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Disobeying Geneva
By Denise Magditch
Edited by Megan Maloy

The positive purpose of the Geneva Conventions has been destroyed. The laws that so intricately define how to and how to not treat prisoners of war have been intentionally disobeyed. The good name of the United States has been marred, and the Bush administration is to blame. How they, and those below them, obstinately ignored preset laws has ruined the ideal of freedom this country has worked so hard to obtain.

Throughout history, people have sought for the fair treatment of prisoners of war. As early as the sixth century BCE, the Chinese were looking for ways to protect the rights of their enemies during wartime. In 1864, the first of the Geneva Conventions was signed, protecting the sick and wounded. Up to and including the convention in 1977, more protocols and treatises were added, protecting wartime prisoners from being subjected to bodily harm. These additions explicitly restricted medical and scientific experiments on prisoners. They encourage moving prisoners to safety if where they are held becomes a combat zone.1 This all seems to be common sense. Regardless of race, sex, religion, etc., a person, even a prisoner of war, is granted some basic human rights. The Bush administration, along with the military it commands, appears to have simply pushed these rules aside to further its own agenda.

After the Red Cross performed an inspection on Abu Ghraib prison, they sent a letter to the United States military concerning improving the treatment of the prisoners. A catalogued list of abuses was sent, along with specific concerns regarding those abuses. On December 24th, 2003, the military responded the Red Cross' letter, stating that "many Iraqi prisoners were not entitled to the full protections of some inmates at the prison for interrogation because of their ‘significant intelligence value'".2 It also mentioned that "prisoners held as security risks could legally be treated differently from prisoners of war or ordinary criminals."3 Furthermore, the letter warns the Red Cross that perhaps they should not, in the future, seek to inspect the cell blocks where the worst abuses took place. In addition to a scathing response, it appears that senior officials at the prison, namely Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez and Capt. Carolyn A. Wood, were present at the time of the interrogations of the prisoners. They knew exactly what was going on, and still allowed the lower-level military personnel to continue what they were doing.

How can blatant disregard for preset rules and ignorant leadership be allowable? Does the United States military feel they can do whatever they want? Or is it that they think the American people are so naive, so ignorant, that they could slip these abuses on by? It is estimated that between 70-90% of the prisoners detained are innocent, are being wrongfully detained. The family members of that percentage are given little encouragement that their loved one will be released, and are usually not told when and if that might happen. Can you imagine the last thing you hear about your son, your husband, your wife, your daughter or other loved one is that they are being held by the United States military? That's it. No word on why this has happened, and no response to your pleadings to let him or her go. Now imagine the next thing you hear is prison abuses by military personnel. These are people who are supposed to be upstanding citizens sworn to protect and serve. How does this make you feel?

To think that the people of the United States have worked so hard for what they have. They have sweated and bled to preserve that sacred ideal of freedom. Our ancestors toiled and fought to create what we have today. How can we stand by and watch as the good intentions of the Geneva Conventions are so shamefully tarnished? We are not the ignorant Americans the Bush Administration and the military take us for. We need to unite and fight to show the military, and this administration, that America is a strong and fair country. We must remind our leaders what freedom, especially freedom from abuses, is all about.

1 All Geneva Conventions history information taken from:
2 Star-Telegram, Lawyer: Witness says top officer in Iraq saw abuse, 23 May 2004
3 Star-Telegram, Lawyer: Witness says top officer in Iraq saw abuse, 23 May 2004

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