American standard

The Baltimore Sun

People must have been awfully naive back in 1949, if they thought it was a good idea to write into the Third Geneva Convention a ban on torture and other inhuman and degrading treatment of war prisoners. What did they know about the real face of war, anyway?

They had just been through the greatest war in history.

So how could they come out of such a war and somehow decide that they shouldn't be torturing their enemies?

They thought it was wrong and self-defeating, and that it put their own troops at risk if captured. Mostly, they thought it was wrong.

Then why were they so vague about it? Why didn't they spell out some guidelines for interrogators?

The terms "cruel treatment" and "humiliating and degrading treatment" are pretty clear.

But the world has changed in 57 years. Why did a few senators prevent President Bush from redefining the terms of the convention?

Because they don't want to stand before the whole world and write into law permission to torture. They're going to let torture in by the back door instead.

What do you mean by that?

The compromise approved last week by the GOP renegades draws the line at "redefining" the Geneva Conventions, but then leaves it to the president to "interpret" the conventions pretty much as he sees fit. It also says that any American violations of the conventions that have taken place don't count.

Doesn't the U.S. need whatever tools it can fashion against a cruel and cunning foe?

The point is that adopting an official policy of physical abuse (and chucking out the principle of habeas corpus) will hurt America far more than it will help.

Well, anyway, won't the Democrats pull some maneuver to try to hold this up?

In an election year? Are you kidding?

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