[Previously, on this theme, at WEJB/NSU:
“After Guantanamo: The War Over the Geneva Convention”; and
“Part II: After Guantanamo: The War Over the Geneva Convention.”]
Do Terrorists Have Rights?By Nicholas Stix
First published November 11, 2003
Toogood Reports/Front Page Magazine/A Different Drummer
Is the U.S. a terrorist state? Are al Qaeda fighters the good guys? That's what you might think, to read the New York Times editorial page, and some of the humanitarian bureaucrat-activists who, though largely unknown to the general public, have tremendous clout with the Times.
An October 16 New York Times editorial (“The American Prison Camp”) attacked the Bush Administration for maintaining its detainee camp for terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Citing criticism of the Bush Administration by the International Committee of the Red Cross, the editorial claimed that Administration justifications for the camp “miss the point,” are “unpersuasive,” and have “no foundation in the Geneva Conventions,” and demanded, in the name of “justice,” that unlawful combatants (in this case, terrorists) be granted civil rights that the U.S. in previous wars had not granted even to lawful combatants. Traditionally, unlawful combatants have been considered not soldiers, but criminals, spies or saboteurs, and executed or imprisoned for lengthy sentences.
Note that the Red Cross—which also calls itself “the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement”—has barred groups at post-911 Red Cross events in the U.S. from singing “God Bless America,” lest they offend Muslims; has barred the Israeli Magen David ambulance service (which has an unblemished record of aiding the wounded, regardless of religion or politics, and having never aided terrorists) from joining; and has let its ambulances repeatedly be used by Palestinian terrorists in Israel—some of whom proved to be Palestine Red Crescent Society employees in good standing!—for the transportation of homicide bombers and weapons under humanitarian cover. And as scholar Jeremy Rabkin has noted, an official at the Red Cross/Red Crescent’s Geneva headquarters circulated the heinous blood libel, that claimed that Israel had orchestrated the 911 attacks.
As the example of the Red Cross/Red Crescent shows, humanitarianism is a sometime thing. And yet, as the murderous, October 27 attack on the Red Cross/Red Crescent’s Baghdad headquarters showed, even supporting terrorists fails to protect an organization from their wrath.
Like the Red Cross/Red Crescent, the U.N., Doctors Without Borders, and other “humanitarian,” “non-governmental” organizations are also hostile to America’s right to self-defense.
The New York Times insists that “The justifications offered by the administration are equally unpersuasive. The argument that the detainees are not prisoners of war because they are not uniformed members of a regular armed force has no foundation in the Geneva Conventions.”
That, simply, is a lie. On no less than five points, does the 1949 Geneva Convention explicitly support the Bush Administration’s position that the Guantanamo detainees are unlawful combatants, and thus not protected as prisoners of war, because:
1. They are not fighting for a Contracting Party to the Convention;
2. They are not “commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates”;
3. They wear no uniforms or the equivalent (“a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance”), identifying them as combatants;
4. They fail the test of “carrying arms openly”; and
5. They fail the test “of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.”
The Geneva Conventions implicitly recognize principles of reciprocity, the right of national self-defense, and enlightened, national self-interest; the New York Times does not – at least, not in the case of the U.S. And yet, since the Geneva Conventions have for many liberals a sacrosanct status, instead of saying that he held them in contempt, the Times editorialist chose to lie about what the Conventions say.
The Times was echoing a strategy which was established, after 911, by influential humanitarian organizations, including the Red Cross/Red Crescent and the Open Society Institute (OSI).
(OSI was founded and is funded by billionaire socialist George Soros, a Hungarian-born Jewish financier, who thinks that worldwide anti-Semitism is caused by … Jews! OSI’s president, Aryeh Neier, was the executive director of the ACLU and Human Rights Watch, respectively. During his time at the ACLU, Neier helped subvert the nation’s premier civil liberties group, transforming it into an anti-civil liberties, civil rights organization. Thus it is that the ACLU, an organization that in the past routinely sued to defend people’s First Amendment right to freedom of religion, now routinely sues to suppress people’s freedom of religion, under the complaint that others’ free exercise of religion “offends” the ACLU’s clients. A judiciary that recognizes a plaintiff’s—or certain plaintiffs’—right to be offended cannot also recognize civil liberties, because the right to take offense will not tolerate civil liberties. The right to take offense implies an unlimited prerogative on the part of certain plaintiffs to circumscribe other parties’ speech and action.)
