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Screw the Geneva convention, part I: Where we are today

Quite a bit has been written about the videotaped shooting of a wounded Iraqi by a US Marine in Fallujah, and I think it's about time I got my two cents in.

My first reaction when I saw the tape was it reminded me eerily of the incident where John Kerry won his Silver Star. I spoke about that earlier, and defended Kerry's conduct. I stand by that then, and I stand by that now.

In Iraq, we are facing an enemy that reads through the Geneva Conventions and uses the "thou shalt not" section as "helpful hints." We've spelled out exactly what we will and will not do, and they are exploiting it relentlessly. We say we won't attack religious structures? That's where they'll hang out. We won't kill civilians? They'll dress up as civilians. They'll take hostages and hide behind them. We take prisoners? They'll boobytrap the wounded. In every instance, the thread remains the same: wherever we show mercy and restraint, they will punish us for it.

Much has been said about how the Marine shooting violated the Geneva convention, that it was the plain and simple execution of a prisoner. From what I've seen, the Iraqi (if he was even Iraqi) hadn't actually surrendered and been captured. Besides, just five minutes ago one of his colleagues had "surrendered" and then blown himself up, killing another Marine nearby.

Besides, the Geneva Convention doesn't apply here. We are not fighting another signatory nation to the treaties. Further, we are not fighting uniformed forces, and therefore each and every single one of these "insurgents" is entitled to summary execution on the spot, if we so wish.

The only laws and restraints on our troops is the Uniform Code of Military Justice. That is the law that covers our forces in uniform, and it and it alone should hold sway over the conduct of our forces.

And with the restraints of the Geneva Convention lifted, what would keep our forces from just killing all insurgents, across the board, on the spot? What would keep the US from simply instituting a "no prisoners" policy? A few things.

For one, the commanders of our forces understand the politics of the situation. Such an absolute policy would do our effort far more harm than good, and they''ll make sure it doesn't go too far.

For another, the training of our forces. We don't train our troops to be mindless killing machines. We have what is most likely the most intelligent and ethical military force in the world, and we impose far greater restraints on our forces than any other power.

For a third, simple common sense. There's an old song that says "freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose." If the insurgents see that they are going to get killed regardless of whether or not they try to surrender for real, then every single battle becomes a bloody struggle to the end. While many of them seem quite willing -- if not eager -- to die for their cause. some still have that self-preservation instinct, and we can and should exploit that.

Some may say I'm putting an awful lot of faith and trust in our armed forces. I am, but I have good reason. To steal a line from a book I'm particularly fond of, "for the best reason in the world -- we're the good guys."

And we want to be able to still think of ourselves as the good guys when this is all over.

J.



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Comments (10)

I've said this before, but ... (Below threshold)
Omni:

I've said this before, but I think it bears repeating; it's ridiculous for people with no CLUE about war, the dangers, the mentality, the stress and fear, and the whole rest of the psychological thing, to be armchair-quarterbacking the actions of the soldiers. These people are at risk to DIE, they're up again a vicious, ruthless, unprincipled enemy... and they're doing a spectacular job. SHAME on anyone who tries to create the situation where our soldiers have to second-guess themselves into probable disaster to try to prevent media hysteria.

here here Jay...Here here!!... (Below threshold)
Debra:

here here Jay...Here here!!
All these armchair generals that clamor for justice in the shooting of this terrorist have no clue. Ah!!! but you my dear.......

Excellent analysis on the a... (Below threshold)
Corky Boyd:

Excellent analysis on the appplicability of the Geneva Conventions. During WWII, we honored the Geneva Conventions in the European Theater, but ignored many of them in the Pacific. The main reason was the total disregard of them by the Japanese. Whether it was the Bataan death march, or similar tactics of booby trapping dead or dying Japanese, our troops, especially Marines, took no prisoners. The common euphamism was that the Japanese fought to the death for their emporer, but in truth we made sure they did.

Your point is that we are fighting an enemy that does not honor, and is not a signatory to the Convention and this alters the rules. Sitting in our comfortable living rooms, we cannot come close to the mindset of a marine who has had little sleep in a week and been a target of snipers and human bombs.

Get over it NBC. This is an ugly war and we need to win it.

Crosby Boyd
Sanibel FL

Before I explain, why I bel... (Below threshold)
Pat:

Before I explain, why I believe that you are wrong in several counts with regards to your writing about the Geneva Conventions (GCs), I want to make one thing clear first:
I do not believe that the Marine in question committed a war crime or violated the GCs. It would appear rather that he acted under stress, in panic and can maybe beholden only for poor judgment under stress if it can be established through the investigation that the prisoner did not pose any threat to him or others. So, that's that.

