Waterboarding Issues

There’s an interesting and generally literate discussion following the posting of the waterboarding video from Current TV on the North Dakota blog Say Anything. I added the following comments to that discussion, for anyone who doesn’t want to read 37 or so comments. To quote myself,

I’ve read through this often thoughtful discussion. Most of the problematic statements were soon corrected. There is one exception. Someone stated that persons such as the “enemy combatants” designated by Bush were treated by the Geneva Conventions as Brigands/Bandits, and could be immediately shot. There is no such category in the Geneva Conventions.

The following quote is the portion of the Conventions that most concerned the U.S. Supreme Court. There’s a link to the whole thing following the quote, but here is part of Common Article III. This is the part that the Supreme Court says applies to the enemy combatants held at Guantanamo.

1. Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.

To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:

(a) Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;

(b) Taking of hostages;

(c) Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment;

(d) The passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples. Geneva Conventions Article 3

“No active part in the hostilities” means just that. People handed over to us by rival tribes in Afghanistan, who told us they were Al Qaeda (perhaps because they spoke Arabic or another foreign language) are not, until there is direct evidence, people taking an active part in hostilities. Many of the prisoners at Guantanamo, a portion of them already released, have been recognized to fall in this category.

<>We clearly, as the Supreme Court said, need to have good judicial process to recognize when there is evidence that shows prisoners *were* on the battlefield with guns in their hands, and when they just got rounded up and handed in for a bounty. Many of the JAGs are concerned about good compliance with the Geneva Conventions.

<>The concerns raised by waterboarding of a few “high-value” targets by trained CIA operatives acting under separate orders every step of the way (Brian Ross, ABC News) do not stop at whether they tell us something. We should also be concerned, as citizens, that the executive branch (the CIA) has taken on judicial functions, that these prisoners have little hope of a trial, that they have no access to the Red Cross, that perhaps we actually found or had handed to us some people with “high-value” information, that we could also have gotten without using waterboarding.

<>This last, that many psychologists familiar with interrogation methods will tell you, is the shame of it all. We could have gotten the information without the use of waterboarding and other “enhanced techniques.”

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