US demands information on long forgotten downed pilot
August 23, 2002 6:55 AM   Subscribe

US demands information on long forgotten downed pilot while insisting they not release the names or allow legal counsel to "enemy combatants" held within the US?
posted by specialk420 (15 comments total)
We do not want to take part in the International Criminal Court, because that would be an infringement on our national sovereignity.

We will, however, invade a sovereign nation if we don't like its leadership.
posted by NekulturnY at 7:11 AM on August 23, 2002

If there is a national army which will claim the terrorists in custody, we would welcome their stepping forward.
posted by dhartung at 7:37 AM on August 23, 2002

specialk420, pursuant to international law, "enemy combatants" can only be held until hostilities are over. Thus, an American pilot captured during the Gulf War in 1991 should have been released at the end of that war. So -- logically anyway -- it's not as hypocritical as you suggest.
posted by pardonyou? at 7:48 AM on August 23, 2002

An important distinction is that the Air Force pilot was in uniform and clearly representing the United States.

Those folks currently residing in Cuba were not in uniform, and were not representing Afganistan. They are little more than thugs.

I'm not taking a position on the legality of their imprisonment; just pointing out a fundamental differrence.
posted by Mutant at 8:08 AM on August 23, 2002

I wonder how long they knew this guy was alive (if he is) before he became useful as an excuse to invade?
posted by rushmc at 9:30 AM on August 23, 2002

Rushmc your cynicism is astounding. In other news Rambo is re-released on DVD.
posted by niceness at 9:33 AM on August 23, 2002

So is the evil that men do, and the frequency with which they do it.
posted by rushmc at 11:44 AM on August 23, 2002

Those folks currently residing in Cuba were not in uniform, and were not representing Afganistan. They are little more than thugs.

Fortunately, there's no clause in the Geneva Conventions which makes emotive opining part of determining who and who isn't a prisoner of war. This is something that was talked about yesterday; the argument extrapolated from your opinion was refuted then. (The 'national army' thing's a red herring too, since the Conventions protect non-state entities in a civil war.)

As for the US pilot: he's probably dead, and has probably been dead since the Pentagon announced his death. There have been plenty of occasions over the past decade when Saddam could have made the most of having an American in custody (remember the 'human shields' in Daddy Bush's Gulf War?) and hasn't. The only surprising thing would be if the Iraqis actually shot him down rather than his colleagues.
posted by riviera at 12:55 PM on August 23, 2002

pursuant to international law, "enemy combatants" can only be held until hostilities are over

So, according to this logic, we will release the Guantanamo detainees when the war on terrorism is over.

But, when will the war on terrorism be over, and how will we know it is over when it is over? Will the Americans sit down across the table from terrorism and work out a peace treaty with it? Or, will American newspapers trumpet the news when the last remaining terrorist dies and the war on terrorism is officially over (cue the tickertape parades the and celebration in Times Square)? Neither of these seems like a reasonable possibility, so we should presume that the enemy combatants are, in fact, prisoners for life.
posted by smrtsch at 1:04 PM on August 23, 2002

I didn't bring up the Geneva Convention at all, and I hardly think my post can fairly be termed "emotive" (an opinion it was, and I stand by the "thug" categorisation though).

Off, it kinda looks like they can be categorisied as "irregulars". From their discussion :

In international conflicts, irregulars may be considered lawful combatants, entitled to prisoner of war status if they adhere to certain standards. These include that they: distinguish themselves from the civilian population (i.e., look like combatants); carry weapons openly during engagements or deployments; be commanded by a responsible officer and, generally, be expected to comply with international rules relating to armed conflict. Failure to meet these standards can lead to trial and punishment for hostile acts.

So, judging by this definition, they didn't distinguish themselves from civilians. Its not even clear if they had a well defined chain of command; from what I recall, lots of Al Queda operated autonomously.

They certainly carried weapons openly (from what I saw on CNN) - I'll grant them that point.

CrimesOfWar also mentions the role of civilians and civilian targets :

"...1899 and 1907 Hague Conventions and Protocol I, Articles 51, 52, and 57, which prohibit: acts or threats of violence, the primary purpose of which is to spread terror among the civilian population; attacks which may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians; damage to civilian objects or a combination thereof,..."

Kinda looks like they were "unlawful combatants" under a number of points.

I do agree about the pilot though; if he wasn't dead before he certainly is dead and diced up by now - the last thing Hussein wants is for his fresh body to be paraded around by the US military.

posted by Mutant at 1:22 PM on August 23, 2002

riviera: There's nothing you won't stoop to, is there?

As it happens, the status of Lt. Cmdr. Speicher was changed from killed in action to missing in action ... in January, 2001, while Clinton was still president, and the Pentagon has been reconsidering the issue for some time: 1999; 2000 l The KIA status was "confirmed" by remains turned over by Iraq, which DNA testing proved were not his. The first formal attempt to independently locate his crash site was in 1994, and efforts continued including interviews of persons on the ground courtesy of the Red Cross/Red Crescent, who excavated the site in 1995.

Unquestionably, the Bush administration would like to use this to further pressure Iraq. Unquestionably, the change in status happened before Bush took office, and the effort to find him began eight years ago.

And according to clause 4. A. 2. (d) of the Geneva Conventions, irregulars -- i.e. persons not beholden by oath to a national army -- must conduct their activities under the laws of war. The phrase in

Should any doubt arise as to whether persons, having committed a belligerent act and having fallen into the hands of the enemy, belong to any of the categories enumerated in Article 4, such persons shall enjoy the protection of the present Convention until such time as their status has been determined by a competent tribunal.

... clearly allows for persons "having committed a belligerent act" to fall outside the convention's jurisdiction.

As I have noted, if there is any national government or army which, under the Geneva Convention, will take up the issue of legal protection of those we have arrested, and will vouch for their future conduct (i.e. persuasively order them to stand down), we will be happy to discuss such with them -- with the allowance that it may also constitute an admission they committed acts of war against us. I've been waiting a long time for that admission.
posted by dhartung at 5:39 PM on August 23, 2002

Persuasive arguments, dhartung, but I submit that membership in the human race trumps national alignments, whether anyone has signed a treaty to that effect or not.
posted by rushmc at 6:07 PM on August 23, 2002

There's nothing you won't stoop to, is there?

Well, seeing as certain people are happy to trample all over basic, well-established principles, by adopting hair-splitting attempts to retroactively justify their gut rumblings, someone has to pick up the pieces. (Where's your 'competent tribunal', dhartung, which you manage to overlook while busily spouting irrelevances about a 'national government or army'? Because the people doing the determining of status represent neither a tribunal nor competence.)
posted by riviera at 6:14 PM on August 23, 2002

So, assuming these prisoners are eventually set free, where exactly do you all suppose they should be loosed upon the world? It is with dread that I expect them to be given job training, welfare checks, free housing, and maybe some face time on the major talkshows, all right here in the US, in no less than fifteen years. Of course, the talk show bit is based upon the assumption that they will at least attempt to learn English.
posted by StrangerInAStrainedLand at 12:19 AM on August 24, 2002

Riviera, I believe is from the UK dhartung.

Therefore, you arguing with him in a patently international forum about US "domestic" issues is awfully ironic taking into consideration your stated opinion of the issue. Why do you even give him the time of day? You wouldn't find yourself voicing concern over the detention of ununiformed "enemy combatants". Why squabble with someone who isn't American?

And if I'm wrong about riviera as a brit my point still stands. Anyone you meet on the web could be from anywhere and yet right next to you at the same time. Just like anyone else, be they logged on or not.
posted by crasspastor at 12:33 AM on August 24, 2002

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