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Author Topic: How George W. Bush Has Ruined "Stalag 17"
Echinodermata Q. Taft
It Came Upon a Midnight Clearance


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quote:
...Here's where President Bush comes in. While Stalag 17's prisoners are planning their escapes, and the Germans are trying to stop them, both sides keep referring to this dopey sort of rulebook called "the Geneva Conventions."

These appear to be rules about the fair treatment of prisoners - I dunno, not torturing them, for instance - and even the Nazis obey them. Weird, huh?

Chris Kelly in the Huffington Post

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Steve Eisenberg
The "Was on Sale" Song


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quote:
Originally posted by E. Q. Taft:
quote:
...Here's where President Bush comes in. While Stalag 17's prisoners are planning their escapes, and the Germans are trying to stop them, both sides keep referring to this dopey sort of rulebook called "the Geneva Conventions."

These appear to be rules about the fair treatment of prisoners - I dunno, not torturing them, for instance - and even the Nazis obey them. Weird, huh?

Chris Kelly in the Huffington Post
Just to be clear, the Nazis killed or starved to death most of their prisoners of war, these being Russians. Western POW's were treated better because of German racial attitudes (African-American prisoners of Germany fared worse), and because of hopes for a compromise peace in the West.

The Geneva Convention in question applies to uniformed combatants. Also, under the Geneva Convention, you don't get a trial to see if you are really a soldier. And you get held until the end of the war, unlike in this case, where we have been gradually releasing most of the prisoners despite the war (Afghanistan or Iraq) being ongoing.

Having said that, I think they should be handled like regular POW's. Whether this is in their interest could be debated.

EDITED: Being an American Jewish POW held by Germany, unsurprisingly, wasn't so good either. Also, the treatment of plain white American prisoners, while often good, varied a lot.

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hoitoider
It Came Upon a Midnight Clearance


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I thought '30 days in the cooler' (solitary in an underground pit) was pretty standard Nazi punishment for breaking camp rules. That can't possibly be within the Geneva Conventions. (or was that just on Hogan's Heroes?)

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pinqy
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The Geneva Conventions apply to Prisoners of War:
quote:
Prisoners of war, in the sense of the present Convention, are persons belonging to one of the following categories, who have fallen into the power of the enemy:

1. Members of the armed forces of a Party to the conflict as well as members of militias or volunteer corps forming part of such armed forces.

2. Members of other militias and members of other volunteer corps, including those of organized resistance movements, belonging to a Party to the conflict and operating in or outside their own territory, even if this territory is occupied, provided that such militias or volunteer corps, including such organized resistance movements, fulfil the following conditions:

(a) That of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates;

(b) That of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance;

(c) That of carrying arms openly;

(d) That of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.

3. Members of regular armed forces who profess allegiance to a government or an authority not recognized by the Detaining Power.

4. Persons who accompany the armed forces without actually being members thereof, such as civilian members of military aircraft crews, war correspondents, supply contractors, members of labour units or of services responsible for the welfare of the armed forces, provided that they have received authorization from the armed forces which they accompany, who shall provide them for that purpose with an identity card similar to the annexed model.

5. Members of crews, including masters, pilots and apprentices, of the merchant marine and the crews of civil aircraft of the Parties to the conflict, who do not benefit by more favourable treatment under any other provisions of international law.

6. Inhabitants of a non-occupied territory, who on the approach of the enemy spontaneously take up arms to resist the invading forces, without having had time to form themselves into regular armed units, provided they carry arms openly and respect the laws and customs of war.

B. The following shall likewise be treated as prisoners of war under the present Convention:

1. Persons belonging, or having belonged, to the armed forces of the occupied country, if the occupying Power considers it necessary by reason of such allegiance to intern them, even though it has originally liberated them while hostilities were going on outside the territory it occupies, in particular where such persons have made an unsuccessful attempt to rejoin the armed forces to which they belong and which are engaged in combat, or where they fail to comply with a summons made to them with a view to internment.

2. The persons belonging to one of the categories enumerated in the present Article, who have been received by neutral or non-belligerent Powers on their territory and whom these Powers are required to intern under international law, without prejudice to any more favourable treatment which these Powers may choose to give and with the exception of Articles 8, 10, 15, 30, fifth paragraph, 58-67, 92, 126 and, where diplomatic relations exist between the Parties to the conflict and the neutral or non-belligerent Power concerned, those Articles concerning the Protecting Power. Where such diplomatic relations exist, the Parties to a conflict on whom these persons depend shall be allowed to perform towards them the functions of a Protecting Power as provided in the present Convention, without prejudice to the functions which these Parties normally exercise in conformity with diplomatic and consular usage and treaties.

