Captain Ed asks a simple question: Since When Has Geneva Protected Our Troops?
We have yet to fight against a wartime enemy that followed the GC with any consistency at all. The Germans routinely violated it even before Hitler began issuing orders to shoot captured pilots, and the massacre at Malmedy only crystallized what had been fairly brutal treatment at the hands of the Nazis for American prisoners (the Luftwaffe was one notable exception). The Japanese treatment of POWs was nothing short of barbaric, both before and after Bataan. The same is true for the North Koreans and the Chinese in the Korean War, and McCain himself is a routine example of the kind of treatment our men suffered at the hands of the Vietnamese.
In this war, this argument seems particularly despicable. We have been treated to images of broken and tortured bodies of our soldiers on television and the Internet, courtesy of the animals who oppose us in this war. No one suffers under the delusion that captured soldiers will ever return alive, let alone receive Geneva-approved treatment. Our enemy doesn’t even fight according to the GC, so why should they treat our soldiers any better than they treat the civilians they target for their attacks?
If Powell and Levin and McCain can name one modern conflict where our enemies gave POWs treatment in accordance with the GC, I’d be glad to post it right here on my blog. Don’t expect that kind of an update any time soon.
This seems like a pretty devastating riposte to anyone who says we must follow the Geneva Convention against nonsignatories who don’t obey it, like Al Qaeda, because we need to ensure that our other more civilized enemies do.
Usually, our enemies are our enemies because they are the type of folks who don’t live up to agreements. If the Geneva Convention has never protected us in the past, why should we worry about applying it to nonsignatory terrorists now?
UPDATE: Dafydd ab Hugh asked the same question a while back. I remember reading Dafydd’s piece and intending to link it, but for some reason I never did. In any event, you should read his take on this issue as well.
UPDATE x2: This L.A. Times piece claims that Common Article 3 actually did protect an American soldier in a battle against Somalis:
In 1993, the United States invoked Common Article 3 protections for Chief Warrant Officer Michael J. Durant, who was captured by Somali warlords. Because he was not the prisoner of a government and because Somalia was embroiled in a civil war, traditional Geneva prisoner-of-war protections did not apply. Although Durant had been roughly treated initially, the militants ultimately decided to observe Common Article 3 and allowed the Red Cross to visit Durant.
Interesting. I don’t know whether it’s true or not.