Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Free Market Solutions

I've been reading quite a bit lately about the latest Bush document dump (here, here, here, and here, for instance). In addition, there's the Rumsfeldian effort to cover his own ass with statements designed to make the New York Times produce "but the glass is still half full" pieces.

You probably know the "details," such as they appear at this point: in spite of legal advice suggesting Bush could invoke the "divine right of kings privilege," George the younger (and dumber) managed to remain seated long enough to sign a document which, while affirming the "logic" of the doctrine, promised "consistent" treatment with Geneva principles.

I'll bet most signees to the convention are a little surprised that waterboarding, intimidation with dogs, real or simulated electric shock, sexual humiliation, beatings, and/or being led around on a leash seem to qualify as "consistent with Geneva." Or, at least they did until we found out about said abuse, whereupon the documents noted above magically surfaced. Bush and company are shocked (pun intended) that "torture is going on in their prisons," even as the hired help says "your electrodes, sir." curiousity is piqued by this paragraph in the Bush order:

4. The United States will hold states, organizations, and individuals who gain control of United States personnel responsible for treating such personnel humanely and consistent with applicable law.

Obviously, this would apply to US service personnel--remember when Rummy, in a happier time, piously warned Iraq to adhere to the Geneva conventions in their treatment of US POW's? But the case of so-called security forces raises a whole new set of questions.

Given that estimates make security personnel the second largest contingent of armed force in the country, this obviously raises the question of how Geneva applies to private individuals employed in some sort of capacity within a "war zone."

I place the term in quotes because, well, we haven't actually declared war. I know that the relevant sections of the Constitution have basically been cancelled. And I think it might be becoming pretty obvious why that's not such a good thing. It's almost like the weird justifications for torture I was writing about the other day--proponents of presidential perogative emphasize his role as Commander in Chief, to be sure, but then trot out all sorts of "what ifs"--none of which existed in Iraq, as even the New Republic lamely admitted. But I digress.

We all know that Team Bush has denied the status of "high contracting parties to Geneva" both in regards to Al Qaeda and the Taliban. But where does Halliburton, or KBR stand?

In their zeal to apply the free market to absolutely everything, including the waging of war, the neo cons have created any number of issues that should have been addressed PRIOR to the invasion. But, as we all know, the war itself was supposed to be simply a jolly good show--images of toppled statues and presidents landing on aircraft carriers to say "Mission Accomplised."

But now we're in a real, genuine war. And issues like treatment of prisoners, be they "enemy combatants" or "contractors," is a gray area. The very nature of presidential perogative versus Congressional power is another. Congress tried to plug that leak with the War Powers Act in 1973, but it has been pretty much ignored with impugnity. Like, um, it seems, the Geneva conventions.

To be honest, I thought Joe Biden was grandstanding a bit when he bared his teeth at John Asscrossed a few weeks ago. But what he said was on mark, if only in the last refuge sense: we adhere to standards in order to ensure the protection of our own people. To which I'll add we adhere to them because it is the right thing to do, and it defines the term "civilized society," which one should be very careful to do, considering that war is pretty much the opposite of civil rule. But to continue in this vein would double the size of this already pretty long post as it would by necessity delve into the nature of social contract, consent of the governed, and so on, which is the basis of civil society (that is to say, civil rule works mainly because the individuals in society see it as being in their best interests to consent to order, since chaos would look remarkably like, um, IRAQ in its present state).

Bush, having tried to redefine war by declaring it on terror--in the literal sense, not as a metaphor like the "war" on poverty or drugs (not that we won either of those)--but, in doing this, he seems to have neglected to consider ALL the ramifications, even as he and the neo cons daily toss aside principles of statecraft that have existed for years, if not centuries. To call this dangerous is, in fact, quite an understatement.

Things got a whole lot more complicated, and the big losers will be the general public--both in Iraq and in the United States.

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