Outside of that, they're not POW's and not eligible for protection as POWs.

pinqy

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Logoboros
We Three Blings


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Where are "the laws and customs of war" defined? Is that the rest of the Geneva Conventions, or is it more subjective/context-dependent than that?

--Logoboros

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Echinodermata Q. Taft
It Came Upon a Midnight Clearance


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Snarky, mis-directed waffles.

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trollface
The Bills of St. Mary's


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quote:
Originally posted by Steve Eisenberg:
And you get held until the end of the war, unlike in this case, where we have been gradually releasing most of the prisoners despite the war (Afghanistan or Iraq) being ongoing.

"Most"? Do you have a cite for that.

pinqy, why does someone always bring up that old chestnut?

Maybe they're not PoW's according to the Geneva Conventions. In which case, they are civilians, and they have even more rights than PoWs. Those are the only two options. You do not get to arbitrarily assign a new category that you've just made up to people and then say that they are therefore outside of the Geneva Conventions.

They are either PoWs, or they are civilians. Which are they?

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Steve Eisenberg
The "Was on Sale" Song


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quote:
Originally posted by trollface:
quote:
Originally posted by Steve Eisenberg:
And you get held until the end of the war, unlike in this case, where we have been gradually releasing most of the prisoners despite the war (Afghanistan or Iraq) being ongoing.

"Most"? Do you have a cite for that.

According to Wikipedia (citing MSNBC), "out of 775 detainees who have been brought to Guantanamo, approximately 340 have been released." That's less than half, but lots are released after weeks or months of in-country interrogation, never even been sent Westward, per The Interrogators.

More important than the numbers is this: Released Detainees Rejoining The Fight

quote:
Maybe they're not PoW's according to the Geneva Conventions. In which case, they are civilians . . .

Or soldiers in mufti.

Tragically, you can't carefully gather evidence on a battlefield as the police would for a criminal trial. As a result, yes, it is possible there are non-soldiers in Gitmo. This is the fault of the people who try to blend into civilian populations while fighting.

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pinqy
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


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quote:
In which case, they are civilians, and they have even more rights than PoWs. Those are the only two options
That's one of the stupidest things I've ever heard you say trollface. Seriously.

pinqy

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Errata
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Those are certainly not the only two options. Enemy combatants who do not meet all the requirements of a prisoner of war may be summarily shot. Thus the advantages of wearing an identifiable uniform. In WW2 terms, spies and saboteurs tried to slip behind enemy lines without uniforms, and the Geneva convention was explicitly written so that they could be imprisoned without the protections afforded to legitimate prisoners of war.

The insurgents specifically try to blend in to the civilian population, increasing civilian casualties but also shielding themselves. A war crime in itself. This has major tactical advantages for them, at the expense of those populations. But one of the major disadvantages for them is that when they're caught, they can't turn around and claim the protections of the Geneva convention, since it most certainly doesn't apply to them under the circumstances they've chosen. Restricting the Geneva convention so that it doesn't protect ununiformed combatants helps give incentive to behave as a military and avoid using civilians as shields.

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pinqy
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


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Yeah, I'm wondering in what biazzarro universe someone openly fighting soldiers on the battlefield would be considered a civilian. Or how a POW or soldier normally entitled to POW status who loses that status through illegal actions suddenly becomes a civilian with more rights. That's an argument for committing war crimes becuase you'll receive more rights by losing your status.

pinqy

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trollface
The Bills of St. Mary's


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Well, for a start, article 5 of the Convention pinqy quoted states:

quote:
Should any doubt arise as to whether persons, having committed a belligerent act and having fallen into the hands of the enemy, belong to any of the categories enumerated in Article 4, such persons shall enjoy the protection of the present Convention until such time as their status has been determined by a competent tribunal.
Have we had competent tribunals? Nope.

