Thursday, April 26, 2007

Rules of war

Perhaps the Taliban detainees should sue Canada. They were captured by Canadians, taken to a Canadian base for interrogation and then transferred to their torturers by Canadians. Surely they should be compensated by Canadians for their suffering.

Not to minimize the egregious wrongs committed by the Afghan police/military against their own countrymen in their own country -- but why are we supposed to care?

I suppose I'm at the limits of my compassion here. These detainees are the same people responsible for the caskets draped with Canadian flags. It isn't a tea party; it's war. I don't want Canadian soldiers participating in torture, but neither do I expect them to lose sleep about it if the prisoners they hand over are subjected to it.

The Opposition parties and other bloggers are citing Article 12 of the 3rd Geneva Convention which states:
Prisoners of war may only be transferred by the Detaining Power to a Power which is a party to the Convention (. . . ) if that Power fails to carry out the provisions of the Convention in any important respect, the Power by whom the prisoners of war were transferred shall, upon being notified by the Protecting Power, take effective measures to correct the situation or shall request the return of the prisoners of war. Such requests must be complied with.
The upshot being that the Afghans haven't signed on to the Geneva Convention, so the detainees should never have been transferred in the first place, but since they were, Canada bears the responsibility for their alleged abuse and must request that the detainees be returned to Canadian custody if they can't assure 'humane' treatment.

Okay, so if Article 12 applies, then does Article 17?
Each Party to a conflict is required to furnish the persons under its jurisdiction who are liable to become prisoners of war, with an identity card showing the owner's surname, first names, rank, army, regimental, personal or serial number or equivalent information, and date of birth. The identity card may, furthermore, bear the signature or the fingerprints, or both, of the owner, and may bear, as well, any other information the Party to the conflict may wish to add concerning persons belonging to its armed forces. As far as possible the card shall measure 6.5 x 10 cm. and shall be issued in duplicate. The identity card shall be shown by the prisoner of war upon demand, but may in no case be taken away from him.
If these detainees are not card-carrying soldiers, should Canadian soldiers even be allowed to capture them? After all, they might be using the weapons of war, but they aren't soldiers if they haven't got those cards, right? They're just armed civilians. Prove they're not. They'll tell you -- they're just poor fellas . . . minding their own business . . . the guns and bombs are for protection.

How ridiculous it is to apply old fashioned ideas about rules of war -- y'all think old fashioned ideas about marriage and family can be pitched out the window because times have changed, perceptions have changed, the reality and understanding of right and wrong has changed. Why are you so wedded to the Geneva Conventions and their constraints, when as much as any social institutions have changed with time, so has war.

Does the Geneva Convention even apply here -- with Canada not being an invading belligerent force, but in effect an associate force in what is almost a civil war? Can Canada expect to dictate the terms on which it gives over captured insurgents to the host power? What does the Convention say about a country's treatment of its own.

As a nation, we ignored the former Taliban government when they beat and execute women in soccer stadiums. We continue to quietly watch the annihilation of entire ethnic groups in the Sudan and the rape and murder of the civilian refugees in Kenyan camps. But when it comes to they guys caught trying to blow up our troops or destroy Afghan villages -- those guys are worthy of our particular attention. G-d forbid a Taliban insurgent in a war zone might be mistreated by his own countrymen -- if he was first captured by a Canadian.

Such a principled stand. Don't you just feel so smug and superior?

Just wait until this new generation of Canadian warriors gets their write up in the Canadian War Museum. Our Veterans from Bomber Command haven't fared well with the keepers of our military history. Those who do the judging are unwilling to look at the big picture while they luxuriate in that soft, self-indulgent, peacetime, pedagogic castigation of conflict.

The Geneva Conventions were written during times of conventional warfare. They assumed all parties would play by the rules, and would accept the consequences if they didn't. There can be no assumptions about the enemy in Afghanistan, and yet our soldiers still live by the Conventions. The shrill, hypocritical cry of 'humanity' from the sidelines underscores the deep disaffect between our sensibilities and the real world.

In a perfect world, the Geneva Conventions would be a quaint remnant of history, but in our world they are antiquated handcuffs that no longer apply. But rather than face modern reality, we smear our soldiers. In an attempt to scandalize a sitting government, we are demoralizing our troops.

canadianna

31 comments:

drew said...

This post is crap. The issue is simple: torture is wrong and Canadians should do everything in our power to stop it.

Brian Lemon said...

Drews comment is crap.
Does he mean that we should immediately dispatch armed forces to the 60 odd countries that practice torture?

valiantmauz said...

