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12/15/2003 Archived Entry: "Geneva Convention on Saddam?"

Cartoon round-up for today: Tom Tomorrow's commentary on the Bush Presidency entitled "Update from Parallel Earth"; Tom Toles' critique of Bush's fiscal policies, "Bush on the Card"; and, Chuck Asay's not too subtle but accurate "The Kids Support For The Medicare Bill. For less Bush-specific chuckles, try The Wizard of Id's Robbing Hood or the following audio link that begins with the familiar Ta-ta-ta that signals the start-up of Windows and ends with what may be another familiar sound to Windows users (voice courtesy of Krusty the Klown).

The status of the captured Saddam Hussein is already confusing. Although the US maintains that no determination of his legal status has been made, according to Voice of America (and many other sources) "Rumsfeld said the captured former Iraqi leader will be protected under the Geneva Convention, the international agreement that prohibits mistreatment of prisoners of war."
In this, Rumsfeld is acting in accord with Article 5 of the Third Geneva Convention (3GC) which states, "Should any doubt arise as to whether persons, having committed a belligerent act and having fallen into the hands of the enemy, belong to any of the categories enumerated in Article 4 [which defines Prisoners of War], such persons shall enjoy the protection of the present Convention until such time as their status has been determined by a competent tribunal." In short, until a competent tribunal declares that Saddam is not a POW, then he is.

But the Geneva protections have already been violated, as Rumsfeld well knows from his experience with the Guantanamo prisoners. 3GC (Article 3) states that POWs must be spared "outrages upon personal dignity," "humiliating and degrading treatment," as well as "insults and public curiosity." Rumsfeld has openly acknowledged that the GCs forbid showings PoWs -- an acknowledgement occasioned by the criticism surrounding widely-publicized photographs of prisoners at Guantanamo. At that time, the defense offered was that the photos were blurred and did not show the prisoners' faces. No such defense can be offered for the degrading photographs of Saddam that are saturating the globe: Saddam's hair being searched for lice; his mouth being probed by a tongue-depressor... Months ago, when the Arab satellite station Al-Jazeera in Qatar showed Iraqi footage of interviews with American prisoners, Rumsfeld declared, "The Geneva Convention indicates that it's not permitted to photograph and embarrass or humiliate prisoners of war.'' In respect for the GCs, most American news sources restricted the airing of that footage.

The question of his interrogation raises further concerns about possible violations of the GCs, which guarantee a right to silence...other than stating minimal info such as rank. Now Time and other sources are reporting that Saddam is unco-operative and defiant. Is he also being accorded the right to silence?

The question is not whether Saddam deserves to be humiliated, treated humanely, etc. As I stated yesterday, Sic Sempris Tyrannis -- Thus perish all tyrants! The question is whether the GCs are being applied as Rumsfeld insists. Clearly, they are not. And for an obvious reason. An unphotographed, silent Saddam makes for bad PR and the Bush administration wants to maximally-bask in the happy glow of an event that goes to its pre-election credit.

Best to all,

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