Gonzales Suggests Revisiting Geneva Conventions

Alberto Gonzales suggested today during his confirmation hearing that the U.S. revisit the Geneva Conventions:

Gonzales promised that as attorney general he would abide by the 1949 Geneva treaty but also said the White House was looking at the possibility of seeking revisions. Now I'm not suggesting that the principles, the basic treatment of human beings, should be revisited," Gonzales said. "But there has been some very preliminary discussion: Is this something that we ought to look at?"

The discussions haven't gone far, Gonzales said. "It's not been a systematic project or effort to look at this question," he said. "But some people I deal with, the lawyers, indicate maybe this is something we should look at."

....He refused to back away from his legal opinion to Bush that terrorists don't deserve Geneva Convention treatment if captured by Americans overseas. "My judgment was ... that it would not apply to al-Qaida - they weren't a signatory to the convention," he said.

Thank goodness neither he nor Bush nor all their neo-con law scholars have the power to change them. The international community is not going to pay them any heed. As for what else happened at the hearing:

Democrats said it was Gonzales' January 2002 memo as White House counsel that led to the stripping, mocking and threatening of suspects with dogs. He had argued in his memo that the war on terrorism "renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions."

Added Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass.: The "legal positions that you have supported have been used by the administration, the military and the CIA to justify torture and Geneva Convention violations by military and civilian personnel."

His confirmation is still expected to go through.

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    The New York Times has a useful guide to the "torture memoranda" here (log in first). Whereas many newspapers and broadcasts are leading with headlines saying that Gonzales renunciated torture, he really did not do so, because he made so many qualifications in his responses. (The PBS News Hour with Jim Lehrer discussion makes that clear, but the more-superficial news coverage does not.) To those reporting that he, in effect, "foreswore" his opposition to torture, (1) it was a hearing and he was not sworn to "tell the truth" under "oath," and (2) all those promises that he made during the hearing about what he would do to respond further to questions and doubts and how he would act later to do this or that if he were confirmed have the status of . . . well, nothing. The man is what he has done. If he's confirmed, he'll keep doing things the way he has done them. Wish that all that emphasis on the importance of judging his "judgment" (and he was a judge--Texas Supreme) amounted to the Senate's really doing that. (My other comment is in the live-blogging confirmation hearings thread.) I listened to the hearings on the radio for the most part; I watched the last part on C-Span. When I saw video clips of Gonzales answering things I had already heard, I was struck by his shifty eyes. I don't trust his responses to be truthful. I think that he was figuring out how best to answer questions so as to get confirmed (which is often the problem with these confirmation hearings). Senators are not jurists and their hearings have not got the credibility or legal status of grand jury testimony. The hearings are mostly political spectacles. (Thus, the back-patting at the end.) :-(

    What is really going on here is Bush and boys want to remove any ideals of the Geneva convention here inside the empire so when it comes down to it, the government can do anything it wants to anyone it wants to without any laws getting in the way. Remember Bush said that terrorist way to many breaks. Remember when bush talked about people inside the walls(prison system) Having it way to easy? and we must get info, at any cost? how many times do you need to be told what will happen to you, some-dayu.

    I'd like to see Alberto's Bar card. He seems so unfamiliar with due process, probable cause, habeus corpus, and other Constitutional protections, it's hard to believe he graduated from Harvard Law and passed the Bar.

    et al - Okay, what is wrong with revisiting the GC to make them more effective in dealing with prisioners who don't fit the model that was in place when it was first written?

    Re: Gonzales Suggests Revisiting Geneva Convention (none / 0) (#5)
    by soccerdad on Thu Jan 06, 2005 at 05:46:09 PM EST
    revisit wrt what? What do you think the issue(s) is?

