2005/02/03

Alberto Gonzales – further reasons why Senate should not vote in

Rewriting the Laws of War for a New Enemy

claims that liberals have “resorted to hyperbole” in describing the atrocities of Abu Ghraib, that the tortures performed by US troops caused a liberal to “go so far as to compare [the utterly inexcusablw atrocities of Abu Ghraib] to Nazi atrocites”. The author starts off well by saying “The Geneva Convention is not obsolete “. (Note that the author does not recognize that "Geneva Conventions" should be stated in the plural as there were several related documents.) But so far, so good. By the fourth paragraph, the author starts getting slippery on us by saying “The Geneva Convention provisions make sense when war involves nation-states” as though the Trung Sisters of Vietnam did not engage in the first guerrilla war back in 40 AD or as though the Irish Republican Army had not arisen in 1919 and fought a guerrilla war until 1921 or as though Ukrainianshad not greeted invading Nazis as liberators only to turn against their new occupiers and fought what was called "partisan" warfare until 1944, when the Soviets (who had killed millions of Ukrainians through forced collectivization. Note that that means the guerrilla warfare in the Ukraine against the Nazis was independent of the Soviet state.) took back over. Quite obviously, the signers of the Geneva Conventions were fully aware that not all armed conflicts took place exclusively between nation-states. The article goes on to claim that the main threats of today come from “terrorist organizations and rogue nations.“ and that "Al Qaeda, a non-state actor" does not warrant Geneva Conventions protections.

As to "rogue nations" -

Pseudo-states control areas and populations subject to personal, clan or tribal rule. A leader supported by a small clique (like Hussein and his associates from Tikrit) or a tribal faction (like the Pashtuns in Afghanistan) rule. Political institutions are weak or nonexistent. Loyalties depend on personal relationships with tribal chiefs, sheiks or warlords, rather than allegiance to the nation.

Quasi-political bodies such as the Iraqi Baathist Party, the Taliban or even the Saudi royal family exercise government power. Defeat of the "national" leader or clique typically results in the complete disintegration of the regime.

This is an interesting definition that draws in all manner of states and regimes and political parties and other groups. The problem with distinguishing between a group engaged in a nationalist rebellion such as the IRA of 1919 and between a terrorist, non-state actor such as jihadists who have traveled to Iraq from other Arab states specifically to fight American troopsversus the home-grown Iraqi resistance that fights for nationalist or religious reasons is a difficult call to make, especially when one is dealing with captives and must decide when the Geneva Conventions do and do not apply.

Do the authors suggest the setting up of any sort of international tribunal to decide these questions? No. They suggest that such questions should be left entirely up to the "good" states. In other words, the Geneva Conventions should be tossed overboard due, not to any serious changes in warfare or the international situation, but just because they feel like it and that individual states should feel free to reinterpret or reject the Geneva Conventions at their convenience.

Alberto Gonzales should be rejected as someone who does not respect the Geneva Conventions in any way, shape or form and who shows no respect for law in general. If the above article is the best his defenders can do to argue that the Conventions can be disregarded, then all American citizens must speak with one voice and reject the appointment of Gonzales to the office of Attorney General.

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