Prague Twin

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Question #2

If an independent contractor (say in Iraq) is paid to be an armed escort for a private person or company, and he does not wear a uniform, does he have Geneva convention protections? To put it more simply, couldn't an opposing force consider him an "illegal combatant?"

Hopefully some of my righty friends can clear this up for me.



  • Ah, the great debate of Geneva Conventions and how to circumvent them. The Geneva Conventions were agreed to and signed by most countries. They are very clear on who would be considered a prisoner of war.

    ARTICLE 4 is rather lengthy but some of the highlights are: Those who would be considered POWs are members of an armed forces or militia, organized resistance groups operating in or out of their own territory. Civilians present by military authority and carrying ID cards assigned them and inhabitants of a non occupied territory who take up arms at the approach of an invading force.

    And here are some other articles of interest.
    "Article 3
    1. Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.
    (a) Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;
    (c) Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment;
    Article 5
    Should any doubt arise as to whether persons, having committed a belligerent act and having fallen into the hands of the enemy, belong to any of the categories enumerated in Article 4, such persons shall enjoy the protection of the present Convention until such time as their status has been determined by a competent tribunal."

    Abu Grabib and Gitmo are flagrant violations of the Geneva Conventions. We can't have it both ways; either we comply with the conventions and so be justified in demanding the same for our POWs or we snub our nose at the conventions and take our chances on how our POWs will be treated.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:40 PM  

  • Rocky,

    Thanks for the explanation. So I guess the answer would be yes, they do (or should) enjoy such protections just as the "illegal combatants" should (but don't).

    Am I getting that right?

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 8:47 PM  

  • Yes, that is my take also given the wording of the Geneva Conventions, but, I'm sure that as soon as the right wingers start checking in there will be all sorts of "interpretations" of what constitutes a POW. We've heard all the arguements from the fact that Gitmo isn't US ground (there is a provision in the Conventions that states the POW should be treated in accordance if they are under the control of the opposing military) and that there isn't a war (the Conventions also address that issue). Basically, to all who care to actually READ the Geneva Conventions or at least the section dealing with prisoners of war, it will make it very difficult to continue to support the whole "wag the dog" mentality from Washington.
    As a human being and a patriotic American, I'm gravely appalled at the actions of my government.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:59 PM  

  • For whatever reason, rockync has left out some pertanant information from article 4.

    In short, U.S. Contractors are entitled to conventions protections as they adhere to the elegibilty requirements set out by article four and "illegal combatants" do not.

    Its all there for anyone to read and is not dificult to understand

    4.1.2 Members of other militias and members of other volunteer corps, including those of organized resistance movements, provided that they fulfill all of the following conditions:
    that of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates;
    that of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance (there are limited exceptions to this among countries who observe the 1977 Protocol I);
    that of carrying arms openly;
    that of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.

    By Blogger Lysander Cadwalader, at 6:18 PM  

  • Rocky,

    Exactly my thoughts, but I actually do want this to turn into an argument regarding specifics.


    that of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance

    That is exactly my point about the contractors. I've seen the blackwater guys operating with no recognizable sign. So do they qualify?

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 9:00 PM  

  • So, would you be willing to say that, sans said distinctive sign recognizable at a distance, that Blackwater contractors are not entitled to protections from the
    Geneve Conventions?

    By Blogger Lysander Cadwalader, at 10:40 PM  

  • No, I'm saying that that argument is used to deny others Geneva Convention protections. I'm asking if you believe that "illegal combatants" are not entitled to Geneva Convention rights by virtue of not wearing a uniform, couldn't Blackwater employees be denied those rights for the same reason.

    Personally, I believe that they all qualify for Geneva convention protection, but I'm just a soft lefty. I'm asking my hardened righty friends to explain to me why "illegal combatants" are denied those rights and yet Blackwater employees are considered "legal".

    ....or do you need me to spell it out for you? :)

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 10:54 PM  

  • lysander, I didn't leave that information out. I just summarized Article 4 because it is lengthy. And I did include "Civilians present by military authority and carrying ID cards assigned them." I believe that covers the Blackwater group. It's your use of "illegal combatants" that I found so contrary to the Geneva Conventions.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:16 PM  

  • PT

    The threashold of meeting the requirements for Genenva Conventions protections is spelled out in very specific terms.

    When we "will" things to be anyting other that what they are, we are at best fooling ourselves and at worst misleading others.

