I am sick to death of this ridiculous "clarification" issue regarding Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions.
For a President who has so wantonly and willfully hung his cowboy hat on his Christianity, one who makes vague and not-so-vague messianic references to our war against terrorism, and who has very recently indicated that he believes the United States is in its "third awakening", I find it utterly ridiculous that he hasn't referenced The Golden Rule.
Make the jump.
Christianity - All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye so to them; for this is the law and the prophets. (Matthew 7:1)
Confucianism - Do not do to others what you would not like yourself. Then there will be no resentment against you, either in the family or in the state. (Analects 12:2)
Buddhism - Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful. (Udana-Varga 5,1)
Hinduism - This is the sum of duty; do naught onto others what you would not have them do unto you. (Mahabharata 5,1517)
Islam - No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself. (Sunnah)
Judaism - What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellowman. This is the entire Law; all the rest is commentary. (Talmud, Shabbat 3id)
Taoism - Regard your neighbor's gain as your gain, and your neighbor's loss as your own loss. (Tai Shang Kan Yin P'ien)
Zoroastrianism - That nature alone is good which refrains from doing another whatsoever is not good for itself. (Dadisten-I-dinik, 94,5)
I've always understood the Christian teachings embodied in the Golden Rule, and although I am not a practicing anything, I do believe that it's a good way to live. It is one of those truisms that is, in and of itself, SO true that is repeated throughout culture and religion regardless of era or demonimation.
Moreover, if you stop and reflect when making a decision that is difficult or one that doesn't come easily, "How would I feel if the shoe were on the other foot?", you arrive at a more carefully considered conclusion, whatever that conclusion may be. You also get in the habit of doing something I think is very valuable: outcome analysis. In this, you weigh your options and consider all the conceivable results of those options. At least, then, once your decision is made you are less likely to be caught flat-footed with potential consequences.
So with this as a context, let's revisit Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions:
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.
My emphasis added.
I'm dragging you through this analysis for a reason.
When you place Article 3 in the context of the Golden Rule, it is not in any way vague. Not even remotely. In today's Washington Post, Tom Malinowsky has an op-ed piece titled Call Cruelty What It Is. It's a concise commentary on so-called "alternative" interrogation techniques, those which the Bush administration is seeking to ensure as reasonable. Hence the need for "clarification" of the Geneva Conventions (where "clarification" is a euphamism for "covering one's ass in the event of international criminal charges"). Malinowski, who is the Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, cites several authors and descriptions of the application of these "alternative" techniques. One worth quoting is one by former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin:
...who describes experiencing sleep deprivation in a Soviet prison in the 1940s: "In the head of the interrogated prisoner a haze begins to form. His spirit is wearied to death, his legs are unsteady, and he has one sole desire: to sleep, to sleep just a little, not to get up, to lie, to rest, to forget. . . . Anyone who has experienced this desire knows that not even hunger or thirst are comparable with it. . . . I came across prisoners who signed what they were ordered to sign, only to get what the interrogator promised them. He did not promise them their liberty. He promised them -- if they signed -- uninterrupted sleep!"
The Soviets understood that these methods were cruel. They were also honest with themselves about the purpose of such cruelty -- to brutalize their enemies and to extract false confessions, rather than truthful intelligence. By denying this, President Bush is not just misleading us. He appears to be deceiving himself.
So let's come back to prisoners in American custody, torture, "alternative" interrogation techniques, and The Golden Rule. I would have hoped that our openly religious President would not need a mental exercise to apply the Golden Rule, but clearly I'm mistaken. So he should begin by envisioning a young soldier, male or female, subjected to the techniques he thinks are necessary and which he feels need to be "clarified". Let's take the use of the "cold cell" as an example, where a prisoner is stripped naked, doused in water, and then placed in a cell kept at about 50 degrees. Is that a tactic Bush would like done unto our soldiers? Is that acceptable treatment? Or would he be outraged at the mental image of someone treating an American soldier in this fashion?
The Golden Rule is a good one, in my opinion. You can be an atheist and agree with the idea of the Golden Rule. It transcends religiosity - it's just common sense. But because it's also associated with religion, and because Christianity is a religion that Bush seems hell-bent and determined to wave in everyone's face at every possible opportunity, it should be self-evident that all the "clarification" needed can be found in the President's most beloved book: The Bible. If you would not like to be waterboarded, you shouldn't condone the waterboarding of others. If you would not like to be subjected to interrogation techniques that involve severe sleep deprivation, then you shouldn't do that to other people. It doesn't matter that your enemy-du-jour has shown that they don't emply The Golden Rule in their tactics - YOU SHOULD. If the fundamentalists have taught me anything through their involvement in politics during the last six years, it's that the rules set out in The Bible are not negotiable. There are no exceptions.
It's a question of the Golden Rule and how that relates to the moral high ground and imperative in which we wrap our foreign policy. It was a moral decision to remove Saddam Hussein. It's a moral question of good vs. evil when discussing the subject of combating terrorism. The beheading of American citizens and contractors and soldiers is a moral outrage.
So how, then, can the President credibly argue that the technques he holds so dear to ensure our safety (cough) are morally conscionable? I would argue that he would not like these things done unto him.
A grade school student could answer this question of "clarity" vis-a-vis Article 3 armed only with the very sensible, morally defensible understanding of the Golden Rule. I'm amazed that the media and other watchdog groups aren't distilling the issue to its simpliest articulation, and that the cries of "bullshit!" aren't louder and more concentrated.
In this, I think, Bush has shown his highest level of hypocrisy.