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Double standard (update)

The Iranians have just committed yet another violation of the Geneva Conventions: publicly displaying the British sailors they captured last week.

This makes the third violation of the Geneva Conventions by Iran: threatening to try soldiers in uniform for espionage, interrogation of captured soldiers, and now public display of captured soldiers.

As noted earlier, the Geneva Conventions appear to be a one-way street, applicable only to the US and its allies. If anyone can find any expressions of outrage directed at Iran for violating the Geneva Conventions from the “usual suspects” who have been so concerned with US compliance with same, do please post them in the comments.

[Note: first sentence updated after the illegal broadcast of the soldiers was made.]

45 comments to Double standard (update)

  • I always worry that this sort of thing will be used to justify the western powers breaking the convention.

    Apart from that, its just another case of leftist/anti-american hypocrisy, of which we are far too well aware of.

  • Mark

    I’m afraid I recall all to well American images of captured “soldiers” in orange jumpsuits, handcuffed and blindfolded. Oh…but that’s different isn’t it!?

  • BigTit

    Yes it’s different. Do you think they wore these orange uniforms in the field ? A-hole.

  • Does the Geneva Convention even apply if we are not (technically) at war with Iran?

    If that is true of course the remedy to that situation is obvious.

  • No problem.
    Quietly drive all our Tehran Embassy people to a point in the Western Desert (of Iran) where they can be air-extracted to Basra.
    Then round up every Iranian dildoormat in London, and lock them up in Brixton as internees like the Nazi spies in WW2; then threaten to try them for espionage.
    Unless our men are immediately released and an official, public apology received.
    It is really so simple.
    CI5 would have done it.
    Cowley would have done it.
    Maggie might have done it.
    Hell, Ted Heath would have, maybe even Callaghan, certainly Denis Healey.
    But not this snot-nosed bunch of dickwads.
    Oh, and even Carter might have tried.

  • R C Dean

    I’m afraid I recall all to well American images of captured “soldiers” in orange jumpsuits, handcuffed and blindfolded.

    The point all along has been that our enemies in this war (at least since the fall of Hussein) are not soldiers subject to the protections of Geneva. They do not wear uniforms, they are not fighting for a sovereign signatory of Geneva, etc.

    Does the Geneva Convention even apply if we are not (technically) at war with Iran?

    I believe it does. The Third Conventions uses some rather squishy language about “parties to a conflict” which seems to encompass a great deal short of a formal shooting war.

    Regardless, this same objection would apply to those who hold the US feet to the fire on Geneva. They can’t have it both ways.

  • Matt Shultz

    Is Iran a Geneva signatory? Just asking, I really don’t know.

  • A couple years ago I had a talk with a US Army Medic who’d just gotten back from Iraq. We were discussing the use of the Red Cross on military ambulances, he said “Someday we may end up fighting against an enemy that respects the Geneva Conventions.”

    It got me thinking that, with the exception of the 1982 Falklands War, there has not been a single conflct since 1945 where the Conventions have been generally respected. That either says something about the nature of modern war or about the Conventions themselves, or both.

  • Sigivald

    Tristan: As I understand the Conventions and their traditions, it literally does justify the Western Powers not obeying them in return.

    We will, of course, since we always have even when the enemy doesn’t (as Taylor said, nobody the US has fought since the Germans in WW2 has generally followed them; I suppose the Argentines might well have in the Falklands).

    The idea that obeying the Conventions somehow protects Western soldiers from retaliatory action is a terrible but oddly widespread joke.

  • I’m not looking for a fight. I’m genuinely confused about your point here. Of course, Iran should be condemned for violating the Conventions. But is that supposed to excuse us? Leaving aside the enemy combatants, even within this narrow definition, didn’t we do these three things to Saddam? Shouldn’t he have been qualified for protection under the conventions?

