Today’s New York Times has an article on the fallout from the Hamdan decision titled In Big Shift, U.S. to Follow Geneva Treaty for Detainees. It would be possible to write a more misleading headline, but it wouldn’t be easy.
The Times purports to report on the administration’s efforts to comply with the Supreme Court’s ruling to the effect that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions applies to all GWOT detainees. But the paper fails to note that the administration has always treated the Geneva Conventions as applicable to the conflict in Iraq. To quote Don Rumsfeld:
Iraq’s a nation. The United States is a nation. The Geneva Conventions applied. They have applied every single day from the outset.
Further, the Times writes that “The Pentagon memo, issued last Friday and released today, orders that all detainees be treated in compliance with what is known as Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, a passage that requires humane treatment and a minimum standard of judicial protections for prisoners.” The paper notes the administration’s observation that this memo did not constitute a reversal in policy, but the article’s headline, trumpeting a “big shift” in policy, explicitly rejects that observation. In fact, as Jed Babbin wrote this morning on Real Clear Politics, the Pentagon memo says that:
[W]ith the exception of the military tribunals tossed out by the Supreme Court’s decision in Hamdan, the treatment of the terrorist enemy combatants – under the cited Defense Department and Army manuals – is believed to be consistent with Geneva standards. The media hype of this is entirely wrong.
In other words, our treatment of detainees is already in compliance with Common Article 3.
Further, President Bush ordered on February 7, 2002:
I hereby reaffirm the order previously issued by the secretary of defense to the United States Armed Forces requiring that the detainees be treated humanely and, to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity, in a manner consistent with the principles of Geneva.
In short: some “big shift.”