I have to disagree. Whether the captured are card-carrying soldiers is irrelevant. They are human, which is really all we need to consider when it comes to their treatment.

Torture is wrong, and handing over another human being to be tortured, or where you had a reasonable grounds to believe he would be tortured is also wrong.

For all the sneering at the Geneva conventions, they were an attempt - flawed, perhaps - but still an attempt to prevent wars from descending into unrestrained brutality.

This isn't the battlefield, and we aren't asking troops to shoot only if they are being shot at - this is after the battle, when the enemy is disarmed and in our custody. We're not "handcuffing" our troops by saying that prisoners have the right to be treated decently.

I don't like the politicking going on on either side of the issue. Humane treatment is not a political position. If our allies can't be trusted to behave like bipeds, and we know that the prisoners are being tortured, then we (in this case NATO) have a moral duty to treat the prisoners in our custody with a minimum of respect: food, clothing, shelter and physical safety.

Anonymous said...

All right Valiantmauz..where do you suggest we put them? We have 2500 soldiers in country, all are pretty well tasked with a role, we don't have the luxury of rear echelon troops that could maintain and run a POW camp.

I have a suggestion..perhaps we should really follow the rules of war and dispatch these men as found..that is allowed , as they are irregulars, and not covered by the Geneva conventions.

During question period a liberal member stood up and said we must respect the Geneva convention because in the future, Canadians could be captured and we would expect the same treatment.

I would ask the French about some of their men who were captured early on..they were gutted, had their tongues cut out, their penis hacked off, as well as their fingers and toes..i imagine they went to their deaths bawling about their captors respecting the Geneva convention.

Keep putting constraints on our boys, and soon we will be asking the question why there is never any prisoners..can you guess what the reason would be?

Kursk

valiantmauz said...

Kurtz - are you seriously suggesting we descend to the same level of inhumanity as the Taliban? Because if you are, then there really no difference between us and them.

The fact is - there is a difference. We are Canadians, and there are depths we don't sink to.

The fact that we haven't got a place to put prisoners is a failure of mission planning - and THAT is the issue here: correcting the failure.

We stepped in the shit, and to fix that, we need to have figure out what to do now. Shooting them all is not a plan, though it does have the benefit of simplicity.

Shooting them all on sight, of course, makes us barbarians.

NATO has a problem: prisoners are captured and we need to put them somewhere. The current somewhere is less than optimal, so we need to find another somewhere.

THAT is the problem. Our military and our Parliament should be dealing with that, and not waggling fingers across the aisle in Question Period.

Anonymous said...

Valiantmauz..it will be an inevitable consequence of putting restrictions on our soldiers.As guests of the Afghan govt, we would have no jurisdiction in setting up POW camps and staffing them.The Agreement is, we hand them over, it is not our call.

As far as the parliament goes, the Liberals are only using this issue as a large stick to bash the govt with.The conservatives and the CAF are operating under the same rules of engagement as the previous liberal regime did.

Where were the calls of Canadians being war criminals when there were Taliban captured CAF under the Liberals?

You also have to understand that everything being equal, just the fact that they are allowed to live after waging war as non uniformed combatants should make the Taliban very happy.That they are slapped around and degraded by the Afghan police etc. after, also causes me to lose no sleep.

War is a finite. The endgame if you lose is often death.This is a necessary truth to understand.If you don't think that at this moment there are a few less Taliban around because the Canadians didn't give them the option, you would be wrong.

Kursk

Anonymous said...

make that..taliban captured by the CAF under the liberal regime.

Kursk

drew said...

If we hand over someone to be tortured, it’s the same as torturing them ourselves. Canadians don’t believe in torture. Period. This needs to be solved now – not just for obvious, black and white moral issues, but for political ones. Many Canadians are buying into the NDP and Liberal positions on the war. The government must right this wrong before politics is allowed to undo the good work Canadians have/are doing in Afghanistan.

Denis said...

The truth of the matter is that those who suggest Canada is violating the Geneva Convention are either woefully ignorant or purposefully deceitful. This can be easily seen by simply reading the document itself (Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War): http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/91.htm

To start with, as mentioned above, the Convention does not apply to the current conflict since Canada has neither declared war on a nation or has is it occupying the territory of a nation (Article 2). Even ignoring that however, the captured Taliban fighters simply do not fit the definition of a prisoner of war (Article 4).

That said, there are some things those claiming we should adhere to this Convention during the current conflict should realize. First, there is no requirement for any trial before declaring a captive a POW and there is no mechanism to appeal the classification of POW. Also, the Convention states (with some compassionate exemptions) that the POW does not have to be released until the hostilities have ceased (Article 118).