    I might remind you that our own Attorney General, Mr. Gonzales deemed the conventions to be “quaint” in supporting the US torture policy. The implication clearly being they were outmoded. Should we be then be surprised that the madman from Tehran treats them with equal disregard?

    This is exactly, what I, and many on the left have been warning about since the beginning, that our treatment of the enemy would eventually endanger our own troops and allies. As ye sow…. and all that.

  • Nick M

    Libby,
    We didn’t do anything to friend Saddam. He was essentially lynched by the new Shia Iraqi government. Do you honestly think the trial and execution would have been anything like as shambolic if the US had run it?

    And if you mean the images of “Bad Santa” fresh from the spider-hole then I think this is a very different situation from the one the architects of the Geneva Conventions were thinking of. He simply had to be paraded on TV otherwise who would have believed he’d really been caught? And, in any case, Saddam was a grot-bag criminal and not a soldier by any stretch of the imagination. High-profile captured criminals appear on TV all the time and nobody tangles their pantyhose over it.

    The bottom line with this Iranian “incident” is that the Republican Guards essentially carried out an act of piracy. RG vessels should therefore be treated as pirate vessels until they learn to behave themselves.

    And no, we don’t have to obey the Geneva Conventions with them either. We have to obey International Maritime Law wrt piracy. Does this allow “hot-pursuit” into another nation’s territorial waters? I have a very vague feeling it just might. Very vague.

  • Nick M

    I am intrigued by the references to the Falklands in ’82. If the Geneva conventions were followed more closely in that than in any other post ’45 war involving the West might that have more to do with the greater cultural similarity of Argentinians and Brits than treaties?

    In WWII US troops were much more sympathetic to captured German and Italian soldiers than they were to Japanese ones and much more likely to be able to empathise with them and say stuff like “He’s just a fella like me, only ended up on the wrong side is all”. The German’s treated captured Brits much better than captured Russians.

    Interestingly, inter-specific issues also arise. In the Falklands RN sailors cheered the downing of Argintine planes but didn’t cheer the Belgrano being sunk. In WWII infantry were much more likely to kill surrendering tank crews out of hand than surrendering infantry.

    My source for all of this is John Keegan.

  • R C Dean

    I’m genuinely confused about your point here.

    I’m merely pointing out that the vast majority of complaints that the US does not follow the Geneva Conventions are not principled; rather, they are made to further an anti-American agenda.

    Of course, Iran should be condemned for violating the Conventions.

    Oddly, though, they are not. What do you make of that?

    But is that supposed to excuse us?

    Not at all. Did I say otherwise?

    Leaving aside the enemy combatants,

    Which is a rather large issue to leave aside, seeing as it defines who can claim protection under the Conventions.

    even within this narrow definition, didn’t we do these three things to Saddam? Shouldn’t he have been qualified for protection under the conventions?

    I believe he was remanded out of US custody fairly early on, and over to the new Iraqi government. I’m not at all sure that Geneva applies in that context, namely, a government dealing with the crimes of one of its own citizens.

    As ye sow…. and all that.

    Are you really so naive as to believe that our enemies in this war would feel at all constrained to follow the Conventions if only we were a little nicer? Believe it or not, not every bad thing that happens on this planet is ultimately the fault of the US.

  • Lets try a little thought exercise. In the 1970s in Switzerland (and elsewhere) you could walk down a crowed street smoking a joint and no one would bat an eyelash. The laws aganist pot were effectively suspended.

    Libertarians believe that these laws are wrong, conservatives may believe that they are wrong but that nonetheless they are the law and should be obeyed.

    At some point we, ‘the west’, are going to have to decide whether the Geneva Conventions are going to be enforced, or if they are going to go into the thrash can of history along with the law that once said that square bullet may not be used against Muslims.

    I’d like to add that during the Vietnam war many Europeans claimed that the US use of 5.56 mm bullets was a war crime. Today every Western European nation uses the same ammunition.