Now, what the Convention for the treatment of civilians says is:

quote:
Should any doubt arise as to whether persons, having committed a belligerent act and having fallen into the hands of the enemy, belong to any of the categories enumerated in Article 4, such persons shall enjoy the protection of the present Convention until such time as their status has been determined by a competent tribunal.
Any of these people been the subject of a competent tribunal? Nope? Then they have the rights of civilian prisoners. Of course, if they are convicted by a competent tribunal, then they become Prisoners of War.

What it actually says about saboteurs is:

quote:
Where in occupied territory an individual protected person is detained as a spy or saboteur, or as a person under definite suspicion of activity hostile to the security of the Occupying Power, such person shall, in those cases where absolute military security so requires, be regarded as having forfeited rights of communication under the present Convention.
They forfeit the right to communication, not all rights.

They may not be summarily shot, their status must be determined by competent tribunal and, until such time, they are to be regarded as civilians.

Now, let's have those trials and tribunals, eh?

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pinqy
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


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quote:
Now, what the Convention for the treatment of civilians says is:
quote:
Should any doubt arise as to whether persons, having committed a belligerent act and having fallen into the hands of the enemy, belong to any of the categories enumerated in Article 4, such persons shall enjoy the protection of the present Convention until such time as their status has been determined by a competent tribunal.

That does not refer to treatment of civilians. Civilians don't commit beligerent acts.
quote:
They may not be summarily shot, their status must be determined by competent tribunal and, until such time, they are to be regarded as civilians.

It doesn't say that.

And one more time...you're seriously claiming that it is better for a soldier to violate the rules of war before or while being captured in order to assure more rights. That's mind boggling.

pinqy

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pinqy
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


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Hey, trollface, you're misattributing your quotations. "Should any doubt arise as to whether persons...." comes from the Convention of Prisoners of War, not Protection of Civilian Persons. Interestingly, in the Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War it states
quote:
Art. 5 Where in the territory of a Party to the conflict, the latter is satisfied that an individual protected person is definitely suspected of or engaged in activities hostile to the security of the State, such individual person shall not be entitled to claim such rights and privileges under the present Convention as would, if exercised in the favour of such individual person, be prejudicial to the security of such State.
So trials and tribunals aren't always necessary.

pinqy

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Echinodermata Q. Taft
It Came Upon a Midnight Clearance


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For me, quibbling over whether the Geneva Convention legally and technically applies to all the people we're holding, rather misses the larger point.

The point is that our side is torturing people. Or at least, maintaining that we have the right to torture them, if the President says so.

The column, cited above, includes some dry satire of this:

quote:
Don't the guards want their country to win?...[The prisoners] have information that could save German lives. But no one seems to have given their interrogators the tools they need to get it.
So far, there just hasn't been anything to convince me that how we've handled the matter has made us any safer -- let alone enough safer to justify the moral compromise.

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Troberg
Angels Wii Have Heard on High


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quote:
So far, there just hasn't been anything to convince me that how we've handled the matter has made us any safer -- let alone enough safer to justify the moral compromise.
Let me state it this way:

There are some risks worth taking because the alternative is worse. It's better to take some risks that to become a torturer.

I think this is very much in line with the very principles which, among others, USA was built.

As far as I'm concerned, I'm not prepared to win at all costs, but I'm prepared to win (or lose for that matter) for the right costs.

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/Troberg

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pinqy
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


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quote:
The point is that our side is torturing people. Or at least, maintaining that we have the right to torture them, if the President says so.

That old chestnut. The Military Commissions Act specifically disallows torture.

pinqy

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trollface
The Bills of St. Mary's


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quote:
Originally posted by pinqy:
It doesn't say that.

So you're saying that a prisoner may be summarily shot?

quote:
And one more time...you're seriously claiming that it is better for a soldier to violate the rules of war before or while being captured in order to assure more rights.
Erm, no. Committing an act of war doesn't disqualify you from PoW status.

quote:

Hey, trollface, you're misattributing your quotations. "Should any doubt arise as to whether persons...." comes from the Convention of Prisoners of War, not Protection of Civilian Persons.

You're right, I did. The Convention for civilian treatment says this:

quote:
Persons protected by the Convention are those who, at a given moment and in any manner whatsoever, find themselves, in case of a conflict or occupation, in the hands of a Party to the conflict or Occupying Power of which they are not nationals.
Which is everyone.