    By Blogger Lysander Cadwalader, at 11:40 PM  

  • rockync

    When one summerizes, one chooses what and what not to include for whatever reason. You chose not to include the information that I presented.

    Just an observation and a subsequent response nothing more nothing less.

    By Blogger Lysander Cadwalader, at 11:45 PM  

  • I'm late coming in on this one, but aspects of the issue have concerned me for some time.
    The US has used these contractors to avoid answering to US law, and used them as combatants in many senses.
    With distinctive uniforms they should be considered regular combatants. Without distinctive uniforms they can be considered 'spies' or terrorists under current language usage.
    To my mind contractors bearing arms and carrying out military type duties put themselves at great risk either way. The money can't be that good...

    By Blogger Cartledge, at 5:05 AM  

  • Just for giggles, can anyone tell me why Blackwater personel would even need Geneva Conventions protections while working in Iraq?

    By Blogger Lysander Cadwalader, at 3:31 PM  

  • Lysander, I grant you that point. It really is a hypothetical so far as Iraq or even Afghanistan.

    By Blogger Cartledge, at 5:27 AM  

  • Cart

    Thank you for that observation.

    By Blogger Lysander Cadwalader, at 4:40 PM  

  • The reason I'm hypothesizing is out of curiosity. What if a contractor was captured? Would he have Geneva convention rights? Could a legitimate government (say Iraq's) hold him indefinitely without trial? Could he be legally waterboarded?

    I need input from the hawks.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 12:47 AM  

  • PT

    Short of the rquirements surounding Geneva Conventions protections, I believe they could be held. And while rockync believes they are protected, I have my reservations.

    As a correlary to your question, Arent Geneva Conventions protections recipricol in nature?

    By Blogger Lysander Cadwalader, at 3:46 AM  

  • lysander

    If I might interject a thought or two. While Geneva Conventions should be reciprocal, it can only happen if both parties are participating countries. At that point, if you had POWs under the control of another power and there was evidence of mistreatment, you could take your case to the UN. Not only would pressure be brought to bear on the offender, but they would face war crime charges later. I don't personally see the UN as much of a power and I seriously doubt their ability or willingness to do much, but the UN is the entity to which we all belong.
    The Conventions don't mean squat if the offenders are a militia or guerilla group, but the same rules would be used to try them for war crimes, so in the end, the Conventions trump.
    Although, by definition, Blackwater personel would qualify under Geneva Conventions, so would the so called "enemy combatants" we now hold in Gitmo and other places.
    My stand is unwaivering; if we desire to uphold the Geneva Conventions, then we should abide by them and any prisoner in our custody should be afforded basic protections, period. Regardless of how some politician wags the dog, we should always take the high road and set the standard--it is what made this country great--the lack thereof is what is tearing this country apart.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:53 PM  

  • rockync

    In as much as you indicate that Blackwater personnel are protected by the Geneva Conventions vis a vis your quoted section: "Civilians present by military authority and carrying ID cards assigned them", it would stand to reason that in fact the so called "enemy combatants" are not. One can not eat his cake and have it to.
    While your pronouncements are steadfast, they seem not to be actually rooted in any type of logical or grammatical interpretation of the Geneva Conventions.

    By Blogger Lysander Cadwalader, at 4:56 PM  

  • Lysander,

    At least you are consistent. So to be clear, if the Iraqi government deemed a Blackwater employee to be an "illegal combatant" they could arrest him, detain him without charge indefinitely, waterboard him, and not give him access to legal council, habeas corpus, or anything in the outside world.... forever. The U.S. government would have no authority whatsoever to intervene.

    Is that an accurate description of your position?

    In answer to your query, if you mean that Geneva Convention protection only applies to citizens of countries or members of militias that abide by the treaty, I would say resoundingly no. I would have to do some research, but I believe that Geneva Convention rules apply to all countries who signed the treaty in all cases outlined in the various sections about which we have be discussing.

    Which reminds me of a rhetorical question I once asked you. Perhaps it will make sense now. "If two people agree to meet, but each decide that they will only meet the other once the other has arrived first at the meeting place, will there ever be a meeting?"

    Think about it and its implications.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 8:41 PM  

  • lysander-

    You may have missed the section in Article 4 that those who should also be considered POWs are
    "inhabitants of a non occupied territory who take up arms at the approach of an invading force."
    So, I AM steadfast and my remarks are rooted in the language of the Geneva Conventions.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:00 PM  

  • rockync:

    Are you suggesting that the so called "enemy combatants" that are being held at Gitmo are actually "inhabitants of a non occupied territory"?