  • Nick, forgive me if I sound dense here but yes I was talking about Saddam being paraded out of the spider hole. Furthermore, my understanding is that he was in US custody right up until the execution. I distinctly recall that being a major talking point when the execution was so brutal – that we could have refused to turn him over. Do you think we didn’t interrogate him? And using your own logic, doesn’t it make sense that Tehran has a compelling interest in showing the hostages are unharmed and being treated well or else how would anyone believe them? I just saw a couple of stills and thankfully they looked okay under the circumstances.

    I’d also ask under your reasoning, if Saddam didn’t qualify as a soldier and if, God forbid, Bush were captured by an opposing force, you would be okay if he was treated in the same manner? And before anybody jumps on me for “defending” Saddam or the taking of the hostages, my question is about protocols and not guilt or what they deserve. I simplydon’t see how you can hold a different standard for each side. Either the Conventions apply to everyone or no one.

    As far as it being an act of piracy, I don’t think we’ve seen any definitive proof either way just yet. Let’s not jump the gun before we know for sure it’s really smoking. I also might remind you that the hostages are British and not American, so we don’t really even have a dog in this fight just yet.

    Mr. Dean – I’m not so naive to think the conventions will be held sacred by those with ill intent, but again I have to respectfully ask, if you’re not concerned about the way we treat our captives, then how can you take the high ground about the way our allies are treated? Aren’t we supposed to set some moral standard as a world power?

    I’m not saying, this wouldn’t have happened if only we had treated our prisoners more humanely but I’m afraid I am suggesting that under your criteria, the hypocrisy extends to both sides of the fence. As for the lack of outrage, it’s early yet. The whole thing has been rather murky and I’m only just starting to make some sense of it now myself.

  • “I’m not looking for a fight. I’m genuinely confused about your point here. Of course, Iran should be condemned for violating the Conventions. But is that supposed to excuse us? Leaving aside the enemy combatants, even within this narrow definition, didn’t we do these three things to Saddam? Shouldn’t he have been qualified for protection under the conventions?

    Why is it that the left can never condemn violations against us without saying “BUT”,then real off a list of mitigating excuses for the violators.

    Sweet Lips,hostage taking is part of the Middle Eastern way of war,has been for millennia.Remember to American Embassy hostages?

  • On the subject of the Argentinians ‘observing’ the conventions, does anybody else remember the attack on the Marine barracks in Stanley before dawn on the outset?
    They went from room to room with grenades and MPIs to kill any occupants while they were sleeping.
    It was undeclared and murderous, and in no way followed Geneva.

  • Ronbrick, believe as you will but I am honestly trying to understand your point of view. I certainly do remember the Embassy hostages. I’m old enough to have followed that crisis live as it unfolded but that was a long time ago and this is whole new situation. And I do not condone the taking of hostages or brutality of any kind, nor am I excusing it. Not for them, and certainly not for us.

    What I really want to know is how you can accuse the left, and by extension myself, of hypocrisy and making excuses for the bad conduct of our enemies when in effect aren’t you doing the same in reverse? Excusing bad conduct on our side because the bad people are doing it too? I don’t think it makes it any less objectionable either way and frankly I think my position is more consistent.

    I love my country. I want to be proud of it too and that’s damned difficult if we’re going to lower ourselves to the same lack of standards as the savages we fight. I don’t think that’s anti-American at all and I get tired of being called a traitor and worse for asking that my country fight with honorable tactics. I can’t believe we can’t do that and still acheive victory in our battles.

  • No libby,I am criticising the left’s abject inability to conbemn violations against us,that includes you,without endless caveats about how this is reciprocal treatment.

    Now if you would just like to give me a list of Iranians we have kidnapped.

  • luisalegria

    Mr. Spencer,

    The US reading of the GC has been that these people allegedly mistreated were not under the protection of that treaty. Regular Iraqi troops captured in the initial invasion in 2003 were treated as per the GC; these are the people that were due such protections.

