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Leaving Geneva

As many others have pointed out, including Captain Ed and Wretchard, the Geneva Convention -- that quaint little set of rules on how civilized nations wage war -- has become a "living document" and evolved into "a set of rules that constrain how the West wages war, regardless of the actions of the other side."

The original idea behind the Geneva Conventions was a sound one -- it outlined restrictions on weapons, tactics, and policies to be held to in times of war. But for all its civilized language, it was backed up by the basest of threats -- "we'll abide by them if you do. If you don't, then neither will we." It clearly spelled out obligations for all parties, and were considered moot for all if one side set them aside.

That evolved, changed, into a set of obligations for parties to abide to regardless of circumstances, because they were seen as the "civilized," "right" thing to do. That was all right, though, because the Western powers, since the end of World War II, never really faced an open war that threatened their survival. We could restrain ourselves, hold ourselves to a higher moral standard, because we could afford to.

Nowadays, though, the Geneva Convention has become a laughingstock. We are engaged with militant Islamists who look at the prohibitions of the Convention as a "to-do" list. As noted, Iran has decided to redefine "insurgents" and "spies" as uniformed British sailors and marines in a boat flying their nation's flag, and put them on trial as such.

I wrote a while ago about getting rid of the Geneva Convention, and I think it's long overdue for a new set of protocols for governing warfare -- ones that cover the nature of the current foe.

As I said before, the new conference should be held in a place where terrorism has been a stark reality, as a reminder of what needs to be addressed. Geneva's a resort city, a business city. It's far too civilized a place to deal with such brutal matters. Likewise London, Madrid, New York, or Washington, despite their own recent bouts with terrorist attacks.

Some place like Beslan, the site of the school massacre. Or Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where Flight 93 came to earth. Or perhaps a city in Iraq, such as Baghdad or Fallujah.

At that place, the attending nations could work up a definition of "terrorist" (something like "a person or group, not tied to any nation-state or other similar governmental body, that uses violence against strictly non-military targets for political gain"), and a set of rules to cover their treatment.

My own suggestion would be to turn them over to a military tribunal of either the capturing nation or the aggrieved nation, with no access to the civilian legal system or protections (they having forfeited their right to civil procedure). The tribunal would be empowered to inflict punishments from imprisonment to execution.

Further, the bodies of the enemies will no longer be sacrosanct. There will be no restrictions on desecrating the remains of those killed -- either in battle or executed -- in a manner in full accordance with the proclaimed tenets of the deceased. Muslims will be buried with pig products present. Jews will be cremated. I will leave it to others more knowledgeable of the various faiths to determine the most offensive manner of desecration. The point will be simple: your deeds will follow you into the afterlife, and we will do whatever we can to deny you the celestial reward you seek.

Finally, tolerating or supporting terrorists will be considered a casus belli -- and not strictly one for just the aggrieved nation. Terrorism is an enemy of all states, and all states have an obligation to fight it. An attack against one will be seen as an attack against all.

Naturally, I don't expect this to garner a great deal of support from around the world. But as I read on another forum recently, when they did some house-cleaning, "those who stay will make this a better place. Likewise those who leave." This new Convention would be open to democracies, to those nations who have demonstrated their commitment to freedom, individual rights, and civilization in general. The likely candidates I have in mind would consist of most of the Americas, most of Europe, the Anglosphere in general, Japan, Israel, Iraq, and other select nations of Asia and Africa.

The War On Terror -- or, by its more accurate but less tactful name, The War With Militant Islam, is not a clash of civilizations. It is a clash of civilization against theologically-inspired tyranny, a free world or a world of conversion by the sword to a brutal, repressive, inhuman system that tolerates no dissent, no diversity, no freedom, no tolerance, no liberty. It preaches of being "the religion of peace," but offers only the peace of the grave.

Peace is, indeed, a lofty goal, a noble purpose, a lofty ideal. Unfortunately, though, peace is not the natural state of man. "Only the dead have seen the end of war."

Comments (32)

Why bother to afford scum a... (Below threshold)

Why bother to afford scum a convention at all?

Been reading John Birmingha... (Below threshold)
John Irving:

Been reading John Birmingham, Jay Tea?

Good ideas, though, for a starting point.

Why don't we just treat 'em... (Below threshold)

Why don't we just treat 'em like the world treated pirates during the Age of Sail?

Where do I sign?... (Below threshold)

Where do I sign?

Butch Cassidy's famous <br ... (Below threshold)

Butch Cassidy's famous
"Pecos River Knife Fight Rules".

