Friday, January 23, 2009

On the Various Traditions of Hospitality

Compare and contrast:

1. )Afghan Irregulars, fighting an enemy that booby-trapped toys in order to maim children, and the Geneva Conventions:

Durant la guerre en Afghanistan (1979-1988), des Soviétiques sont capturés par des résistants afghans qui ne peuvent les traiter conformément aux conventions de Genève. Avec l'accord des deux parties, la Suisse accepte de les garder au Zugerberg pendant deux ans comme prisonniers de guerre, mais non comme internés puisqu'ils ne sont pas arrivés par leurs propres moyens à la frontière. (From the Historical Encylopedia of Switzerland (Dictionnaire Historique de la Suisse.)

My translation:

During the War in Afghanistan (1979-1988) some Soviet soldiers were captured by the Afghani resistance, who were unable to treat them as prescribed by the Geneva Conventions. In agreement with the two parties, Switzerland agreed to incarcerate them on the Zugerberg for two years as Prisoners of War, but not as Internees, because they had not come to Switzerland by their own efforts.
To summarize, because the Muj realized they were not able to meet the requirements of the Geneva Conventions, even though they were under no obligation to do so, they sent some of their prisoners to Switzerland, where they were imprisoned in circumstances that met the requirements of the Geneva Conventions. (Others were lynched on the spot; among other bad habits, the Soviets would drop booby-trapped toys over villages. The idea was to generally tear the limbs off, but not kill, small children, because when a child was maimed, the entire family would leave for Pakistan in order to care for their child.

For those who read Der Spiegel.

The prisoners' legal status:

Erstmals wird damit in einem völkerrechtlich nicht als "Krieg" definierten Konflikt die Genfer Konvention zum Schutz von Kriegsgefangenen angewendet - wenn auch ausdrücklich bloß "in Analogie". Und erstmals ist es möglich, Gefangene in einem unbeteiligten Drittland zu internieren - obwohl weder von Gefangenen noch von Internierung die Rede ist.
For the first time ever, the Geneva Convention for the Protection of Prisoners of War was applied in a conflict that did not meet the definition of war under international law, though admittedly this was explicitly only done "in analogy". And for the first time ever, it was possible to intern prisoners in an uninvolved third country, although no determination of "prisoners" or "internment" was made.

The prisoners' amenities:

Soviet prisoners of the Mujahideen got a monthly pass to go to the nearest city for R&R.

2.) Donald Rumsfeld and the Geneva Conventions:

Reporting from Washington -- A bipartisan Senate report released Thursday concludes that decisions made by former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld were a "direct cause" of widespread detainee abuses, and that other Bush administration officials were to blame for creating a legal and moral climate that contributed to inhumane treatment....

The report also criticizes President Bush, although less harshly. In particular, it cites a presidential memorandum signed Feb. 7, 2002, that denied detainees captured in Afghanistan the protections of the Geneva Conventions, which ban abusive treatment of prisoners of war.

Bush's decision to bypass an international law that had been observed by American troops for decades sent a message that "impacted the treatment of detainees in U.S. custody," the report says.

That message was bolstered by a series of memos from the Justice Department, the report says, that "distorted the meaning and intent of anti-torture laws" and "rationalized the abuse of detainees in U.S. custody."

"Rumsfeld blamed in detainee abuse scandals," Los Angeles Times, December 12, 2008

The prisoners' amenities:

In 2004, photographs of cowed Guantanamo prisoners in orange jump suits shocked the world.

"The majority are kept in isolation in cells that are no bigger than a toilet," said Katznelson. "There is no sea view. Instead, if they have a window, it looks out on to a bleak corridor. The cells are lined with steel from floor to ceiling, including the toilet, sink and bed base.

"There is a popular misconception that these men have had trials and been found guilty. Nothing is further from the truth. Not one of them has.

"The tortures that the Americans use are wide-ranging and inhuman. One is to blast the cell with freezing cold air. Another is to pretend to take the prisoners to a country like Egypt where prisoners are tortured, even to the extent of taking them on a mock flight, so they can be treated in a barbaric fashion."

Katznelson continued: "Inmates are offered three meals a day, but there are eight prisoners who have been on hunger strike for over a year asking either for a trial or to be set free.

"These men are force-fed twice a day. First they are strapped down with 16 different restrictions, including one that jerks their head back. Then a tube is fed through their nose and down into their stomach.

"The guards don't always use lubrication and regularly use the same tube for several different prisoners without bothering to clean it."

The Scenery:

The Zugerberg, where John Kerry went to boarding school:

Camp X-Ray at Guantanamo:

Life after confinement:

Yvonne Ridley: From captive to convert:

If you were being interrogated by the Taleban as a suspected US spy, it might be hard to imagine a happy ending.

But for journalist Yvonne Ridley, the ordeal in Afghanistan led her to convert to a religion she says is "the biggest and best family in the world".

The formerly hard-drinking Sunday school teacher became a Muslim after reading the Koran on her release.

She now describes radical cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri as "quite sweet really" and says the Taleban have suffered an unfair press.

Freed by the U.S., Saudi becomes al Qaeda chief

BEIRUT, Lebanon: The emergence of a former Guantánamo Bay detainee as the deputy leader of Al Qaeda's Yemeni branch has underscored the potential complications in carrying out the executive order President Barack Obama signed Thursday that the detention center be shut down within a year.

The militant, Said Ali al-Shihri, is suspected of involvement in a deadly bombing of the United States Embassy in Yemen's capital, Sana, in September. He was released to Saudi Arabia in 2007 and passed through a Saudi rehabilitation program for former jihadists before resurfacing with Al Qaeda in Yemen.

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