BREAKING: New Pentagon Memo Gives All Detainees Geneva Protections

Via Breitbart/AP:

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”

FILED UNDER: Military Affairs, Terrorism, , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Greg Tinti
About Greg Tinti
Greg started the blog The Political Pit Bull in August 2005. He was OTB's Breaking News Editor from June through August 2006 before deciding to return to his own blog. His blogging career eventually ended altogether. He has a B.A. in Anthropology from The George Washington University,

Comments

  1. Anderson says:

    The memo is happy horseshit, nothing more.

    This post by Marty Lederman (and perhaps even my own comment thereto) explains why. Lederman also links to the memo, whose relevant text I quote in the comment.

    In brief, the memo declares that everything the Pentagon has been doing is already in compliance with Common Article 3.

    Lederman also notes that DOD’s definition of “humane treatment” includes waterboarding and other things you wouldn’t do to your dog.

  2. Anderson says:

    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

    Gee, it’s funny that people who actually know what they’re talking about disagree with Mr. Tinti. From the NYT:

    John D. Hutson, a retired rear admiral who was the top uniformed lawyer in the Navy until 2000, is one of a number of retired senior military lawyers who have filed briefs challenging the administrationâ??s legal approach.

    â??Weâ??re at a crossroads now,â?? Admiral Hutson said. â??We can finally get on the right side of the law and have a system that will pass Supreme Court and international scrutiny.â??

    But rest easy, friends of human-rights abuses everywhere: the memo is mere window-dressing. (Tried to make this point in an earlier comment but either I hit cancel by error or the spam filter ate it; apologies for repetition if any.)

    See Marty Lederman’s post (where he explains that *waterboarding* is “humane” in this Pentagon’s eyes), and this text from the memo:

    aside from the military commission procedures, existing DOD orders, policies, directives, execute [sic] orders, and doctrine comply with the standards of Common Article 3

    That is “hey, we are already in compliance, so we don’t have to change anything.”

    And *that* is what has Mr. Tinti’s panties in a wad? Good heavens, people.

  3. madmatt says:

    I would guess one of the main reasons america receives such low support globally is the rank hypocrisy of our leaders saying “terrorists acts” are evil yet we are blowing up innocent people in Iraq and Afghanistan, running illegal prisons and snatching innocent people of the street and torturing them for awhile before saying…oops our bad. If you ever want to turn the tide we need to show that there is a diffence in how we treat people!

  4. carpeicthus says:

    Your point about the “protection under geneva” is interesting and worth unpacking, but it seems to fall in the links under the “torture is awesome” impulse. Torture doesn’t work. It doesn’t give us more valid intel. It forces us to chase our tails with a bunch of garbage spouted by people who will tell us anything so we’ll stop driving them to the very edge.

  5. Anderson says:

    If you ever want to turn the tide we need to show that there is a diffence in how we treat people!

    Oh, come on, madmatt, that kind of moonbat thinking is fit only for liberal Democrats … and the authors of the Army counterinsurgency manual … and the former chief of MI6 … none of whom, obviously, has the same genius for the GWOT of various OTB commenters and other brigades of the 101st Fighting Keyboarders.

  6. madmatt says:

    well gee anderson….that army manual seems to be working so well these days seeing as we are close to losing in Iraq and Afghanistan these days….maybe this is another case of liberals being right…you know like they were on wmd’s, uranium purchases, prisoner treatment at guantanamo, and numerous non war issues!!!!

  7. LJD says:

    Morons.

    We are not ‘blowing up innocent people’ in Iraq and Afghanistan. Check your sources. The vast majority of bombing of innocents is by roadside bombs, car bombs, and bomb vests. Not exactly our MO. But hey, Matt, thanks for your support.

    Andersen, you really believe that waterboarding is costing us the GWOT? I thought you were smarter than that. Just for your info, we DO treat the enemy more humanely than they do us. Thanks also, for your support.

  8. Herb says:

    With today’s terrorist bombings in India in mind, we have 5 US Supreme Court Justices that have the duty and obligation to inform the Indian Government that any of the bombing suspects captured are to be treated with all the rights afforded “Prisoners of War” under the Geneva Convention.

    After all, these 5 “Bastards of America” are constantly and consistently citing “Foreign Law” as a basis for their decisions and they should “Insist” that the Indian Government are to adhere to their Ruling.

  9. Has anyone bothered to look at the actual memo?

    “It is my understanding that, aside from the military commission procedures, existing DoD orders, policies, directives, executive orders and doctrine comply with the standards of Common Article 3 and therefore actions by the DoD personal that comply with such issuances would comply with Common Article 3. … In addition, you will recall the President’s prior directive that “the United States Armed Forces shall continue to treat detainee humanely”, humane treatment being the overarching requirement of Common article 3.

    So the memo is saying we already are complying with the Geneva convention, except for the military commissions. So since the alternative to the military commissions is to hold everyone for the duration (as opposed to the military commissions which were trying to sort out who could go home early), all this is really saying is if we caught ’em, we keep ’em and keep doing what we do to them.

  10. Anderson says:

    Has anyone bothered to look at the actual memo?

    Why, yes–me, first comment in this thread.

    If you’ll take a look at the Marty Lederman link which I provided there, you’ll see how pathetic the memo’s assertion is.

    But you’re exactly right that the memo does exactly squat, which makes you smarter than every journalist breathlessly writing about it.

  11. Anderson says:

    Andersen, you really believe that waterboarding is costing us the GWOT? I thought you were smarter than that.

    Count me a dim bulb along with LTGEN Petraeus and Sir Richard Dearlove, then.

    Just for your info, we DO treat the enemy more humanely than they do us.

    Right, we don’t behead our prisoners on TV. Great! I guess that means we’re doing everything right. To quote, “I thought you were smarter than that.” (Not really.)

    And I see that I did indeed double-comment at the top of the thread. Mea culpa. Must get on better terms with the spam filter.