    As for the practical utility of the GC to the US, that is highly questionable. There is no “moral high ground” thats worth a dollar or an inch of newsprint or a drop of blood. The US has never received any benefit from this since 1945. The pursuit of this chimera, rather, has repeatedly proven to be a costly waste of time. The enemies of the US are not persuaded by such things, and its friends are friends only due to practical considerations, if such are present.

    Yours is a case in point. You dismiss the “barbarians” out of hand in a few words, but spend the rest of the time generating or repeating rhetoric raising doubts that tend to diminish US morale. There is no interest in the US or foreign media to create a just level of condemnation according to moral judgement. A reasonable treatment of the moral status of the world would have the newspapers editorial pages dominated by various third-world horrors.

  • I love my country.

    Why? Why love a ‘country’? Personally I reserve something as strong as ‘love’ for specific people who are deserving of it.

    I can’t believe we can’t do that and still acheive victory in our battles.

    Please explain why you say this. Do you mean you do not want to believe that this war can be won without employing the savage and ruthless violence used by every group (or nation if you like) who have won a war… or do you mean you have a specific notion why this war should be different from, say, WWII or any other war the US was on the wining side of and was not all too squeamish about who got killed just so long as it led to victory? Do you have some new war fighting concept in mind?

  • I stand by my earlier comment(Link) on this matter. Show them the very big stick that we can hit them with if they don’t comply, and have the balls to hit them with it when they don’t.
    We are meant to be a world power, we should damn well act like one. No more cowering before pissant little dustbowl countries simply because we want to be nice. We’ve tried nice, they weren’t having it, time to get the whip out. I was a pacifist, and I still am up to a point. The problem is that pacifism does not work in the face of savage barbarity. Not that long ago Iran’s actions would have been at least as an act of piracy, and at most as an act of war. Time to stop pussyfooting around these sand addled fanatics and give them a slap.
    Remember the simplest way to win a ‘war on terror’ (and Iran is neck deep in that, no matter what they might say) is to not be afraid, of them or your own strength.
    Dammit, thats all the tranquillity I got from tai chi gone.

  • J.M. Heinrichs

    Liz:

    What I really want to know is how you can accuse the left, and by extension myself, of hypocrisy and making excuses for the bad conduct of our enemies when in effect aren’t you doing the same in reverse?

    Probably because too few people read the GCs before making statements excusing a cited enemy. The treatment of Mr Hussein was not subject to the guidance of the GCs; captured Taleban in Afghanistan and captured Mahdi Army members in Iraq fall within the purview of the GCs in that neither qualify for treatment as PWs.

    Excusing bad conduct on our side because the bad people are doing it too? I don’t think it makes it any less objectionable either way and frankly I think my position is more consistent.

    What bad conduct on “our side”? Armies which are constrained to follow the GCs mandated by the respctive national legislation have rather comprehensive rules on handling captured enemy combattants; if you wish to cite Al Ghraib, you will be demonstrating that occasionally those rules have been broken. As well, Al Ghraib was not a PW handling facility.

    The Geneva Conventions are not themselves enforcible laws, they are internationally agreed guidelines on how nations are to treat enemies in war. They become law to a signator when the appropriate legislation is passed. How stringent the GCs are applied is subject to legislation and countries can extend the Conventions as they see fit. Thus the Canadian Army in Afghanistan captures Taleban “fighters” rather than exercising ‘Rule 303′; Parliament has decided that they should be treated as legitimate combattants.

    You mentioned seeing stills of the “hostages”, and were pleased to see they appeared fine. You just witnessed an Iranian violation of the GCs.

    I love my country. I want to be proud of it too and that’s damned difficult if we’re going to lower ourselves to the same lack of standards as the savages we fight. I don’t think that’s anti-American at all and I get tired of being called a traitor and worse for asking that my country fight with honorable tactics. I can’t believe we can’t do that and still acheive victory in our battles.

