Monday, July 03, 2006  

The Supreme Court and the Geneva Conventions

David Lindorff, writing for Counterpunch, is quite correct when he says one of the most striking elements of the the Hamdan v Rumsfeld decision wasthe affirmation by the Supreme Court that the US has an obligation to uphold the Geneva Conventions. This means a number of things, chief among them, that under the Geneva Conventions the US has been engaging in war crimes.
What has been largely missed is the clear point that the Supreme Court has now declared that for the past five years, Bush and his gang of war-mongers, including Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State and former National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, former Attorney General Donald Rumsfeld and current Attorney General and former White House Chief Counsel Alberto Gonzales, and many others in the administration, have been guilty of violating the Third Convention on treatment of prisoners of war. They are also, therefore, in violation of federal law, which back in 1996 adopted that convention as part of the U.S. criminal code.

In other words, the whole top administration, from Commander in Chief George W. Bush on down, is guilty of war crimes. The punishment for committing war crimes ranges from a lengthy jail sentence to, in the event the crimes in question caused the death of any prisoners being held, to death. And there have been many deaths among those who have been held and tortured on orders of the administration-most recently the three suicides at Guantanamo, which included on man who had only three days earlier been targeted for release (but who never learned this because government's secrecy and tight security prevented his attorneys at the Center for Constitutional Rights from getting the news to him).

Interestingly, Gonzales actually warned Bush about this possibility. In a memo to the president, written on January 25, 2002 when he was still White House counsel, Gonzales warned prophetically that the U.S. adoption of the Third Geneva Convention as a part of the U.S. criminal code in 1996 made violation of the convention a "war crime," which he said was defined as "any grave breach" of the Third Convention such as "outrages against personal dignity." He noted that this law applied whether or not a detained person qualified for POW status, and added that punishment for violation of the law "include the death penalty." But then he went on to say Bush could "substantially reduce" his risk of domestic criminal prosecution under the War Crimes Act by making a presidential determination that the Third Geneva Convention "does not apply to al Qaeda and the Taliban."

Whatever one thinks of the Geneva Conventions- the US did sign and ratify and once our signature is on a treaty, article 6 of the Constitution makes it the law of the land. So all you people who are upset about the Geneva Conventions have a bone to pick with two entities: the Constitution and the Congress.

And, as I said before, it leaves you with two choices, change article 6 or pull out of the treaty.

The first would be very difficult and the second is not in our own best interests since the Geneva Conventions protect the US at every turn in conflicts abroad.

Now that the Supreme Court has re-affirmed the inportance of keeping the treaties we sign, Bush and co need to get right with the Geneva Conventions.

Luckily for them, they can't hauled in front of the International Court of Justice (ICOJ), part of another treaty we signed (Vienna Conventions) because we picked up our marbles in a snit fit and pulled out of the optional protocal of the Court (which we puched for, btw) because the court found that the US had violated the right to consular assistance under the VCCR in the case of 52 Mexican nationals on death row.

Well, there's always the "Kissinger Option" of being threatened with arrest from crimes against humanity if Bush and Co leave the US.

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