    By Blogger Lysander Cadwalader, at 12:23 AM  

  • They sure were before we went to fetch them out of Afghanistan. Seems like everyone forgets that most of the detainees at Gitmo are from Afghanistan and NOT from Iraq.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:50 AM  

  • rockync

    So, you believe that Afghanistan was/is a "non occupied territory"?

    By Blogger Lysander Cadwalader, at 1:14 AM  

  • rockync

    Try as I might to substantiate your claim that "most of the detainees at Gitmo are from Afghanistan", I can not. I did however find this list which seems to indicate that in fact most of the detainees at Gitmo are NOT from Afghanistan.

    By Blogger Lysander Cadwalader, at 1:25 AM  

  • The fist paragraph in the article you cited: "Until March 3rd, the Pentagon had declined to identify the detainees at Guantanamo Bay Military Prison, most of whom were captured in Afghanistan during and after the 2001 war there."
    One of the longest lists is detainees from Saudi Arabia.
    We can now start the endless argument of what constitutes an occupied territory.
    But, the really important question here is, as an American, can you both support the detainment and torture of human beings who have neither been charged nor convicted of any crime and still claim to uphold our constitution?
    I cannot, both as an American and a human being.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:38 AM  

  • rockync

    So, in as much as their country of origin seems to be other than where they were captured, the term "inhabitants" seems even less relevant. And now that the argument is falling appart you decide to fall back on your "Constitutional" argument where you have yet an even weaker argument and in fact left my last
    question to you on this very blog unanswered.

    Just curious,, would you consider parts of Utah "non occupied territory" or is it all part of Utah and in turn part of the U.S.A.? If I am caught in the Gobi Desert doing ill will the Chinese, am I an American or an inhabitant of a "non occupied territory"

    Please excuse the satire, I hope you see my point

    By Blogger Lysander Cadwalader, at 4:12 AM  

  • pt

    not forever, but untill the end of the conflict.

    Yes, I have poured over the Geneva Conventions and would have to conclude that regardless of how unlikley the scenario you provide manifesting itself, there would be no Geneva Conventions protections for said personel.

    Off course you would understand that there would me a military response to such a scenario and as such it really is nothing more that as Cart would say "a hypothetical"

    By Blogger Lysander Cadwalader, at 4:20 AM  

  • rockync

    Sorry,,, it was Praguetwin that left me hanging....(although I think my arguments regarding such things were both persuasive and accurate)

    So, the short answer to your questions is: I see no trespass on our constitution in Gitmo, and I have no problem administering a technique that has no lasting physical damage in order to glean information that may save lives.

    By Blogger Lysander Cadwalader, at 4:41 AM  

  • lysander - you're a sick man.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:53 AM  

  • In as much as it was you who cited this article, I guess it's your argument that's "falling apart". These people were all absconded from a foreign country, held indefinitely under US control without charges or trial. There is nothing American about that. You want to split hairs over the word "inhabitants?" By definition an inhabitant is "one that occupies a particular place regularly, routinely, or for a period of time." So, I'd say if they have been living in a particular place for a period of time, that makes them an inhabitant.
    I was as horrified and appalled by 9/11 as the next American and if those responsible can be brought to justice, by all means. But we have a large number of people under detainment who are being tortured with no proof of thier complicity. And unless you have a medical degree, claiming that dripping water into someone's lungs repeatedly causes no lasting damage is pretty arrogant on your part. Water in the lungs even in small amounts can be breeding grounds for bacteria and cause pneumonia. Repeated infections can cause scarring and other damage leading to a group of chronic illnesses generally referred to as COPD.
    I'm not sure where you're going with that whole paragraph on Utah. You'll have to expand your thoughts on that one.
    If you're caught in the Gobi Desert up to no good with the Chinese, I suspect you could be considered a traitor, depending on what you were up to - don't really know where you're going with that one either.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:21 AM  

  • Rocky,

    Thanks for all of your comments. I really don't have much to add. I think you and I agree that splitting hairs over the definition of POWs and inhabitants is beside the point.

    The real point to the Geneva convention, in my mind, is that signatories generally agreed that even in times of war, when those captured are your sworn enemies who have destroyed your cities and killed your civilians, we will respect basic human rights.