    Re: Gonzales Suggests Revisiting Geneva Convention (none / 0) (#6)
    by wishful on Thu Jan 06, 2005 at 06:36:48 PM EST
    Torture....torture...we're actually talking on a national level about the merits of torture, about the subtleties between humane treatment and Geneva Convention treatment, and torturing people. And that the President has absolute authority, he is above the law, all stemming from this need to torture in our names. I think they have actually changed my mind. They are right, I must now admit, to my deepest embarrassment. There really is no such thing as evolution. They have finally provided clear and convincing proof.

    jim getting aroused by torture again

    Re: Gonzales Suggests Revisiting Geneva Convention (none / 0) (#8)
    by Repack Rider on Thu Jan 06, 2005 at 06:37:49 PM EST
    Okay, what is wrong with revisiting the GC to make them more effective in dealing with prisioners who don't fit the model that was in place when it was first written? It covers all prisoners, even guerillas and irregulars, as do the US laws against torture and the international anti-torture agreements to which the United States is a signatory. What is to revisit? It's all covered by existing law, which has been ignored by the administration. What is the upside of reducing the sanctions against torture?

    What "wishful" said. And while Alberto and Jorge W are drawing fine lines about just what is torture --the right wing flacks are burning up news bytes with their support of the right to torture terrorists...because they are not real soldiers. A fine explanation was offered by Republican hack Joe Degeneva on the IMUS show -- "and some of the interrogations in the future won't be on US soil and the attorney general won't be making the decisions" and IMUS applauded that comment. Unfortunately the cheap chicken hawks among us all support and Bush has supported the image of the cowboy riding to the rescue --wanted dead or a live? So some anonymous branch of the American governmnet overseas will be seeking information by any means possible and the attorney general will have no knowledge of the events. Just what will Alberto being doing as attorney general?

    The Marines 3rd Battalion, 1st Regiment went into Fallujah mosque in Mid-November and a wounded Marine fired into the head of one of a handful of wounded insurgents who had been slowly bleeding to death after having been shot the previous day during a raid. It was quickly noted in some quarters that:
    (a) we have only seen one aspect of this incident, (b) none of us yet understand the context of it, and (c) this represents one Marine's actions, not official US policy or the American rules of engagement in Iraq.
    The sort of action taken by the Marine was just the sort of thing that spurred Henri Dunant to do something after he witnessed wounded soldiers being randomly bayoneted and shot during the Battle of Solferino in 1859. His efforts led to the first Geneva Conventions and eventually to the Internation Red Cross. The spirit of his efforts are diminished by lawyerly quibbling about the proper attire or wearing of insignia human beings must affect to gain status and protections under the Conventions. Simply to abandon our recognition of such humane principles for ephemera like coerced information that is more often worthless is to abandon one of the things that makes us civilized. As I often tell my 6 year old, just because the President's lawyer may find sufficient legal justification for something, doesn't make it right.

    obelus - Fact is that the terrorists have booby trapped wounded who blew themselves up. Fact is the terrorists have booby trapped their dead, who have blown up when moved. Fact is the terrorists have blown themselves up in car bombs killing both coalition military and Iraq civilians. Fact is the marine in question had been wounded himself the day before. I could go on, but I think you get me point. "The spirit of his efforts are diminished by lawyerly quibbling about the proper attire or wearing of insignia " Facts are that this is one of the requirements of Article 4 of the GC that you hold dear. Fact is, you can't tell the terrorist from the civilian without the uniform. Fact is you have no idea of what the hel* you're talking about. You are just anti-US looking to whine. Here, have some cheese with it.

