There is no shortage of people in this administration who will say anything that they are told to say. Tony Snow discussing the Geneva Convention:
Q Does that not invite other countries to do the same, to have other interpretations of Article III?
MR. SNOW: What it allows every country to do is to have an interpretation. Our European allies don’t have an interpretation.
Q And your critics say that’s bad for U.S. troops if you allow those kinds of interpretations.
MR. SNOW: No, I think just the opposite. As a matter of fact, the five guys who are Judge Advocates General right now say we need it. The people who interpret the law, the people who serve as the chief legal officers within the Pentagon themselves say we need it. ..
Q Tony, I’m confused. Everybody I talked to today on the Hill says, look, you’ve had the Geneva Conventions in place since 1947. This isn’t the Migratory Birds Treaty we’re talking about. This is the Geneva Conventions.
MR. SNOW: Right.
Q And it’s a very simple argument. We don’t want to talk about the definition of amend or change, but that it stands on its own as written, hasn’t been tinkered with since 1947, doesn’t need to be tinkered with now. So if that seems to be the position from a former JAG and a former POW and a former Secretary of the Navy, where’s the room to work anything out?
MR. SNOW: Well, I think there is. For instance, in 1987, we didn’t know what the Genocide Convention said, so we passed a law to deal with it.
Q Not the Geneva Conventions.
MR. SNOW: It appears. Yes, the Geneva Convention.
Q But not Article — it has nothing with this specific article —
MR. SNOW: Well, that’s because Common Article III had never been construed as applying to any conflict in which the United States had ever been a party. And furthermore, it has not been construed as applying to conflicts for the most part that afflicted any of our allies, to which they’ve been a party. It is something that they had never had to think about, and for which there was not a substantial and settled body of law that would define what the terms mean. And this is a key point. Nobody has defined in law what the terms mean. And we think it’s important not only that we define what the terms mean, but that our — the people who are working for us, either as soldiers in the field, or those who are doing the questioning for the CIA, they have to know that it passes constitutional muster, and it is defined and approved as abiding by our international treaty obligations.
The reason nobody talked about this from 1948 is, it hadn’t come up. And there are times — you’ll be surprised to know —
Q There’s been a lot of wars.
MR. SNOW: But, you know what, Helen, it didn’t apply to most of those wars. It didn’t apply to most of those wars which is why people have not asked the questions.
Q This seems — hang on a second — this seems to be —
MR. SNOW: Well, and let me just make the point here, the predicate of your question was, it had been sitting around and everybody knew what the meaning was, and the fact is, nobody knew what the meaning was.
Until John Yoo and Alberto Gonzales came along, nobody had ever dusted off the Geneva Convention’s rules and actually read them.
That is a dazzling statement.
Here is the ‘contested’ Article III
In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions:
1. Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.
To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:
(a) Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;
(b) Taking of hostages;
(c) Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment;
(d) The passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.
2. The wounded and sick shall be collected and cared for.
An impartial humanitarian body, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, may offer its services to the Parties to the conflict.
The Parties to the conflict should further endeavour to bring into force, by means of special agreements, all or part of the other provisions of the present Convention.
The application of the preceding provisions shall not affect the legal status of the Parties to the conflict.
Alberto Gonzales regards this as “quaint“.
And we thought that Henry Kissinger was a war criminal….