Rusty Shackleford

Since the Geneva Conventions do not apply to terrorists, I don't see what all the fuss is about. Seriously. In fact, by treating terrorists humanely we undermine the Geneva Conventions.

The idea behind the Conventions is that if you agree to abide by their rules, your captured combatants will be treated humanely. Human treatment is an inducement to follow the rules of war.

That is called a carrot.

But there is also a negative inducement. If you do not agree to abide by their rules, your captured combatants will not be treated humanely. At least, there is no legal guarantee that they will. The prospect that you will have no legal protections against pain and suffering if you get captured is an inducement to follow the rules of war.

That is called a stick.

So, by giving terrorists the same protections as those offered under the Geneva Conventions aren't we, in fact, undermining those same Conventions? All carrot and no stick if you will?

Worse than that, it is no carrot and no stick. An inducement, by definition, only works when there is an if/then relationship. If you do this, then you get that.

If you follow the Geneva Conventions, then you will receive their protections.

What the Democrats and some Republicans are offering to terrorists is no inducement at all to follow the rules of war.

They are, in fact, creating an entitlement for terrorists.

Entitlements are government guarantees for access to benefits because of rights. In this case, all those found in U.S. custody are given the benefits afforded by the Geneva Conventions, irrespective of if they actually qualify for those protections as defined by the Conventions themselves.

Terrorists may break any rule of war and fear no retribution. They may dress as civilians, hide in mosques, behead hostages, and murder innocents with no fear of reprisal. If they are captured, no big deal. Three squares, a prayer rug, and a copy of the Koran literally handed to them on white gloves.

The Geneva Conventions have thus been made meaningless by the very people who are most vigorously trying to uphold them. If not technically irony then certainly something equally tragic.

In a war where the Geneva Conventions are never followed by our enemies, we should not be worried about our image abroad and the signal that not following the Conventions might send to our allies. This is the sin of Democrats and a few Republicans in Congress.

Not affording the Convention's protections to those that do not qualify sends the signal that we are following the Conventions! It sends the signal to our enemies that no matter what they do in violation of international law that they will be insulated from the consequences of those violations.

And in a war where the Geneva Conventions are never followed by our enemies, why are we worried about defining the terms of the Conventions more precisely? This is the sin of the Bush Administration and most Republicans in Congress.

By agreeing to even apply the Conventions to those undeserving of their protections, both sides agree to an entitlement for terrorists. What is now being argued are only the terms of that entitlement.


Rusty Shackleford

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