    Following Obelus's comment: A useful site for the Geneva Conventions, for those who may not ever have actually read them or read them recently. The military's arguments for upholding the Geneva Conventions (as expressed by Colin Powell and other generals and officers, ret. and active) are basically the argument of the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Human and humane values don't get much more basic than that. (Think of yourself mistaken as a prisoner of war or an "unlawful combatant"--which plenty of people have been mistaken for since 9/11. Think of yourself sitting in one of those prisons or detention centers or caves. Think of yourself hiding down some hole--you get the picture. If you've been in that position (say you were a Vietnam-Conflict POW), you may have more compassion for others (if you ever got over your post-traumatic stress syndrome). Not everyone taken into custody is guilty of crimes for which they are accused. Time to remember that happens in the war on terror just as it does in every other war, and in regular daily life. Do we really want an Att'y Gen'l who fudges these distinctions with an eye on protecting presidents from future prosecution as war criminals (even if they are, to all intents and purposes, acting like war criminals? All people deserve due process. Not torture and abuse. (Terrorists are people, human beings, whether or not they are lawful or unlawful combatants.) If they are found guilty of crimes or colluding with the enemy or if they are the enemy, there are legal ways to treat them in custody and illegal ways. The U.S. should be following legal means, not illegal means, of handling these people. They are still people. Right now, the Geneva Conventions (unrevised) constitute international law and the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights constitute international ethics. "Thank goodness."

    Re: Gonzales Suggests Revisiting Geneva Convention (none / 0) (#13)
    by soccerdad on Fri Jan 07, 2005 at 03:25:27 AM EST
    PPJ, as usual you don't answer the questions. But I see you are still having fun insulting people. After all this time I don't know why you post here, unless being insulting and dismissive is what gives you please and defines your life.

    In any case revisiting the Geneva Conventions is not within the US' power: there *are* other countries in the world, you know. And re Gonzales, every other lawyer in the world is torn between laughing out loud at your nation for confirming such an obvious know-nothing placeman and pitying you for the crackdown on civil liberties that is to come.

    Re: Gonzales Suggests Revisiting Geneva Convention (none / 0) (#15)
    by DonS on Fri Jan 07, 2005 at 05:09:49 AM EST
    I have stopped posting on this site, particularly because of ppj's tactics: throwing out hooks, engaging and spewing insults. He has protected status, and seems to relish it, a venue where he can excorcise and exercise a rather nasty personna.

    yeah, corporate lawyers who are great at defending the rights of entities rather than people are *just* the sort who should have an opinion on things like the Geneva Convention. In any other world, this guy would never make it this far and have the ear of ROve, Bush, et al.

    DonS - If you are afraid to join in the exchange of ideas, that is your business, and not mine. I do find it amusing that I, with odds against me of 200 to 1 evidently have you quivering in your boots. So, I will ask you specifically what I asked at 6:23PM on 1/6/05. What is wrong with reviewing the GC with an eye towards bringing it into the 21st century, and more accurately defining who is, and is not, protected. brave - Whatever his opinion is, once you had a panel in place, and it would have to have representatives from all nations, it is obvious that the cat would be out of the bag and uncontrollable. Repunlic of P - How's Holland this AM? I do miss their beer amd cheese for a 9:30AM "coffee" break. Couple brews made the morning slip right on by. As for your comment. Correct. See my reply to "brave." (Above) SD - Please. If you would like, I will visit the archives and provide you with a montage of insults and vulgar comments by someone named soccerdad. I don't think you will find it enjoyable. As for answering questions, I didn't know anyone was "on the clock." I'll try to do better next time. Dearest No Name - You approach stating the problem, then fall away. The military problem is how do you recognize and combat terrorists who are not in uniform, not openly armed, etc. The second question is what do you do with them after you have captured them. Susan - Laying aside your comments about Gonzales, do you agree with his (Gonzales) comment that the GC needs to be looked at? And please see my comment to "brave." Repack Rider - Well, for starters we might revisit the Convention on Torture and more accurately define "extreme pain" and "unlawful sanctions," since both terms are subject to meaning whatever someone wants them to mean. In that respect. Laws aren't meant to curb the actions of reasonable, law abiding people. And we might even work on the definition of torture. The dictionary says: "anguish of body or mind : AGONY b : something that causes agony or pain 2 : the infliction of intense pain (as from burning, crushing, or wounding) to punish, coerce, or afford sadistic pleasure I would say that makinng someone wear a woman's panties om his head, which was done in Iraq, is not torture. Is it abuse? Not to me. You may say that it causes great embarassment, and is abuse. As for the GC, I see nothing in Article 4, which defines who is covered, that would give coverage to the terrorists. I invite you to correct me. Here is a link to the GC to assist you. Now Article 5, appears to provide an out by saying: "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. The problem with this, of course, is that "should any doubt arise" phrase. If you look at Article 4, which 5 refers to, and say THERE IS NO DOUBT THAT THEY DO NOT MEET ANY OF THE DEFINITIONS, then where do you go from there? Others may argue, but the lawfully elected administration says they are not covered. Now, if the person is a POW, we can come down to Article 17: "Every prisoner of war, when questioned on the subject, is bound to give only his surname, first names and rank, date of birth, and army, regimental, personal or serial number, or failing this, equivalent information. If he wilfully infringes this rule, he may render himself liable to a restriction of the privileges accorded to his rank or status. So, what does "equivalent information" mean? To me it would be a complete description of the group the POW is associated with, including organization chart, all current member's names, descriptions and location. And what is willful? To me it is a simple refusal, for whatever reason, to supply name, rank, etc. Of course the next question that is always raised, is: They have rights under our law... Nonsense. They are not citizens. They are not visiting the US, either legally or illegally. What are they? Terrorists. Illegal combatants. Now, what has the historical fate been of them? A trial by military tribunal and execution, if convicted. But you know, I don't think the Left really wants this tied down, jam up and jelly tight. Because if it is, then the Left will lose one of its major positions. Heaven forbid for it to have to stare reality straight in the face.

