enemy combatants

I sincerely hope that our POWs are treated humanely. News that Iraq plans to apply the "standards of Islam" rather than the Geneva Conventions certainly doesn't sound encouraging[1], though the treatment of the Apache pilots has been far better than that afforded to the lost mechanics - the television footage of the former had them seemingly drinking coffee and well fed, whereas the latter were bruised and scared.

Of course, the Administration is always the wrong people to make the right argument. As Tacitus points out, the US always obeys the Geneva Conventions in war, though our enemies rarely do, so it isn't exactly for our benefit. He asks the thought experiment, why bother to adhere to it then? to which I point him to this answer by Jim Henley. But while how WE treat THEM is a function of our honor and moral principle, it is sheer hypocrisy for Rumsfeld to get on Face the Nation and whine about how THEY treat US. It should have been Powell, not Rumsfeld, making that argument - because coming from Rummy it became farce.

Yes, the reason is Guantanamo Bay. Rumsfeld invented the term "enemy combatant" out of thin air and has used it to justify treatment of Al-Qaeda terrorist suspects, who are essentially prevented from protection by Geneva Convention standards by fiat. As Slate points out, this single-authority decision is precisely what the Geneva Convention was designed to prevent:

The Guantanamo prisoners have had their beards forcibly shaven off, a violation of their human dignity under the 1966 international covenant on civil and political rights. And, they have been photographed by the press in shackles and with hoods over their heads. Subsequently, the United States limited media access to prisoners citing the "insults and public curiosity" passage from the Geneva Conventions. But at the same time, Rumsfeld maintains the prisoners don't have any rights under the Geneva Conventions because they are "unlawful combatants."

Byers notes that the "unlawful combatants" category is one of Rumsfeld's invention and not found in any international treaty. Under Article 5 of the Third Geneva Convention, military tribunals�not Donald Rumsfeld�should determine which prisoners should be prosecuted as criminal suspects and which should be accorded prisoner of war status. "The record shows that those who negotiated the convention were intent on making it impossible for the determination to be made by any single person," Byers writes.

The Slate article closes wittily with the suggestion that Iraq might adopt "enemy combatant" terminology (the Rumsfeld Doctrine?) to justify their treatment of our POWs. This has already happened.


23rd March 2003

Dr Imran Waheed
Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain
Suite 298 56 Gloucester Road
London, SW7 4UB, United Kingdom
Email: press@1924.org / Phone: +44-(0)7074-192400

London, UK, March 23 � Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain believes that captured US and allied troops should be treated as �unlawful combatants� by the Iraqi army, similar to the manner in which the USA treats those who it illegally holds at Camp Delta, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. After the capture of American troops the US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, citing the Geneva Convention, hypocritically stated, �It�s illegal to do things to POWs that are humiliating to those prisoners.� This seems rather ironic from an Administration that has humiliated, shackled, gagged and blindfolded some 600 prisoners at Camp Delta while they are detained without trial, charge or legal representation. Since America and Britain have unilaterally flouted international law and the UN, which Muslims have always viewed as tools of the colonialists, international law and the UN are now redundant. In seminars around the UK this weekend, thousands of Muslims have once again reiterated their whole-hearted support for the Jihad of the Iraqi army that is being waged to hold off the invaders. They have also called on the armies of the Muslim world to immediately go to the assistance of the Iraqi army and people so that the invasion can be repelled. Dr Imran Waheed, a UK based doctor and a representative of Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain, said, �International law and the UN have now been discarded in the dustbin of history. The Muslim World must now resolve the issue of Palestine, Kashmir and all other foreign policy issues on a unilateral basis and not on the basis of international law.�

Note that Hizb ut-Tahrir is a extremist political group (words, not violence. Like the Weekly Standard) that wants to re-establish "The Caliphate" as a way of restoring "The Islamic way of life". It does outright reject violence as a means to achieve that end, though. I won't be inviting these guys to dinner anytime soon though.

[1] Maybe Al-Muhabajah can provide some useful commentary about what the Qur'an has to say about prisoners of war? AM, let me know in the comments if you get a chance to address this (or have already).

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