(i.e. No rules at all)

An interesting post Jay, th... (Below threshold)

An interesting post Jay, thought provoking. As one of the liberals who comment here this is an issue I really wrestle with. I wish I had an answer but I don't. I certainly don't think the old Geneva Conventions were designed with terrorism of the kind we face today in mind. Yet, I still believe that if we behave like they behave, we become them. Some might think that's OK, like "fighting fire with fire." I just don't think that's what this country is all about. I suppose, like most things, there is an answer somewhere in the middle. I'm just glad I don't have to figure it out.

Revelation 6:7-... (Below threshold)
Revelation 6:7-9 "And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see.

And I looked, and behold a pale [or translated green] horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.

And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held:"

Incredibly, this looks like Militant Islam: their official color - Green; their is a plague of death all around them wherever they go; They occupy about 1/4th of the earth (nearly 2billion people); their choice weapon when killing the infidel -- the sword; Christians being slain because they are believers in the Word of God.
A revision in the least, is... (Below threshold)

A revision in the least, is certainly needed.

Trying to run a modern program with an outdated computer yields poor results, just as trying to fight a war based on conduct set forth half a century ago yields poor results.

Much of what's there is usable in some form, so at least we have a good foundation to work from.

One thing I don't agree with is the desecration of the dead. Desecration should never be a policy.

Jay, you keep referencing t... (Below threshold)

Jay, you keep referencing the Geneva Contention (singular). Which convention are you talking about? There were four (Conventions). Is the second OK, but the first is too out dated?

Also, ". it outlined restrictions on weapons, tactics, and policies to be held to in times of war." I think you are thinking of the Hague Contentions or the Geneva Protocols. Should we get rid of those as well?

The Geneva Conventions consist of four treaties formulated in Geneva, Switzerland, that set the standards for international law for humanitarian concerns.

They chiefly concern the treatment of non-combatants and prisoners of war. They do not affect the use of weapons in war which are covered by the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 and the Geneva Protocol on use of gas and biological weapons of 1925.

Hugh, I must compliment you... (Below threshold)
John Irving:

Hugh, I must compliment you on your post. You have highlighted the central dilemma, that we do not want to "reward" terrorist behavior with overly generous treatment, but at the same time we do not want to become too much like them.

The Geneva Convention is an... (Below threshold)

The Geneva Convention is an important document to protect combatants between nations during war. The difficulty dealing with terrorism is that it is an international criminal political or religious force that often specifically targets civilians as targets to embarrass and weaken governments because terrorists are way too small in number or way too weak to actually gain control of most governments.

Even if terrorists are defined as merely criminals they still are entitled to the legal representation that any criminal should receive. Their tactics and actions are absolutely horrid and cowardly to promote their extremist opinions. Attacks on innocent civilians are mass murder of the very worst variety. Yet I'm sure the Founding Fathers of this nation intended that even the worst of persons are entitled to a fair trial on any charges, no matter how serious, and any penalty up to the death penalty is acceptable upom conviction for serious crimes involving loss of innocent life.

Virtually all acts of terrorists could be considered as "war crimes" if done by any state. But since these are the actions of organizations or individuals and not a state, then criminal charges and the criminal process is probably the only path towards bringing these extremists to ultimate justice.

During WWII, two rafts of German sailors came ashore in New Jersey from an Uboat with the intent to kill innocent civilians with explosives. This was considered to be a criminal act by these sailors, and all but one were convicted as criminals and executed. Such a plot went outside of acceptable war practices according to American authorities and required a criminal conviction.

Looks like it my turn to po... (Below threshold)

Looks like it my turn to point out to Barney that since the post makes SPECIFIC mention of the Royal Navy Marines and Sailors, that you are just a sophomoric poltroon raising some "high-minded" and utterly off topic points in some high school debate style point system you have in your head in mentioning the utterly useless information and opinion you spewed.

But, don't worry. You rook maahhhvelous!

So Paul, are you suggesting... (Below threshold)

So Paul, are you suggesting that the US criminal court system be used to try and convict terrorists detained during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq? Or are you suggesting military tribunals?

I'm sure the founding fathers would not have applied the laws and rights of US citizens laid out in the Constitution to terrorists from another country fighting against us.

Sorry mundumb, but the post... (Below threshold)

Sorry mundumb, but the post is about getting rid of a Geneva Convention. The British sailors are used as a case in point.

I just want clarification of which convention Jay wants to get rid of?

Re: the Founding Fathers an... (Below threshold)

Re: the Founding Fathers and what they'd supposedly want... let's try to remember what they gave the Barbary Pirates.

Again, Paul, thanks for an ... (Below threshold)

Again, Paul, thanks for an excellent analysis of this issue as well as the one on the other thread.