    Fine, but the evidence of “lowering ourselves” is pretty damn thin. And indiscriminate acceptance of unproven accusations against ‘our side’ will result in questions about “whose side are you on?” Querying the conduct of war is not anti-American, nor is it illegitimate. But conflating bad information on Mr Hussein’s status and treatment with misunderstanding of the GCs tends to make such querying appear unserious.

    Cheers

  • Nick M

    Libby,

    (a) I’m British so I most certainly have a dog in this fight.

    (b) This is not a case of me using double-standards. From what I know of the history of warfare the fair treatment of prisoners is more likely than not ensured by (un)common humanity than high-minded principles. As I said earlier that’s often determined more by cultural issues than anything else.

    (c) Your attempt to turn around my argument wrt Saddam on the telly was cute but holds no water. I said that Saddam was a special case. Different rules surely apply to murderous dicators compared to Royal Marines or Iraqi soldiers or indeed members of the Wehrmacht or the Golani Brigade or whatever.

    (d) And finally. As we are not at war with Iran the RN’s captured personnel are not prisoners of war or anything like it. They are simply the victims of an act of piracy. Now let’s assume that 15 Brits did vaguely cross the line into Iranian waters (that’s a big “if”) then what should have happened? I grew up on the NE coast of England and as a kid I remember the RAF screeching overhead to escort Sov Tu-95s out of our airspace. The US P3 that had to make a forced landing in China a few years back had it’s crew released forthwith without having to sign bogus confessions and that plane was definitely spying. There are rational players of the game and then there are nutcases like the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

    Perry,
    What’s wrong with loving one’s country? If you’d said loving one’s government I might have understood your point. A country can be seperated from “the state” at least as far as I’m concerned.

  • Nick M

    Mandrill,
    I like your idea of being a pacifist “up to a point”.

  • R C Dean

    As we are not at war with Iran the RN’s captured personnel are not prisoners of war or anything like it.

    I’m no expert on the fine points of Geneva, but Article III doesn’t speak in terms of “war”, but rather refers to the “parties to a conflict”, which strikes me as a much broader term that could definitely encompass our current relationship with Iran.

    Regardless, anyone who wants to argue that Geneva doesn’t apply in this case because of the absence of formal declarations of war can hardly be heard to dismiss arguments based on the plain words of the Convention that Geneva doesn’t apply to Saddam or Taliban fighters.

    And that is my point. I’m not arguing that we always and everywhere are in perfect compliance with Geneva, broadly construed. I am arguing that those who are quick to jump on the US and its allies with both feet fall curiously silent when others commit violations.

  • Saddam Hussein had, by the time he was dragged out of that spider hole, created an insurgency that violated the GCs as a matter of course on a daily basis. There is a certain core of rules that one can argue should not be violated even if the other side violates the GC routinely. I don’t think the few pictures of the Hussein family circulated are among them. Rather they seem much more like the peripheral rules that can be safely abrogated as an act of reciprocity without losing our soul.

    So what’s Iran’s excuse? Somebody really ought to ask them.

  • This incident is starting to generate a lot of air time here in Australia. What most people seem to be talking about, though, is how relaxed folk and the media in the UK seem about these events.

    Is this the case? The UK newspapers and the BBC don’t seem to be that bothered. Countries have gone to war on less than this.

  • Oh what a lovely war we’ll have with Iran, and when the nuclear weapons bloom in Covent Garden, oh how we’ll wish we’d never invaded Iraq, on completely false grounds, made up by the strapped-up executives of Haliburton…

  • Ron – I think endless caveats is a little harsh. I didn’t make endless excuses for bad behavior. I bash injustice wherever I see it and I’m not unwilling to call out my own if they behave badly. I wouldn’t let my kid misbehave so why would I condone it in anyone, including my government? And by the way, I just read somewhere and it may have even been on PJ Media, who is hardly left wing, that we have something like 300 Iranians in custody that we took in Iraq. To the extent that I think this sort of is a proxy threat to us, I think that’s material.

