Friday, September 15, 2006

Two letters -- decide for yourself which is easier to grasp

To Senator John McCain from General (Retired) Colin Powell:

Dear Senator McCain:

I just returned to town and learned about the debate taking place in Congress to redefine Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention. I do not support such a step and believe it would be inconsistent with the McCain amendment on torture which I supported last year.

I have read the powerful and eloquent letter sent to you by one (of) my distinguished predecessors as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Jack Vessey. I fully endorse in tone and tint his powerful argument. The world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism. To redefine Common Article 3 would add to those doubts. Furthermore, it would put our own troops at risk.

I am as familiar with "The Armed Forces Officer" as is Jack Vessey. It was written after all the horrors World War II and General George C. Marshall, then Secretary of Defense, used it to tell the world and to remind our soldiers of our moral obligations with respect to those in our custody.


Colin L. Powell

From Secretary of State Condoleza Rice to John Warner.
Dear Mr. Chairman (John Warner):

Yesterday we discussed how the Department of State viewed the international legal obligations that flow from Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, in comparison with other relevant legal standards in U.S. law.

Our international partners expect that we will undertake good faith interpretations of the Conventions' text, consistent with their object and purpose. In a case where the treaty's terms are inherently vague, it is appropriate for a state to look to its own legal framework, precedents, concepts and norms in interpreting these terms and carrying out its international obligations. Such practice in the application of a treaty is an accepted reference point in international law. The proposed legislation would strengthen U.S. adherence to Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions because it would add meaningful definition and clarification to vague terms in the treaties.

In the department's view, there is not, and should not be, any inconsistency with respect to the substantive behavior that is prohibited in paragraphs (a) and (c) of Section 1 of Common Article 3 and the behavior that is prohibited as "cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment," as that phrase is defined in the U.S. reservation to the Convention Against Torture. That substantive standard was also utilized by Congress in the Detainee Treatment Act. Thus it is a reasonable, good faith interpretation of Common Article 3 to state, as the proposed legislation does, that the prohibitions found in the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 fully satisfy the obligations of the United States with respect to the standards for detention and treatment established in those paragraphs of Common Article 3.

The Department of State supports this legislation and we believe it will help demonstrate to our international partners that we are committed to compliance with Common Article 3.


Condoleezza Rice

What about "cruel, inhuman or degrading" is not clear?
Subject to interpretation?
Give me a break.
I have problems with the obscene misuse of the term "good faith."

Lots of reaction to Powell's letter, too much to read. Some of it is snarky, but even those who agree with the administration's position risk looking bad if they beat up too much on Powell. Rather like spitting at a sunday school teacher.


Chris said...

Actually, it's rather simple. You just didn't understand the letter that Condi wrote. No one wants to codify torture. We want protection for our people in case we have to knock around the likes of KSM so we can find out where the nuke is that's going to blow up Atlanta. We also want legal protections for people who interrogate Qaedists from ACLU types and assorted Eurotrash.

I said, "knock around", not torture.

Look, people are arguing in good faith here, and are disagreeing in good faith. We need to let both sides work this out. Just because the intent of Powell's letter is straightforward doesn't mean that he is right in this case.

Hoots said...

Thanks for reading the comments.

That first and only comment appeared two days ago.
It needs no response. I am preserving it as evidence that in today's political environment some, if not many people actually think in that manner.

I watched the president's press conference in the Rose Garden Friday on C-SPAN and was amazed at the obtuseness of the man. He truly believes in his heart that closing his mind to the withering hailstorm of criticism coming at him from all quarters is the best response to those criticisms. He is able to say with no sense of irony that he is following the advice of his military experts while at the same time creating documents contradicting that line of talk.

Words fail me.