My former colleagues David Rivkin and Lee Casey present in a scholarly fashion the point I’ve been trying to make over the past few days — that there is no merit to the attempts to convert abusive and unlawful conduct at the Abu Ghraib prison into evidence that the entire American system of detaining foreign prisoners is abusive and unlawful. The Rivkin/Casey piece also refutes John Kerry’s claim that the abuses at Abu Ghraib “come out of an attitude about the rights of prisoners of war. It’s an attitude that comes out of how we went there in the first place, an attitude that comes out of America’s overall arrogance as policy.” (see post below). Kerry’s comments, by the way, demonstrate another point I’ve been making — that the Senator will be unable to resist his impulse to seize on bad news in Iraq to make unpresidential (and ultimately unpopular) pronouncements about America’s “arrogance.”
Rivkin and Casey note that the source of the attempts to portray the abuses at Abu Ghraib as systemic and arising from our overall policy on detainees is the outrage by the international human rights community, including the International Committee for the Red Cross, over the administration’s refusal to grant POW status to irregular forces, whether in Afghanistan or Iraq. This outrage, in turn, stems from a longstanding agenda to secure POW-like treatment for guerillas and other third world insurgents. However, the administration’s position is supported by the Geneva Conventions as well as by the customary laws of war. The basis for the distinction between POWs and guerillas is that guerillas and their ilk do not distinguish themselves from the civilian population and often purposefully target civilians for attack.
Rivkin and Casey also show that there is no relationship between our nation’s position on these issues and the kind of abuses we’ve witnessed. Countries such as Canada and Belgium that vigorously reject our position have seen their soldiers commit similar abuses and worse. Thus, Kerry’s claim that the recently revealed abuses arise from American attitudes constitutes an additional instance of slander against this nation that seems perpertually to disgust him.
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