Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Right Rediscovers the Geneva Conventions

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It's truly touching to watch the right regain its passion for the Geneva Conventions. Here is Andrew McCarthy in Human Events Online:

As we watch the latest outrage unfold in the Persian Gulf, it bears continuous reminding that Iran is a high contracting party to the Geneva Conventions of 1949, including Convention III Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War. The mullahs have never renounced the treaty since coming to power nearly 30 years ago. But, then again, why would they? Like the Nonproliferation Treaty, it is but a parchment promise: readily breakable if given to infidels, readily breakable as necessary to advance the jihad -- and a revolutionary Islamic state considers itself in a full-time state of war until all obstacles to imposition of Islamic law have been removed. Death to America and Death to the West are not just slogans for these folks; they are guiding principles.

So in just the last few days, reports abound that the Iranians are busily interrogating their captives about the circumstances surrounding their apprehension. Despite the British government’s global positioning satellite records proving that its personnel never left Iraqi waters, the mullahs falsely maintain that the Brits had strayed into sovereign Iranian territory. On no evidence, they accuse the marines and naval personnel of conducting espionage operations (a capital offense).

And now, we have the spectacle of the only female captive, 26-year-old Leading Seaman Faye Turney. As part of their propaganda campaign, the Iranians have begun broadcasting footage of the kidnapped Britons. This includes Seaman Turney who, since her captivity, has been forced to don a headscarf, the compulsory dress of women in a sharia state. Worse, Turney has transparently been coerced into a contrived “confession.” The airwaves are filled with her tape-recorded declarations that the captives “[o]bviously … trespassed into their [Iranian] waters,” and that their captors -- who seized them forcibly -- are “very friendly, very hospitable and very thoughtful, nice people” who have inflicted “no hurt or harm,” and, in fact, have been “very, very compassionate.”

All of this blatantly violates Geneva. The British personnel are clearly prisoners of war seized in an armed conflict. They were in uniform, openly conducting patrol operations as part of a national military force. There need be no formal state of war for the conventions to be triggered. Under Article 2, they apply in “all cases of declared war or of any other armed conflict which may arise between two or more of the High Contracting Parties, even if the state of war is not recognized by one of them.” (Emphasis added.) Even if Iran had not for years been abetting the Iraqi insurgency against coalition forces, the seizure itself was an armed conflict on the high seas between two Geneva signatories -- had it not been, the Britons would not have been captured.

Consequently, Iran is obliged to accord its captives the privileges of honorable combatants. For example, prisoners must, under Article 13, be treated “humanely” at all times; they “must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity”; and even when, unlike the Iranians, a capturing nation has a particular, justifiable quarrel with its foes, “[m]easures of reprisal against prisoners of war are prohibited.”

Under Articles 14 and 16, moreover, women, who are equally entitled as prisoners “to respect for their persons and their honour[,]” must not be discriminated against and retain “the full civil capacity which they enjoyed at the time of their capture,” meaning their rights must not be infringed “except in so far as the captivity requires.” That this patently includes the free exercise of a prisoner’s religion -- and freedom from being compelled to observe Islam or any other religion -- is underscored by Article 34’s injunction that “[p]risoners of war shall enjoy complete latitude in the exercise of their religious duties.”

Most fundamentally, lawful, honorable combatants, such as the 15 Britons, may be questioned but they may never be coerced. They are privileged under Article 17 to limit their disclosures to “surname, first names and rank, date of birth, and army, regimental, personal or serial number, or failing this, equivalent information.” The captors may ask for more, but only gently and must take no for an answer. Leaving aside that torture is independently prohibited by the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment (of which both England and Iran are members), Article 17 elaborates:

No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war to secure from them information of any kind whatever. Prisoners of war who refuse to answer may not be threatened, insulted, or exposed to unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind.

Iran, as always, is in gross violation of these standards -- standards which it has given its worthless word to abide by. Parading prisoners of war on television is a violation of their dignity. Patently abusing a woman by imposing Iran’s own religious customs on her and giving her markedly different treatment than the male prisoners may be the norm in fundamentalist Islam, but it is a black-and-white offense against international law. And British forces are rigorously disciplined, well-aware that they need reveal nothing beyond name, rank and serial number. Even if there were a scintilla of proof beyond the say-so of serially lying zealots that the Brits were actually in Iranian waters engaged in espionage, is there an infidel’s chance in the Kaaba that any of these marines and seamen would have confessed to such activities absent intimidation and coercion? The kind of intimidation and coercion we know for a fact the Iranians practiced against British military captives the last time something like this happened, a scant three years ago.

Andrew Sullivan quotes the section I have bolded, above, and points out the obvious:

Unlike prisoners detained by the U.S. in Iraq - some of whom were tortured so badly they died? Memo to Andy: your beloved administration has derided the Geneva Conventions as "quaint". They have sanctioned not gentle questioning, but waterboarding, sleep deprivation and stress positions for prisoners captured in a war, Iraq, where Geneva was allegedly never in doubt. Where were you then? And now Iran is in the dock for giving British prisoners treatment that those in Gitmo and Abu Ghraib can only dream of?

Don't people realize that this is what this episode is partly about? Iran, that disgusting regime, is showing much of the world that it treats prisoners more humanely than the U.S. That's the propaganda coup they are achieving. And you know who set them up to score this huge victory in the propaganda war? Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld, who authorized all the abuse at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere throughout the war. And McCarthy, who defended and enabled them. Tehran never had a better friend than George W. Bush. He has given Islamist thugs the moral highground.

John Cole thinks that the right's faux outrage over torture and coerced confessions is about "ramping up the rhetoric" for war:

... This is little more than the widely ridiculed “We have been at war with Iran since 1979” nonsense that was peddled just a few weeks back, and now this meme is so widespread that McCarthy doesn’t even break rhetorical stride when mentioning it. According to the lunatics, the case has been made- that we have been at perpetual war with Teheran is just a known fact.

It is all there- the advocating for war, the sneering condescension aimed at ” our diplomat class” (just go ahead and call ‘em pussies, McCarthy), the revisionism- one convenient package designed to advocate for the next war. It is only made more frightening when you examine it in the context of the state of our current military- stretched to the breaking point in Iraq.

That should scare the shit out of you, because the nuts are still in charge for two more years.

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