It's right that the government and media should be concerned about the treatment the 15 captured marines and sailors are receiving in Iran. Faye Turney's letters bear the marks of coercion, while parading the prisoners in front of TV cameras was demeaning. But the outrage expressed by ministers and leader writers is curious given the recent record of the "coalition of the willing" on the way it deals with prisoners.
Turney may have been "forced to wear the hijab", as the Daily Mail noted with fury, but so far as we know she has not been forced into an orange jumpsuit. Her comrades have not been shackled, blindfolded, forced into excruciating physical contortions for long periods, or denied liquids and food. As far as we know they have not had the Bible spat on, torn up or urinated on in front of their faces. They have not had electrodes attached to their genitals or been set on by attack dogs.
They have not been hung from a forklift truck and photographed for the amusement of their captors. They have not been pictured naked and smeared in their own excrement. They have not been bundled into a CIA-chartered plane and secretly "rendered" to a basement prison in a country where torturers are experienced and free to do their worst.
As far as we know, Turney and her comrades are not being "worked hard", the euphemism coined by one senior British army officer for the abuse of prisoners at Camp Bread Basket. And as far as we know all 15 are alive and well, which is more than can be said for Baha Mousa, the hotel receptionist who, in 2003, was unfortunate enough to have been taken into custody by British troops in Basra. There has of course been a court martial and it exonerated the soldiers of Mousa's murder. So we can only assume that his death - by beating - was self-inflicted; yet another instance of "asymmetrical warfare", the description given by US authorities to the deaths of the Guantánamo detainees who hanged themselves last year.
You know where international law on the treatment of POWs and detainees comes from, don't you boys and girls?
Spotty, you taught us that it is contained in the Geneva Conventions.
Very good grasshopper. Here's part of Convention III, Article 13:
[P]risoners of war must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity.
Airing a videotape of the Brits in Iranian custody is certainly frowned on by this Article. But have we not lost some of our standing to complain about it for the reasons set forth in the Guardian column? Let's remember what our current Attorney General said back when he was White House counsel:
Notwithstanding his mild-mannered appearance, Gonzales is the iron fist in the velvet glove. Gonzales, whom Bush affectionately calls "mi abogado" ("my lawyer"), wrote one of the most outrageous torture memos. On January 25, 2002, Gonzales advised Bush that "the war on terrorism is a new kind of war, a new paradigm [that] renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitation on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders some of its provisions quaint."
After we manage to somehow pick a fight with Iran—we're working on it even as Spot writes this—you can be sure there will be more American and British service personnel captured in battle. What will we say when they are captured and rendered hors de combat?
Tags: Geneva Conventions, hors de combat, Iran war