Having Geneva both ways

In these darkening days of the Bush administration, there was amoment of remarkable illumination on Thursday. Defense secretaryDonald Rumsfeld traveled to the Abu Ghraib prison complex todeclare that the Geneva Conventions, the treatise that governsprisoner treatment during war, prevented the administration fromreleasing any more photos of Iraqi prisoners being tortured by U.S.troops. The glare of Bush’s and Rumsfeld’s particular version oftruth and transparency is utterly astonishing.

Consider for a moment that this administration is being accusedof violating those very conventions and now they are claiming thatthese rules prevent them from revealing the remaining hundreds ofphotos that the public eye has not yet seen. While I commend themfor finally regarding the rules of “civilization” as applicable totheir war, it is with no apparent irony that this administrationfirst ignores the rules and then perverts them to justify itsattempt to slow the scandal in the white-hot heat of politicaltiming.

Rumsfeld, stated at Abu Ghraib, that he preferred to release allthe photos to the public so “as to get it behind us” and added”…at the present time I don’t know of anyone in the legal shop inany element of the government that is recommending that,” asreported by Robert Burns, the Associated Press military writer.Rumsfeld’s statement is not trustworthy. He was unwilling or unableto even identify the chain of command at Abu Ghraib for Sen. JohnMcCain during congressional testimony, nor did he read the RedCross report about Abu Ghraib after it was released (according tohis own words), nor did he even look at the torture photos afterbeing warned about them and before the scandal broke on theInternet and television. Now, he claims, that the GenevaConventions guide his very hand and thinking.

The mistreatment of prisoners, no matter how incongruous aconcept during times of war (see www.dailyvanguard.com “This IsWhat War Look Like, America”), is a grave offense to theinternational community. Rumsfeld and Bush’s war seeks to instillthis value, as outlined in the Geneva Convention, in the rest ofthe world. The rest of the world and the United States, then,should view this administration’s latest attempt to cast a shadowon the truth as utterly contemptible. The remaining photos of AbuGhraib should, without a doubt, be released for public scrutiny. Tohide these photos behind the Geneva Conventions’ prohibitionagainst “degrading photos” of prisoners is trying to have Genevaboth ways. The prohibition is meant to end displays of degradation(torture, humiliation and execution) as a means of psychologicalwarfare. It is absolutely not a prohibition to protect thepolitical fortunes of Rumsfeld and Bush by ending a public outcryabout the very existence of such dehumanizing tactics carried outby U.S. soldiers.

Rumsfeld said on Thursday that “…with six or seveninvestigations under way and a country that has values and amilitary justice system that has values, we know that thoseinvolved, whoever they are, will be brought to justice.” Whoeverthey are? Mr. Rumsfeld may not yet realize that the “whoever” ishimself. His incredible distortion of the Geneva Conventions toprotect himself and his president only underscores this fact.