Tuesday, April 19, 2005

How Quaint

(photo pilfered from Bad Gas)

Chris Floyd at Empire Burlesque offers a great post today on the new Pope, briefly noting — among other things — the contrast between Benny's compliance under the Nazis with the anti-Nazi work of his Polish predecessor. Even better, however, is Floyd's recent commentary on the Pentagon's new "Joint Doctrine on Detainee Operations," which simultaneously reaffirms the US' rhetorical commitment to the Geneva Convention while offering cavernous loopholes in the treatment of "enemy combatants" (a designation that exists nowhere in the laws or customs of war, existing only in the fevered brains of the Pentagon lawyers brigade). Floyd points out that
Early on in its good-cop cajoling, the Doctrine says that "all the Armed Forces of the United States shall comply with the law of armed conflict during all armed conflicts, however such conflicts are characterized, and" -- wait for it, here it comes -- "unless otherwise directed by competent authorities, shall comply with the principles and spirit of the law of war during all other operations.” [italics added]

Well, there you are! What else do you need? However "military necessity" is or isn't defined, it doesn't matter: the requirement to treat detainees humanely can always be overridden by "directions" from "competent authorities." Isn't this where we came in? With "torture memos" issuing from the "competent authorities" of the White House and the Justice Department, setting out the "legal" justification for the whole system of death, brutality and degradation in the Bush Gulag. So what, exactly, is different about this new "doctrine," other than a new coat of PR paint[?]
Nothing, of course. And he's right. In nicer language, this document is merely a restatement — and permanent codification — of the administration's policy holding that the Geneva Conventions are nice but somewhat "quaint," and that international accords must generally be regarded as guides to policy rather than as laws to be observed. Its main virtue is that it avoids the policy-by-legal-brief approach that has helped engender this mess in the first place. And yet the chummy arrogance of this document is just astonishing. On the face of it the JDDO sounds fluffy and generous, but in due time it unleashes the John Bolton within:
Although [enemy combatants] do not fall under the provisions of the Geneva Convention, they are still entitled to be treated humanely, subject to military necessity, consistent with the principles of GC, and without any adverse distinction based on race, color, religion, gender, birth, wealth, or any similar criteria, and afforded adequate food, drinking water, shelter, clothing, and medical treatment; allowed the free exercise of religion consistent with the requirements of such detention. There is a comprehensive list of terrorists and terrorist groups identified under Executive Order 13224, located at http://www.treas.gov/ofac/. Anyone detained that is affiliated with these organizations will be classified as EC. Furthermore, there are individuals that may not be affiliated with the listed organizations that may be classified as an EC. On these specific individuals, guidance should be obtained from higher headquarters.
In other words, the international community may keep its quaint classifications — Enemy Prisoners of War, Civilian Internees, Retained Persons and Other Detainees — but the US will retain the right to reclassify anyone an "enemy combatant," for whom the spirit but not the substance of the Geneva Accords applies. So they get the closest thing going to that sweet Geneva love — what with with the water and the jumpsuits and the all-you-can-eat waffle bar and the hand jobs and the medicinal pot — but the International Committee of the Red Cross may not visit detainees to ascertain that the avowedly humane treatment is actually being delivered. Once again, while declaring their fealty to international standards of justice and legal norms, the Bush administration has actually set in place a policy that leans in the opposite direction. And here's where it all runs:
When Jumah saw them coming he realized something was wrong and was lying on the floor with his head in his hands.  If you’re on the floor with your hands on your head, then you would hope that all they would do would be to come in and put the chains on you.  That is what they’re supposed to do.  The first man is meant to go in with a shield.  On this occasion the man with the shield threw the shield away, took his helmet off, when the door was unlocked ran in and did a knee drop onto Jumah’s back just between his shoulder blades with his full weight.  He must have been about 240 ponds in weight. … Once he had done that the others came in and were punching and kicking Jumah.  While they were doing that the female officer then came in and was kicking his stomach.  Jumah had had an operation and had metal rods in his stomach clamped together in the operation. … the MP Sergeant … was punching him.  He grabbed his head with one hand and with the other hand punched him repeatedly in the face.  His nose was broken.  He pushed his face and he smashed it into the concrete floor.  All of this should be on video; there was blood everywhere.  When they took him out they hosed the cell down and the water ran red with blood.  We all saw it.