The Geneva Conventions …

… Today a post came through one of my groups that I wanted to share with everyone, including my response to it. It reiterated the common argument these days that the other side in our modern war on terror don't deserve the protections of the Geneva Convention. The full text of the post is below … It's a well written explanation of the basic argument used by most of those who put forth this position.

On 4/6/06, Rocker092752@YYY.XXX Rocker092752@YYY.XXX > wrote:

The Geneva Convention is for combatants fighting in uniform for a country. Terrorists wear no uniform, are not combatants like soldiers, and are usually not part of any country, as much as an ideology/religion-Islam, therefore they don't fall under the Convention, so don't deserve its protections. CHEROKEE

So, a Navy SEAL operating on a secret covert mission out of uniform (happens ALL the time) is no longer protected by Geneva if captured? What about those Rockwell contractors captured by insurgents in Fallujah in 04? Since they weren't uniformed soldiers in any way, there was no reason to protest their treatment at the hands of insurgents, since they had no right to expect protection from Geneva. The insurgents were free to treat them anyway they felt necessary, as our troops are free to treat captured insurgents in any way necessary, right?

The problem with arguments about uniformed soldiers is that there are MANY times that we would assert Geneva protections for people captured who aren't uniformed soldiers in standard combat operations. Special/black ops are a perfect example. Geneva was written to ensure that ALL humans could expect a basic level of treatment from anyone, no matter what the circumstances are. That others don't follow the rules is no excuse for us to ignore them.

Geneva is about acknowledging the fact that no matter how heinous our enemy, they are still human beings deserving of basic rights. Using legalese and definitions to absolve yourself of those obligations may help you sleep at night, but it does nothing to change the fact you've decided there are humans out there not deserving of basic rights. If that's not worrisome to you morally, then you are too far gone to help, IMO. As soon as we can acknowledge that some people don't deserve to be treated as human beings, we haven't just stepped onto the slippery slope, we've slid all the way to a bottom of barbarism. Geneva isn't about giving special rights to those who abuse us or fight against us … It's about acknowledging that, regardless of circumstance, every human being is deserving of certain basic rights. If we ignore that, we have already lost this war against terror, and become as bad as the people and ideologies we claim to be fighting against.


2 Responses

  1. To make this arguement you would have to go back to WWII, dig up the bodies of the German spies and sabateurs that the Allies executed without trial, and formally apologize to them. The absurd stretching of the Geneva Conventions in the modern age is EXACTLY why it only applied to uniform personnel of a established military, and the writers and signers of the convention knew precisely what they were doing. The signers had all had experience fighting guerilla wars, anarchists, and revolutionaries in their own spheres of influence. They had no intentions of giving them the same treatment as they did the uniformed personnel of an enemy country. You could, and in most wars the combatants often did, do anything you wanted with partisans, guerillas, and terrorists when you captured them. The Geneva Conventions were only meant to apply to uniformed military personnel, in times of declared war, which is why countries which capture special operations soldiers, operating inside their countries without a declaration of war, can do what they want with them. It just so happens that in the modern world, capturing them alive and parading them in front of the media is usually considered a propaganda coup, so they are usually not shot out of hand. Usually…
    The Geneva Convention is a gentleman’s agreement, to prevent widespread atrocities against surrendered soldiers. Given that in the Third World you NEVER see even lip service given to it, to expect to expand its provisions to include everyone who takes up arms against others, legitimate fighters or not, is a very silly proposition.
    As far as mercenaries are concerned, they don’t have any right under the Geneva Conventions, and those who practice the trade realize it. It’s one of the reasons that they get paid FAR more than even the most elite regular military personnel. For them, the risk is worth the reward.

  2. Thanx for the comment John, and I think we merely disagree on a matter of principle here then. For me, if I refuse to grant my enemy the same rights I would expect, then I am no better than they are. All the legalese about declared war or uniforms doesn’t make a difference in any way to me … what matters is that all humans are ‘endowed by their Creator with inherent and inalienable rights; that among these, are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’ That applies to my enemy as much as it doesn me … it says ALL men are created equal.

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