How Bush kicked the [expletive] out of the Geneva Conventions

“The people who mistreat the prisoners will be treated as war criminals.”

–George W. Bush

And so they should be. That video footage of U.S. soldiers being subjected to a humiliating public display and harsh interrogation — possibly after beatings — was disgusting. Iraqi soldiers should respect long-standing norms for treatment of prisoners of war, even though we know better than to expect the same from Saddam Hussein.

But nothing George Bush says on the subject of Geneva Conventions and international legal standards is likely to convince anyone. He has unleashed the greatest onslaught against international law of any U.S. president in living memory. He has torn up arms-control agreements and worked to sabotage the International Criminal Court. In his campaign against terrorism, he has not only flouted the venerable Geneva accords but sought to deny suspects the benefits of the law he is sworn to uphold.

Extensive U.S. press reports — challenged only in the most general terms by the Bush administration — have revealed that U.S. interrogators are using borderline torture techniques against suspected terrorists. The toughest methods are used at Bagram air force base in Afghanistan and on the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia. There, “stress and duress” tactics include sleep deprivation, questioning under pain and subjecting the suspects to extremes of cold or heat.

More disturbingly, U.S. officials acknowledge that some terror suspects have been turned over to countries such as Pakistan and Jordan, which Washington’s own annual human-rights reports accuse of practising torture. “We don’t kick the [expletive] out of them,” one official told The Washington Post. “We send them to other countries so they can kick the [expletive] out of them.” This despite the fact that the U.S. is a party, along with 131 other countries, to the 1987 convention against torture.

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