Digby Said It

I've been trying to write something comprehensive about the the state of the torture memos, US torture policy, and the coming confirmation hearings of the Enabler, one White House Counsel Gonzales. But it's too depressing.

So just read Hullabaloo. Digby says most of it. (And even has one small tiny ray of light — not quite everyone is going to take Gonzales lying down.)

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3 Responses to Digby Said It

  1. Hitherto, Western people’s and their governments have placed people
    who do them harm into one of three categories. We need a fourth
    catagory.

    The current three categories are:

    — civilians, who are individuals to be tried in court;

    — soldiers, who are members of an enemy army who wear uniforms;

    — enemy combatants who do not wear uniforms, such as spies and
    saboteurs. These people are specifically excluded from the Geneva
    conventions.

    The third grouping is a catchall for those not in the first two
    groups. For European countries over the past few centuries, enemy
    combatants who do not wear uniforms have been politically
    insignificant.

    But the category of enemy combatants who do not wear uniforms is no
    longer insignificant. The prisoners held by the Unites States in
    Guantanamo Bay are in this group.

    We need to invent the criteria for including people in a another
    group, and procedures for handling them. The procedures must presume
    some are innocent and some are not.

    Let us classify these people as `enemy suspects’.

    The dividing lines among various groups comes from the power of a
    government to classify actions. The kind of classification that
    occurs depends on how much knowledge can be obtained.

    For an ordinary criminal action, a court is the social mechanism used
    to decide whether a defendant should be imprisoned. A court is,
    essentially, an institution for gaining knowledge and making
    judgements.

    However, in the case of a war, it is often not possible for a court to
    decide into which category a defendant belongs, since the person
    involved may not be local and may not be individually identified.

    In this instance, another governmental mechanism is used, a
    declaration of war, or some equivalent. As a result of this action,
    all people who possess a certain fairly readily defined
    characteristic, such as citizenship in a particular nation, are
    defined as the `enemy’. This is a crude classification mechanism, but
    it is the one used.

    Note that when individuals can be identified, a court is becoming the
    preferred social mechanism. We see, for example, the trials in the
    Hague of those who have been arrested and accused of war crimes in the
    former Yugoslavia.

    The mechanism for detaining `enemy suspects’ can be that of war; but
    the social means for determining when to release them should be that
    of a court.

  2. Reader says:

    Have you ever heard of, much less actually read, The Fourth Geneva Convention? Because if you had, I doubt you would write such nonsense. Consider, just for example, Article 5:

    Article 5

    Where, in the territory of a Party to the conflict, the latter is satisfied that an individual protected person is definitely suspected of or engaged in activities hostile to the security of the State, such individual person shall not be entitled to claim such rights and privileges under the present Convention as would, if exercised in the favour of such individual person, be prejudicial to the security of such State.

    Where in occupied territory an individual protected person is detained as a spy or saboteur, or as a person under definite suspicion of activity hostile to the security of the Occupying Power, such person shall, in those cases where absolute military security so requires, be regarded as having forfeited rights of communication under the present Convention.

    In each case, such persons shall nevertheless be treated with humanity, and in case of trial, shall not be deprived of the rights of fair and regular trial prescribed by the present Convention. They shall also be granted the full rights and privileges of a protected person under the present Convention at the earliest date consistent with the security of the State or Occupying Power, as the case may be.

    They’re not “enemy combatants” — they’re civilians with temporarily reduced rights in limited areas.

    I think you get your law from war movies. Spies don’t get POW status. But they (and all “enemy combatants”) are still civilians with rights under the Geneva convention system, not left in the cold outside it.

  3. The key phrase is

    > … at the earliest date consistent with the
    > security of the State or Occupying Power, as the
    > case may be.

    That means a government may hold such people
    indefinitely without communication to any one. That
    is what the Convention says. To counter indefinite,
    secret imprisonment those who control prisoners must
    be required to respond in a timely fashion to others
    with power. That is why we need a new category. To
    provide a check.

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