Friday, September 29, 2006

Mirror, mirror...

In the neverending quest our government seems to have to make our government more and more like the one we removed from Iraq, the passage Wednesday of a bill in the House to "authorize trial by military commission for violations of the law of war, and for other purposes" may just mark a new high water mark. In this case, that's not a good thing.

Here is the bill in the Senate, which has also passed 65-34, though it's not obvious from the link, and you just know that Georgie isn't going to veto anything that gives him more power.

In effect, this bill breaks the Third Geneva Convention outright. According to Sean T. Lewis, President of Chapter 72 of Veterans for Peace, in an e-mail to his daughter, edited only to fit this blog:

First you need a little understanding of the Geneva Conventions.

Specifically for this case, the Third Geneva Convention.

The Geneva Conventions are a series of international treaties signed and ratified by almost every nation on Earth. Collectively, they define the basis of International Law and the Law of War. The Third Convention addresses specific concerns of the "classes" of enemies in armed conflict, and how each class is to be treated in time of war. In a nutshell, there are four classes of enemies: combatants, non-combatants, government officials, former combatants, and "other." The Third Convention provides for humane treatment of all classes of enemy, including "other." These rules prohibit torture, physical punishment, withholding of basic necessities like food and water, and mental cruelty.

In his "War on Terra," Bush has tried to rhetorically add a fifth category: "enemy combatant." By Bush Doctrine, an enemy combatant is not covered by the Third Convention, and therefore has no rights or protections. The Bush Administration has even arrested American citizens and called them "enemy combatants" so that they could be detained without charge, tried without benefit of counsel, tried without being presented with witnesses or evidence against them, and held without the protections against coercion and torture.

All of this was against the law because they ran against the Geneva Conventions, which requires that all "enemies" who don't fall in the first three classes are treated by the conditions of the "other" class. By virtue of being a ratified treaty, the Geneva Conventions hold the same weight of law as the Constitution itself by Article VI of the US Constitution.

Earlier this month, the US Supreme Court, in hearing a case challenging the Bush Doctrine, found that the Administration had indeed been violating the Geneva Conventions, and thus US Law. The Bush Doctrine regarding illegal detentions, tribunals, and torture were struck down as un-Constitutional.

The bill that passed the House yesterday and the Senate today changes the law of the United States in violation of the Geneva Conventions. It even says so in the latter part of the bill:


(a) Implementation of Treaty Obligations-

(1) IN GENERAL- The acts enumerated in subsection (d) of section 2441 of title 18, United States Code, as added by subsection (b) of this section, and in subsection (c) of this section, constitute violations of common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions prohibited by United States law.

As I said, the Geneva Conventions have defined the Law of War for almost a century. No nation has ever dared to officially violate it. A goodly number (way too many) have violated the Conventions, but they've always covered it up, and kept the Conventions themselves as official policy.

The Conventions are at the heart of international law and diplomacy. Their existence makes war a little less horrific. As nations go into battle, the troops have always gone in with the knowledge that the Conventions would protect them if captured. The United States now openly snubs International Law. This is not only immoral and illegal, it is extremely dangerous, especially for American troops on the ground. Now, with the US rejection of the Conventions, other nations have no legal requirement to follow the Conventions themselves when facing against us.

This act also sets the stage for heinous war crimes to be committed by our government and our troops. This is where we turn to the Nuremberg Principles.

The Principles came out of the Nuremberg Trials at the end of World War II, where Nazi soldiers as well as civilian leaders were tried for crimes against humanity and genocide. Adoption of the Nuremberg Principles required each nation to create its own internal laws to provide for the punishment of crimes against humanity such as those committed by Nazi Germany. In the United States, these were codified most recently in the War Crimes Act of 1996.

Tucked away inside the Military Commissions Act of 2006 is a clause that protects from prosecution civilian leaders of the United States such as the President, Vice President, Senators and Representatives, Secretary of State, Attorney General and the Secretary of Defense in cases related to war crimes.

All in all, we are now officially a "Rogue State." The biggest difference between us today and Germany in 1937 is that they had better uniforms, and the trains ran on time. OH, and they did not have nuclear weapons.

I really, truly, honestly think you should be looking into opportunities to study abroad for college.

Locally, Tim Murphy (R-PA18) and Melissa Hart (R-PA4) voted in favor of the bill, unsurprisingly. Just one more reason to vote Altmire this fall. The bill passed the Senate 65-34 late on Thursday, but I can't find a list of votes yet. Once I do, I'll post those, also, but I hear that John McCain, of all people, the torture victim himself, voted in favor.

According to the above-linked CNN article, a "lone Republican" was trying to change the bill to make it slightly less heinous, and failed; based on the information on the Library of Congress website (linked at the top of the post), that lone wolf was likely Arlen Specter (R-PA). I can only hope that he followed through and voted nay, but I'm not holding my breath.

Again, as soon as I have Senate voting information, I'll post it.

EDIT: I wanted to mention also that John Murtha voted nay. I'm not really surprised by that.

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