    Luis, I speak more of what I know and point well taken that we don’t hear about the atrocities abroad but I’m also demoralized when I see my government use the same inhumane tactics as the enemy such as torture. It doesn’t make it easy to offer moral support.

    Perry, obviously I’m basically anti-war, but to the extent that it becomes necessary to fight, I still think it can be done honorably. We didn’t torture prisoners in the other wars, and we still won.

    JM – I don’t pretend to be an expert on miltary affairs or the GC but I do understand they’re not laws, but rather a tacit agreement to conduct warfare on some humane level. But don’t be so quick to judge the scope of my quest for knowledge. I read no less four hours a day of news from a wide variety of sources. It’s not just Abu Ghraib, it’s the secret renditions, it’s Gitmo, it’s Jose Padilla. It’s hearing we released 1000 detainees in Iraq without charging them with a thing after holding them for months… I only know what I read and I’m more skeptical than you think. It’s not like I’m getting all of this from the NYT. It bothers me to learn these things. I’m here because I want to you convince me I’m wrong. I want to be wrong. But forgive me if I don’t accept your interpretation at face value anymore that I do any other. I can’t help what I think.

    Nick – I’m not excusing the taking of the hostages. I don’t know what should be done about it.

    Anyway, this is overlong and I just want to say that I understand the need to fight terrorism. And I’m not against fighting and killing terrorists. My problem is with what has happened to captured prisoners. Thank you all for engaging in a dialogue instead of just jumping on me. I appreciate your insights and will be thinking about what you all said.

    Mr Dean – thank you for your hospitality. If I knew what to say, I’d be saying more about it. I’m still trying to make sense of the whole thing.

  • veryretired

    Mr. Luisalegria,

    What a pleasure to see your name in this comment thread. Even after I left Tacitus as an active participant a few years ago, I regularly read through the threads for comments by yourself and Mr. White, and always read your posts.

    I sincerely hope to see your thoughts here on a regular basis. They are clear, concise, and, as is obviously the case in this discussion, not based on naive wishful thinking and a confused inability to understand how the world actually works.

    Best wishes.

  • I also might remind you that the hostages are British and not American, so we don’t really even have a dog in this fight[...]

    ?!?

    I’m trying to envision from what possible point of view we’re dogless here, without success. Anybody?

  • Here’s a decent guy.

  • Mr Spencer

    A lot of this debate revolves around the definition of torture. If we used the same definitions of torture in WW II, then having an SS officer be interogated by a Jewish American would qualify as torture. Since he is obviously being humiliated.

    The interrogation procedures that some Europeans and others define as torture would be consider mild treatment in the average French commisariat.

  • luisalegria

    Mr. Veryretired,

    Its very nice to hear from you too.

    Most of the old Tacitus gang is now at TheForvm.org, Ken White included, and its about as active as it ever was. In fact Ken White has an excellent front page post there right now.

    We conservatives at Theforvm need some reinforcements actually, so your return would be very welcome.

  • stuart

    On the subject of the Argentinians ‘observing’ the conventions, does anybody else remember the attack on the Marine barracks in Stanley before dawn on the outset?
    They went from room to room with grenades and MPIs to kill any occupants while they were sleeping.
    It was undeclared and murderous, and in no way followed Geneva.

    I never heard that, but it would have been a legitimate military action regardless. Nothing in he GC says you cannot attack a sleeping enemy, so long as you are part of an organized military force and in your own side’s uniform while you do it.

    Does the Geneva Convention even apply if we are not (technically) at war with Iran?

    Yes. Iran instigated the armed conflict and is therefore a party to that conflict, whether war is officially declared by either side or not. Think Korea, circa 1950…..

  • lucklucky

    “As we are not at war with Iran the RN’s captured personnel are not prisoners of war or anything like it.”

    Well if that so per absurd now UK can start shooting any Iranian captured since doesnt have to obey GC until war is declared?

