I sent a letter to Doonesbury’s Town Hall site regarding the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. It is posted on their Blowback page. Despite some clumsy phrasing (“to not be tortured”), I am most proud of what I wrote in the third paragraph
Subject: THE GENEVA CONVENTIONS
Author: Sam Greenfield
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Posting Date: 6/21/05
Peter D. from The Netherlands writes that the Geneva Conventions were created after World War II. This is incorrect. The first Geneva Convention was signed in 1864. (The founder of the Red Cross, Henri Dunant, was instrumental in their creation.)
Are captured members of the Taliban POWs? Probably not–they did not bear arms openly and they did not wear uniforms. However, if they aren’t POWs but rather civilians, then captured members of the Taliban could be tried for crimes like murder. It’s not a cut-and-dried case either way. There is an interesting press briefing from 2003 regarding the legal status of the Guantanamo Bay prisoners. At the end of the meeting Ari Fleischer is asked if a U.S. Special Forces member would be considered a POW if captured on a mission out of uniform without visible weapons. Mr. Fleischer skirts around the question, merely saying that the Geneva Conventions apply to everyone. Of couse, he has to say this–but in this kind of situation, the Special Forces member would legally be a spy.
The applicability of the Geneva Convention to the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay is not the issue. The issue is that all prisoners should have the right to be treated humanely, to not be tortured, and to receive a fair and reasonably speedy trial. They deserve these rights even if they themselves would not grant these rights to others. One measure of a society can be seen in how it treats the people who violate its laws. With respect to Guantanamo Bay, we can and should do better.