Tuesday, April 03, 2007

# Posted 7:55 PM by Taylor Owen  

GENEVA AND IRAN: Andy McCarthy cites Geneva, Sullivan rebuts:
Unlike prisoners detained by the U.S. in Iraq - some of whom were tortured so badly they died? Memo to Andy: your beloved administration has derided the Geneva Conventions as "quaint". They have sanctioned not gentle questioning, but waterboarding, sleep deprivation and stress positions for prisoners captured in a war, Iraq, where Geneva was allegedly never in doubt. Where were you then? And now Iran is in the dock for giving British prisoners treatment that those in Gitmo and Abu Ghraib can only dream of?

Don't people realize that this is what this episode is partly about? Iran, that disgusting regime, is showing much of the world that it treats prisoners more humanely than the U.S. That's the propaganda coup they are achieving. And you know who set them up to score this huge victory in the propaganda war? Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld, who authorized all the abuse at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere throughout the war. And McCarthy, who defended and enabled them. Tehran never had a better friend than George W. Bush. He has given Islamist thugs the moral highground.
John Cole takes it another step:
Sure, the hypocrisy about the Geneva conventions is breathtaking and worth noticing, but what is truly frightening is how quickly McCarthy and others are ramping up the rhetoric. This is little more than the widely ridiculed “We have been at war with Iran since 1979” nonsense that was peddled just a few weeks back, and now this meme is so widespread that McCarthy doesn’t even break rhetorical stride when mentioning it.
This is the difference between the US and UK debates on this. There is a strong voice in the US advocating for war with Iran. The UK thinks it's nuts.

Porter, while I agree with you that past immoral action should not discredit current moral, or less immoral, acts, surely this then applies to everyone?

As I said in a comment stream below, the real cost of neglecting, mocking, and in many ways disregarding the convention is that the administration has weakened the norm. It doesn't matter whether the Iranian government would abide by it or not, but it sure matters in the wider struggle for the hearts and minds of the middle east. A war which Iran is winning.
(14) opinions -- Add your opinion

the administration has weakened the norm.

Weakened WHAT norm? Iran has been ignoring the Geneva conventions and their rules for treatment of prisoners for thirty years now, as has every nation whose citizens we hold in Gitmo and every terrorist organization those citizens belong to. The only "norm" we've weakened was the "norm" of extending protections to people who never, ever extend those protections to us. We've moved away from the "norm" of extending rights to people with no legal or moral claim to them.

Plus, of course, the "you did it first!" argument currently being deployed against America can't withstand the slightest scrutiny. If detentions, torture, and summary executions by one party justify detentions, torture and summary executions by another then everything we've done in the War on Terror is automatically justified by the preceeding decades of repeated detention, torture, and execution of Americans by Muslim radicals. But of course history always starts when America does something, doesn't it? What was done to *us* never really counts.

Finally, American actions against various Afghans, Iraqis, et al, obviously don't excuse Iranian hostage-taking against Brits, even if you believe, like Sullivan does, that America has been victimizing innocent little Muslims for no good reason at all. The Brits aren't the ones allegedly violating the Geneva Conventions -- we are.

The whole argument's moot anyway, since the UK seems intent on disgracing itself and there's no chance of the USA launching a war to deal with a British problem the Brits themselves are content to ignore.
What he said.

Taylor, let me see if I understand your last paragraph: the Muslim world is turning away from the US and towards Iran because we have weakened a norm of behavior which Iran has never pretended to follow.

And who is engaged in the current moral acts? Is it Iran? Is it their seizure of British personnel and holding them without access to consular officials or the ICRC? Is that the moral act you're talking about?
The most disturbing aspect of this is how far Sullivan is stooping these days. His argument assumes moral and legal equivalence between terrorists and members of the UK's armed services.
Under the Geneva Convention, the protocol is for the International Committee of the Red Cross to offer its services to Iran. As yet, this hasn't happened:

British officials declined to comment on whether showing the video footage of the sailors and marines violated the Geneva Conventions, which prohibit countries from putting captured military personnel on display.

The chief spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross also declined to comment, saying the ICRC was not involved in the situation.

Similarly, there is no provision for consular access. In the US, that would be unilaterally under the UCMJ, AR 27–52/SECNAVINST 5820.6/AFR 110–13.

