BREAKING: New Pentagon Memo Gives All Detainees Geneva Protections
The Bush administration said Tuesday that all detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and in U.S. military custody everywhere are entitled to protections under the Geneva Conventions.
White House spokesman Tony Snow said the policy, outlined in a new Defense Department memo, reflects the recent 5-3 Supreme Court decision blocking military tribunals set up by President Bush. That decision struck down the tribunals because they did not obey international law and had not been authorized by Congress.
The policy, described in a memo by Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England, appears to reverse the administration’s earlier insistence that the detainees are not prisoners of war and thus subject to the Geneva protections.
Word of the Bush administration’s new stance came as the Senate Judiciary Committee opened hearings Tuesday on the politically charged issue of how detainees should be treated.
Snow said efforts to spell out more clearly the rights of detainees does not change the president’s determination to work with Congress to enable the administration to proceed with the military tribunals, or commissions. The goal is “to find a way to properly do this in a way consistent with national security,” Snow said.
Snow said that the instruction manuals used by the Department of Defense already comply with the humane-treatment provisions of Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. They are currently being updated to reflect legislation passed by Congress and sponsored by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., to more expressly rule out torture.
“The administration intends to work with Congress,” Snow said.
“We want to fulfill the mandates of justice, making sure we find a way properly to try people who have been plucked off the battlefields who are not combatants in the traditional sense,” he said.
“The Supreme Court pretty much said it’s over to you guys (the administration and Congress) to figure out how to do this. And that is where this is headed.”
Ah, the glory of Hamdan.
Although many are rejoicing right now and calling this a “moral victory” against the evil Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld-Gonzales nightmare, the truth is that this undermines the Geneva Conventions and mocks the signatories that agreed to a higher standard of warfare to which al Qaeda certainly does not abide. The distinction between humanely treating detainees and allowing due process generally as outlined by Geneva and actually giving suspected terrorists protections under Geneva is an important one which has been completely lost in this debate over how to handle detainees.
And to add insult to injury, this decision comes on the heels of the brutal murder and decapitation of both Kristian Menchaca and Thomas Tucker in Iraq. It’s enough to make you sick.
UPDATE: A Blog For All explores the unintended consequences of this decision.
UPDATE: McQ at The QandO Blog thinks this is politically smart move but I would add that the administration really didn’t have a choice.
UPDATE: Captain Ed: ” The only practical result in the field may come with less captures and more casualties for our enemies, as we will not put our soldiers at unnecessary risk for the minimal gain of capturing these terrorists if they give us no opportunity for giving us intel on ongoing operations”