We’ll Always Have Geneva

We’ll Always Have Geneva

The Military Comissions Act of 2006 gives the Geneva Conventions a bold, new American twist. Here’s a look at the bill’s final markup.


“A senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said in an interview that Bush essentially got what he asked for in a different formulation that allows both sides [Bush and dissident Republican senators] to maintain their concerns were addressed. ‘We kind of take the scenic route, but we get there,’ the official said.”   —Washington Post



(a) IN GENERAL. — For the purposes of all proceedings in courts of law, whether domestic, foreign, or international, to which the United States, or a current or former officer, employee, member of the Armed Forces, or other agent of the United States, is a party, the term “Violations of the Geneva Conventions” shall be replaced by the term “Violations of the Geneva Conventions Even By American Standards.”

(b) REVISION TO WAR CRIMES OFFENSE UNDER FEDERAL CRIMINAL CODE.–(1) Section 2441 of title 18, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new subsection:


(A) INDUCED HYPOTHERMIA–No prisoner shall be kept for a period exceeding forty-eight (48) hours at a temperature below that of the meat locker of a Safeway, Stop & Shop, or other major supermarket chain, and doused with cold water at a frequency greater than twice per hour, unless permitted to wear appropriate clothing.
(i) For the purposes of paragraph (A), “appropriate clothing” shall be defined as follows: (a) For male prisoners, thong panties and strapless brassieres, or, in the case of low-value suspects, teddies; (b) for female prisoners, cowboy boots.

(B) SIMULATED DROWNING–No prisoner shall be continuously subjected to simulated drowning (“waterboarding”) for a period longer than sixty (60) minutes by an interrogator who has not, during the previous thirty (30) years, engaged on at least one occasion in (a) skateboarding, (b) surfboarding, (c) wakeboarding, (d) boogieboarding, or (e) sitting for a College Board examination.

(C) LONG-TIME STANDING–No prisoner shall be forced to stand erect for a period exceeding forty-eight (48) hours, unless permitted to shift his or her weight from foot to foot.

(D) EAR-SPLITTING MUSIC–No prisoner shall be subjected, for a period exceeding twenty-four (24) hours, to music at a volume exceeding that of the explosion of a two-ton cruise missile heard from a distance of fifteen (15) yards.
(i) For the purposes of paragraph (D), “music” shall be defined as recordings by (a) the Oak Ridge Boys, (b) the Knack, (c) John Fogerty, (d) Joni Mitchell, (e) George Jones, (f) John Hiatt, and (g) such other artists as the President may, from time to time, choose to download.
(ii) Recordings and live performances by other artists, such as Eminem or the Red Hot Chili Peppers, are not restricted under the terms of paragraph (D).

(E) ATTENTION SLAP–No prisoner shall be struck brutally in the face more than once in a ten-minute period unless (i) the interrogator determines that the prisoner’s attention has wandered; (ii) the prisoner says, “Thanks, I needed that”; or (iii) the interrogator determines that the prisoner would have said “Thanks, I needed that,” were said prisoner conversant with the conventions of John Wayne movies.

(F) ACTIONS THAT SHOCK THE CONSCIENCE–No prisoner shall be subjected to actions that shock the conscience.
(i) In order to meet the standard set out in paragraph (F), the shock sustained by the specified conscience must be the equivalent of that sustained by a person whose testicles have been wired to a 120-volt power source.
(ii) The conscience to be shocked shall be that of the less susceptible to shock of the following: (a) the person holding the office of Vice President of the United States as of September 20, 2006, or (b) Quentin Tarantino.

(G) EVIDENCE WITHHELD FROM THE ACCUSED — The accused shall have the right to see all evidence presented against him or her, except for evidence classified as secret for reasons of national security, in which case the accused shall have the right to see a faithful translation of the evidence into (i) Akkadian, (ii) Sumerian, or (iii) Ugaritic.

(H) CONVICTION ON THE BASIS OF EVIDENCE OBTAINED BY PROHIBITED MEANS–No person shall be convicted on the basis of information obtained by means prohibited in subsection (d), paragraphs (A) through (G), unless such person (i) cannot be convicted on the basis of information obtained by other means, or (ii) is just obviously guilty.

(I) OUTSOURCING OF TORTURE–No prisoner shall be transferred into the custody of a foreign government unless a determination has been made, by the relevant agency, that such prisoner cannot be tortured perfectly well by an American.

(c) INTERPRETATION BY THE PRESIDENT.–The actions specified by nullifying conditions in Subsection (d) shall constitute Violations of the Geneva Conventions Even By American Standards until such time as the President shall determine that they shall not.

(d) HABEAS CORPUS MATTERS.–Section 2241 of Title 28, United States Code, is amended–
(1) by striking subsection (e) (as added by section 1005(e)(1) of Public Law 109-148 (119 Stat. 2742)) and by striking subsection (e) (as added by added by section 1405(e)(1) of Public Law 109-163 (119 Stat. 3477)); and
(2) On second thought, let’s save everyone a lot of paperwork and just strike the whole Constitution.

(e) COVERING OUR ASS.–The amendments made by this section shall apply retroactively to any act committed, commanded, encouraged, condoned, winked at, or blithely ignored by any current or former officer, employee, agent, consultant, contractor, subcontractor, or Chief Executive of the United States after 12 o’clock noon (Eastern Time) on January 20, 2001.

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Katrina vanden Heuvel
Editorial Director and Publisher, The Nation

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