Has Senator McConnell or Jonah Goldberg Read the Geneva Conventions?
On Meet the Press, Senator McConnell opined on the Hamdan decision and the Geneva Conventions:
And second, a very disturbing aspect of the decision was that the Court held Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions applicable to American servicemen … But the, but the, but the enemy is not a signatory to the, to the, to the Geneva Conventions, so why should these terrorists be subjected to something they’re not signatories to?
As the author of this post, I screamed:
What part of “Although one of the Powers in conflict may not be a party to the present Convention, the Powers who are parties thereto shall remain bound by it in their mutual relations” do these rightwingers not understand?
But take a look at the Hamdan decision, which noted: (a) Afghanistan signed the treaty; (b) the government’s attempt to separate the Taliban and Al Qaeda in regards this issue; and (c) the clause from the Third Geneva Convention that I screamed at my TV.
Then I was reading Kevin Drum nobly say:
Well, I’m a Democrat, and I’ll say it: anyone we capture on a battlefield should be subject to the minimum standards of decency outlined in the Geneva Conventions. That includes terrorists. It’s our way of telling the world that we aren’t barbarians; that we believe in minimal standards of human decency even if our enemies don’t. It’s also a necessary – though not sufficient – requirement for winning this war.
Kevin was reacting to the latest stupidity from Jonah Goldberg:
And I say this as somone who basically sees nothing wrong with making a political issue out of the Hamdan decision. If Democrats want terrorists to fall under the Geneva Convention let them say so. My guess is most won’t, if they’re smart.
How to react? Do we remind Mr. Goldberg that he should actually READ the Geneva Conventions or the Court’s decision in Hamdan before he offers his uninformed opinion again? Or do we make the simple point that war should not be a partisan issue? Oh never mind that as Jonah’s M.O. is Partisan ‘R Us. The only way Jonah’s dismissal of Al Qaeda not being covered is the proposition that we are longer at war with Al Qaeda. President Bush once claimed we were, which made the Geneva Conventions applicable here – at least to anyone who knows how to read. Now if the Republicans want to say we were never serious about being at war with Al Qaeda – make that case. But for someone so ignorant of what the heck he is talking about – I’d be silent if I were Jonah Goldberg. But hey – opining on things he has not even bothered to read is Goldberg’s sole talent.
On the other hand, Mitch McConnell is a U.S. Senator and the citizens of Kentucky deserve better than what they saw on Meet the Press.
Update: A Rich Lowry classic on Gitmo and the Geneva Conventions from 1/29/2002:
The Geneva Convention of 1949 was meant to regulate international warfare between states, with some basic provision for civil wars as well. What the U.S. is engaging in today is something different, a war against an organization of terrorists who do not constitute a government, rendering the Geneva Convention essentially irrelevant. The conflict between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance, which was indeed a more traditional civil war, became a subset of this larger, new kind of warfare: the war against terror, against armed international gangs. The Geneva Convention is built around the idea of detaining prisoners of war who are not suicidal terrorists, who are instead civilized men who – perhaps under duress – performed a service to their nation and are willing actually to surrender once they surrender.
But you want to interrupt and talk about fair trials. Rich?
In an effort to slip a Geneva requirement into Guantanamo, administration critics — a category in which I would generally include Colin Powell — maintain that we are violating the Convention if we don’t convene panels, as called for by the treaty, to determine whether each individual detainee in Guantanamo is an unlawful combatant or not. The Defense Department actually has a long-standing rule for conducting such hearings. But if the Geneva Convention doesn’t apply, this requirement obviously doesn’t apply either. And the question of whether the convention applies or not cannot be determined by panel of military officers on a case-by-case basis. It is a matter of state policy to be determined at the highest levels of government. If the U.S. decides that al Qaeda and the Taliban don’t qualify – which, so far, is the administration position – there is no need to have a Geneva-mandated hearing for every detainee in Guantanamo. Now, the question of whether the Convention should apply to the Taliban gets a little complicated, but the Taliban seems to flunk all the major tests. First, the Taliban were not a signatory to the treaty.
The state of Afghanistan was a signatory to the treaty. As far as whether the Geneva Conventions call for a fair trial apply to the Taliban and their allies known as Al Qaeda, Mr. Lowry put faith in the Executive Branch and not the Courts. Interesting. If Colin Powell disagreed back then, good for him!
Update II: Jonah Goldberg agrees with the higher standards argument but then writes:
The Geneva Convention requires that we give detainees razors and forbids keeping them in cells. Surely reasonable people can hold the position that applying these provisions to Jihadi fanatics is unwise … But we do have rules. Hundreds of detainees have been released.
Hamdan was not about toiletries – it was about granting those held fair trials. While Jonah is right about the U.S. having “rules” such as Article 36 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the problem is that the Administration decided to abandon those rules. If Jonah is calling for a return to those rules, he is agreeing with the Court decision he once criticized.