Marching to the Red Cross

Posted: Jan 26, 2002 12:00 AM
I am neither surprised nor particularly bothered by the usual suspect groups always foaming at the mouth for another chance to indict America. But it bothers me greatly when our government takes such unwarranted criticism seriously and even more when it changes policy as a result. I’m referring to the ludicrous charges brought by the International Committee of the Red Cross, Amnesty International and others that the United States is mistreating al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners at its U.S. naval station in Guantanamo Bay. Instead of sticking by its guns in denying these absurd allegations, the defense department has folded by agreeing for now to suspend further transfers of its captives from Afghanistan to Cuba. This flap all started when pictures were released showing that the terrorists being processed at the Camp X-Ray detention center were kneeling, blindfolded, tightly manacled, had their ears covered and had been shaved (against their religious beliefs). Foreign and domestic bleeding hearts lunged into action denouncing the United States for its inhumane treatment of the murderers and demanding that they be given the red-carpet treatment to which the Geneva Convention entitles prisoners of war. Initially, our government denied the allegations with an in-your-face defiance. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announced that he did not feel "even the slightest concern" about the situation and summarily dismissed the suggestion that these "very tough, hard-core, well-trained terrorists" were being mistreated in any way. Rumsfeld reminded the cynics that the captives were being given medical treatment, baths, hot meals, clean clothing, time to exercise and even the freedom to practice their religion. Of course, for that final item Rumsfeld could be fairly accused of hyperbole, given that to practice their religion (Islamism) fully would presumably entitle them to kill all infidels at will, including their captors. The terrorists’ advocates are insisting that they be accorded all rights given to prisoners of war under the Geneva Convention. Rumsfeld says that for the most part, they are being given those rights. Yet ironically, Geneva probably does not apply because these men are not prisoners of war, but battlefield terrorists, unlawful combatants who are attached to no sovereign nation and whose method of fighting is below minimum civilized standards of modern warfare, if you’ll excuse the oxymoron. But there is a point here. The Supreme Court has made clear that enemies who dress in civilian disguise in order to make themselves invisible among our civilian population for the purpose of killing people or destroying property are unlawful combatants, who may be tried by military tribunals. Also, such terrorists do not come within the scope of the Geneva Convention's long arm of protection. And as others have pointed out, this notion of treating the detainees as prisoners of war is shown to be even more inappropriate when we consider that such prisoners are customarily released at the end of the war. For the terrorists this war won't just end, because it isn't about the acquisition of territory or the like, but their irreversible commitment to our total annihilation. So, unless we are anxious for the terrorists to resume their deadly activities against us, we cannot simply release them when we decide that the war is over. We have adamantly denied mistreating the prisoners and, in fact, have not mistreated them, but have nevertheless agreed not to fly any more prisoners to Cuba pending the construction of more jail cells. And officials have admitted the decision was made in part to quell international criticism and the Red Cross. Though the Army has said that it would be perfectly acceptable to place two men in each of these eight by eight cells, it has decided not to do so because, and get this, "The International Red Cross has been pleased with what they’ve seen." What? Since when did this organization become part of the military chain of command? This is more than a minor matter. It is outrageous and, frankly, embarrassing that our government is letting the Red Cross, Amnesty International and America’s other habitual critics dictate our military policy in this instance. This will only encourage these groups to endeavor to expand their policy-making influence. At the top of our defense establishment, President Bush was quite emphatic in his table-thumping assertion that the military had done nothing wrong and had taken the necessary security steps "to protect our people." Apparently, that message has not trickled down. For us to sustain this war effort over the long haul we must make clear who is in charge and never lose sight of the depraved nature of this unusual enemy.