Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Prisoner of talking points

The full name of the "Geneva Conventions" is the "Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War". Thus for the conventions to apply, there has to be a war, or as the opening statement of the convention says --

In addition to the provisions which shall be implemented in peace time, the present Convention shall apply to all cases of declared war or of any other armed conflict which may arise between two or more of the High Contracting Parties, even if the state of war is not recognized by one of them.

Thus since the UK and Iran are not at war, and there was no armed conflict in the incident where the sailors were seized, the Convention does not apply. Hence the irrelevance of complaints from the likes of Hindrocket at Powerline and Jonah Goldberg at National Review that there is no world outrage over the treatment of the sailors relative to the complaints about Gitmo -- a complaint that in any event implicitly holds the US to the same standard as Iran. Leader of the Free World, indeed.

While we're at it, a few sentences down in the same passage, the Convention says --

Although one of the Powers in conflict may not be a party to the present Convention, the Powers who are parties thereto shall remain bound by it in their mutual relations.

Which is applicable to the resurfaced talking point that the US doesn't have to follow the convention with respect to al Qaeda, since the latter is not a signatory to the convention.

UPDATE: Even National Review's specialist war blog, The Tank, can't get it straight -- while quoting the full name of the Convention! And it seems that a news story pointing out that Iran and the UK are not at war is evidence of media bias.

FINAL UPDATE: Instapundit has become a clearing house for these irrelevant Geneva Convention references, except here's one where Glenn didn't read before linking; it's not a critique of a suppposed double standard (as Glenn's text indicates) but of the behaviour of the woman sailor, Faye Turney.

And there's one more legal expert, Marty Peretz --

My guess is that the humiliating treatment of these prisoners--not by some rogue sergeants, but by the highest authorities in Tehran--is truly a violation of the Geneva Conventions.

And, [sorry for repeated updates], Instapundit is now citing this legal analysis from the Telegraph which never explains how the Conventions could apply in the absence of an actual conflict between Iran and the UK. The only argument that can be made is that the Convention sets out principles that should be applied in spirit and not just the letter of a declared war. But that's such pre 9/11 thinking, as the White House would say.

Instapundit concludes with a sigh --

we're likely heading toward a regime of strict reciprocity, as that's all that can work in such a degraded environment.

which as explained above, is a breach of the Geneva Conventions. He even has the nerve to complain about "anti-American and anti-Bush writers who often don't even know, or care, what the Conventions say" when he has clearly not read the relevant sections regarding their application in case of a declared war (which does not exist between the UK and Iran) or regarding reciprocity (which is explicitly ruled out by the Conventions: signatories are bound to obey them even if the other side doesn't). His sudden interest in the Conventions is noted by Andrew Sullivan.

6 APRIL: This BBC R4 interview (audio file) with the head of the Royal Navy, Jonathan Band, should settle it -- he states that the captives were not PoWs, in the context of criticism that they should only have provided name, rank, and serial number. He views them as having been "illegally arrested".

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