    Re: Gonzales Suggests Revisiting Geneva Convention (none / 0) (#19)
    by kdog on Fri Jan 07, 2005 at 07:59:00 AM EST
    Silly me, I though the use of torture was "anti-US". Bob said it right, the times they are a-changin', but not in the direction we may have hoped. Terrorists do this, terrorists do that...no kidding, they are criminals. I expect the US gov't NOT to behave in a criminal way. Lately, I've been very disappointed.

    "They are not citizens. They are not visiting the US, either legally or illegally. What are they?" The answer to your question was supplied by Adolph Hitler. They are mongrels, sub-humans. It's sad that the USA was the lead prosecutor of the Nazis who adopted this point of view, and now many "Americans" don't have a clue what this country stands for--or against.

    Re: Gonzales Suggests Revisiting Geneva Convention (none / 0) (#21)
    by soccerdad on Fri Jan 07, 2005 at 08:18:41 AM EST
    To me whether they are POWs or enemy comabatants or whatever, they should not be tortured. Its inhumane, immoral, and unproductive. When we can confirm somebody like this for AG, it marks a sad day where we take a turn down a dark road. This admins constant attempt to skirt the laws will not be limited to its enemys abroad. Their ends-justify-the means approach will be applied to its "enemies" here at home. The treatment of prisoners here at home is not something to be proud of either. Welcome to perpetual war and the beginning of fascism.

    scar - Little trollish today, eh? kdog - No discussion of the facts, eh? nohelp - Study some history. And no one is saying these people are subhuman. where do you get such things? SD - No one is saying they should be trotured, and I just detailed problems with both the Convention and the GC. Rather than waxing emotional, I would think you would be demanding changes. That is if you really care. Which I don't think you do. Hey DonS - Note the reasoned, detailed responses my very detailed and long comment is getting. Yes sir, you really like discussion. Not. You like "I'm okay - you're okay."

    The current administrations "policy" on detanies reminds me of that great California political stratagist, Former Govenor Gray Davis. He decided to never release a Murderer and that way he would always be safe from a mistake. It worked really well politically until he was removed from office. Governments govern, that means they take a stand and sometimes make mistakes. I expect the Executive to set conditions for detainee release, not while there is an active war, not until any information they may have is of no use... something. What they are doing now is wrong. By keeping these "enemy non-combatants" we are holding on the past and this makes the United States less effective in getting information from those who know what is going to happen now and in the future.