    As ugly as war is, the revenge taken on captured warriors--either out of spite or out of a desire to extract information--is even uglier.

    Civilized nations who represent the example of what people SHOULD be and how people SHOULD treat each other agreed, by signing the treaty, to ascend to a higher place, to abide by higher principles, and to serve as example of what we, as civilized people, aspire to become.

    As citizens of the U.S.A. we should be adhering to the principles of the treaty to the greatest degree, erring on the side of caution. Instead, we are splitting hairs on definitions, trying to find a legal escape route from the obligations to which we are bound.

    It is both sad and disgraceful that our leaders have chosen this route, and that many of our fellow citizens follow them with the zeal of a child burning ants with a magnifying glass.

    The damage done to our reputation as Americans, to the ideals of America, and to world in general as a result are great, lasting, and likely irreversible.

    A brave new world indeed.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 2:07 PM  

  • Praguetwin - Well said and spot on. I have nothing to add, you have said it all in a thoughtful and coherent package.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:10 PM  

  • PT

    When we opt to error,,, we are only making errors, and while I know in your heart you would like the words to say somthing other than what they do, they have to mean what they say or they mean nothing at all. When we play loosy goosey w/words, the pendulem of "interpritation" can swing both ways. Please remember that.

    By Blogger Lysander Cadwalader, at 4:55 PM  

  • Error is not by design, it is an inherent risk. Keeping that in mind, if there is uncertainty, one should always lean towards the enlightened path and not the path of the wicked, especially in these matters.

    Indeed, as you and your cohorts play loosy goosey with the interpretation of the Geneva Convention, you have stayed from the spirit of the document, in my opinion.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 8:11 PM  

  • If one has to error on the side of the enlightened then certainly one should pick the potential life saved from the interrogations of people who have already recieved due process and been vested into Gitmo.

    It's your unending willingnes to demonize your county of origin that keeps you confused.

    By Blogger Lysander Cadwalader, at 3:09 PM  

  • No, one should err on the side of humanity instead of brutality.

    To destroy the pillars of human rights, common decency, and the rule of law so that you might save a few lives is so utterly, incomprehensibly foolish, the refuting of these actions barely warrants these key strokes.

    It is your inability to think for yourself and disregard sickening propaganda that prevents you from seeing clearly.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 8:40 PM  

  • Only in a leftist paradigm are we talking about the abandonment of the "rule of law" (as I stated before, and what can be known by anyone who is actualy seeking the truth is the fact that the detainees @ Gitmo have recieved due process and are veted) and only in a leftist paradigm are we talking about a "few" lifes. You yourself claim that the Nuke gennie is in fact out of the bottle.

    Your response and rush to defend those whom would just as soon cut your throat or poison your watter is just further evidence of your willingness to demonize the U.S.A.

    By Blogger Lysander Cadwalader, at 3:22 PM  

  • It is not those I defend, but the principles involved.

    Torturing people will not prevent a dirty bomb, especially the rag-tag bunch at gitmo.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 12:20 AM  

  • If it really is the principles, then why not indite countries and peoples who engage truly disgusting inhumane activities? Why not site the Chineese or the N.Korreans?

    By Blogger Lysander Cadwalader, at 10:53 PM  

  • "why not indite countries and peoples who engage truly disgusting inhumane activities?"
    I have stayed out of this discussion for some time, but like all good discussions the question has shifted somewhat. This is a fair question.
    I would like to point out, on the application of principles, that economic and social conservatives have been running the world for more than thirty years now, since Thatcher and Reagan.
    The emphasis has been more on trade that on the rights of people. North Korea lacks any useful mineral resources and is limited to being a nuisance rather than a threat. No financial gain – no bother.
    China on the other hand is beyond an economic threat now, with the US in debt to the $trillions to that country. US inspired globalization has severely limited the options for punishing China’s social abuses.
    But then, quite frankly, no one has been powerful enough to punish US social abuses either, if these actions were a particular priority over wealth generation.
    Even the slow re-emergence of progressives is likely to keep the focus on economic conservatism. I believe there has been a tectonic shift in the socio/political landscape; it began in the 1980s and the previous left/right paradigm has long gone.
    As individuals we can be concerned about human rights, but I doubt governments of any stripe are going to act against economic priorities.

