seem to devote much of their energy to trashing the US

Take a look at some numbers from this Blog

http://www.publiuspundit.com/?p=1149

AN EXPERIMENT FOR AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL
Before anything, read Austin Bay’s fabulous piece fisking Amnesty International on their bizarre claim that Gitmo and Abu Ghraib are modern day gulags, and that the U.S. is the leader in human rights abuses in the world.

Hahahahahaha. Right.

Anyhow, I received an email with a really good idea: Go to Google News and search for stories about “human rights abuses xxx” where xxx is the name of a country. Let’s see the results as of this moment.

United States: 2,740
Iran: 374
China: 824
Sudan: 400
Zimbabwe: 265
Belarus: 39
Russia: 483
Burma: 68
Saudi Arabia: 142
Nepal: 232
Syria: 90
Cuba: 1,330 — because that’s where Guantanamo is.

So while the press covered 2,740 stories on American “human rights abuses,” it only covered with 2,917 stories combined those of some of the most degenerate regimes on the planet. Where, exactly, do the priorities of Amnesty International and the mainstream press lie? For more, let’s not forget the similar Human Rights Watch report from earlier in the year.

UPDATE: This unleashing of partisan politics has been interesting, something that hasn’t been tried before as of yet. Comments have been both interesting and other things — for the latter, consider this a warning. The most frequent assertion made was that my methodology was wrong when conducting the search results. This may be true in certain circumstances, but I contend that the purpose of the experiment was misunderstood.

As I instructed at the beginning of the post, it is important to read Austin Bay’s piece. One of the important points he makes is that by making such outrageous claims, that Gitmo is the modern gulag and that the U.S. is the leader, no less, in human rights abuses, it cheapens the cause of human rights and takes attention away from malicious dictators.

Regular readers at this blog know that we rarely, if ever, talk U.S. politics. We blog on democracy and human rights where there are neither. What is becoming ever more irritating about organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch is that they are increasingly politicizing their work. They are relatively well-documented with regards to the rest of the world, so their claim itself is unjustifiable when putting the Turkmenistan file against the U.S. file, for example. It’s all rhetoric and politics, and to us, that is an extremely sad thing. It shows that they are under poor management that lacks in vision.

Austin Bay’s point is exactly what the Google News results show.

By using the United States to pimp for headlines, Amnesty International is taking the light off of governments that are truly, systematically tearing human rights to shreds. I was not saying, as suggested, that there is a vast media conspiracy.

I’m saying that Amnesty International’s report couldn’t keep focus on the context, and because of it, a media storm ensued that has gone completely off rail.

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at June 7, 2005 03:08 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

People like Friedman care too much what others think about the US. There is no shortage of anti-US sentiment abroad, nor will there ever be. What Friedman fails to understand or grasp is that people will always bitch about the US simply because its the current lone hyperpower.

Posted by: Gabriel Chapman at June 7, 2005 06:10 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Actually no Pogue - you missed the point. You CANNOT paint yourself as the beacon of democracy and hope for the world, while your AG writes cleverly crafted legal arguments absolving the US government from adhering to the Geneva Convention concerning the treatment of detainees.

Its called Hypocrisy - something that the crackpot right is horrendously adept at, whilst simultaneously screeching about the hypocrisy of the left.

If you portray yourself as the beacon of freedom and democracy then you cannot have half measures (well you can't if you want to be taken seriously). You can't use moral relativism and claim to be better than others AND be the BOF&D.

The concepts are mutually exclusive, and more laughable than ever when you consider the Patriot Act. In fact that serves the Terrorists even better than you could imagine. Afterall what sets the Western World aside from Islamic Theocracies? Civil liberties free from the constraints of Religious inspired moral constraints.

But hey its alright - because everyone in Europe is really in league with the "islamo-facists" and they all hate the US because she is the beacon of freedom and democracy. Yeah Right.

Outside of the minority of islamic extremists people by and large don't hate the US. We just detest having the bullshit about freedom and democracy rammed down our throats, when we suspect that other agenda's are at play and when those that proclaim the loudest, makes claims of a few bad eggs. Yet anyone with half a brain can see that when your AG crafts legal arguments "allowing" torture, then you're creating a mindset and an environment that will allow it to happen.

Which brings me back to my first point. If you want to be the guiding light - which the US truly has the opportunity to be, then in this day and age you have to be squeaky clean. Anything less is not credible and that is precisely what most of those outside the US see.

Posted by: Aran Brown at June 8, 2005 02:16 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Terrorists are not entitled to protection under the Geneva convention. That is the destruction of international norms, making a mockery of civilized intercourse. Making impossible demands is a valid sign of manipulative power seeking behavior.

F*ck squeaky clean. That's just a copout for "you have to do what I want you to do." In the real world no one is squeaky clean and no one has the right to demand something totally impossible of another.

Posted by: Mango at June 9, 2005 01:47 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
Reviews of Belgravia Dispatch
"Awake"
--New York Times
"Must-read list"
--Washington Times
"Pompous Ass"
--an anonymous blogospheric commenter
Recent Entries
Search
English Language Media
Foreign Affairs Commentariat
Non-English Language Press
U.S. Blogs
Columnists
Think Tanks
Law & Finance
Security
Books
The City
Western Europe
France
United Kingdom
Germany
Italy
Netherlands
Spain
Central and Eastern Europe
CIS/FSU
Russia
Armenia
East Asia
China
Japan
South Korea
Middle East
Egypt
Israel
Lebanon
Syria
B.D. In the Press
Archives
Categories
Syndicate this site:
XML RSS RDF

G2E

Powered by