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Legal Rights for Terrorists? By: Nicholas Stix
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, November 03, 2003


Are al-Qaeda fighters victims, robbed of their legal rights under the Geneva Convention by the repressive Bush Administration? Are terrorists victims of American oppression? That's what you might think if you believed the New York Times editorial page and the humanitarian bureaucrat-activists coloring the Times' coverage of postwar Iraq.

In an October 16 editorial ("The American Prison Camp"), the New York Times attacked the Bush Administration for maintaining its detainee camp for terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Citing criticism of the Bush Administration by the International Committee of the Red Cross, the editorial claimed that Administration justifications for the have no foundation in the Geneva Convention. The NYT then demanded, in the name of justice, that unlawful combatants (in this case, terrorists) be granted civil rights that the U.S. in previous wars had not granted even to lawful combatants. Traditionally, unlawful combatants have been considered not soldiers, but criminals, spies or saboteurs, and as such, were executed or imprisoned for lengthy sentences.
 
Note that the Red Cross -- which also calls itself the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement -- has barred groups at post-9/11 Red Cross events in the U.S. from singing "God Bless America," lest they offend Muslims; has barred the Israeli Magen David ambulance service from joining, despite its unblemished record of aiding the wounded, regardless of religion or politics; and has let its ambulances repeatedly be used by Palestinian terrorists in Israel -- some of whom proved to be Palestine Red Crescent Society employees in good standing! -- for the transportation of homicide bombers and weapons. And as scholar Jeremy Rabkin has noted, an official at the Red Cross/Red Crescent's Geneva headquarters circulated the heinous blood libel, claiming Israel had orchestrated the 9/11 attacks.

As the example of the Red Cross/Red Crescent shows, humanitarian groups are being enlisted into a war on America. Like the Red Cross/Red Crescent, the UN, Doctors Without Borders, and other charitable or non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are also hostile to America's right to self-defense. And yet, as the murderous, October 27 attack on the Red Cross/Red Crescent's Baghdad headquarters showed, even supporting terrorists fails to protect an organization from their wrath.

Every stripe of anti-American NGOs has found a journalistic ally at the New York Times. The Times insists that the justifications offered by the administration are equally unpersuasive. The NYT argues against the Bush Administration that the detainees are not prisoners of war because they are not uniformed members of a regular armed force, claiming the president's treatment of terrorists has no foundation in the Geneva Convention.

That, simply, is a lie. The 1949 Geneva Convention explicitly supports the Bush Administrations position that the Guantanamo detainees are unlawful combatants, and thus not protected as prisoners of war, because:

1. They are not fighting for a Contracting Party to the Convention;
2. They are not commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates;
3. They wear no uniforms or the equivalent (a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance) which identify them as combatants;
4. They do not carry arms openly; and
5. They do not conduct their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.

The Geneva Convention implicitly recognize principles of reciprocity, the right of national self-defense and enlightened national self-interest. The New York Times seems to reject all of these principals in its coverage of the U.S. And yet, since leftists hold the Geneva Convention as sacrosanct, the Times editorialist chose to lie about what the Convention says.

The Times was echoing a strategy which was established, after 9/11, by influential humanitarian organizations, including the George Soros-funded Open Society Institute (OSI). (OSI's president, Aryeh Neier, was formerly the executive director of the ACLU and Human Rights Watch.)

Aryeh Neier expressed his foreign policy views in a September 2002, article in Crimes of War magazine, "Did the Era of Rights End on September 11?" Neier seems to see international law as a binding suicide pact for America. Neier strongly advocates international humanitarian law, which he insists is unilaterally binding on all nations. However, when terrorists fail to conduct their armed operations in accordance with Geneva Convention standards, Neier demands the United States accord them the same rights as, say, the French Foreign Legion. That's unilateralism, leftwing-style.

Jeremy Rabkin, a Cornell University professor of international law, has exposed the bankruptcy of this view. In the article, "After Guantanamo: The War Over the Geneva Convention," in the Summer 2002, issue of The Public Interest, emphasized that the Geneva Convention is a contract or treaty, regulating conduct only between the parties to it; it is not a transcendent or universally binding law.

Aryeh Neier insists that it be treated as such. Neier cited Red Cross/Red Crescent criticisms of the Bush Administration, and the organization's dubious interpretation of the Geneva Convention, as part of his own misrepresentation of the Convention.

(Neier also misrepresented Rabkin's views in his own article, maintaining that Rabkin had argued that under the principle of reciprocity, one Contracting Party to the Conventions may justifiably engage in savage reprisals against the uniformed soldiers and civilians of an enemy Contracting Party. Rabkin had explicitly condemned such reprisals.)

Whereas under the laws of war, including the Geneva Convention, terrorists have traditionally been treated as criminals, the Red Cross/Red Crescent and OSI have insisted that they be treated as lawful combatants. Such a view legitimizes terrorism and turns the laws of war upside down.

Due to repeated abuses of medical neutrality by the Palestine Red Crescent Society, Israeli soldiers have already been forced to take such a position. The Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) has refused to accept responsibility for, or at least apologize for terrorist acts committed by its personnel using its vehicles. PRCS also refuses to take steps to protect against the abuse of its ambulances as terrorist delivery vehicles. Instead, the PRCS has taken the rhetorical offensive, using propaganda identical to that of Yasser Arafat, in seeking to organize the "international community" to intervene on its behalf, prosecuting Israeli soldiers as war criminals. Given this background, one may wonder if the PRCS is a humanitarian or a terrorist organization. The fact that it engages in humanitarian work is beside the point; Hamas also engages in humanitarian work...when it is not murdering Jews.

Working under a cloak of feigned neutrality, NGOs -- aided and abetted by the New York Times -- seek to disarm the U.S. in the War on Terror. They would usurp control from the U.S. over such matters as the determination of who is a lawful combatant. They would grant civil rights, which rightfully attach only to citizens, to foreign terrorists. The humanitarian groups and the Times would thus give terrorists a foothold in the American judicial system, politicizing every aspect of the War on Terror. This would ultimatley bury the federal courts under an avalanche of terrorism appeal cases and allow terrorists to experience the joys of getting free on a technicality.

As Jeremy Rabkin has concluded, the ambitious new versions of international law pushed by the Times and the NGOs are likely to become a continuing source of mischief in the world, much trouble to the United States.


Nicholas Stix is an award-winning free-lance journalist who unearths the hidden secrets of New York politics, education, and race relations that elude the elite media establishment. His work appears in Toogood Reports; The American Enterprise; Insight on the News; Chronicle; Newsday and CampusReports.


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