Wednesday, June 02, 2004

I hate to think of it.

I regularly read the blogs on MSNBC.COM, especially Altercation and Glen Reynolds.

Today, I read something that I found very disturbing. Apparently, Alan Dershowitz, a man with whom I have frequently agreed, has gone off the deep end. In an opinion piece in the Baltimore Sun, Dershowitz argues that the Geneva Conventions are obsolete because they provide advantage only to terrorists.

Now I have to admit that I haven't read the Conventions in their entirety, but I looked up the full title of the legal document, and it is as follows:
Diplomatic Conference for the Establishment of International Conventions for the Protection of Victims of War
I think Dershowitz's confusion has its root, in part, on how he defines our current conflict. The "War on Terror" is a misnomer. It's not a war. Terrorists are criminals, and we can no more make war on terrorists than we can make war on bank robbers or rapists. The capture and prosecution of terrorists is primarily a civil affair. We may fight true wars to reach terrorists in foreign states, but military power cannot defeat terrorists in civil society.

Indeed, the so-called War on Terror cannot be won militarily. This is a psychological war. Throwing away the Geneva Conventions doesn't win us anything. No civil society applies coercion in interrogation because of the abuses it will engender.

Dershowitz's true motives are relatively transparent in his article, but he's not alone in condemning the Geneva Conventions and those human rights organizations that seek to uphold them. I have to wonder whether the revelations of torture at Abu Ghraib have been the impetus for some of these attacks on the Geneva Conventions. I refer the reader to Andy Rooney's article, Our Darkest Days Are Here:
The day the world learned that American soldiers had tortured Iraqi prisoners belongs high on the list of worst things that ever happened to our country. It's a black mark that will be in the history books in a hundred languages for as long as there are history books. I hate to think of it.
I, too, hate to think of it. Nonetheless, one cannot defend the abuses at Abu Ghraib -- especially not by changing the letter of the law that makes those abuses illegal.

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