Saturday, October 22, 2005

So This Is How You Spread Peace And Democracy

Attention, Taliban, you are all cowardly dogs. You allowed your fighters to be laid down facing west and burned. You are too scared to come down and retrieve their bodies. This just proves you are the lady boys we always believed you to be." -- our noble troops, teaching the Arab world to love us again.
US soldiers in Afghanistan have been defiling the corpses of the Taliban's allies, in an ongoing Geneva convention-defying psyops campaign. Does anyone still wonder why some people hate 'our freedoms'?

As an update, see what Dave Glazier has to say about this fiasco.


Blogger Management said...

Friday, Oct. 21, 2005
Stench Prompted U.S. Troops to Burn Corpses
The treatment of Taliban dead prompts outrage in Afghanistan

Corrected version posted Nov. 3, 2005.

There simply wasn't enough room on the rocky hilltop above Gonbaz village in southern Afghanistan for the U.S. platoon and the corpses of the two Taliban fighters. The Taliban men had been killed in a firefight 24 hours earlier, and in the 90-degree heat, their bodies had become an unbearable presence, soldiers who were present have told TIME. Nor was the U.S. Army unit about to leave—the hilltop commanded a strategic view of the village below where other Taliban were suspected to be hiding.

Earlier, the U.S. military had asked the villagers to pick up the bodies and bury them according to Muslim ritual. But the villagers refused—probably because the dead fighters weren't locals but Pakistanis, surmised one U.S. army officer.

"We decided to burn the bodies," one American soldier recounts, "because they were bloated and they stank." News of this cremation might have remained on these scorching hills of southern Afghanistan had the gruesome act not been recorded on film by an Australian photojournalist, Stephen Dupont. Instead, when the footage aired on Australian TV on Wednesday, it unleashed world outrage. A Pentagon spokesman described the incident as "repugnant" and said that the army was launching a criminal investigation into the alleged desecration of the corpses, which is in violation of the Geneva Convention on human rights.

Fueling the furor was the fact that the TV report showed that after the bodies were torched, a U.S. Psychological-Operations team descended on Gonbaz in Humvees with their loudspeakers booming: "Taliban, you are cowardly dogs. You are too scared to come down and retrieve the bodies. This just proves you are the lady-boys we always believed you to be."

Muslims traditionally bury their dead, and as one Kabul cleric Mohammed Omar told newsmen, "the burning of these bodies is an offense against Muslims everywhere. Bodies are burned only in Hell." But as one U.S. officer in Kandahar pointed out, the Taliban and al Qaeda never show any qualms about defiling the bodies of dead Afghan or American soldiers. Afghan President Hamid Karzai, anxious to quell any new wave of protests against the U.S. troops in Afghanistan of the sort that followed allegations of Koran desecration at Guantanamo, publicly condemned the burnings. A statement from the U.S. military command for Afghanistan said, "Under no circumstances does U.S. Central Command condone the desecration, abuse or inappropriate treatment of enemy combatants."

3:30 PM  
Blogger Management said...

Burning Taliban Corpses and the Customary Law of War
[Dave Glazier, Monday October 24, 2005 at 7:23pm EST]

Jon’s “defense counsel” view of the current Afghan cremation furor (immediately below) has generated tremendous commentary about our military’s values, but curiously misses some of the core legal issues. First, as Charles Gittings notes in one of the comments, it selectively quotes from the full language of the relevant Geneva provision, article 17 of Convention (I) for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field. The full text of that article includes requirements for honorable interment “if possible” according to the deceased’s religion, and where cremation does take place, the ashes must be collected and preserved for turnover to the home authorities. Only the most hardened cynic or one totally ignorant of Islamic culture could argue that incompletely burning a Muslim’s corpse and then using it for PSYOPS purposes could comply with these requirements.

Actually, there’s a much better defense against charges of violating a Geneva Convention in this case that I’m surprised a lawyer of Jon’s acumen missed – the President has declared the letter of the Conventions inapplicable to the conflict of Afghanistan although DOD officials do talk about applying their “spirit.” But surely no competent attorney would allow his client to be convicted for violating the “spirit” of the law! (In fact, one would hope that no military convening authority would even allow such charges to be brought).

The real legal basis for prosecution here should not be the Geneva Conventions at all. Although it’s commonplace today to view the law of war as largely synonymous with the Geneva Conventions, and war crimes as beginning with Nuremburg, there is in fact a much larger body of customary law that remains fully applicable regardless of whether specific treaty provisions apply or not. As the government itself noted in defending the 1942 Nazi saboteur military commission before the Supreme Court:

the law of war, like civil law, has a great lex non scripta, its own common law. This ‘common law of war’…is a centuries-old body of largely unwritten rules and principles of international law which governs the behavior of both soldiers and civilians during time of war…The law of war has always been applied in this country.

The United States has tried a number of individuals for such offenses as failure to provide an honorable burial to enemy dead under this common law. The most infamous such case was probably the post World War II trial of Japanese personnel who ate parts of an American serviceman they had killed. Since it was unclear that cannibalism per se was a violation of the law of war, they were convicted of failure to provide an honorable burial. A contemporary restatement of the customary law of war, recently compiled under the auspices of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) identifies a series of customary norms for treatment of war dead, including requirements that they be collected after engagement without adverse distinction, be protected against despoliation or mutilation, returned upon request of a party to the conflict or next of kin, and be disposed of in a respectful manner. While Jon argues that cremation might have been required due to the condition of the bodies after 24 hours exposure, we all know that the remains of American servicemen would be collected and safeguarded no matter how long they’d been exposed, so the “without adverse distinction” requirement clearly required that these soldiers do better than they did here.

The many American veterans who expressed dismay over these events recognize, even if not stating such in legal terms, that the U.S. military has long prided itself in compliance with the customary law of war. In fact the American Army initiated the modern codification of the law of war via Civil War General Orders No. 100 (the “Lieber Code”), providing the first effort at capturing these norms in a manner suitable to guide the conduct of troops in the field. So whether the conduct in question violates a Geneva Convention provision, or even whether the Geneva Conventions can lawfully be used as the basis of prosecuting our soldiers in Afghanistan misses the point. Violations of the customary law of war are chargeable under Article 134 of the UCMJ and the conduct at issue here is clearly triable by a general court-martial.

3:36 PM  

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