|When stupid writers write legal TV shows.
||[Jan. 4th, 2010|08:23 pm]
Watched an old episode of Law and Order which played out a favorite liberal fantasy of prosecuting a Bush Administration lawyer for providing the "legal framework" of our policies on the treatment of unlawful combatants.|
One of the hypothetical questions that was asked during the trial was "you mean it would be legal to crush the testicles of the child of an unlawful combatant in order to extract information from him?"
The question, which of course, went unanswered--and somehow was supposed to show how immoral the slimy Bush Administration lawyer was.
The answer to the question, by the way, was an empathetic "No." It is illegal--by the standards of the Geneva Conventions (as understood and signed by the United States) to use the family members of an unlawful combatant during a time of war in order to coerce information out of that unlawful combatant.
According to the Conventions (and anyone who uses the singular is an idiot who doesn't know what he's talking about), specifically, the Fourth Convention on the treatment on civilian populations under control of a foreign power, defines several classes of protected persons. One such category are non-combatant civilians, who are to be treated with the utmost of respect. It is also the responsibility of the occupying power to provide (so much as possible) a civilian police force in order to make sure that reasonable laws (it's unclear if it is the laws of the country being occupied or the laws of the occupying country) are enforced amongst the civilian population.
What makes the Fourth Convention rather interesting is that many of the common tactics used by our police in interrogating prisoners could be considered a violation of Article 32 of the Fourth Convention, if those same tactics were used by our military in investigating a crime in Iraq.
And, in short, the child of an unlawful combatant who is not an unlawful combatant himself is a "protected person", and thus to be afforded all the rights of respectful treatment by an occupying power. Crushing his testicles falls far outside of the sort of respectful treatment demanded by the Fourth Convention--a treaty signed by the United States and as such is the law of the land.
As an aside, and the reason why I get irritated when stupid writers (often, liberal--though sometimes conservative writers manage to slip behind the Hollywood sign and get jobs as writers before they're purged from the system) start writing crap legal theories in order to support their political bias, is that they just make shit up without really thinking it through. There is a legitimate argument for allowing unlawful combatants to be tortured or summarily executed on the spot when found on the battlefield by an occupying power. The argument, outlined in the Fourth Convention, is that an unlawful combatant is someone who pretends to be a member of the protected class (a civilian, say) who then goes out and tries to kill an occupying power makes it significantly harder for that occupying power to differentiate between legitimate civilians and illegal soldiers trying to hide amongst the civilian population.
And, in the experience of those who drafted the Fourth Convention, when it is impossible to separate those who are out to kill your soldiers from the rest of the civilians in an occupied country, many less civil armies simply resort to killing the entire civilian population instead.
The drafters of the Fourth Convention, in other words, recognized the reality that unlawful combatants would either need to be treated as harshly as possible--not even getting the benefits afforded by the First or Third conventions to lawful combatants--or else occupying powers may find it expedient to simply execute entire villages (as they have in the past) in order to root out a handful of guerilla fighters.
Naturally, in today's western world where we can pretend that starvation and disease have forever been banished from the surface of the earth (and are not just three days away if our civilian infrastructure ever broke down), and where death is not an inevitable end but actually the fault of HMOs and the Health Care system, we cannot conceive of a world where we should ever treat an unlawful combatant with less than the highest respect once captured in the field. We have forgotten the two facts of reality: that reality is a bitch, and often we have to do very harsh and distasteful things in order to keep our world a civilized place. And thus, we increase the price we pay--prolonging a war, for example, that in earlier times would have ended rather quickly on rather brutal terms--because we believe the increased cost in money, time, and blood is somehow worth paying to assuage our ethical qualms.
I dunno. It could be that the price we pay is worth it. But I don't know if people realize this is the tradeoff we are making.
It is clear, however, that most TV show writers (and members of the chattering class) haven't a clue as to the intent of the writers of the Geneva Conventions (dictators and kings from more than a half century ago)--believing that somehow there is a perfect theoretical (progressive) standard of humane treatment established by dictators and sovereign kings that the Bush Administration trampled on.