Your sort of analysis reflects what one would hope that a Secretary of State would be capable.

Unfortunately, the tenor of this post by Jay looks like the beginning of the slope on the slippery slide that ends with an abandonment of the very principles that otherwise make the US and the civilizes world beacons for what are the highest human standars.

Exceptions to these principles have already been made w/ a fraudulent war of choice and the declaration of Cheney's 1% doctrine.

You must be really out of t... (Below threshold)

You must be really out of touch if you think that any European govt, never mind our own, would support these measures.

The solution is simple, rea... (Below threshold)
Mark L:

The solution is simple, really. ENFORCE the existing Geneva Conventions.

Read through them. Terrorists, irregular warriors that do not fight in uniform, and are not part of an organized military are not afforded the protections of the Geneva Conventions. Soldiers that use civilians as shields are not afforded the protections of the Geneva Conventions.

Legally, within the Geneva Conventions, we are within our rights to shoot those caught violating it out of hand. It is our own forebearance that is limiting the effectiveness of the Conventions, not that the Conventions have become dated or somehow "quaint."

If we enforced violations of the Conventions -- terminally -- the bad guys would take it more seriously. Do not confuse western spinelessness with an ineffectiveness on the part of the Conventions.

dalleceneri,It's e... (Below threshold)


It's easy to see where your sympathies lie, but I would ask you the same question I asked Paul. How should we handle the prisoners (who have violated the Geneva Conventions) we have captured in Afghanistan and Iraq?

But since these ar... (Below threshold)
But since these are the actions of organizations or individuals and not a state, then criminal charges and the criminal process is probably the only path towards bringing these extremists to ultimate justice.

As someone else has pointed out, this all depends on whether you mean the U.S. criminal (civilian) courts or military tribunals.

I would be opposed to giving terrorists captured on the battlefield the same rights and protections as U.S. citizens. I don't think terrorists are *exactly* analogous to criminals; after all, they have taken up arms and are conducting military operations against the armed forces of the United States. "Non-uniformed combatants" is a better way to describe them, in which case they are more like spies than soldiers, and there's all sorts of precedents for dealing with spies. That's well- defined military law.

Hugh,That has to b... (Below threshold)
Sheik Yur Bouty:


That has to be the most reasonable, well thought comment I've seen from you on this blog.

Please keep doing that! :-)

On topic:

It seems to me that the terrorist go out of their way to avoid any appearance of belonging to a nation-state or being a normal "army" to which the Conventions could apply. Further, I don't think we can or even should treat them as criminals unless they commit (or conspire to commit) these acts within our territory and we catch them alive.

They do not seek, nor do they deserve the protections afforded by the Conventions. OTOH, that does not mean we need to stoop to their level of barbarism in dealing with them. Simple executions when caught will be most sufficient.

dalleceneri = the left pink... (Below threshold)

dalleceneri = the left pinkie finger on the left hand of a leftie surrender monkey.

99% of those at GITMO (one more confessed to terrorism yesterday) should have been treated IAW the convention (whichever one we're following this week), tried and shot on the battlefield.

Paul,I remember re... (Below threshold)


I remember reading about the Germans that landed in New Jersey. One of their own turned them in if I remember correctly.

It should also be noted that they were on U.S. soil when they were captured...so were sensically tried in U.S. courts.

We are having great difficulties in Iraq now with captured insurgents being released or having their cases thrown out of court as Michael Yon describes here:

That December day, Khalid Jasim Nohe and two compatriots tried to evade US soldiers from 2-8 FA, but the soldiers managed to stop the fleeing car. Then one of the suspects tried to wrestle a weapon from a soldier before all three were detained. They were armed with a sniper rifle, an AK, pistols, a silencer, explosives and other weapons, and had in their possession photographs of US bases, including a map of this base.

That was in December.

About two weeks ago, word came that Nohe's case had been dismissed by a judge on 7 August. The Coalition was livid. According to American officers, solid cases are continually dismissed without apparent cause. Whatever the reason, the result was that less than two weeks after his release from Abu Ghraib, Nohe was back in Mosul shooting at American soldiers.

LTC Kurilla repeatedly told me of - and I repeatedly wrote about - terrorists who get released only to cause more trouble. Kurilla talked about it almost daily. Apparently, the vigor of his protests had made him an opponent of some in the Army's Detention Facilities chain of command, but had otherwise not changed the policy. And now Kurilla lay shot and in surgery in the same operating room with one of the catch-and-release-terrorists he and other soldiers had been warning everyone about.

