Thursday, October 27, 2005
Why I disagree with Enemy Combatant Status
Under the Geneva Conventions (which we follow) prisoners of war can only be taken if they are combatants in a war. They are provided certain rights, notably the right to be released at the end of the conflict. The Geneva Convention also clearly defines who can be considered combatants. Uniformed Hostile Forces are always combatants. I don't think many of the people captured as Enemy Combatants meet that criteria. Additionally, non-uniformed actors taking up arms in a conflict can be considered combatants, and taken as prisoners of war. The gray areas here are that people are often apprehended well in advance of this requirement. They are only suspected of conspiring to take up arms or commit acts of violence. Thus, they do not yet qualify as combatants. Everyone could be considered a potential combatant, especially in a war fought in their country. That doesn't qualify them to be captured as prisoners of war. Another shady area is the War of Terror itself. The President cannot declare war. That power is reserved for Congress. Congress has not declared a war on terror, therefore, there isn't one. The reason that Congress has not done this is that a war on terror is similar to a war on drugs. It has no defined hostile forces, and no foreseeable resolution. As long as the potential exists for an individual or group to conduct a kidnapping, hijacking, murder, or bombing the War on Terror will continue. The President is avoiding both US and international law by holding people as prisoners of war in the War on Terror. This is unseemly when it is applied against probable terrorists detained in other wars, but it is frightening when it is applied to US citizens. EPWs do not have any rights under our Constitution, such as right to due process or the right to an attorney. They can be held without charge until the war is concluded. In this case that means indefinitely. US citizens should at a minimum be charged with treason. They should be defended and prosecuted within the legally defined limits of those proceedings. After the President's "You are with us or against us" speech, anyone that doesn't support the Bush Administration could logically be seen as an enemy combatant. The right to dissent and speak out against the government is one of the defining features of our freedom. Anything that threatens this right also threatens our freedom and way of life.