WHY IRAQ FEELS FREE TO IGNORE THE GENEVA CONVENTION:
1) The regime is monstrous - systemically and in terms of its top leadership
2) The United States has not attempted serious enforcement of its Geneva rights in over fifty years
The Iraqi government has ominously announced
that American POW's will be treated in accord with the laws of Islam instead of adhering to the Geneva Convention
. An admission in effect, of an intent to commit war crimes.
Iraq feels free to mistreat American prisoners in part because it knows the United States government has a history after WWII of ignoring abuses of American POWs and that doing so involves no serious consequences. Saddam Hussein's direct experience from the first Gulf war was that American soldiers could be tortured with impunity and not receive so much as a public reprimand; indeed, American politicians are more concerned with enforcing highly restrictive rules of engagement on the U.S. military than in taking actions that would deter enemy forces from mistreating our prisoners.
In WWII the Nazis were restrained from executing captured Allied airmen or using poison gas on the battlefield because the Wehrmacht and the Luftwaffe generals impressed upon Hitler that if he followed the advice of Nazi radicals, the Allies would certainly retaliate in kind. We in fact did. After the infamous Malmedy Massacre by the SS of American captives, American GI's simply refused to accept surrender from Waffen-SS forces for several weeks. In response to the reprisals, SS atrocities against Allied POW's ceased and generally honoring the Geneva Convention was resumed. Likewise, German soldiers caught violating Geneva prohibitions on fighting out of uniform as in the Ex Parte Quirin
case or Skorzeny's paratroopers in the Battle of the Bulge, were swiftly tried and executed.
Without the surety of such a severe response it is unlikely that the sorts of enemies the United States faces - Islamist radicals and ghoulish totalitarian dictatorships like Saddam's Iraq - will be highly unlikely to respect what in their view is a mere scrap of paper. The world has watched the U.S. incarcerate al Qaida members but be too afraid to mete out justice to those who have violated Geneva by targeting civilians, executing prisoners and fighting out of uniform. By backing away from the perfectly legitimate use under international law of military tribunals we have encouraged our enemies to commit further crimes. Correctly, al Qaida, Saddam and European states supporting Iraq like France, interpret such a decision as weakness and an area to pressure America for concessions that would delay victory or compromise our security.
It's time to stop worrying about criticism from Chirac, EU High Commissioners, the " Arab Street ", Ramsey Clark and his Communist misfits and other peripheral political concerns and begin exercising our rights to justice under Geneva. First of all, we have an obligation to our soldiers. Secondly, it's the right thing to do. Third, if we do, we might just find more nations respecting the Convention down the road.