Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Spinning Geneva

Yesterday, Creature asked if things are really changing with respect to the treatment of detainees in U.S. custody, that is, to the Bush's Administration's position on the Geneva Conventions.

I agree that it's a flip-flop, one that could possibly "help repair [America's] standing in the world community," but it's actually more a rhetorical flip-flop than anything else.

This "major policy shift" comes from the Pentagon. It concerns detainees in military custody. This is a breakthrough, to be sure, and I give credit to the Pentagon, Rumsfeld's Pentagon, for shifting policy away from torture (or at least from torturing its own detainees), but what of non-military custody?

At TNR's The Plank, Spencer Ackerman sees right through it:

The White House is insulting your intelligence if it expects you to believe that its new policy of extending Geneva Conventions protections to all detainees in U.S. military custody is sufficient to redress the proven abuse and illegality of its war on terror. The very obvious loophole is what will happen to detainees outside of U.S. military custody -- as in CIA custody, such as the so-called "black sites," where Geneva is a sick joke. Which is a fairly apt description of this new White House attempt at damage control.

The White House, which has suffered a p.r. hit on this issue, is taking credit for the Pentagon's belated shift, but its shameful disregard for the Geneva Conventions, its contention that, legally, the president can do whatever he wants with respect to the war on terror, continues. This is nothing but more spin from the White House spin machine.

Detainees in U.S. military custody may now receive better treatment, but what of detainees in U.S. intelligence custody? What of detainees in U.S. custory, military or otherwise, who are rendered elsewhere, to jurisdictions where the Geneva Conventions are ignored entirely?

Ackerman's right. This is nothing but a sick joke.

And nothing has really changed.

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