    By Blogger Cartledge, at 2:13 AM  

  • I would certainly echo Cart's sentiments on this issue. I've often said first of all that people ought to get their own house in order before they start criticizing others. Not that these countries don't deserve criticism: they do. But I feel it to be at the pinnacle of hypocrisy to point fingers at others before they clean up their own mess. As a related point, it seems that often those who can not see the faults of their own spend much of their time pointing fingers at others so that they don't have time to look at themselves.

    This goes for individuals as well as nations. You will notice that jealous husbands and wives are regularly unfaithful, thieves always think people are stealing from them, corrupt officials think everyone is corrupt (except themselves), and the most nationalistic, gung-ho, U.S.A. is number one folks spend most of their time talking about the treachery of countries like N. Korea and China.

    But in answer to your question, Lysander, I will ask a question as you are wont to do: why do you suppose we publicly criticize N. Korea on a regular basis while we support China's growth and prosperity with tacit approval? I suppose Cart has already answered that.

    Finally, as I've said many times before, I have some very small power to influence my own government. I have no power to influence the governments of China and N. Korea. If everyone spent their time lobbying their own governments instead of complaining about others that they have no power over, the world would be a better place for us all.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 11:22 PM  

  • Cart & PT

    Let us not forget who made it possible for us to engage is such vigorus trade with China and Why he did it.

    It is just truly too simple to reduce the argument down to "greed", and if the media were actually doing its job, the blue collar contigent of the American ellectorate might see President Clinton in a very different light.

    By Blogger Lysander Cadwalader, at 5:58 PM  

  • PT

    In direct answer to your question:

    why do you suppose we publicly criticize N. Korea on a regular basis while we support China's growth and prosperity with tacit approval?

    It is because we are not regualary made aware of the disgusting policiys of China. How many Americans are aware of the magnitude of human displacemnt as a result of the Olympics?

    By Blogger Lysander Cadwalader, at 6:03 PM  

  • -It is just truly too simple to reduce the argument down to "greed”-
    Any argument reduced to a short comment is going to be ‘too simple’, it takes an essay to really do just one of these points justice.
    Greed is a fairly good description of the thrust of economic rationalism, neo-liberalism or whatever you style it. The political justification was to create an aspirational society, that is, upwardly mobile. When that track failed a more realistic market economics label came into vogue. It is playing with words, but greed was still the bottom line.
    What the right often fails to see is that the traditional left were often at the forefront of driving this economic model. Thatcher’s policies were easily adopted by the Labour Party in the UK. Australia’s Labour Party actually drove the policies contemporaneously with Thatcher and Regan. Clinton followed the same trend. In fact, until very recent times there have been no major progressive administrations since the early 80s.
    Even with a slow drift to the centre, I would argue that the left is well beyond our sights for now, the established economic paradigm is simply too complex to dismantle.
    As to China, again I use the word greed, at least in the Australian dynamic. Regardless of anything China might do in the human rights area they are currently paying the bills downunder. China and India are massive raw resource customers for us, staving off the worst of any US or European downturn. Of course it is a different issue there as China holds so much US debt.

    By Blogger Cartledge, at 1:26 AM  

  • Cart

    I must admit,, you are my favorite person to "talk" with here. In spite of our obvious differences in politics, I find you to be the most thoughtful and candid.

    reach arounds aside,,,,,You are absolutly right in your estimatiion of the bredth and width of the topic at hand. I'm sure that the both of us could actually write a book on the topic, but this blog will have to do.

    The right was well aware of the fact that the "traditional left were often at the forefront of driving this economic model" and in fact took advantage of it....It is why most of my tools and shoes read: Made in China.

    Who is unaware however are the people who consider themselves to be "traditional left". These are the people who scream to "keep jobs at home" and belly ach about the exportation of jobs. You can thank the media for their lack of knowledge.

    By Blogger Lysander Cadwalader, at 10:37 AM  

  • I have to say the family link to that very Welsh Cadwalader rattles me, and the Australian clan does tend to the right. Well, what is right anyway?
    Semantics apart I feel no greater joy in being right than I do being wrong. In fact I quite often think a wrong perception far more preferable to being proved right, if you follow.
    Generally I find tat words and usage are the great barriers. We all want the same outcomes, well nearly all.
    I would love to write the book with you, in fact having finally started it (see the predication on the latest Grub Street post) I would appreciate alternative view. For PT I believe I am starting from the birthplace of economics as we understand it.
    Putting that history into a credible and compelling story is my current fascination.

    By Blogger Cartledge, at 2:45 PM  

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