Indefinite imprisonment with no trial - I seem to recall this has caused some controversy in other circles. Yet if we were to declare that the captured Taliban are POWs under the Geneva Convention this is exactly what we'd be expected to do under the rules of the Convention.

drew said...

People referencing the Geneva Convention are correct to point out it doesn’t apply here. So, if the issue is not morally repugnant to you and you need some unaccountable, hypocritical, chronically paralyzed international body to clarify the issue for you (ie the UN)- here:

http://www.hrweb.org/legal/cat.html

Article 4
1. Each State Party shall ensure that all acts of torture are offences under its criminal law. The same shall apply to an attempt to commit torture and to an act by any person which constitutes complicity or participation in torture.
Article 8
1. The offences referred to in article 4 shall be deemed to be included as extraditable offences in any extradition treaty existing between States Parties. States Parties undertake to include such offences as extraditable offences in every extradition treaty to be concluded between them.

valiantmauz said...

Kursk -

There are conditions on our soldiers, right now, or are the ROE an equally wishy-washy liberal infringement on the necessity for them to wage "total war"?

The whole point of an organized military is to act as a unified whole, under well understood rules of engagement and chain of command. Our troops fight under those conditions. If that weren't the case, the Canadians in Afghanistan would also be irregulars, no less so than the Taliban.

So let's dispense with the notion that our troops are armed free agents whose sole objective, moral or strategic, is to look after themselves first, mission be damned.

Does anybody, anywhere, know just what the mission in Afghanistan actually is? Has our government, liberal or conservative, actually spelled that out for us?

If our so-called allies are behaving only incrementally better than the Taliban, then just what the hell are we doing there?

I am not a pacifist, and I believe that sometimes you have to pick up a gun and shoot somebody to get the point across.

But if our so-called allies are just a different flavour of villain, then we are kidding ourselves. Torture is torture, and wrong. We have a choice, hand over unarmed human beings to torture, or don't.

valiantmauz said...

Denis -

Do you never wonder if anyone in the military or party caucus ever discussed what to do with prisoners, in light of the Geneva questions or otherwise?

I include liberals and conservatives in that question, by the way.

Did anyone of those charged with deploying our troops to a war zone where they could reasonably be expected to take prisoners think about what to do next?

Canadi-anna said...

valiantmauz said For all the sneering at the Geneva conventions, they were an attempt - flawed, perhaps - but still an attempt to prevent wars from descending into unrestrained brutality.

True, and in actual wars between 'civilized' nations who recognize human rights, they served as ethical guidelines. They made sense in the context they were written.
It simply doesn't make sense to apply the terms here. Canada, as an aiding force in a civil conflict has no right to dictate prisoner conditions.

Our soldiers are not participating in torture. The Afghan government's treatment of its own combatants is not our place. We are not there as an occupying force. The limits to our authority are clear.
Torture is wrong. Here, or by Canadians. But we are not there to police the Afghans or to impose our worldview. Geo-politics don't allow that kind of interference.

drew said . .. If we hand over someone to be tortured, it's the same as torturing ourselves.

No, it isn't. First -- we are not handing people over "TO BE TORTURED" we are handing people over and they are alleging have been tortured. Our purpose in handing the detainees over is not for them to be tortured, it is for them to be held by the host government for interrogation or prevention of future attacks. Torture has been alleged, it doesn't mean that's why we sent them there.

Denis said...

"Do you never wonder if anyone in the military or party caucus ever discussed what to do with prisoners, in light of the Geneva questions or otherwise?"

I would assume, hopefully rightly, that this is determined before the boots hit the ground. That said, I would not think the Geneva Conventions are the necessary benchmark for this determination - the Conventions are very good but only when applied within their intended context.

For example, I wouldn't think the Canadian government would ensure the Afghans set up canteens "where prisoners of war may procure foodstuffs, soap and tobacco and ordinary articles in daily use" where the profits "shall be used for the benefit of the prisoners"(Article 28). Nor would I think they would set out to ensure the Afghans "encourage the practice of intellectual, educational, and recreational pursuits, sports and games amongst prisoners"(Article 38).

Rather than looking at an international agreement that does not apply to the situation at hand, I would think the decision makers would look for a solution that did fit. For example, handing domestic criminals over to the civil authorities :)

Denis said...

"We have a choice, hand over unarmed human beings to torture, or don't."

You are assuming the allegations of torture are true in the absence of any real evidence. If we, as a country, are to make a proper choice we must first *know* if the allegations are true.