So complaints along these lines are premature, especially coming from Americans.
"not involved with the situation" doesn't mean the ICRC hasn't tried. They don't usually publically denounce non-compliance until some time has past. ICRC usually attempts to get involved within 24 hours, and in situations much more hairy than the Iranians - attempting to ascertain the situation of Israeli soldiers captured by Hezbollah, for example. I would be shocked if ICRC hasn't attempted contact with the Iranians and been rebuffed at least once.

Why the "shock" when the Iranians disregard Geneva and why blame our conduct? The current Iranian regime violated the most sacred of international conventions, the inviolate nature of embassies. Violating Geneva is chump change in comparison. The Geneva conventions have been largely inoperative since the end of the WW2 - or was I missing the humane treatment of our POWs in Korea, Vietnam, GWI, etc etc? Unless we plan on making war on the Italians or someone other civilized nation, we won't see the conventions applied to western POWs again - ever.
What Revenant said.

The standard by which we (Australians) and our allies (mainly the Americans) will be judged in the Middle East is likely to remain in practice: is this act Islamic, or are these people Islamic? With Islamic being good, and un-Islamic being bad of course.

Matched against the ayatollahs of Iran, what Islamic teaching authority does John Howard or Tony Blair or George W. Bush have? None, obviously. So we are the un-Islamic side, and in the long run Muslim opinion will slide inexorably to the view that we are wrong and Muslims acting in good Islamic ways are right.

The Geneva Conventions, or any other Western notions, have little to do with this.

Western standards are not about to become decisive in Muslim hearts. We've made out mad effort to reshape the Middle East in a democratic image. It didn't work.

Since we can't change the contest from Islamic vs. un-Islamic, and we can't win that contest, we shouldn't worry about it.

We should just disengage from the Muslim world as much as we can, and when we can't (as in the case of the 15 hostages), we should try to be effective in killing people and blowing stuff up, and not bother about "hearts and minds" or acting as though Western conventions that depend or reciprocity were relevant.

In this case, that means we shouldn't bother with complaints. They will fall on deaf ears and are just whining.
Why the "shock" when the Iranians disregard Geneva and why blame our conduct?

It could be that US AG Gonzales called the GC quaint. But how have the Iranians disregarded the GC? The Brits haven't claimed this, yet the Americans are ginning up another casus belli.

The current Iranian regime violated the most sacred of international conventions, the inviolate nature of embassies.

Drivel. First, recall that this happened after a revolution overthrowing a US installed dictator. Second, recall that all of the hostages were released unharmed. Third, recall that the US has bombed embassies, the Chinese in Belgrade and the Swiss in Tripoli. And I'll toss in a reference to 300 for Patrick Porter.

Violating Geneva is chump change in comparison.

Tell that to the grunts.
"Iran, that disgusting regime, is showing much of the world that it treats prisoners more humanely than the U.S. That's the propaganda coup they are achieving."

Yes, I'm sure the British hostages are making all these anti-British statements in order to receive extra chewing gum from their captors.
Second, recall that all of the hostages were released unharmed.

Tell that to the kidnap victim released after a year of horror.

interesting post. Just one doubt:

there is more of a hawkish voice in the American debate.

But lets not misrepresent the hawks in their entirety. Some of us are aware that a war with Iran would be an appalling development with bad strategic costs.

But we also think that this regime should not have a nuclear weapon, because of its continual display of existential hatred towards the state of Israel.

Military action must indeed be a last resort, but to rule it out absolutely no matter what would arguably be an encouragement to the regime and an abandonment of Israel and its right to exist.

This is the real difference, I think, between the UK and US debates: UK folk, such as Jack Straw, have ruled out any military action. US folk have not, and I can understand why.
Andrew Sullivan also claimed that the execution of Christ, complete with whips, crown of thorns and being nailed to the cross, is somehow worse than sleep deprivation interrogation methods.

Sullivan lost credibility about 3 years ago. Please stop treating him like he has any left.

Also, don't the Geneva Conventions cover uniformed personnel of other sovereign countries? How does that at all include the thugs we pick up in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Finally, does anyone seriously think, that if we hadn't "weakened" the GCs, that The EU or UN would have been willing to "condemn" or "deplore" Iranian actions (let alone actually take any action), rather than simply "express concern?"
I am flabbergasted that the comparison is being made between individuals who fought out of uniform, and who engaged in deliberate attacks to murder civilians, and who were interrogated in order to stop further such attacks, and the uniformed British service personnel who were engaged in a UN sanctioned mission.
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