Well, it does say:

quote:
Nationals of a State which is not bound by the Convention are not protected by it.
But both Iraq and Afghanistan are party to the Geneva Conventions, so that's not applicable.

quote:
So trials and tribunals aren't always necessary.
Tell me how granting the prisoners rights under the Geneva Conventions is "prejudicial to the security of [America]". It should also be noted that neither Iraq, nor Afghanistan are in America's territory.

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trollface
The Bills of St. Mary's


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quote:
Originally posted by pinqy:
That old chestnut. The Military Commissions Act specifically disallows torture.

Yes, but the US defines "torture" as something that causes organ failure.

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Major D. Saster
The First USA Noel


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quote:
Originally posted by Logoboros:
Where are "the laws and customs of war" defined? Is that the rest of the Geneva Conventions, or is it more subjective/context-dependent than that?

--Logoboros

Excellent question. I googled for it, and the most complete article I found was on answers.com.

http://www.answers.com/topic/laws-of-war

During my military service, I was issued a small booklet on the laws and customs of war, forbidding things such as :

- shooting the parachuting crew of a disabled aircraft (shooting at attacking paratroopers is OK).

- mistreating the civilians, looting, taking hostages, using "human shields", displacing the population.

- stealing from the dead or prisoners (except for weapons and ammo).

- wearing enemy uniforms.

- faking surrender, then ambush the enemy.

- transporting troops, weapons and ammo in ambulances.

- setting military installations in protected areas and buildings (hospitals, churches and so on).

- letting civilians mistreat enemy prisoners.

- poisoning wells and water supplies.

etc. etc. The sort of things that have been done (and still are) in most wars, by almost everybody.

BTW, a question to the soldiers and ex-soldiers among the Snopesters : did you all get similar booklets, or is it just the swiss army ? [Wink]

Major D.

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Wolf333
I'll Be Home for After Christmas Sales


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Major D., add to that the killing of sailors of a downed ship, and you pretty much have the Law Of Armed Conflict (or LOAC). And yes, we in the US Air Force are trained on this on a yearly basis (although the training has recently become computer based, and you can skip straight to the test if you know the answers).

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Wolf333
I'll Be Home for After Christmas Sales


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quote:
Originally posted by Logoboros:
Where are "the laws and customs of war" defined? Is that the rest of the Geneva Conventions, or is it more subjective/context-dependent than that?

--Logoboros

It is defined in the "Law OF Armed Conflict(LOAC)." You can read about it here.
There are three basic rules:
Military Necessity. Military necessity requires combat forces to engage in only those acts necessary to accomplish a legitimate military objective. Attacks shall be limited strictly to military objectives. In applying military necessity to targeting, the rule generally means the United States Military may target those facilities, equipment, and forces which, if destroyed, would lead as quickly as possible to the enemy’s partial or complete submission.
Distinction. Distinction means discriminating between lawful combatant targets and noncombatant targets such as civilians, civilian property, POWs, and wounded personnel who are out of combat. The central idea of distinction is to only engage valid military targets. An indiscriminate attack is one that strikes military objectives and civilians or civilian objects without distinction. Distinction requires defenders to separate military objects from civilian objects to the maximum extent feasible. Therefore, it would be inappropriate to locate a hospital or POW camp next to an ammunition factory.
Proportionality. Proportionality prohibits the use of any kind or degree of force that exceeds that needed to accomplish the military objective. Proportionality compares the military advantage gained to the harm inflicted while gaining this advantage. Proportionality requires a balancing test between the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated by attacking a legitimate military target and the expected incidental civilian injury or damage. Under this balancing test, excessive incidental losses are prohibited. Proportionality seeks to prevent an attack in situations where civilian casualties would clearly outweigh military gains. This principle encourages combat forces to minimize collateral damage—the incidental, unintended destruction that occurs as a result of a lawful attack against a legitimate military target.

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Troberg
Angels Wii Have Heard on High


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quote:
BTW, a question to the soldiers and ex-soldiers among the Snopesters : did you all get similar booklets, or is it just the swiss army ?
Swedish troops get training in such matters, although I don't know if booklets are involved. Nowadays, everything is Powerpoint.

I have to ask: Does the Swiss Army booklets have a tiny nail file and a tooth pick? [Smile]

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/Troberg

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Major D. Saster
The First USA Noel


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Nope - but ours had nice, 60's style illustrations with enemy soldiers wearing bright green uniforms and funny helmets.

Needless to say there was no need for the part about killing sailors...