If they do prove true, however, then I could be persuaded that we have a moral obligation to help rectify the situation. Although, I believe, assisting in reform is a better alternative to the two options you have presented.

drew said...

Unfortunately the Government must act on allegation of torture since Afghanistan does not have a Legislature with which to turn allegation into proof.

denis said...

"Unfortunately the Government must act on allegation of torture since Afghanistan does not have a Legislature with which to turn allegation into proof."

Then the Canadian government should perform its own investigation into the allegations to determine if they are true. To simply assume the allegations are true and act as if they were would be foolishness.

Anonymous said...

Lets just ship them to Geneva and see how long they tolerate protecting thugs and gay-bashers , but if you really want the Geneva Conventioned followed like MP Cotler is now insisting , the NAZIS were allowed to execute soldier by insisting they were Spies in non-Military uniforms .

And MP Cotler now backs the Liberal rants that want to blame Harper because our soldiers " Were only following orders from the commanders" , Cotler should have known that this excuse was used by NAZI death camp guards at the Nueremburg trials because they didn't Actually kill any of the 12 million civilians .

So Cotler should state his position right now , are the Soldiers War-Criminals to face the Hague , or is Hellier,O'Connor and Harper to be charged.

Layton wants it both ways , attack the Troops but support the Taliban Human Rights and claim the NDP supports Human Rights in Afghan for females,gays,children and minorities whiole wanting our Troops to give the Country back to the Taliban.

INP said...

Just before reading this I watched a video on yahoo of a 12 year old taliban boy sawing the head off a taliban man who was accused of something or other.

These creatures may look human but they are not. They are lost to humanity. They should be given no consideration whatsoever. We shouldn't even be capturing them. They all should be shot on sight. All of them. Every single one. Until the plague of their existence is completely extinguished.

G said...

INP "they all should be shot on sight"

It's a guerilla war, no uniforms issued. Shooting them all on sight means killing everybody, genocide.

I'd rather Canadian soldiers didn't kill every everyone they saw.

Depending on your viewpoint this either makes me soft-hearted or sane.

shlemazl said...

Nah. Let us bring them here.

Put Taliban and Al-Qaeda in the planes and let them at the controls and watch what happens.

The Real Sporer said...

Its like our idiot libs who cite Iraqi civilian deaths as a reason for abandoning Iraq to the terrorists.

Saddam was in power from 78-03, during which time there were approximately 3.5 million civilian deaths. The average was 140000 civilian per year.

I wonder how they rationalize that. Oh, I know, they want to invade Darfur.

PelaLusa said...

Great posting! It was almost even more interesting to read the 22 comments before mine. They provide a cross section of Canadians today.

Sadly, the likes of Drew and Valiantmauz are leading the march to what Mark Steyn refers to as "civilizational decay". It's the state of mind where people people that most everything their own country does is bad & wrong and are indifferent or even supportive of what their clear enemy does. When 50%+ of a nation think this way then the country is doomed. No ifs, ands, or buts.

The quick retort to this is that none of us should blindly follow our leaders. True. But blindly objecting to everything that our nation stands for is even worse.

valiantmauz said...

"Civilizational decay"? What are you smoking?

A civilization that tortures or condones torture is decayed. Civilized people don't stone women in stadiums, lop off hands for theft, imprison people without trial, sell their daughters, carve up their genitalia, or execute people for religious apostasy.

In short, civilized people aren't the Taliban or Taliban-lite.

Canadians are civilized people. Handing prisoners over to be tortured - if that is indeed what is happening - makes Canadians complicit.

The allegations coming out of Afghanistan suggest that our allies may be torturing prisoners captured by our troops and handed over to the Afghan government. Prisoners, I might add, who may or may not be actual Taliban fighters.

I expect our government to investigate the allegations, and if proven, act to stop the activity. Nothing more, and nothing less. That is the "civilized" response to the allegations.

Neither the Opposition nor the Government have covered themselves in glory over this issue - both are too interested in butt covering or scoring political points to, I dunno, grow up and deal with the problem.

Saying that does not even remotely imply that I believe everything Canada does is "bad or wrong". Just the opposite in fact: I expect Canada to act morally because that's just the kind of people we are.

INP said...

And the headline will read: “Civilized people killed by their own morality”. If you were to tally all the civilized people throughout history killed by barbarians and compare it to the number of barbarians killed by civilized people, I wonder what the score would be. Defending ones way of life against animals can require some compromises when it comes to ones actions. In the end I'd rather be a murderer than a victim. And sometimes that's the choice a civilized society has to make.

