In January of this year, the government of the United States of America admitted they were aware of problems in the detention center, Abu Ghraid, in Iraq. Remarkably, very little was said about this in the press, in a country where the press is willing and able to slam the government on abuses of power.
Then in April, on 60 Minutes II, the case erupted with the photos coming out for the first time. Photos started appearing throughout the media, and many of us, myself included, began to see the abuses of Iraqi detained by the US military. Many - if not most - Americans were stunned, disgusted, and angry at these depictions of abuse. When Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld commented to Congress that there was worse to come, we braced ourselves for the additional images that were soon on our televisions and in the newspapers. Then all the photos were made available for viewing by members of Congress, and those members who were expressing their concern previously, were now even more concerned.
The Red Cross had been expressing concerns about prisoner treatment in Cuba as early as Spring of 2003. In November of 2003, there were reports made of abuse in Iraq and in some statements the Red Cross mentioned their access to detainees was being restricted. The organization kept filing reports of abuse and improper treatment of the detainees.
Defense Secretary Rumsfeld stated categorically that the Geneva Conventions apply to all detainees in Iraq. The Pentagons chief spokesman stated that some foreigners captured in Iraq may not have the protection of the Geneva Convention legally. He suggested it should be done on a case by case basis, but he also said that all detainees in Iraq and Cuba have been treated according to the protections of the Geneva Conventions. Regardless, Mr. Bush has said that all prisoners would be treated in accordance to the Conventions.
Article 3 of Part 1 of the General Provisions of the Geneva Conventions, taken directly from the website of the United Nations, state:
"To this end, the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:
(a) Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;
(b) Taking of hostages;
(c) Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment"
Furthermore, taken from the United Nations International Law War Crimes sections, we can clearly see that these abuses should have a more significant meaning:
2. For the purpose of this Statute, "war crimes" means:
(a) Grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 12 August
1949, namely, any of the following acts against persons or property protected under the provisions of the relevant Geneva Convention:
(xxi) Committing outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment;
(xxii) Committing rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, as defined in article 7, paragraph 2 (f), enforced sterilization, or any other form of sexual violence also constituting a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions;
I would think that the soldiers who committed these atrocities against the people of Iraq, their supervisors who knew of these abuses and anyone who ordered these actions, should be facing war crimes charges. Instead, the first soldier tried in an American Court Martial will face one year in prison, loss of rank, and a dishonorable discharge.
The reality is that any American soldier who followed an order to commit these abuses followed an illegal order. This in and of itself is an offense. It is against the Military Code of Justice to issue or follow an illegal order. And in many of the photos we have seen, the level of torture, sexual abuse, humiliation and possible murder, can be seen as nothing but crimes that came about as a result of this war that Mr. Bush has forced on the world.
Mr. Bush wants to say hes "sorry" and assures us that these people will be dealt with. He also points out that the same things, when occurring during the government of Saddam Hussein would go unexposed and unpunished. But when you drag your country into a war, when you force war onto another country and you pull the rest of the world into that war, you really need to take some care in how you accomplish your objectives.
When your country is considered the most powerful nation in the world and when your president is considered the most powerful leader in the world, that country should be held to a higher standard. Instead of getting away with more through intimidation and superiority, we should complete our investigation with the assistance of United Nations investigators and send the criminals to The Hague. When youre the United States of America, you should be held to the same laws, the same standards, the same expectations as the rest of the world. If these same abuses were perpetrated by Iran, there would be condemnation and cries for justice.
Should we not stand for equal treatment under the international laws that we insist others abide by?
We should. And anyone who participated in these actions should stand trial for the crimes of war they committed.