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Zachary Fizz
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I don't recall any booklet of that sort in my old unit, which is part of the British Army. But we weren't front line soldiers, so weren't expected to have to worry about such things.
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Echinodermata Q. Taft
It Came Upon a Midnight Clearance


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quote:
Originally posted by pinqy:
quote:
The point is that our side is torturing people. Or at least, maintaining that we have the right to torture them, if the President says so.

That old chestnut. The Military Commissions Act specifically disallows torture.
What if it's not committed by the military? E.g., the "secret CIA prisons" we keep hearing about?

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Silas Sparkhammer
I Saw V-Chips Come Sailing In


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quote:
Originally posted by E. Q. Taft:
quote:
Originally posted by pinqy:
quote:
The point is that our side is torturing people. Or at least, maintaining that we have the right to torture them, if the President says so.

That old chestnut. The Military Commissions Act specifically disallows torture.
What if it's not committed by the military? E.g., the "secret CIA prisons" we keep hearing about?
Or a foreign government entirely, such as Syria, where (it is alleged) that Canadian citizen was sent by the U.S. and was tortured.

Or when it is not defined as "torture," such as near-suffocation. (As noted above, at one point, the Administration tried to define "torture" as involving major injury or organ failure.)

Silas

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Canuckistan
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


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quote:
Originally posted by Silas Sparkhammer:
Or a foreign government entirely, such as Syria, where (it is alleged) that Canadian citizen was sent by the U.S. and was tortured.

Alleged? I'm not aware of anyone actually denying that Maher Arar was tortured.

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People need to stop appropriating Jesus as their reason for behaving badly. It's so irritating. (Avril)

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GenYus
Away in a Manager's Special


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It is easy to say that you don't allow torture when you then define what isn't torture.

I think the "logic" diagram would go something like this.

A) We don't allow torture.
B) We allow water-boarding.
Ergo, waterboarding is not torture.

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IIRC, it wasn't the shoe bomber's loud prayers that sparked the takedown by the other passengers; it was that he was trying to light his shoe on fire. Very, very different. Canuckistan

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Silas Sparkhammer
I Saw V-Chips Come Sailing In


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quote:
Originally posted by Canuckistan:
quote:
Originally posted by Silas Sparkhammer:
Or a foreign government entirely, such as Syria, where (it is alleged) that Canadian citizen was sent by the U.S. and was tortured.

Alleged? I'm not aware of anyone actually denying that Maher Arar was tortured.
I'm unclear on the details; I thought it was, at present, a matter of only his word on the subject, without any confirmation.

(After all, who's gonna pipe up and say, "Yep; he was tortured all right. We have photos...")

I'm convinced that he's telling the truth, but is it proven (or provable?)

Silas (often found behind the times)

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Winged Monkey
Jingle Bell Hock


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I beleive that after Hamdan the court was on the verge of declaring the DTA invalid where it conflicted with international treaties and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The MCA does forbid torture, but it also forbids using international treaties as the basis for determining what torture is. It allows the Executive to define torture. Thus we allow (I think waterboarding) which is most definately torture as defined by treaties that the US has signed.

Additionally it strips Supreme Court jurisdiction from detainees, and doesn't allow it to use "international law" - namely treaties we've signed, to determine anything (including the Executive's decisions regarding what torture is). This while similar to some stuff done around the time of the civil war is likely unconstitutional because A) Consititution says habeas can only be denied in times of insurrection or invasion (see Scalia's dissent in Hamdi) and it is also quite possibly a bill of attainder.

In short from what I've read the DTA and MCA are very carefully designed lawyering so that the Executive Branch can grab a bunch of power, violate various treaties, and keep anyone from doing anything about it. Even if Congress passed a law getting rid of the MCA (which I beleive at least one key backer stated was "unconsitituional" in his reading) the executive could veto it.

-Winged Monkey

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Banquo's Ghost
I'll Be Home for After Christmas Sales


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This is not meant to be interpreted as support for any US violations of the Convention...

Regarding the original post - that even the Nazis followed the rules re: Stalag 17. My father in law, who passed away earlier this year, was a POW in that camp for 22 months (he was a radioman/gunner in a B-17 shot down/ditched at sea July 25, 1943 following a Hamburg mission). There were beatings, isolation and starvation - I don't think that the Nazis always followed the rules of the Convention.

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I have no spur to prick the sides of my intent...

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