At issue (again) is whether or not the Geneva Conventions should apply to terror suspects. After all, this isn't traditional warfare, and these aren't traditional prisoners of war. The battle against terrorism is a special case, requiring special tools. At least, this is Bush and his cronies would like us all to believe.
This time, however, the Democrats aren't the only ones to be pointing out the foolishness of this position. This time around, they are being joined by:
... Republican veterans of the uniformed services, arguing that the president's proposal would effectively gut the nearly 60-year-old Geneva Conventions, sending a dark signal to the rest of the world and leaving U.S. military personnel without adequate protection against torture and mistreatment.On the one hand, this could be the beginning of the end for the chicken hawks in power, and the Republican Senators should be applauded for standing up for principal against their own party leader and president.
On the other hand, it doesn't take much guts to oppose a politician with low approval ratings when you've got an election coming in less that two months. This shrewd show of guts and distance could well be just a ploy to hold on to power through the election cycle before giving W everything he wants in December.
TomPaine.com points out that while the media has focused on where the Senate differs from the White House, what has been missed in the story is all the areas where they agree - and it's frightening. Part of the bill they did approve...
... extends this unchecked detention authority into the future: Not only non-citizens, but also U.S. citizens in the United States would be vulnerable to seizure and unending lock-up at the president's whim.Detained... "for the length of the relevant hostilities." The war in Iraq may end. But the "War on Terror" is defined as an open ended fight. We must "always be on guard" against plots against us. The war on terror is not a war that ends with the surrender of a single enemy, or a decisive victory in a single battle. It is the new world order. And they can hold you indefinitely if they think you might be a danger.
A provision of the bill defines "unlawful enemy combatants" to include those "engaged in hostilities against the United States." This definition is significant because it makes non-citizen "unlawful enemy combatants" the only category of persons subject to trial by military commission. So it might see that the definition has a limited purpose, as a gateway to commissions. But the Supreme Court in 2004 suggested that an "enemy combatant" could also be detained for the length of the relevant hostilities. The bill, in other words, could well be read not only to define who can be tried, but also who can be detained.
Oh, sure, the Republican Senators have made a dramatic stand. Yipee. Somehow, it doesn't make me feel any safer.
Tags: Senate, Colin Powell, Republicans, war on terror, Geneva Conventions