    Re: Gonzales Suggests Revisiting Geneva Convention (none / 0) (#24)
    by soccerdad on Fri Jan 07, 2005 at 08:42:42 AM EST
    PPJ at 6:23 you posted et al - Okay, what is wrong with revisiting the GC to make them more effective in dealing with prisioners who don't fit the model that was in place when it was first written? at 6:46 I asked revisit wrt what? What do you think the issue(s) is? I was hoping for something clearly stated. There has been to response to my question

    Re: Gonzales Suggests Revisiting Geneva Convention (none / 0) (#25)
    by soccerdad on Fri Jan 07, 2005 at 08:43:15 AM EST
    should have said "no response"

    SD - Try reading my 1/7 8:24 AM comment. It is in direct response to Repack's request for details. Or do you just want to make a baseless claim? Jim Hurt writes - "What they are doing now is wrong. By keeping these "enemy non-combatants" we are holding on the past and this makes the United States less effective in getting information from those who know what is going to happen now and in the future." What is an enemy non-combatant? Be definition, an al-Qaida member is a terrorist, and we've sworn to hunt them down. You know Jim, this isn't like WWII where you had nations fighting.

    Jim, You are just anti-US zzzzzzz

    "Private, what the hell do you think you're doing?" "Sir! I am forcing this hooded prisoner to stand on a box with electrodes connected to his hands and genitals, then I'm stripping him naked, beating the hell out of him, and covering him in feces, sir!" "Private! Don't you know it is against the Geneva Conventions to torture a POW?" "Sir! This prisoner was not wearing any insignia of a foreign army. Therefore, he is an enemy combatant and not subject to the protections of the Geneva Conventions, sir!" "Oh, well that changes everything. When you're done, force him to stand in an uncomfortable position for hours with women's panties on his head, stack him up in a naked pyramid with some of the others, and if that don't break him, sic the dogs on him." "Sir, yes sir!" Do unto others as you would have them do unto you -- as long as they're wearing the right kind of clothing. Jesus would be proud.

    Radical - Your morality is most impressive. Do you have any practical way of passing it on to those folks who would happily saw your head off while shouting, "God Is Great!?"

    People simply Ignore idiots..

    by example, Jim. It's like Jesus on the cross. If you are going to be the prince of peace, you may be handled roughly, and the challenge is to love your enemies. Hating your enemies is easy. It's just not very evolved.

    CA - Good morning, hope you are all chipper on this Saturday. My response to Radical asked if he had any "practical way." Loving your enemies is the christian thing to do, but it is not likely to settle any short term issues, such as him deciding what side of your neck he should start sawing on...

    Good morning, Jim. Joshua 24:15 I think: Choose this day whom you will serve. As for me and my family, we will serve the Lord. Short term solutions prevent the long term commitment. Peace and justice come from the long term commitment. That's why 2000 years after he died without fighting, Jesus is a more important figure than all the soldiers and warriors who have ever lived. It's about values.

    CA - Sounds great, and is partly right. Problem is, evil exists in the world, and lest it is eliminated, it will take over. Think of Hitler, et al. Think of slavery. Think of the Soviet Union. Could any of these been defeated by prayer alone? I think not. And those who will not help are living off the sweat of those who will. Enjoy the free ride.

    Re: Gonzales Suggests Revisiting Geneva Convention (none / 0) (#34)
    by wishful on Sat Jan 08, 2005 at 04:24:23 PM EST
    ca, Well said. Apparently well understood by PPJ as well. From his description of his decision-making values, I think we have found the problem. I wonder if this is representative of all the wingers and so-called born again Christians, or if he just speaks for himself. In any case ca, Bravo! You have unearthed a treasure of information and perspective.