Canadi-anna said...

valiantmauz said:
Neither the Opposition nor the Government have covered themselves in glory over this issue - both are too interested in butt covering or scoring political points to, I dunno, grow up and deal with the problem.

You're right on this. But the glory hounds in the opposition seats have forgotten that they aren't just lobbing accusations at the PM and the Conservative Party -- it's the front line soldiers.
Like it or not, our guys are working with the 'least bad' of very bad people. There are no winners here. Short of shooting everyone, there is no way to ensure 'humane' treatment.
Yes, the allegations should be looked into, but they should be viewed with scepticism and accusations of 'war crimes' from within Canada, should be reserved until the facts are in.

valiantmauz said...

Canadianna, I don't for a moment believe our troops are in any way implicated in the allegations. If any Opposition members are saying that, they should be ashamed of themselves.

The blame, if there is any, is squarely on the shoulders of those who made the decision to put the troops in the field - Martin et al - without taking the time to draw up a clear agreement with our allies on the handling of prisoners post-capture.

Britain has such an agreement, that we don't is a failure of the Martin government. That said, it is now the job of the Conservative government to repair the damage done - if any.

The blame game will not get that done. Ignoring the problem won't make it go away, either.

I understand we are dealing with the least-bad of the bad. That's not at issue. Giving the least-bad free reign to indulge in barbaric behaviour on the backs of our soldiers is repugnant. We are there fighting - theoretically on their behalf - does this not suggest to you some leverage on our part?

INP - Point to one instance of a civilization destroyed by their refusal to torture.

Canadi-anna said...

valiantmauz -- When the opposition tosses around the term 'war crime' and hopes that it sticks to the government, they must know that our troops are the ones allegedly perpetrating the 'war crimes'.

You might not see it that way, but the fact is, the moment the opposition started with this, using the words they used, they were implicating the troops. This is dangerous for two reasons -- first, the international community will see that our own parliament has doubts about the ethics of our soldiers, and second, our soldiers themselves are faced with grievous accusations whilst trying work with their host country and of course, trying not to get killed.

Remember, following orders is no rationale for committing war crimes. Our soldiers know the Conventions backwards and forwards. They go above and beyond to show kindness to the Afghan people, and to be a good example for the Afghan military -- imagine what all this does for morale. They read the papers. They know that if O'Connor or Paul Martin is being called a war criminal, that given the distance, they obviously only 'allowed' the crimes or 'ignored' the crimes. Even if our soldiers are not the targets of the opposition's accusations, but they are the guys who'll take the hit -- even if it never goes that far -- they will always know that many Canadians think that way about them.

Why do you think I'm so angry? Despite what has been implied about me on other blogs, this is not about indifference to suffering and torture -- this is about remembering that the 'war crimes' brush paints WIDE. Our troops don't deserve to be used as political fodder.

The rhetoric should have been kept to a minimum.

valiantmauz said...

Canadianna - which donkey have I repeatedly stuck the tail on?

The Liberals - for not drawing up a clear agreement on prisoner transfer and handling before committing our troops to a combat role.

The Liberals for attempting to score political points on the Conservatives at the expense of any meaningful discussion, and as you say, potentially implicating our troops in as yet unsubstantiated war crimes.

The Conservatives for the incoherent and contradictory responses, denials, confirmations and retractions coming from O'Connor, Day and Harper.

The Conservatives because they've had this file (the Afghanistan mission) for fourteen months and there is no indication that the government is on top of things (see above).

They're all running around with one hand on the seat of their pants and the other wagging a finger, Cons and Libs.

THAT makes ME angry. THAT kind of rudderlessness, confusion and self-interest betrays our troops in the worst way.

P.S.

I know you to be a fair-minded and rational person. I hope you view me in the same way, though we often disagree.

Nothing I have posted here is intended as malicious, and if it comes across that way, I apologize.

Canadi-anna said...

valiantmauz -- I think we agree for the most part. My flogging the dead horse is not really for your benefit, because I think we're of the same mind -- torture is wrong, government stupid, opposition stupid. My concern has always been the troops, not the government, but another blog is sending traffic over here based on my 'callous' remarks about the detainees (you know, the 'who cares' bit). In his ignorance, the blogger has plucked that one statement, and characterized me as the Marquis de Sade.

You are always welcome here -- and I don't think you've come across as anything but sane and rational. Your points are well-taken and I'm not actually arguing with you -- just stressing my frustration ;>
I'm only ticked at you because I noticed you deleted your blog!

Deliz said...

Good words.