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Monday, June 20, 2005

George Bush never ceases to amaze me.

I suppose it is inevitable that he will ignore the discomfort of European foreigners caused by his defence of Guantanamo and John Bolton. That domestic debates are more important than foreign dignitaries is a given in the USA. However I can't believe that he "defended U.S. actions in Guantanamo Bay," by saying (NYTimes quotation marks)

"Look at all the facts. That's all I ask people to do," Bush said, noting that many of the suspects are not traditional war prisoners. "The fundamental question facing our government is what do you do with these people?"

OK now how are we supposed to look at all the facts when he is keeping almost all of the facts secret ?
Could he really have said anything honestly paraphrased as "*many* of the suspects are not traditional war prisoners" ? If so, he is a confessed war criminal, since he is denying *all* of the prisoners in Guantanamo Geneva convention rights of POWs.

I mean you have to be careful with statements which are confessions of a crime if taken literally. Of course the word "many" is not a direct quote.

Update: Suspecting the NYTimes paraphrase, I checked the quote on

and I found that the New York Times did indeed distort the meaning of the President's statement with its paraphrase. The actual quote is much more shocking than the paraphrase. The President said

PRESIDENT BUSH: First of all, I appreciate that question, and I understand we -- those of us who espouse freedom have an obligation, and those who espouse human rights have an obligation to live that to those -- live up to those words. And I believe we are, in Guantanamo. I mean, after all, there's 24 hour inspections by the International Red Cross. You're welcome to go down yourself -- maybe you have -- and taking a look at the conditions. I urge members of our press corps to go down to Guantanamo and see how they're treated and to see -- and to see -- and to look at the facts. That's all I ask people to do. There have been, I think, about 800 or so that have been detained there. These are people picked up off the battlefield in Afghanistan. They weren't wearing uniforms, they weren't state sponsored, but they were there to kill.

And so the fundamental question facing our government was, what do you do with these people? And so we said that they don't apply under the Geneva Convention, but they'll be treated in accord with the Geneva Convention.

And so I would urge you to go down and take a look at Guantanamo. About 200 or so have been released back to their countries. There needs to be a way forward on the other 500 that are there. We're now waiting for a federal court to decide whether or not they can be tried in a military court, where they'll have rights, of course, or in the civilian courts. We're just waiting for our judicial process to move -- to move the process along.

Make no mistake, however, that many of those folks being detained -- in humane conditions, I might add -- are dangerous people. Some have been released to their previous countries, and they got out and they went on to the battlefield again. And I have an obligation, as do all of us who are holding office, to protect our people. That's a solemn obligation we all have. And I believe we're meeting that obligation in a humane way.

As well, as we've got some in custody -- Khalid Shaykh Muhammad is a classic example, the mastermind of the September the 11th attack that killed over 3,000 of our citizens. And he is being detained because we think he could possibly give us information that might not only protect us, but protect citizens in Europe. And at some point in time, he'll be dealt with, but right now, we think it's best that he be -- he be kept in custody.

We want to learn as much as we can in this new kind of war about the intention, and about the methods, and about how these people operate. And they're dangerous, and they're still around, and they'll kill in a moment's notice.

In the long run, the best way to protect ourselves is to spread freedom and human rights and democracy. And -- but if you've got questions about Guantanamo, I seriously suggest you go down there and take a look. And -- seriously, take an objective look as to how these folks are treated, and what has happened to them in the past, and when the courts make the decision they make, we'll act accordingly.

Thank you. I appreciate that. Thank you all very much for coming.

I quote the full response to make sure I am not deleting necessary context.

The President still claims prisoners in Guantanamo are treated in accord with the Geneva convention. He also argues that they must be held to obtain information not limited, I think, to name rank and serial number. The Geneva convention bans any punishment for refusing to tell more. It does not explicitly ban keeping people chained until the defecate on themselves as reported by a (typically pinko) FBI agent.

He argues that "many" of the prisoners are dangerous and so he has a "solemn duty" his phrase for authority as commander in chief. Then he lists one prisoner. His logic is that if it is justified to hold any one of the prisoners, it is justified to hold all of them. This has nothing to do with law of any kind. What if he decided that I was dangerous ? Would he have a solemn duty to hold me as an enemy combatant ? His absolute refusal to allow any review of the reasons for holding prisoners by anyone not under his command does not suggest he is confident that he can prove that the prisoners should be prisoners.

The legally relevant claim, clearly misquoted by the Times, is
"These are people picked up off the battlefield in Afghanistan. They weren't wearing uniforms, they weren't state sponsored, but they were there to kill." This is clearly a claim about all prisoners in Guantanamò not about many prisoners. Thus it is not a confession of a war crime. It is also, of course, a lie. Many prisoners in Guantanamo were Taliban officers. As such they were sponsored by a state. Certainly the Taliban regime was one of the more repulsive states that there has ever been, but that is irrelevant for the purposes of the Geneva convention. Taliban soldiers wore a uniform, a black and white checkered turban, the fact that deserting soldiers threw it in the dust to signal that they had switched sides makes it clear it was a uniform. Is the president claiming that no prisoners in Guantanamo were wearing such a turban when seized ? I think it is known that many weren't even taken prisoner by US forces (clearly I don't know because I am too lazy to check the evidence).

I wonder if the President's invitation to journalists will be interpreted as an invitation to all journalists and whether, maybe, they will be allowed to interveiw prisoners with no guards present. Somehow I doubt it.

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