The Bush Administration claims they always treated prisoners in the war on terror “humanely.”
Detainees at Abu Ghraib in Iraq, Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, may beg to differ.
President Bush slammed John Kerry during 2004 for sending “mixed messages” to terrorists. But as the New York Times reported today, “Mixed messages over exactly which rules applied where, and which Geneva protections were to be honored and which ignored, were at the root of prisoner abuse scandals from Guantanamo to Iraq to Afghanistan.”
That’s why the military applauded the Supreme Court’s decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, and the Pentagon’s memo announcing that all enemy combatants, including those held at CIA black sites, be treated in accordance with Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions.
“I think commanders in the field will see it positively,” Col. David Wallace, a West Point law professor, told the Washington Post. “They see the value of complying with the law of war.”
After the Supreme Court’s ruling, some Republicans simply wanted to put a Congressional stamp on the Administration’s indefinite detentions at Gitmo. But the decision’s aftermath gave added backing to GOP dissidents like Senator Lindsay Graham, a former Air Force lawyer who wants the Administration to follow the existing code of military justice. “If you fight that approach, it’s going to be a long hot summer,” Graham told a DoD lawyer yesterday.
The larger question, of course, is why we need Gitmo at all?
Only 10 of the 450 prisoners have been charged with crimes, and none convicted. Innocent people are stuck in a legal no man’s land, with no access to lawyers and no way to defend themselves. America’s reputation has been irrevocably sullied. So instead of arguing about the particulars of international law, maybe we should listen to Colin Powell, who said last week: “Guantanamo ought to be closed immediately.”