Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Professional Critic, at a Loss for Words

As if that would ever happen!

But I do need to convey my complete and utter shock over two news items. First, the Bush administration has done a complete 180 and decided they probably should abide by the Geneva Convention's basic guidelines regarding human rights for prisoners of war.

In 2002, the early days of the "war on terror," President Bush decided unilaterally that terrorists were a different sort of prisoner than regular old prisoners of war and as such, were not covered by the Geneva Convention. I believe the distinction was made between prisoners taken by intelligence agencies such as the CIA versus prisoners taken by the armed forces. A meaningful difference? I would have to say no--we're talking basic, basic rights here. For example, the right to have your whereabouts known. According to a news report on NPR today, the adminstration has refused to acknowlege who they are holding at Guantanamo, or "Gitmo" a cheesy nickname I will now ignore. The full text of Article 3, which outlines the rights in question, is below.


In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each Party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions:

(1) Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria. To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:

(a) violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture; (b) taking of hostages; (c) outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment; (d) the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.

(2) The wounded and sick shall be collected and cared for.

An impartial humanitarian body, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, may offer its services to the Parties to the conflict.

The Parties to the conflict should further endeavour to bring into force, by means of special agreements, all or part of the other provisions of the present Convention.

The application of the preceding provisions shall not affect the legal status of the Parties to the conflict.

That's all she wrote. Seemingly simple but the US has violated this left and right, for example at Abu Ghraib. I suppose the Administration would not see this as a violation since supposedly Article 3 never even applied. But it does, so it is. So this reversal is a good thing, but why now? There was no serious public uproar over this, just the usual suspects like us. You know, the same people that think that our President is really Al Gore.

But wait--it gets weirder!

Today, the Administration also announced that from this point forward, the lucrative (hi, 15 BILLION DOLLARS) service contracts that had been no-bid awarded to KBR, a subsidiary of Halliburton, would now start a competitive bid process. Halliburton of course being the company Dick Cheney led before he became evil puppet master of the US. The contract to provide "logistics" in Iraq such as food and housing, could have lasted for ten years, but has come to an end.

Huh? Sure, there was criticism of the cronyism and corruption in this sweetest of sweetheart deals, but since when did that stop this Administration? Is it because elections are coming up? Bush's approval rating has been in the toilet for so long, why change now? It must be because the City of Berkeley has put a measure on the November ballot to impeach the President. And this is why I love the Bay Area.

Hey, if you really want to boil your blood, check out the Halliburton Watch website, which reminded me that Hallibuton was also handed all the Katrina rebuilding contracts. If you have high blood pressure, you may to read this in small doses with a cool towel on your forehead.

Anyway, I am somewhat suspicious of the motivation behind these changes. I believe we have some conspiracy theorists among us, please do chime in.

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