Now: you (like many others I have read on different blogs) claim, that the GCs do not apply to the fighters in Falluja. I beg to differ. Please read carefully the definition of Article 4 A 6: "6. Inhabitants of a non-occupied territory, who on the approach of the enemy spontaneously take up arms to resist the invading forces, without having had time to form themselves into regular armed units, provided they carry arms openly and respect the laws and customs of war. " In contrast to widespread public believes you need not to wear a uniform or sign in order to be recognized as combatant under the GCs. Therefore as a first rule, the GCs apply to the wounded found in the Mosque insofar as they have been combatants. Only if it can be established that they themselfes have violated the GCs individually can say be treated in another fashion. But for this, according to Article 5, a competent tribunal has to investigate - not some troops in the heat of the battle. Until proven violaters, Article 5 makes sure that they have to be treated in accordance with the GCs.
Now one main questions is -after having established that the were combatants under the GCs -: were the wounded people in the Mosque POWs at the time or newly surrendering combatants? According to some sources, the wounded persons were there as a result of a fight with another Marine unit some time/hours before. During this fight a number were killed, others wounded. The wounded had than be treated by their captors -obviously after surrendering. To surrender you do not need to wave a white flag, if you lay down your arms or if you are out of the fight due to your wounds you have to be considered as surrendering (Article 3, Subarticle 1).
This makes them POWs. Which means among other things that they were protected by the GCs. However, some sources also say, that after the first unit left and before the second unit arrived, the Mosque was retaken by enemy forces. In that case the newly arriving unit would have to make sure first, if the wounded were surrendering. After the occurence of some cases were wounded men tried to kill themselfes together with their captors and boobytrapped corpses, the reaction of the Marine is understandable.
I see two problems with the GCs in this case:
a) did the first unit evaluate, if it was possible to move the wounded POWs to a secure camp/location according to Article 19: "Article 19

Prisoners of war shall be evacuated, as soon as possible after their capture, to camps situated in an area far enough from the combat zone for them to be out of danger.

Only those prisoners of war who, owing to wounds or sickness, would run greater risks by being evacuated than by remaining where they are, may be temporarily kept back in a danger zone.

Prisoners of war shall not be unnecessarily exposed to danger while awaiting evacuation from a fighting zone. "
It is more than feasible that in a fight house-to-house the first unit made the right choice to leave the wounded collected in one room.
b) should the second unit have know or expected that POWs were in the Mosque? This is clearly a problematic question, because we do not know what information and if at all the first unit gave to their superior officers. In addition there is the open question, if the Mosque was retaken in the meantime before the arrival of the second unit.

Though, while the enemy fighters even in civilian clothes are protected under the GCs (in contrast to your opinion), it is still hard to believe how some journalists without the knowledge of the proper facts can come up with crying "warcrime" and "murder". But then, nobody cares to read the GCs before talking about them, appearently.

And in addittion to the GCs there is of course the common sense of military conduct, like you point out correctly.

"...a competent tribunal ha... (Below threshold)
LJD:

"...a competent tribunal has to investigate - not some troops in the heat of the battle. Until proven violaters, Article 5 makes sure that they have to be treated in accordance with the GCs."

Great. Let's have the U.N. try our soldiers for war crimes. No way in hell will I let the likes of the French or Germans determine justification for the actions of our troops.

Our hands have been tied for too long by the G.C., while NO other combatant force has followed any of it. If we need to start cutting terrorists balls off to show them the consequences of their actions, then so be it.

I don't know the details of... (Below threshold)
Darby:

I don't know the details of what I'm about to say, I simply don't recall them.

But there is an amendment in the constitution that says that all states have to recognize the civil papers of other states.

With this in mind it would therefore be illegal for any state to NOT recognize the legal union between two men, or two women.

I'll leave it to smarter people than I to research this further.

My source for this information comes from a political talkshow in the afternoon on the local AM station: Gardner Goldsmiths "Against the Grain".

Apparently if you have a permit to carry firearms in New Hampshire and you travel south to Mass. and you are caught carrying a concealed weapon(I.E. you're 9mm semi-automatic handgun) you get arrested. Yet, the laws says that states have to recognize other state civil papers... Anyways, it's an interesting though.

Of course, this wasn't the ... (Below threshold)
Darby:

Of course, this wasn't the posting I wanted to make that coment on... Was supposed to be on :Do You, Adam, Take This Man, Steve...": One Year Later

Ok, the thoughts I had on t... (Below threshold)
Darby:

Ok, the thoughts I had on this subject are fairly simple:

1.) Are the insurgents who come from other countries in the military in their country?
A.) No, they are civilians who disagree with democracy in Iraq.
B.) Yes, they are military members sent to stop democracy in Iraq.
C.) We're not sure either way.

Now then for the sake of discussion lets focus on B.

We know there are fighters from other coutnries, If they are military, would that not be considered an act of War on the United States, and on Iraq? They invade Iraq, they attack Iraqi's and U.S. soldiers helping their Iraqi allies.

Even if they fall under Letter A. There is still the issue of border control. If these countries like Syria, Suden, Saudi Arabia, do not condone the actions of these fighters why don't they keep people from entering the country. I feel, by their inaction, that they silently condone the insurgency.

In my opionion, by this inaction, they are declaring war upon Iraq, the U.S., and their allies.

The Geneva Convention Proto... (Below threshold)
Anne:

The Geneva Convention Protocol 1, Article 37 protects the Marine in question - something many people like to leave out whilst touting the other 200 clauses and exemptions (all 200 of which, ironically, dont apply to the dead terrorist because of Protocol 1 Article 37).

The Miseducation of American Media. *shrugs*

The Geneva Convention Proto... (Below threshold)
Anne:

The Geneva Convention Protocol 1, Article 37 protects the Marine in question - something many people like to leave out whilst touting the other 200 clauses and exemptions (all 200 of which, ironically, dont apply to the dead terrorist because of Protocol 1 Article 37).

The Miseducation of American Media. *shrugs*




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