Constant's pations

If it's more than 30 minutes old, it's not news. It's a blog.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Guantanamo: Why the decision to violate the Geneva Conventions leaves us where we are

Ref The conventions were originally written to ensure that prisoners were treated fairly until combat was over.

During Vietnam, although there was no declared war, the US decided to ensure the prisoners were treated according to the conventions.

Today, this White House chose to use the "enemy combatant" designation to deny rights to detainees protected under the Conventions.

Nobody said that people should be released to re-enter the battlefield.

However, this nation professes itself to be a nation of laws. It is a signatory of the Geneva Conventions.

Regardless how we see the enemy, if we mistreatment as we have done in Guantanamo, and we torture them, as our own government employees now assert, we should not be surprised why those we abuse then return to a war.

Overall, this nation chose to avoid the tough debate. Chose to avoid the tough decisions.

This nation chose to pretend we were in a new war, refused to declare war, and Congress gave "permission" on the basis of illusory evidence.

Truly, this Administration wants it both ways. To permit itself to define who is subject to the convention; to define whether we need a formal declaration of war; and also define whether or not the constitution applies.

It took three years for this nation to come to grips with the abuses in Guantanamo. Finally, the case was heard before the Supreme Court; yet, even then the US Solicitor General mislead the court about whether torture occurred at the hands of US military and DoJ personnel.

Indeed, it was only the pictures that ensured there was a check on the otherwise materially misleading statements before the court.

This nation also failed to ensure the checks of balances worked when it marched to war in Iraq.

Rather than debate the issues, discuss the facts, and explore the evidence, this Congress voted to give "authority," where no authority should have been given.

There were many questions that went unanswered.

There were many issues that were never resolved.

This nation finds itself in a quandary. "What to do" with the prisoners in Guantanamo.

Here's a start: Treat them like prisoners of war, and hold them as POWs until this war is ended.

If this Congress does not want to "declare war," then it is time to admit we have a President who wants to wage war without the declaration of war required under the constitution.

The solution is not to hold them, torture them, and make them disappear on the CIA express.

The solution is to simply follow the constitution. Declare war. Obey treaties. Honor our international commitments. Ensure the Bill of Rights is preserved.

It is that simple. Yet something this Administration finds so difficult to understand, much less do.

If we fail to raise our performance to that standard, we should not be surprised why those we abuse take up arms once again. It happened after WWI in Germany.

Recall the lesson of Lincoln after the Civil War. Indeed, it had been a hard battle, but he treated the Confederates with dignity in letting them hold their arms. They knew they had lost, and it the North had won.

The battle on the battlefield ended. So too will our battle subside if we commit to win, live by the standards we are sworn to defend, and demonstrate that we are a formidable foe, not just in our laws, but in our adherence to those laws.

At all times. To all people. To friend and foe alike.

When the world sees our example, we will gain support. To date, they are confused by our inconsistencies. As are our allies and citizens at home.

Our future security depends on treating the foe with respect, not as an annoying puppy. For that small creature will grow into a ravenous foe.