How exactly would you suggest captured terrorists be handled in warzone? As you can see, our soldiers are tired of fighting the same people over and over again, so criminal trials aren't cutting it.

The Geneva conventions are ... (Below threshold)

The Geneva conventions are perfectly capable of handing the GWOT. It is very clear, enemy combatents caught out of uniform may be summarily executed on the field of battle. Lots of current problems solved that way, no GITMO no Abu G. ...

It seems like a couple of p... (Below threshold)

It seems like a couple of people need an elementary lesson in the difference between law enforcement and war.

Law enforcement requires a crime to be committed before the "perp" can be arrested and tried.

War is an extension of diplomatic force. The military, whether defensive or offensive, works preemptively to "make the other guy change his mind."

We hold our domestic goings on to the law enforcement standard where we can't even (and shouldn't) spy on people without proven cause and a warrant and must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that someone is guilty *after* they commit a crime.

Our foreign doings don't have those restrictions. We can spy on people just because we don't trust them. Not only can we do that, but we're expected to find out who is doing what and who has what and identify threats *before* they happen.

The CIA and the military both are prohibited from being used in domestic matters because what they do is fundamentally incompatible with the legal process. Our military does not get warrants before doing door to door searches. The CIA does not get warrants before listening to a conversation.

Someone elsewhere talked about the FBI and the fact that their focus is on making a court case rather than on prevention and this is why they're unsuited to sharing the information they have... it might ruin the court case they are building.

If this were a case of home-grown terrorism it would be right to point the FBI at it and demand that they follow the rules (and not shoot people at their homes, fer chrissake) and make a criminal case.

But it's not a domestic issue and the fact that the primary actors are not States doesn't change the fact that these non-state organizations are not involved in *crime* but in bringing down or controlling governments. And while we may think that only nations can declare war, they are under no such illusions and issue declarations of war and state their intentions clearly.

It's entirely inappropriate to take a law enforcement mindset in a situation that has nothing to do with law enforcement.

It's entirely inap... (Below threshold)
It's entirely inappropriate to take a law enforcement mindset in a situation that has nothing to do with law enforcement.

Exactly so, and this brings to mind the failed terrorism policies that were in place in the 90s and prior to 9/11, i.e. treating terrorist attacks exclusively as a criminal/law enforcement problem.

That some are suggesting policy changes that are, in effect, a return to these failed policies amazes me.

Trackbacked by The Thunder ... (Below threshold)

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 03/27/2007
A short recon of what's out there that might draw your attention.

The Geneva Conventions woul... (Below threshold)

The Geneva Conventions would be perfectly useful if the signatory nation (Iran) still existed. Unfortunately the Iran that signed the GC cease to exist in 1979 no matter how much the western world and/or international community try to pretend otherwise. This makes the GC about as useful as the UN.

Well, I got to hand it to y... (Below threshold)

Well, I got to hand it to you, Jay. Scrapping the Geneva Conventions has got to be one of the most wingnutty suggestions I've come across. Fortunately, only the extreme reactionaries would back you on this. Not McCain, Not Giuliani, heck, even Ronald Reagan himself would never have come up with something this loony.

This will all be moot soon,... (Below threshold)

This will all be moot soon, when a group of terrorists make their way across the US - Mexico border and demolish an American city with a small nuclear device. Then it will be "gloves off" and the American people will toss every treaty, convention and protocol into the ashcan. To paraphrase a WWII Admiral, "When this war is over the religion of Islam will only be practiced in Hell."

Not if. When.

Yet talking about it is use... (Below threshold)

Yet talking about it is useful, Herman.

And he did say it should be replaced with something, which would mean more talking about the morality of things and how this modern sort of non-national warfare should be dealt with.

"What if" questions are useful because they do make us think. I realize that some people are motivated to announce that any questioning of the GC is really right-wing code-speak for "I wanna torture people" but shutting down conversation that way is short-sighted, not to mention excessively shallow thinking.

Why is it, really, that people who scoff at the mere idea of holding to religious texts, and who think that the Constitution should be viewed as a sort of good idea just so long as we like what it says, find something like the GC so... permanent? Why *not* update it? Why not admit that anyone likely to follow it isn't going to go to war with anyone else likely to follow it and hash out a plan to deal with the people we *are* likely to go to war with, who utterly disregard the silly little Western notion that war has anything at all to do with gentlemanly behavior?

We don't need a new convoca... (Below threshold)

We don't need a new convocation. Since our opponents refuse to abide by the Geneva Convention, then we should show them no mercy and kill them on the spot of conflict. Keep on killing them and their supporters until they are either all dead or choose to abide by the rules of war.






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