As Aryeh Neier expressed them in a September, 2002 article, “Did the Era of Rights End on September 11?,” in Crimes of War magazine, his foreign policy ideas amount to the belief that ‘International law is a suicide pact – at least, for America.’ Based on a highly partisan notion of “rights,” which accrue to political allies, but are denied to political enemies, Neier advocates for the rhetorical fiction of international “humanitarian law,” which he insists is unilaterally binding on all nations. But in the case of the War on Terror, for Neier, such unilateral law is binding only on the U.S. That’s unilateralism, leftwing style.
Conversely, in the article, “After Guantanamo: The War Over the Geneva Convention,” in the Summer, 2002 issue of The Public Interest, Jeremy Rabkin, a Cornell University professor of international law, emphasized that the Geneva Convention is a contract or treaty, regulating conduct only between the parties to it. It is not a transcendent or universally binding law.
A treaty, as The Federalist (No. 64) explained in 1788, “is only another name for a bargain.” At the heart of the Geneva Conventions is this bargain: fight according to these professional rules and we will treat you with professional respect.Aryeh Neier cited Red Cross/Red Crescent criticisms of the Bush Administration, and the organization’s dubious interpretation of the Geneva Conventions, as part of his own misrepresentation of the Conventions.
The main rules for defining combatant status go back to The Hague Convention of 1899. They are not based on ancient ideas of rank and courtesy. Rather, the rules were drawn up at conferences at which military officers were not merely present as observers, but constantly at the elbow of the diplomats and lawyers as full participants for what they could provide by way of practical advice. The rules thus rest pre-eminently on practical considerations.
(Neier also misrepresented Rabkin’s views, maintaining that Rabkin had argued that under the principle of reciprocity, one Contracting Party to the Conventions may breach the Conventions, while justifiably engaging in savage reprisals against the uniformed soldiers and civilians alike of an enemy Contracting Party to the Conventions, in response to the enemy’s breaches of the Conventions. Since Rabkin had explicitly condemned such reprisals, this was yet another lie on the part of Aryeh Neier, who would seem to lack any capacity for honest debate. It is Neier’s propagandistic modus operandi, apparently, to misrepresent the views of any document or thinker with whom he disagrees.)
Whereas under the laws of war, including the Geneva Conventions, terrorists have traditionally been treated as criminals, the Red Cross/Red Crescent and OSI’s insistence on treating terrorists as lawful combatants, legitimizes terrorism, and turns the laws of war upside down.
Although the “humanitarians” clearly do not confront this consequence, their way of thinking would ultimately also destroy the moral foundations of medical neutrality. Red Cross/Red Crescent units would have to be looked upon as mixed-use military units, which engage both in killing and saving lives.
(Due to repeated abuses of medical neutrality by the Palestine Red Crescent Society, Israeli soldiers have already been forced to take such a position. The Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) has refused to accept responsibility for, or at least apologize for terrorist acts committed by its personnel using its vehicles, or take steps to protect against the abuse of its ambulances as terrorist delivery vehicles. Instead, the PRCS has taken the rhetorical offensive, using propaganda identical to that of Yassir Arafat, in seeking to organize “the World Community and Governments” to intervene on its behalf against Israel, and prosecute Israeli soldiers as “war criminals.”
The PRCS is a terrorist organization. That it also engages in humanitarian work is beside the point; Hamas also engages in humanitarian work on behalf of Arab Muslims, when it is not murdering Jews. The PRCS beckons as the future face of humanitarianism.)
Working under a cloak of feigned neutrality, “humanitarians”—aided and abetted by the New York Times—seek to disarm the U.S. in the War on Terror. They would usurp control from the U.S. over such matters as the determination of who is a lawful combatant, and grant civil rights—which rightfully attach only to citizens—to foreign terrorists. The humanitarian groups and the Times seek to give terrorists a platform in the American judicial system, politicize every aspect of the War on Terror, and bury the federal courts under an avalanche of terrorism cases.
As Jeremy Rabkin observed, “This episode should warn the wise that ambitious new versions of international law are likely to become a continuing source of mischief in the world, and much trouble to the United States.”