    The fact that military were arrested at gun point isnt that and act of war?

  • Nate

    The entire concept of the nation state is a Western artifact and it would do many of us well to remember that the lines on the map that mean much to us don’t really mean anything to other cultures.

    That said, the Geneva Conventions are pretty well outdated, by now. Not that I’m opposed to their intent, but I think it rather obvious that they were written for Western armies and Western nation-states.

    The trick here, I think, is “uniformed.” That doesn’t mean that soldiers look nice…it means the distinction between enemy combatants. UNIFORMED soldiers would and should be given GC respect and treatment…however “fighters” that are not uniformed blur the distinction between who is a combatant and who is not and therefore put the general population in jeopardy. In a sense, they are criminals, not soldiers and thus are not due GC respect.

    As for holding without charges, remember that most of (I’m speaking to Americans, here…but this probably applies in the UK, too) our laws assume civil society. When civil society has broken down, many of the finer points of the law are suspended. Take for example the suspension of Habeas Corpus during Lincoln’s administration.

    Similarly in situations of rioting and mass chaos, the legal system does not have the resources to charge and give trial to everyone seized. Many people arrested in those circumstances may well have been at the wrong place at the wrong time, but until the general rule of law is re-established, they’re giong to be held.

    My two cents. (What’s that worth in pounds?)

  • guy herbert

    Though I the forced confessions that are featured are almost certainly in violation of the Conventions, I am not convinced that videotape itself constitutes “public-display” in the sense intended.

    The Conventions were supposed to protect prisoners from ill-treatment, and did not originate in the era of TV. What the mischief the “no public display” rule is intended to address is, I suggest, putting prisoners in fear by parading them before baying crowds.

    The other question that is worth asking more clearly is do the Conventions apply in absence of war? Stuart’s answer doesn’t help unless he can identify a relevant armed conflict. If these people are not prisoners of war, but either border violators or kidnap victims, why would the Conventions apply to them?

  • Re. the British prisoners-Saddam “double standard”:

    Saddam’s capture and detention was a legitimate act of war. A casus belli for war against Iraq existed in light of Saddam’s genocidal actions against the marsh Arabs and the Kurds – it was not “illegal”. Saddam’s execution was not an act of war – it was a matter for Iraqi civilian authorities.

    The British soldiers were seized in what looks to be Iraqi waters and are being held by a foreign power not at war with Great Britain. Most international law pundits would describe this as an illegal act.

    Now where’s the double standard here? I’m not seeing it. The two scenarios are not remotely comparable.

  • Paul Marks

    In reply to Guy’s question.

    The Iranian regime (due to its interpretation of Islam) has been at war with the United States and the United Kingdom (among other nations) since 1979.

    It may be true that there has been no formal declaration of war, but the regime is at war with us – as the deaths of many hundreds of Westerners (inculding, oddly enough, large numbers of French citizens, for example in 1983) testify.

    Nor is it just the President of Iran – although he was one of the hostage taker leaders in 1979 and has been deeply involved in terrorism ever since. The Supreme Leader of Iran and the Council of Guardians are also fully in favour of the struggle against infidels – although they may not agree on tactical matters from time to time.

    The present operation has already netted the regime large amounts of money due to higher oil prices. This money will be used to help maintain the regime in power (by various subsidies to the Iranian public) and to finance the killing of British and American people in Iraq and in other places.

    Other people will also be killed. It must be remembered that the Iranian regime is even prepared to support some Sunni groups in Iraq in spite of their killing of large numbers of Shia. This is because the judgement is that sacrifices must be made in order to defeat the West.

    It is true that some radical Shia hate Sunni (just as some radical Sunni hate Shia) but those who interpret Islam in the way that the radical Shia Iranian regime does (or the way that the radical Sunni groups do) hate infidels far more. Our extermination or enslavemnt is not really an optional matter (although there may be disputes over timeing and tactics), it is a religious duty.

