On the non-applicability of the Geneva conventions:
The forces of al-Qaida and its surrogate organizations are not signatory to the conventions and naturally express contempt for them. They have no battle order or uniform and are represented by no authority with which terms can be negotiated. Nor can they claim, as actual guerrilla movements like the Algerian FLN have done in the past, to be the future representatives of their countries or peoples. In Afghanistan and Iraq, they sought to destroy the electoral process that alone can confer true legitimacy, and they are in many, if not most, cases not even citizens of the countries concerned. Their announced aim is the destruction of all nonbelievers, and their avowed method is indiscriminate and random murder. They are more like pirates, hijackers, or torturers - three categories of people who have in the past been declared outside the protection of any law.On the Gitmo scandals:
And please, if you would, read with special care Hitchens on Amnesty, an organization with which he has some acquaintance:
The man whose story of rough interrogation has just been published in Time had planned to board a United Airlines flight and crash it into a skyscraper. I want to know who his friends and contacts were, and so do you, hypocrite lecteur.
You may desire this while also reserving the right to demand that he has a lawyer present at all times. But please observe where we stand now. Alberto Gonzales was excoriated even for asking, or being asked, about the applicability of Geneva rules.
Ahhh, what sweet satisfaction to see things so clearly...
About Amnesty International's disgraceful performance, however, I can tell as well as ask. I was at one point quite close to its London headquarters, and I used to both carry and return messages for the organization when I went as a reporter to screwed-up countries. The founding statutes were quite clear: An Amnesty local was to adopt three "prisoners of conscience," one from either side of the Cold War and one from a "neutral" state. Letters were to be written to the relevant governments and to newspapers in free countries. Though physical torture and capital punishment were opposed in all cases, no overt political position was to be taken. (I remember there was quite a row when an Amnesty "country report" on Argentina went so far as to describe a guerrilla raid as "daring.") By adhering to these rules, AI became a credible worldwide group to which even the most repressive governments sometimes had to pay attention. All honor to its founder Peter Benenson, who died earlier this year.
And now look. I think it is fairly safe to say that not one detainee in Guantanamo is there because of an expression of opinion. (And those whose "opinion" is that all infidels must die are not exactly prisoners of conscience.) Morally neutral on this point, apparently, Amnesty nonetheless finds its voice by describing the prison itself as "the gulag of our times." No need to waste words here: Not everyone in the gulag was a "prisoner of conscience," either. But if an organization that ostensibly protects the rights of prisoners is unaware of the nature of a colossal system of forced labor and arbitrary detention - replete with physical torture, starvation, and brutal execution - then the moral compass has become disordered beyond repair. This is not even neutrality between the fireman and the fire. It surely expresses a covert sympathy with the aims and objectives of jihad and an overt, if witless and sinister, hatred of the United States. If only this were the only symptom of that tendency.