Conventional Crimes

August 12, 2009

Today 60 years ago — Aug. 12, 1949 — was the fourth installment of what has been termed the “Geneva Conventions,” a series of documents meant not to stop war (what piece of paper could do that?), or define weaponry, but to set humanitarian standards for treatment of war victims.

The first three ‘conventions’ — in 1864, 1906 and 1929 — were all about soldiers and war itself.
In 1949, after WWII and the wholesale massacre of civilians, the aim was to set guidelines for the innocent, and the not-so-innocent caught in modern conflicts.
Everything was fairly okay for nearly half a century until George Jr. and his boys arrived.

(Illustration found here).

The gathering in 1929 covered POWs, but part of the 1949 session was also about those captured during war — how to handle prisoners and what can and cannot be done to them.
These guidelines are now accepted as the fabric of modern warfare: In 1993 the United Nations Security Council adopted a report from the Secretary General and a Commission of Experts which concluded beyond doubt that the Geneva Conventions had passed into the body of customary international law that is binding on non-signatory parties whenever they engage in armed conflicts.
In June 2006, 194 countries had signed on to the ‘conventions,’ including the US.

The Bush boys and their ass-climbers, like Sen. Lindsey Graham, claim the conventions did not apply to the US Wide World War on Terror until a Supreme Court ruling ruled the Geneva Conventions were indeed the law — intact the whole time, since from Sept. 11, 2001, and even before.

“The Geneva Convention did not apply, until 2005, to the war on terror,” Graham said.
“So I can’t conceive of a statute that you could prosecute anyone under because their endeavor was not to commit a crime but to look at the law and come up with aggressive interrogation techniques to get information from an enemy that we all thought was coming after us again.”

Fear is a liar’s best friend.

An incompetent, contradictory liar with a mean streak, however, is something else.
In a memo signed by George Jr., dated Feb. 7, 2002, all those people captured fighting the US anywhere on the globe were not covered under the Geneva Conventions, and not only that, but with a huge-ass tongue-in-cheek smirk: “the United States Armed Forces shall continue to treat detainees humanely and, to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity, in a manner consistent with the principles of Geneva.”

In an attempt to put some humanity into war, an inferno of insanity within itself, is a somewhat noble, though futile gesture to curb the excesses of people killing other people and taking their shit.
The history of the Geneva Conventions has its source in nursing and the care of those survivors of war, so its intent is to keep the killing and maiming down to a minimum.
And then the George Jr./Dick Cheney/Don Rumsfeld tabernacle trio decided the US with its armed might could do about what it pleased with just about anybody — and tried to skirt the international conventions on how man should treat their fellow man.
The 1949 document is actually four documents (coupled with what’s called Additional Protocols, which cover non-international conflicts), hence the Geneva Conventionsthe first protects those wounded or sick at sea, the second for those wounded or sick on land, and the third (and most-important to George Jr.) applies to the handling of prisoners of war.
And the fourth (adapted in 1949) affords protection to civilians, even those in occupied land — the “collateral damage” so popular now among the drones.
A common convention to all four is a document called “Common Article 3” — which covers war not on a vast scale, good-old-fashioned civil wars, or some internal spat that spills over into a nearby country — and brings the conventions into line with the vast amount of warfare currently being conducted on the planet.
The rules are fairly simple, just be humane in the killing: It specifically prohibits murder, mutilation, torture, cruel, humiliating and degrading treatment, the taking of hostages and unfair trial.
Read a good article on the Geneva Conventions here.

George Jr. hated Article 3.
From a New York Times editorial three years ago this week:

Unfortunately, like many of the things the administration said about Guantánamo Bay, this was not true. The president did not intend to follow the Geneva Conventions, and in some vital respects, he still doesn’t, despite a Supreme Court ruling that the prisoners merit those protections.

The Bush administration objects to the clause in Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions that prohibits “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment.”

This standard has been followed for more than a half-century by almost 190 countries, including the United States. The War Crimes Act of 1996, passed by a Republican Congress, makes it a felony to violate the Geneva Conventions. But the Bush administration authorized techniques to handle and interrogate prisoners that clearly break the rules — like prolonged exposure to extreme temperatures, long periods in stress positions, strapping prisoners to metal contraptions and force-feeding them.
In fact, the Geneva standard is more specific than the shocks-the-conscience standard.
And a vast majority of Guantánamo inmates are not terrorists.
In fact, many do not appear guilty of anything, not even fighting United States troops in Afghanistan.

And here today, is President Obama slacking?

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