    In terms of theology the Iranian regime are what, in Christian thought, are called “voluntarists”. This is nothing to do with believing in voluntary interaction or anything like that, it means that they believe that the commandments of God are good BECAUSE they are the commandments of God.

    “Good” is God’s will, it is not a matter of God’s commandments being judged by some external standard (some Calvinists held to this opinion, although they had different commandments to work with).

    So, for example, it did not really matter that the young children that the present President of Iran sent off as suicide bombers in the Iraq-Iran war went to Paradise. Even if they had gone to Hell his (the current President) action would still have been good – because he was acting in line with the will of God.

    This is because good and evil (to someone of this point of view) have no independent meaning. “Good” is obeying the will of God (whatever it commands) and “evil” is opposing the will of God (whatever it commands).

    This is a quite a respectable theological point of view(although I do not share it), but it can have some irritating practical consequences.

    There is an odd simularity to some of Lenin’s opinions (this would not please either Marxists or the Iranian Counci of Guardians and so on, but there we are). Lenin held that “good” simply meant the project of the Party, and (therefore) any tactic (lies, murders and so on) that where in support of the Party was, by definition, “good”.

    Just as any action that was against the party was, again by definition, “bad”.

    It is quite consistent and logical.

  • Sunfish

    I also might remind you that the hostages are British and not American, so we don’t really even have a dog in this fight just yet.

    The hell we don’t. They’re the uniformed soldiers of an ally of ours, illegally abducted while carrying out perfectly-legal activities in support of a joint operation.

    I can see who our dog is just fine, thanks.

    And I’m still waiting for some anti-war goof to condemn the Iranian kidnapping, unequivocally. Is it wrong or isn’t it, yes or no? It’s like trying to get CAIR to call the 9-11 attacks or the Ma’alot bombing wrong. Like trying to get a Klansman to unequivocally denounce the school bus bombing. All I hear are crickets.

  • Eric

    Nick,

    Regarding your point about Japanese vs. German prisoners. Yes, the Japanese were not treated as well as the Germans, but that wasn’t because the Germans “look like us”. Japan had not signed on to the Geneva Conventions and didn’t feel obligated to follow them. That meant torture, summary execution, forced labor, etc. If captured by the Germans you had a 95% chance of surviving to the end of the war. If captured by the Japanese it was only 75%.

    Officially the Allied policy was to adhere to the strictures of Geneva even given facts on the ground, but it would be a difficult policy to enforce with any uniformity, human nature being what it is. There’s plenty of credible evidence supporting the proposition Allied soldiers weren’t all that interested in prisoners.

    Also, there’s a misconception floating around here. Failure of your enemies to adhere to the conventions does not release you from their strictures. I think this was a practical measure to prevent one act of barbarism from leading to a policy of brutal treatment by both sides.

    But the Conventions do draw a bright line between uniformed and non-uniformed combatants. A country is perfectly within its rights to execute non-uniformed combatants after a short military tribunal.

  • Pa Annoyed

    Eric,

    “Failure of your enemies to adhere to the conventions does not release you from their strictures.”

    Yes, but only to the extent that any such failures are supposed to be prosecuted by the other side as war crimes. If they sign on to the conventions, then they must prosecute those on their own side who breach them, or order them breached. And non-signatories are only covered if they nevertheless obey the conventions.

    However, a signatory who does not prosecute abusers is in breach of it, and a non-signatory who does not obey it is not protected by it. This was of course a practical measure to ensure one side did not gain a perfidious military advantage by claiming its protection while ignoring its limits themselves. Without this, there would have been no incentive for anyone to sign the thing.

    Nowadays, having been brought up on Hollywood, we seem to believe that so long as you’re more virtuous than the other side you’ll somehow always win despite them cheating. Or that it is somehow better to lose than to lower yourself to the other side’s level of barbarism.

    Cooperation requires reciprocation. Otherwise you’ll just lose.