Arguing the wrong point
Posted by aogSunday, 17 September 2006 at 10:30 TrackBack Ping URL

I have to say I must be missing something basic in the latest flap over President Bush wanting to redefine Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. On the whole, I think such redefinition is too much like the “living Constitution” to be a good idea. But what really puzzles me is why this is a subject of discussion at all.

Given the actual text of the Geneva Conventions, why isn’t Bush arguing that these prisoners are not covered by Article 3 at all? It seems to be that there are several strong arguments in that regard:

  1. Article 3 is about “Persons taking no active part in the hostilities”. If prisoners continue to assault their captors, then they’re hardly “taking no active part in the hostilities”.
  2. The language in Article 3 only applies to non-combatnts or members of armed forces who have stopped fighting. Those prisoners in question do not fall in to either classification.
  3. Al Qaeda and its ilk are not “High Contracting Parties” because they have not signed the Geneva Conventions and do not make even a pretense of following them. The relevant text is from Article 2 —
    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. They shall furthermore be bound by the Convention in relation to the said Power, if the latter accepts and applies the provisions thereof.

I think Bush should have asked for a law that declares that members of Al Qaeda and other resistance groups in Iraq are war criminals and therefore outside the bounds of Article 3 for one or all of the above reasons. I think the American Street would be fine with our government saying “we’ll play by the rules if the other side does, but if they don’t we’ll do what we have to”. It accords well with the three levels of Jacksonianism.

Comments — Formatting by Textile
David Cohen Tuesday, 19 September 2006 at 18:31

He’s not arguing that because he argued it to the Supreme Court and they disagreed. Rather than disagree with the court, he’s trying to argue around it.

Annoying Old Guy Tuesday, 19 September 2006 at 19:18

Ah. I do wonder, though, if getting Congress on his side with legislation would be enough to correct the USSC (with which I obviously disagree on this point).

Jeff Guinn Wednesday, 20 September 2006 at 15:06

One option, of course, would be to be in complete compliance with the Geneva Conventions.

Which, IIRC, includes summary execution of combatants not in uniform.

Annoying Old Guy Wednesday, 20 September 2006 at 15:16

I am certainly OK with that.

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