Friday, April 07, 2006

The Geneva Conventions ...

... Today a post came through one of my groups that I wanted to share with everyone, including my response to it. It reiterated the common argument these days that the other side in our modern war on terror don't deserve the protections of the Geneva Convention. The full text of the post is below ... It's a well written explanation of the basic argument used by most of those who put forth this position.

On 4/6/06, Rocker092752@YYY.XXX <Rocker092752@YYY.XXX > wrote:
The Geneva Convention is for combatants fighting in uniform for a country. Terrorists wear no uniform, are not combatants like soldiers, and are usually not part of any country, as much as an ideology/religion-Islam, therefore they don't fall under the Convention, so don't deserve its protections.

So, a Navy SEAL operating on a secret covert mission out of uniform (happens ALL the time) is no longer protected by Geneva if captured? What about those Rockwell contractors captured by insurgents in Fallujah in 04? Since they weren't uniformed soldiers in any way, there was no reason to protest their treatment at the hands of insurgents, since they had no right to expect protection from Geneva. The insurgents were free to treat them anyway they felt necessary, as our troops are free to treat captured insurgents in any way necessary, right?

The problem with arguments about uniformed soldiers is that there are MANY times that we would assert Geneva protections for people captured who aren't uniformed soldiers in standard combat operations. Special/black ops are a perfect example. Geneva was written to ensure that ALL humans could expect a basic level of treatment from anyone, no matter what the circumstances are. That others don't follow the rules is no excuse for us to ignore them.

Geneva is about acknowledging the fact that no matter how heinous our enemy, they are still human beings deserving of basic rights. Using legalese and definitions to absolve yourself of those obligations may help you sleep at night, but it does nothing to change the fact you've decided there are humans out there not deserving of basic rights. If that's not worrisome to you morally, then you are too far gone to help, IMO. As soon as we can acknowledge that some people don't deserve to be treated as human beings, we haven't just stepped onto the slippery slope, we've slid all the way to a bottom of barbarism. Geneva isn't about giving special rights to those who abuse us or fight against us ... It's about acknowledging that, regardless of circumstance, every human being is deserving of certain basic rights. If we ignore that, we have already lost this war against terror, and become as bad as the people and ideologies we claim to be fighting against.


At 3:27 p.m., Anonymous John Hamill said...

To make this arguement you would have to go back to WWII, dig up the bodies of the German spies and sabateurs that the Allies executed without trial, and formally apologize to them. The absurd stretching of the Geneva Conventions in the modern age is EXACTLY why it only applied to uniform personnel of a established military, and the writers and signers of the convention knew precisely what they were doing. The signers had all had experience fighting guerilla wars, anarchists, and revolutionaries in their own spheres of influence. They had no intentions of giving them the same treatment as they did the uniformed personnel of an enemy country. You could, and in most wars the combatants often did, do anything you wanted with partisans, guerillas, and terrorists when you captured them. The Geneva Conventions were only meant to apply to uniformed military personnel, in times of declared war, which is why countries which capture special operations soldiers, operating inside their countries without a declaration of war, can do what they want with them. It just so happens that in the modern world, capturing them alive and parading them in front of the media is usually considered a propaganda coup, so they are usually not shot out of hand. Usually...
The Geneva Convention is a gentleman's agreement, to prevent widespread atrocities against surrendered soldiers. Given that in the Third World you NEVER see even lip service given to it, to expect to expand its provisions to include everyone who takes up arms against others, legitimate fighters or not, is a very silly proposition.
As far as mercenaries are concerned, they don't have any right under the Geneva Conventions, and those who practice the trade realize it. It's one of the reasons that they get paid FAR more than even the most elite regular military personnel. For them, the risk is worth the reward.

At 4:38 p.m., Blogger Elron said...

Thanx for the comment John, and I think we merely disagree on a matter of principle here then. For me, if I refuse to grant my enemy the same rights I would expect, then I am no better than they are. All the legalese about declared war or uniforms doesn't make a difference in any way to me ... what matters is that all humans are 'endowed by their Creator with inherent and inalienable rights; that among these, are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.' That applies to my enemy as much as it doesn me ... it says ALL men are created equal.

At 12:23 a.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think everyone is missing the real issue here. The U.S.A. never signed the conventions..although it agreed with vietnam ex-pow

At 11:17 a.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

As members of a civilized and decent society, we as Americans are always against barbaric actions, in war or not in war, involving soldiers or civilians. As Americans we will always look for opportunities to control the excesses that can occur in conflict...BUT...when it comes to terrorism, and particularly to the Islamic terrorists we're referring to here, it seems ridiculous to have this discussion on any level. These people have NO concerns for the Geneva Convention, or anything else. They butcher and bomb, kill and maim, without any regard for mercy or civilized limitations of conduct of any kind. We should be talking about being certain we don't give in to the excesses that are a temptation when faced with these types of vile individuals...but the Geneva Conventions (other than to serve as guidelines for our own behavior, not as restrictions to what needs to be done) are completely irrelevant here. Don't take my word for it...go walk the streets of Baghdad waving your sheaf of Convention protocols and see how long you last.

At 12:22 p.m., Blogger Elron said...

How others behave is immaterial to whether or not we have to follow our own rules. That the other side doesn't respect Geneva isn't an excuse for us to toss our morality out the window ... our morality has no bearing on the actions of others.

Geneva isn't about how other people behave towards us ... respecting Geneva has nothing to do with whether others respect it or not, but rather it has to with whether we choose to act in accordance with our principles, or ignore them.

Others can never compel us to behave in any way that we choose not to. That is true across the board ... our reactions to others are controlled by us, not by what the other does or says. In the case of Geneva, that means we either decide to follow Geneva because it is the right thing to do, or we choose to ignore the rules that we've previously agreed to. That choice has nothing to do with whether others respect Geneva or not, but has everything to do with whether we want to be seen as acting with moral authority, or as tyrants.

At 10:21 a.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you want the protections that come from the Geneva Convention you have to be a signatory and you have to play by the rules of the game. That includes uniforms with military insignia, no child soldiers, ect. You cannot kill and pillage like a barbarian and then evoke the protective clause of a POW when you are caught. That wont work, why would anyone follow the rules of war if that were the case? The Taliban/Al-Q are irregulars, they murder, rape,steal, and behead for religious/criminal reasons, or for no reason at all. They do not extend to us a single courtesy as human beings. To return the favor will cost, an has cost us many lives. That's a high price to pay for your "high road" attitude. Too high of a price.

At 9:09 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

3rd comment from anonymous. You sir, are UTTERLY and COMPLETELY wrong about the US NOT being a signatory of the Geneva Conventions. The USA signed the Conventions. Mr. VINCENT, Minister of the United States of America in Switzerland, on signing the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of August 12, 1949, made the following declaration:

"The Government of the United States fully supports the objectives of this Convention.
"I am instructed by my Government to sign, making the following reservation to Article 68:
"The United States reserve the right to impose the death penalty in accordance with the provisions of Article 68, paragraph 2, without regard to whether the offences referred to therein are punishable by death under the law of the occupied territory at the time the occupation begins"

SOURCE: Final Record of the Diplomatic Conference of Geneva of 1949, Vol.I, Federal Political Department, Berne, p.346.


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