Monday, April 11, 2005

Haven't Posted in Awhile...

I'm really too depressed with the political landscape in this country at the moment, so I've withdrawn for now. I'm going to present some news items from time to time and maybe try to come back in May, but I need to distance myself from this stuff a bit or I'm going to go crazy. Stories like this are why...

Washington, DC, Apr. 8 (UPI) -- The Pentagon is making permanent the newly minted "enemy combatant" designation for certain prisoners, a move opposed by human rights groups.

A March 23 draft of a new joint doctrine for detainee operations would codify for the first time for military operations the term enemy combatants -- those who fight outside the protections of the Geneva Conventions because they are members of designated terrorist organizations or other irregular groups.

Membership in or "affiliation" with any of the groups listed by the U.S. State Department makes a detainee eligible for "enemy combatant" status, and obviates the privileges of the Geneva Conventions, according to the document.

Until the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, the military recognized no such thing as an enemy combatant. All those captured on the field of war were guaranteed protection under the four Geneva Convention treaties, which automatically cover all civilians, militia, wounded and regular military.

However, after the attacks, U.S. President George W. Bush and his administration determined that members of al-Qaida and some members of the Taliban would not be covered by the treaty "because of their own actions," according to the draft doctrine.

The move to entrench "enemy combatants" in U.S. military doctrine alarms groups like Human Rights Watch, which on Thursday protested the draft in a letter to U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Human Rights Watch maintains the Geneva Conventions "leave no category of detainee unprotected." The conventions make allowances for captured combatants who do not qualify as prisoners of war; they are not entitled to full privileges, and they may be prosecuted for taking up arms.

The U.S. Army's own field manual says the Fourth Geneva Convention includes "all persons who have engaged in hostile or belligerent conduct but who are not entitled to treatment as prisoners of war."

Human Rights Watch asserts the decision to disavow the Geneva Conventions in the global war on terror by creating a new category of detainee is at the root of what it calls "the widespread and serious mistreatment of detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and at Guantánamo Bay."

The White House and Pentagon's decision to release the military from its obligations under the Geneva Conventions for enemy combatants has set the armed forces up to inadvertently or otherwise commit war crimes, Human Rights Watch says.

"This departure from longstanding law, particularly one deeply imbued in the training and practice of U.S. armed forces, will invariably lead to further abuses," HRW wrote.

For its part, the Pentagon maintains that though the Geneva Conventions do not apply to enemy combatants, the prisoners are treated humanely. It says any abuses of detainees that has occurred is the function of human failure rather than flawed policy.

Human Rights Watch is particularly concerned by a caveat in the definition of enemy combatants. The draft joint doctrine on detainee operations says enemy combatants are to be treated humanely "subject to military necessity."

However, the proposed doctrine also states: "There is no military necessity exception to this humane treatment mandate. Accordingly, neither the stress of combat operations, the need for actionable intelligence nor the provocations by detained/captured personnel justify deviation from this obligation."

The minimum requirements for humane treatment of enemy combatants, according to the draft joint doctrine, is food, water, clothing, shelter, medical treatment and the freedom to practice religion.

Human Rights Watch is also concerned by the list of names and organizations eligible to be classified as enemy combatants.

"The list contains generalized names and aliases (for instance, "Mohammad Zia" and "Abdullah Ahmed") that are shared by tens of thousands of persons worldwide," Human Rights Watch wrote. "The lists also name entities that are neither at war with nor engaged in terrorism against the United States; for example, the Basque separatist group Euzkadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA), the Sword of David or American Friends of the United Yeshiva Movement; and the Real Irish Republican Army."

The list also includes groups that are no longer active.

The organization is also concerned about what it means to be "affiliated" with one of the groups. It is undefined in the document, and could be broadly interpreted to cover those who contribute to charitable organizations associated with the groups.

The decision not to apply the Geneva Conventions to members of al-Qaida and the Taliban reflects the administration's interpretation that the Geneva Conventions are handshake agreements among nation-states with each side promising to behave according to a set of standards, rather than a code of conduct that binds all signatories, no matter whom they are fighting.

The Pentagon confirmed last year all fighters in Iraq were to be covered by the Geneva Conventions by dint of geography: Iraq was a signatory to the treaties as is the United States, and therefore both were bound by it.

"In the conflict with Iraq, there is absolutely no question that the Geneva Conventions, the third and fourth Geneva Conventions apply, period," a senior defense official told reporters May 21, 2004.

However, a Kuwaiti-born Jordanian -- who is also a naturalized U.S. citizen -- who was captured in Iraq in December was designated by the U.S. military in Iraq an "enemy combatant," the military confirmed.

Pentagon and Central Command officials believe he is the first prisoner designated an "enemy combatant" in Iraq so far.

Pentagon officials could not immediately say whether there has been a policy change officially exempting Iraq's irregular fighters from the Geneva Conventions from Iraq's irregular fighters.

Posted by crimnos @ 12:34 PM