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When, in the midst of the worst abuses, the International Committee of the Red Cross complained to Coalition forces, Army officials apparently responded by trying to curtail the ICRC's access.

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The administration effectively sought to re-write the Geneva Conventions of 1949 to eviscerate many of their most important protections.

These include the rights of all detainees in an armed conflict to be free from humiliating and degrading treatment, as well as from torture and other forms of coercive interrogation.

The administration largely dismissed expressions of concern for their treatment, from both within the government and without.

This, too, sent a message to those dealing with detainees in the field about the priorities of those in command.

Rumsfeld, in a formulation that would be used over and over again by U. officials, described the abuses at Abu Ghraib as "an exceptional, isolated" case.

This pattern of abuse did not result from the acts of individual soldiers who broke the rules.

Indeed, each new photo of an American soldier humiliating an Iraqi could be considered a recruiting poster for al-Qaeda. Gonzales said that "it was difficult to predict with confidence" how prosecutors might apply the Geneva Conventions' strictures against "outrages against personal dignity" and "inhuman treatment" in the future, and argued that declaring that Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters did not have Geneva Convention protections"substantially reduces the threat of domestic criminal prosecution." Gonzales did convey to President Bush the worries of military leaders that these policies might "undermine U. military culture which emphasizes maintaining the highest standards of conduct in combat and could introduce an element of uncertainty in the status of adversaries." The Gonzales memorandum drew a strong objection the next day from Secretary of State Colin L. Powell argued that declaring the conventions inapplicable would "reverse over a century of U. policy and practice in supporting the Geneva Conventions and undermine the protections of the law of war for our troops, both in this specific conflict and in general." President Bush announced that the U. government would apply the "principles of the Third Geneva Convention" to captured members of the Taliban, but would not consider any of them to be POWs because, in the U. view, they did not meet the requirements of an armed force under that Convention.

Policies adopted to make the United States more secure from terrorism have in fact made it more vulnerable. Gonzales wrote that the war against terrorism, "in my judgment renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners." Gonzales also warned that U. officials involved in harsh interrogation techniques could potentially be prosecuted for war crimes under U. As for captured members of al-Qaeda, he said that the U. government considered the Geneva Conventions inapplicable but would nonetheless treat the detainees "humanely." These decisions essentially reinterpreted the Geneva Conventions to suit the administration's purposes.

In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks on the United States, the Bush administration seemingly determined that winning the war on terror required that the United States circumvent international law. compliance with international law by saying that government would "for the most part, treat them in a manner that is reasonably consistent with the On February 7, Rumsfeld questioned the relevance of the Geneva Conventions to current U. military operations: "The reality is the set of facts that exist today with the al-Qaeda and the Taliban were not necessarily the set of facts that were considered when the Geneva Convention was fashioned." At the same time, a series of legal memoranda written in late 2001 and early 2002 by the Justice Department helped build the framework for circumventing international law restraints on prisoner interrogation. Belligerents captured in the conflict in Afghanistan should have been treated as POWs unless and until a competent tribunal individually determined that they were not eligible for POW status.

"There was a before-9/11 and an after-9/11," said Cofer Black, former director of the CIA's counterterrorist unit, in testimony to Congress. courts would not have jurisdiction over these detainees even if they were being tortured or summarily executed.said, overlooking that the Geneva Conventions provide explicit protections to all persons captured in an international armed conflict, even if they are not entitled to POW status. These memos argued that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to detainees from the Afghanistan war. Gonzales, the White House counsel, in a January 25, 2002 memorandum to President Bush, endorsed the Justice Department's (and Rumsfeld's) approach and urged the president to declare the Taliban forces in Afghanistan as well as al-Qaeda outside the coverage of the Geneva Conventions. Taliban soldiers should have been accorded POW status because they openly fought for the armed forces of a state party to the Convention.

It resulted from decisions made by the Bush administration to bend, ignore, or cast rules aside.

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